Monday, July 16, 2012

longing for Home

A handmade quilt and pillow made from an old T-shirt.
Have you ever felt homesick?

Have you ever felt that ache radiating through your core for the familiar? For those who know and love you and whom you know and love? For street signs that you’ve seen over and over? The voices and sounds from the places you frequent? For the warmth of being utterly at ease, knowing you are home?

As a TCK, “home” is a relative term. It could be where my mom and dad and brother are physically living. It could be the place I spent the most time. It could be where my extended family lives (and each side is on an opposite side of the planet). It could be where I went to school, college. It could be the permanent address on my driver’s license. When I'm traveling, it generally means where my suitcase has made its residence. 

For anyone who knows a TCK or has had conversations with one or is one, you know that hesitation and internal struggle when someone asks, “Where are you from?” These days, it’s easiest to say where I graduated from (I wrote about it here and here). The most recent location is just the simplest most recognizable. If that person is actually interested, I’ll let them inquire further. The actual answer is too long and let’s be honest—most people are confused by it.

I read a couple articles lately (found here, here and here), describing the difference between Asian Americans and TCKs. I had never thought too deeply about the difference and had indeed found myself most comfortable with a group of Asian Americans, here in America. But there is a difference (the articles do a good job—take some time to read them, if you can) between the two groups. These authors essentially say that Asian Americans feel a tension in cultural identity and have a desire to be viewed as belonging—of being viewed as any other American. After all, many were born and raised here; why should they be perceived as foreigners ("Where are you really from?")?

A TCK often feels no desire to be seen as American but instead understood for their experience of having lived internationally and having perspectives that have nothing to do with assumptions associated with the way they look. One of the authors mentions how, in America, he is expected to be different because he looks Asian, and how, as a TCK, he doesn't rebel against that perception because he does indeed feel different.

Yes, my very oldest and dearest stuffed animal is a moose. 

I have often felt the opposite. While I was in China, from all appearances, I was the foreigner. Here, from all appearances, I am a native. Yet I often feel different, not having grown up here but instead having lived in a country not my own for the majority of my life. You would never guess it by looking at me, and I've come to learn that it's easier to give a simplified answer than try and go through the whole explanation with most people.

Living internationally, coming to the States for college and traveling between two continents, time has shown its effect on the places I call home. As one of the authors of the articles mentions, even when he goes home, nothing is exactly the same. Places, people, home... they are transient and the changes are all the more stark when you've been away for a while. This is no less true for me. Most of my high school friends no longer live in Shanghai-- they are scattered around the world. Going to Shanghai doesn't guarantee a big reunion.

Though my passport tells me that the United States of America is my home, is it? I've come to learn that I will forever be missing one place or another, not just for the physical place and the delicious foods, but for the people with whom I shared life with in that time and space. I read an article the other day that touched on how young people of this day and age are so preoccupied with their lives and their doings that it's easy to lose sight of the Kingdom of God-how they have no desire for Heaven. I think that one product of being a TCK is that I am very aware of the flaws in our definition of "home."

I long for Home. For that place where there are no more goodbyes. For that place where I can be with my family as well as my college friends as well as my high school friends. For that place where distance is a non-issue. For that place where time is a non-issue. For that place that has foods of all cultures and I don't have to pay an arm and leg for it. For that place where all those who love me and whom I love are in one place. For that place where locational tensions no longer exist. For that place where I can be utterly at ease, knowing I am Home.

For this longing, I am thankful. It reminds me that this world, these places, are not the end for me. This ache, will one day be no more. One day, I will no longer have to long for Home, because I will be there. Until then, I'll keep sharing life with people and places, growing my love for the diversity of this world and hopefully, spreading a desire and longing for Home to those around me-- there's plenty of room!