An American in TCK Clothing: The Underbelly of MK Identity

I am not a typical TCK–some wouldn’t consider me a TCK at all.

This is easily the hardest confession I have ever made via blog. . .in fact, I’ve only spoken it in person to a few carefully selected, safe people. Not fitting into the TCK profile has been and continues to be one of the deepest sources of shame in my life.

I was an incredibly shy child, more interested in reading and dreaming up stories than in interacting with people.

I hated the attention my blonde hair and blue eyes got on the streets of Turkey, and I avoided going outside or being in situations where I would garner attention to whatever extent I could.

My parents’ ministry focus for the majority of my life was in field leadership and administration, and the flow of people in our house was made up almost entirely of foreigners.

Finally, when I was school-age, I attended an English-speaking international school rather than Turkish school.

The sum total of these factors turned out to be an epic TCK fail.

I always knew I was different. The other MKs picked up Turkish effortlessly, and were cussing like little Turkish sailors when I was still struggling to lisp out an accent-less “Merhaba.” Despite having lived in Turkey from birth until the age of 14, I have never been fluent in the language, and at this point, while I can understand a decent amount, Turkish sentence construction beyond what a three-year-old could accomplish is nigh impossible for me.

That language barrier served as an insurmountable cultural barrier, and I never engaged Turkish culture in a deep way.

I’ve always wanted to be a ‘good’ TCK. I envy them, and I hate that I came so close, was literally given the TCK experience on a silver platter, and walked away so relatively untouched. I’ve spent years tip-toeing around my past, terrified to let people know the truth about me and judge me as. . .what, exactly? Shallow. Stupid. A failure.

When the people who surround you disdain what you represent, honesty is lethal; TCKs have the unfortunate tendency to hold monocultural people in contempt, and while they may offer a pass to people who have never travelled outside of, say, Oklahoma, they have no mercy toward the MKs who fail to engage the host culture. Trust me. . .I fake TCKness well enough to have sat in on disengaged-MK-bashing sessions, shrinking into my seat and hoping no one would expose me as an imposter.

This wound is so deep that it has only been within the past several months that I have been able to face, let alone accept, the truth about myself.

I’m not a third culture kid. I’m a 1.5 culture kid, max.

I’m a failed TCK.

While I can admit that there was no sin in my failure to engage Turkish culture, the shame, identity struggles and pain I’ve faced as a result have played major roles in shaping my understanding of self.

But I’m coming to believe that this isn’t the end of the story.

One of my favorite professors at CIU is fond of saying that “there are no unusable ingredients in God’s recipe book,” that He can and does redeem even the most shameful aspects of our lives.

And that’s where I’m left. . .there are no take-backs or second chances in life, and I can’t ever change either the years that I chose not to be involved in Turkish culture or the years during which I allowed my sense of stolen identity to dictate my understanding of my value. 

All I can do is look forward in full confidence of the following facts:

  • I am even more loved than I am flawed.
  • My God delights in redeeming me–not only from my sin, but also from my unfortunate choices and failures.

I’m excited to see what He’s going to do with the story of this pseudo-TCK.

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