This was the time my parents had to spend an entire year in the United States. And a year was longer then than it is now. Much longer. Everything was slower; life was a six part BBC movie, not a TBS sitcom.
I offered to stay behind. After all, boarding school would be the same if they were in South America or North America. But it made my mom sad when I said it so I stopped saying it.
It wasn't that I didn't want to be in "the states". Who wouldn't want to have gushers in their lunch every day and root beer in a never ending flow called "free refills"? It wasn't that I didn't want a yard and my family, or a place where I didn't still stumble over the language, where I looked like everyone else and clothes fit every time, all the time. It was that I knew what it was like when you left people who were always being left. You vanished and it didn't matter. It was a liability to hold on. I knew cause I was one of them. A letter-goer.
|The start of the year of "non-friendship"|
Only I didn't want new friends. I already had friends. I knew where they were, what they would be doing, and I knew I wouldn't be there and that no one would notice. The world would keep spinning only I would be at the wrong end of the table, trying to yell across the distance, hearing the laughter but not the joke.
So that's when I decided, I decided not to bother. I decided not to make friends. I would count this year as a mulligan and just move past it. Why bother when it's just one year. That phrase, just one year, was the anti wrinkle cream that sucked the sand out of the hourglass in my mind. I resolved to be the wind, passing through with nothing more than a whistle, unseen by the world around me while inflicting a hurricane of connection to my friends back in Ecuador. Email would be my surrogate and somehow I would find a way to channel into that world leaving only a body to go through the motions in this one.
I said goodbye to friends who only spoke one language, English, which I now knew was my second language, shadowed by the language of the sojourner, primarily composed of hellos followed directly by goodbyes.
And when I returned to Ecuador I was welcomed as easily as I was dismissed. For that was and is our way. The way of the patterned nomad, the unlost wanderer, the TCK.
By the way, for a more technical look into how TCKs go about the friend making process check out this blog post by Michèle Phoenix, TCK, boarding student, and writer.
What coping techniques have you tried for the constant pattern of loss that comes with the life of a TCK? Which have failed? Which have worked?