They are usually spoken, and they are always dreaded. One is an unanswerable question. The other is often the feeling of death. Among the people in the Third Culture, there aren’t any more dreaded words to speak.
They’re constantly anticipated. They are constantly dreaded. They are almost always connected.
When greeting a new person, the first almost always slips out. The simple question, “Where are you from?” can strike horror and paralysis into the heart of the TCK. She wonders, “Does she want to know where my parents live—when they’re in this country? When they’re in our other country? Where I went to school? What my passport says:? Where I was born? WHAT?!?!?!!?”
The other dreaded word is the flip side of any salutation. If there’s a hello, there must be a good-bye. Hellos are easy to say if you don’t know they have grief and, yes, sometimes anguish connected to them. But if this TCK gets to know you, and you get to know him . . . there will be pain and dread when it’s time to say good-bye.
Some refuse to say most hellos. It’s not that they’re insecure or stuck up. It’s that they already feel the pain of the farewell. Others hide from leave-taking. They think it will be easier that way. They’re wrong. Avoidance only leads to pain that takes much, much longer to heal.
Do you know a Third Culture Kid? Try to help their dread. Be more specific about what you want to know, or pursue their vague answer to a place of clarity. When it’s time say good-bye. Say it. Help them say it. You’ll both be better for it.
Today I did a 5 Minute Friday with The Gypsy Mama. (I really needed a prompt. Yesterday my words couldn’t find coherence. The prompt helped today.) After you’ve left me a comment, head on over to her site and see what others have to say about Good-Bye.