It has been 1,294 days since I first set foot on U.K. soil. Six months ago, I moved into my first flat (apartment) in the U.K. This was such a milestone for me. It was my 14th time moving, but for some reason this time it felt different. It felt a little more permanent. Everything, from the interior design and location seemed to match everything I had ever prayed for. For the first time, even though this was clearly a leased home, it felt mine, stable and secure.
It was only three months later, that I had to pack up again, and return for a short while to the U.S. I moved in with my parents for a couple of months into their new home (they had moved again since I'd been gone). So I guess that makes it 16 places I've now called home. Returning to the country, state, and town I spent most of my life in and not recognising where to shop for specific groceries, the street I supposedly lived on, or how the day to day life worked there hit me in a new way. After living in three different countries and moving homes 15 times, you would think, this would just become normal. I had already lived in 11 homes, between four states, within two different countries, before the age of 18. I genuinely believed I could quickly adapt and adjust anywhere I moved to. I believed it would just become second nature to me because that was my normal. The truth is, it's not very normal at all. It never has been, and I was 24 when I finally realised it.
As I had dinner with a childhood friend one night, She asked me how I was able to do so much travelling. She wasn't asking about it financially or logistically, she genuinely didn't see how I could deal with the instability of not having a forever home and being so far away from family. Without much thought, I replied, "Well I've never really had a forever home or had my family all in one place." Weeks later in a similar conversation, my mother asked me why I was so willing to GO when I felt that my calling would take me so far away. I remember chuckling and in my own cheeky way replying, "Well, I guess my whole life has been preparing me to be on the go. This time there's just a deeper purpose behind it."
Change has been a part my life for as long as I can remember. Instability is second nature and security was never heard of. This is an upbringing that I can truly say prepared me for the journey adulthood would bring. However, it hasn't proved to make transition any easier. Maybe I'm speaking to the minority out there, but I read an article by Nina Sichel, a guest blogger for the Children's Mental Health Network that spoke about third-culture kids. It said this,
"There are three basic things all children need: belonging, recognition and connection. For TCKs, these basic needs are ripped away with each move. Powerless in the decision to relocate, their many losses are often not acknowledged even by their own parents.... These children are losing the worlds they love, over and over. They cycle through the stages of grief each time they move — or they don’t, and push it down, submerge it, only to have it bubble up later in life, unexplained."
So why the TCK reference? I was 24 when I realised my upbringing gave me experiences similar to those of a TCK. I was moved between countries by the time I was eight, I grieved each home I left behind, and often feeling like the Spanish phrase goes, "ni de aqui, ni de alla." (neither from here nor there.) While this made moving for me less daunting as an adult. It definitely left me used to not only moving, but also grieving.
Five weeks ago, I set foot once again in the U.K. for at least another eight months. This week, I finally moved from my living room back to my old bedroom in my flat. It took me awhile to readjust and make my space home again. Like I said, transition is never easy. However, I celebrated each little thing like unpacking, setting up my prayer room/office, and sleeping in a real bed again. For the last month, I couldn't pinpoint what was making transitioning back home so difficult. Turns out, I was grieving my 16th home, even while loving my 15th home just as much. The same TCK article mentioned earlier quoted a TCK named Ruth Van Reken which stated this, "The issue is that transition always involves loss, no matter how good the next phase will be. Loss always engenders grief and the greater you have loved a situation or place or people, the greater the grief." Leaving one of my many homes to return to my current home was perhaps harder than the last. However, it has taught me that one home doesn't cease to be just because you call a new place home. I've learned that each home has come with its own flavour, memories and joy. I've learned, "Que soy de aqui y de alla." (I'm from here and from there). There is one HOME I can't wait to spend eternity in, but in the meantime I count it a blessing to say I've had all the homes in between.
To my fellow global humans, whether you find yourself a citizens of many nations or maybe no nation at all due to circumstances out of your control. Grieving home(s) is okay. Finding beauty in all the homes in between is also okay. But remember the promise of a home that is yet to come.
For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.