For the longest time, I felt lost and confused when it came to personal identity. Born in Korea, growing up in the U.S., and spending my tender teenage years in Shanghai has produced a colorful yet very gray identity I could not quite label. My Korean nationality felt like an obligation against my more Western mindset. I never knew which place to call my home. I never fit in one single box.
“How do you speak English/Chinese so well?”
“Where do you consider your home?”
“Why don’t you want to go back to Korea?”
Those are just a sample of questions I got hounded with growing up, and even to this day. I never knew why I couldn’t just be one thing. I wished I was Korean-enough just so I could easily identify myself as Korean. But I hated even the thought of that because my values were already so different from Koreans. I lived frustrated with my gray identity for the longest time.
One night, I was having one of those late-night wine nights with an old friend, and I ended up venting my dilemma and confusion. I confessed to him that I felt like I didn’t belong to any one country or culture. I told him that even though my chameleon-like self helped me fit in with so many different cultures, I couldn’t associate myself with a single one. I told him that after constant moving and travelling, I was unable to make a singular attachment to one place. I let everything out like a patient lying down on Freud’s couch. My dear friend listened closely and suggested something that changed how I viewed myself completely. “Somin, you are a third culture kid!” I stared at him blankly at first, but earnestly listened as he continued to enlighten me. After 21 years and a bottle of wine later, everything finally started to make sense.
Before my friend brought this up, the concept of “third culture kid” was totally unknown to me. The fact that this term existed to define my strange condition was mind blowing. But it was exactly what I needed at that time – an answer. After realizing and accepting what I am, I no longer felt odd but special. It’s something I embrace proudly and tell others about. And ever since finding out about TCKs, I started noticing other TCKs around me and we immediately formed close bonds over our unique upbringings. It was also the sole inspiration behind this blog, TCK Goes Home.
Are you a TCK as well? When did you first realize that you were a TCK?