When you grow up, as I did, in a Taiwanese family but schooled in a Western context, you learn to cope with dissonance. When your “village” consists of parents and teachers from dramatically different cultures, you are raised to straddle two boats floating in different directions. I have blogged in the past about my TCK (Third-Culture-Kid) issues, and by issues I mean I really should pay top dollars to anyone who can help untangle the mess that is my background. But because I like to keep my cash and avoid the stigma of seeing a shrink, I’m just gonna “process” out loud here and who knows, maybe a nice counselor will happen to read it and sort me out for free. *qualified professionals only, please. And no, watching Dr. Phil does NOT count.*
Here’s the dealio: you know how I can speak two languages? Most people think that’s really cool and stuff, but it also makes me really weird. See, I grew up learning both languages at the same time, so I think my brain formed differently from the get go. In order to interact in one language, I developed the capacity to hear, respond, and act according to one culture’s set of rules and standards. But then I was presented with an arguably opposite set of expectations delivered in another language and customs, and in order to resonate with both, I think I had to grow another brain. No, you say, science has not proven multilingual persons to present with multiple brains. Well, guess what, I’m not a scientist. I’m a blogger and bloggers can say whatever the heck they want.
Anyway, back to my alien brain formation, I believe my two brains are constantly trying to coexist within my average sized head, sometimes in tandem with each other, other times elbowing and shoving to make room for themselves. So when my behavior and choices appear to other people as being “self-contradictory”, I argue on the contrary, I am “self-consistent”, it’s just that my two brains have opposing functions and opinions but they are fully contained within oneself.
Boy I can make up crap to justify my
schizophrenia, split-personality, TCK issues.
How else do you explain why I am never content to belong to one group? In school, as most of my friends gravitated to the Chinese crowd, or the English-speaking crowd, I had best friends belonging to both groups. In college when time came to declare a major, I chose two: Business/economics and Bible. And no, I do not sell Bibles now as a career. When we were newlyweds, we tried out a “young marrieds” small group at church and I almost suffocated. Why, would anyone in their right minds, want to hang out with people just like them? We made a quick exit and joined an eclectic group with a leader who is now openly gay, couples with adult children, divorcees, and young singles. In politics, I am pro-life but also hardcore environmentalist. In theology, I believe absolutely in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but am open to the theories of evolution. As a woman, I had babies early, cook exclusively for my family, design craft projects around the home. Yet I also work, dream big dreams about saving the world, and engage in conversations that are male-dominated.
Heck, I even use Apples AND PCs.
The truth is, I learned from a very young age how people can be different but have equal value. I learned that ideas can be opposing but still worth engaging. I learned how we can speak in foreign languages, eat different foods, believe different gods, and still interact in meaningful ways. I learned by default to think outside the box because I was raised outside the box.
I realize my circumstances as a TCK is quite unique. However, it’s not just me, is it? Aren’t we all inclined to resist being labeled as just one brand of human being? We are inspired by great art and music and nature because we are given a window to something bigger than ourselves. We feel our way around the walls of whichever box we are in, groping for an opening to step out. We spend our lives trying on different labels to see which fits, then begin to resent the weight those labels add up.
There is a certain comfort in belonging to a category. Common threads bind us and give us strength. The desire to put down roots grounds us. But then let us grow a vibrant, diverse tree that branches out far and wide. The fear of the unknown cannot keep us from living robust lives which shatters boundaries and break down walls. It may feel like going down the road less traveled is going to be lonely, but that’s simply untrue. There are plenty of people there – people with big hearts, brave souls, generous charity, living dynamic lives. Somehow, meeting them grows your heart bigger, injects courage into your souls, and prompts more generosity.
Yes, I’ve got issues. And just like the Scarecrow says in the Wizard of Oz, I go both ways, and that life can get conflicting and heavy-laden, but this less traveled road has led me to some beautiful places and people.
What do you think? Have I got the crazies, or am I not all that different from you?