It was a mixture of different factors that finalized my decision to move back to my home country, Korea. After 15 years of living abroad, the reality of actually going back was overwhelming. It was strange; usually, the idea of going back home is supposed to be exciting, but truthfully I dreaded it. A lot. I was so used to living the TCK life and enjoyed how my identity as a TCK set me apart from others.
I also dreaded the idea of living like a “Korean.” As someone who had left the home country at such a young age, my Korean identity had slowly been chiseled away to be replaced with a more Western type. I had developed a very different set of values that I knew would clash back home. I tried to convince myself that this was just like going to another country and forced myself to swallow the dread. But with each passing day getting closer and closer to the day I move, a cloud of fear, doubt, unsure-ness, and all sorts of negativity shrouded over me.
I was miserable for months. I found myself turning inwards and started hating everything about my situation. That negativity seeped and spread to those around me as well as I constantly badgered them with complaints and woes.
I think I know now what it was that kept me locked in fear. Coming back home was not like going to another country, no matter how hard you tried to convince yourself. It is “home” no matter what. And there’s no novelty factor that you would find in going to a completely new place. And even if you’re “home,” there is nothing familiar about it. You’re thrown into a confusing and lonely situation where you feel like a lump on a log. That was exactly my problem. For months, I tried to maintain my “status quo” and almost refused to live like everyone else here. But I wasn’t quite an “expat” either for such a lifestyle.
I scrambled for a solution. And became discouraged whenever each endeavor failed. After a while, I gave up trying and just tried to accept my situation for what it was. I stopped caring so much about what’s going on back in my other “homes.” I stopped comparing Korea to my other “homes.” I stopped trying to figure out how to get out of Korea and started thinking about which new restaurants or cafes to check out next.
I think this was a pivotal transitional phase for me. I let my guards down and started opening my heart up to Korea, to my home. It was a simple change of perspective that pulled me up from the darkness. I realized that this didn’t do anything to compromise my TCK values. As a matter of fact, I was still unique in a way that I can jump from my Korean identity to my TCK identity (values picked up from abroad) any time I wanted. I learned more about Korea and allowed myself to build up a stronger bond to my home country.
I don’t think I have quite transitioned 100%. That’ll be a long journey, but I’m willing to accept the challenges that come along the way. For other TCKs going through similar situations, I can give you a few tips on making the transition a little easier:
– Talk to people: Family member, friends, colleagues… Talking to people and getting the stress off of your chest is always better than keeping it in!
– Get out of the house: When you’re feeling miserable, it’s easy to let the feelings take control over you and make you a hermit at home. Go out and explore. There will be plenty of places around you that’ll be surprisingly fresh and pleasant.
– Channel the negativity elsewhere: For me, as usual, it was listening to music. When I’m feeling down, my go to action is to listen to music, spend time digging through the world wide web to discover fresh new tracks that I could add to my playlist. When I’m doing that, I can temporarily push the negative thoughts away.