By Geneva Rockeman
My siblings and I grew up knowing we were Third Culture Kids (TCKs). My parents were expats, but both had grown up in small towns in middle America and I think they spent most of their parenting energy keeping track of our weird little brains and making sure the life they’d picked for us wasn’t turning us into antisocial train wrecks. They asked a lot of questions and made us think before we answered.
They went to seminars. My parents talked to other expats. They asked questions. We went on retreats with other TCKs. When my father retired and we moved to the US, there was a week-long re-entry camp I attended. It was wonderful! They asked us a lot of questions. I was being heard and I remembered I wasn’t alone. I knew I was one of many people who felt like I did.
But it had been years since I attended anything similar. There was always some obstacle, and over the last few years I had forgotten what these gatherings were like. I had forgotten how it felt to be asked the right questions and have my answer be heard.
“You lived in Ethiopia? Lucky! Was the coffee amazing?”
Yes, random stranger, yes it was. It was actually something of a transcendent experience. Thank you for asking. I will also tell you about the way they measure time and how frankincense smells. I now feel a deep connection between our souls and I think we should be friends.
“When you hear the call to prayer, don’t you feel homesick?”
Yes, person I met five minutes ago. Now I’m going to cry on your shoulder a little bit, like I know you really well. Then, you’re going to cry a little too, and we’re going to never speak of this again. It’s not weird.
The sessions were just as excellent, bright, pointed, and, sometimes, emotional.
I sat through hours of presentations, cramming information into my notebook, hoping I could remember it all. I often felt I hadn’t taken in enough, disappointed I couldn’t attend all of them. Everyone asked questions. It must’ve been difficult for the presenters to answer them all. Almost every session went a little bit over time, but every question felt relevant and the presenters clearly wanted to answer them.
I felt wrung out when the conference was over, in a good way. I was sad to be leaving, not only because I would miss being in such positive company, but because I was reminded what it felt like to ask these questions and share information. It was a safe place. I left feeling satisfied, and heard, and like my questions had been answered.
Geneva Rockeman has lived in many different climates and holds strong opinions on whether or not winter has ever been necessary. She writes for poetry for pleasure and prose for profit because she has been told that it is cheaper and less harmful than a drugs habit.