Thursday, February 26, 2015

TCK Relationships Part 1-ish

When it comes to relationships and TCKs I have about a million things to say. Things about interactions, about culture, about digging deep quickly, about letting go too soon, about the wealth, about the shallowness. I want to say them all at once, but I know I can't.

So let's consider this Part One. Is that okay? Can we talk about this for a while? I feel like it is the most important and complicated part of being a TCK. But I want to dig into it. It is really where my passion lies. Let's talk about depth.

I'll begin with the pub in the Great White North - Canada. The dim lights, the loud, boisterous crowd, the familiar faces relocated to an unfamiliar place. Across from me is my old dorm brother who is peeling his paper coaster, wadding up the pieces, and tossing them toward my unguarded water. The act is familiar and in some senses sacred. It is an ancient tradition unearthed here in this new time and place. Beside me is my old dorm sister, someone who knows me almost as well as I know myself. She periodically leans over and touches my arm as she speaks and the touch reaches my soul. We have no space bubbles between us. I know I have lived too long in a place where to touch someone might be unwelcome because where I would have just passed it off as mundane, here I am cherishing the familiar. But neither of these moments tells a story so plainly as what will happen next. Next, a person who I only know by association and name will sit beside me and I will ask a deep question in jest and, not to my surprise, I will receive a serious and genuine answer. It might be the only time I ever talk to this person, but I am a TCK. He is also a TCK. And while we nibble on food and laugh there will also be a genuine exchange of person and experience. Why?

Maybe it is because we feel a need to make this moment worth something. It doesn't matter that I am a female and he is a male. It doesn't matter that both of us are married. That he lived in Africa and I in South America. This is about TCKs making the most of such a short time out of habit and necessity. His wife will point it out to me proudly and I will beam back at her. This is just what we do. Growing up in a place where people are suddenly removed will form this in a TCK. And though I asked the question in a joking form, I still hoped for a genuine answer, something that would make this time worth the time it took. I will not be disappointed. I will see a slice of my own self being formed from his words and I will nod seriously. And then when it is done it will be done. That will be it. A night of familiarity with TCKs and their spouses where a bond is formed across a long table and a short night. It is burned into my soul and I cherish the singularity of such a genuine, isolated moment.

Meanwhile, tonight, I sat in a group of incredible people (only one other is a TCK) who have somehow forged a space where this genuineness is being grown. It has taken time, and uncomfortable silences. So many uncomfortable silences. It has taken small talk. I cringe. I hate small talk. But it was necessary and I am slowly bringing myself to that realization. It has taken safe spaces and random events where we all just do something together, along side each other, something non-threatening. But tonight I find myself asking deep questions, not jokingly, and soaking up every moment of it. I feel I can answer with the things I have wanted to answer with for a while, but unsure of how it would be taken. We are working our ways into each others lives and I love it. But it has taken time, time that I don't always feel like we have enough of.

I won't talk about walls, yet. There is a serious place for talking about the depth that a TCK is willing to get to and where that depth comes to a sudden and very hard halt. We can talk about that next, I guess.

Here I want to acknowledge the TCK who will answer honestly if given the space, if asked the question. I want to encourage the person who is awkwardly wading through small talk wondering whether it will be worth it in the end. It will. Give it time. I want to sympathize with all the TCKs who stepped out of their TCK environment and into muddy water, accidentally bearing their soul and making an attachment they didn't mean to. You know what I mean. That moment when someone thinks you like them more than you do because you told them something meaningful, when really, you tell everyone something meaningful. It is okay. You will learn to bide your time. To shut your mouth and listen and watch. You will dive into relationships and fail. You will dive into relationships and flourish. You will hear someone call you their closest friend when you least expect it and then realize that you are right where you should be.

And then, when you least expect to, one day you will tear down one of your deep, deep walls and you will see some new side of genuine that you didn't know.

And man, all that small talk sure will be worth it.

Where have you been surprised by a genuine response? When have you had to wade through small talk? Was it worth it in the end?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My Barrel

We were getting ready for an event and my friend had found barrels for us to paint as part of the decor. They were dirty and dented and rusty and I almost broke into tears. I hadn't thought of it in years, but when it hit it was like an earthquake and not those little tremors we knew in Quito in the every day life. Like the earthquakes that knock things off your shelf and make you realize how very small and at the will of the earth you are.

I pictured mine, with its ridged metal sides and spray-painted letters that had been taped over with paper and more letters. Its rusted lid and metal hinged circle that I had to fight closed skillfully avoiding rusty edges because it may have never belonged to my barrel in the first place. I picture the way, twice a year, that I would have to dip over its edge to put in or pull out the pieces of my life.
Not my actual barrel but close

When I first got my barrel I was in fifth grade and had to climb in because I was too small to bend over and reach things at the bottom. My last year, a senior, I emptied it for the last time, bent over, pulling out the accumulated life I had built for myself in this place.

In so many ways my barrel can be a symbol for my life. We were legacies, like the barrel that was handed from family to family, each name being substituted for the next, painted on next to its last owners, or papered over so if you pulled back the tape you could see the history, passed down out of necessity but with pride. It was where I packed up my life each year to head home from boarding school. It stayed, stored away, like my personality in many ways, in that dark room until we all trudged out of the busy airport and up the tiled stairs into our whitewashed rooms where our barrels waited to spill out our next journey.

I just read a blog post by Marilyn on Communicating Across Boundaries that made me think of my barrel again. I have no clue what happened to it since the dorm has been converted into classrooms. Maybe it was thrown out with our closets that held our etched names and stories within it. Maybe it was hidden away with the identity of the building. "What do you mean, the 'AA Dorm'? Oh, that building- That was a dorm?"

A barrel is such a little and meaningless thing, and yet it holds such a huge value in my memories. It's a hard thing to explain to people. I've tried a million times to help my husband hold a metal barrel in the same regard that I do (hint: it doesn't work, a barrel is still a barrel to him). But to me it will stand in as my pseudo roots in a place where I lived and grew and was shaped for so much of my transitory life.

What items do you have that hold no real value except to your heart and memories?