A grateful global nomad
I’m a grateful girl for many reasons, one of which is my experience with travelling and moving around the world.
I’m what people call a “third culture kid” (TCK), which is defined by anthropologist Ruth Van Reken as “a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture. The TCK builds relationships to all the cultures, while not having full ownership in any, although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience” (tckworld.com). My dad works for a nonprofit geared around international development and relief, and his work takes our family all over the world. I have lived in nine different houses, spread across different countries and continents, which has given me a unique perspective on what makes a home or a community.
There’s been a lot of saying goodbye to friends—but I can’t really complain about it, because my experiences have taught me a lot. However, I can say that it’s hard to answer the questions “where are you from?” or “where’s home?” because the answer is a long one. I am from the happy and friendly people of Ghana, the quiet and hospitable people of Ethiopia, the mixture of cultures in Kenya, the peace and understanding of Native Americans, the carefree nature of the citizens of the state of Colorado . . . I can keep going. I’m a product of the world!
There’s a perception out there that TCKs (or global nomads, as we’re sometimes known) are rootless tumbleweeds blowing in the wind—kids that need pity. But I’ve come to see that it’s all in the way you look at it. I’m part of a global community, and I tend to see that as an advantage—as something to be placed in my life “toolbox.” I’m proud of being an American African, TCK, global nomad, world citizen. When people regard TCKs as a “homeless” and rootless population, I definitely don’t relate. I reject the thought that I don’t have a “home,” emotionally or geographically. Home is where the heart is, and I try to make home in the moment.
Don’t get me wrong, it has taken me a long time to get to a place where I feel confident wherever I am, and Christian Science has played a huge part in that process. The most important epiphany came a few months ago when I was living in Colorado and going to an experiential learning school. I had found a comfortable niche there. Living in Colorado was a dream come true because I’d been going to summer camp in Colorado for almost 15 years, and considered the Rocky mountains home. When I went back to Kenya to visit my family for Christmas, I was thrown off pretty quickly by being back there and not finding it as comfortable in some ways. This upset me greatly because I thought spending time with my family would give me a stronger feeling of home.
I had a wonderful holiday break, but I spent most of it missing school and the Rockies. I cried a lot because I just couldn’t peg where “home” was for me. When I finally arrived back at school, I felt like I could stay there forever and just soak up the majesty of it all. But, as they say, the way to make God laugh is to tell Him your plans, and I must have made Him laugh very hard.
Just five days after I’d arrived back at school, we had packed (or repacked) our bags and were flying to Patagonia, Chile. The trip was designed to introduce us to Chilean culture, as well as to give us an opportunity to do some community service. The school’s theme that year was “Make a difference for good,” and the trip definitely tied in to that theme too. It sounded like it would be an amazing time, but I was definitely feeling like I needed some time at “home” in Colorado.
My "home" is always with me.
On the flight to Chile, I had a terrible sinking feeling because I was leaving the mountains . . . again. I realized that crying a lot over the Christmas holiday and panicking on the plane—as well as getting frustrated when my well-meaning friends would ask “Wait, which home are you talking about?”—were all indicators that something needed to change. So I decided to pray about it. I’d prayed about plenty of things in my life before and had always seen healing take place as a result.
I knew that God is the great “I AM,” not the great “I WAS”—meaning that He is here, always, in both time and place. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy defines God like this: “The great I AM; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence” (p. 587 ).
As I prayed, sitting there on the plane, I realized that ultimately my home was with God—with Love itself, independent of any place or individual culture. That home can never be taken away from me. Because God is present everywhere, right now, and I can never be separated from Him; my “home” is always with me.
I thought about this idea for the rest of the plane trip, soaking in the concept that God is Love, and is my ever-present home. I’m not sure there was one moment when everything clicked into place, but by the time our plane landed in Chile, a feeling of peace had engulfed me. The trip went smoothly, and I didn’t feel a trace of homesickness. In my travels, I still remind myself consistently that my home isn’t one geographical location—it’s in God, Mind, who is everywhere.
The article “Taking Offense” from Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896 has also really shaped how I think about home. I first discovered it at summer camp, and it has stuck with me through high school. To me, it speaks so closely to how people around the world really should treat one another. The article includes the phrase, “We should go forth into life with the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful, great, and good, but with a temper so genial that the friction of the world shall not wear upon our sensibilities; with an equanimity so settled that no passing breath nor accidental disturbance shall agitate or ruffle it; . . .” (p. 224 ). I’ve prayed a lot along these lines, trying to recognize that everyone in the various cultures I’ve lived in is reflecting God in their own way, living life according to their highest sense of right. Understanding and assimilating with different cultures is what I’m good at, but knowing that my home is with God, the “centre and circumference of being” (Science and Health, p. 204 ), is what makes embracing global diversity possible.