Neither Here nor There: Growing up Nomad Style
"Do not spend your life searching for a place to call home. Make the bones in your skeleton the only structure you need" - Haley Hendrick
“Where are you from?” I dread these words. Not because I’m averse to small talk, but because this is such a difficult question to answer. I take a deep breath and say, “Well, I was born in Beirut – Lebanon – and then, well I’m adopted, so my parents are German. I’ve got a German passport, so that makes me German, officially. But really, that’s more of a formality. I don’t really “feel” German, if that makes sense.” At that point, the well-meaning inquisitor typically makes a beeline for the bar, and I don’t blame them.
The problem is, I don’t know how to be more succinct. I don’t have a “home”, not really. Having been hauled from one place to the next every couple of years growing up was as amazing as it was scary and sad and intimidating and thrilling. There was Beirut, then London, then Germany, followed by the U.S., then Scotland, now England. I’ve loved all of these places, they’re all a part of me. But I’m not a non-partisan spokesperson for these places, and they don’t represent me the way that others feel a country/a city/a place epitomizes them. As amazing as my Third Culture Kid* upbringing has been (and continues to be), it can also be a pretty lonely experience at times.
As a wee wayfarer, you’re forced to adapt rapidly, make new friends, familiarize yourself with each culture, talk the talk. It’s fun and exciting and thrilling, but what you quickly come to realize is that no place is perfect. Every spot is beautiful in some ways and pretty crappy in other ways. It’s like you’re always constantly creating pro/con lists in your head, shuffling and re-shuffling impressions as you go along. You end up thinking it’s completely normal to go through life like that, and then you eventually realize: not only do most people not get it, they also think you’re an arrogant prick. They confuse impartiality with derision, non-alignment with contrariness.
"They confuse impartiality with derision, non-alignment with contrariness"
I’ve always admired people’s ability to pass over glaring imperfections when it comes to what they consider to be their domain. Imperfections shouldn’t be negatively connotated – life is made up of imperfections. One thing doesn’t make a place, much like one thing doesn’t make a man (or woman). As part of every chapter of your story, you take what you love, and leave what you don’t, you grow, you experience, you learn things about yourself – some illuminating, some embarrassing, some painful – then you grow some more.
Some people get it, others never will. The toughest part for any self-proclaimed vagabond is stop drawing comparisons, and to just be. To be in the moment and in that place. For now anyway.
*Wikipedia defines Third Culture Kids (TCKs) as "children who were raised in a culture outside of their parents' culture for a significant part of their development years."