It is very strange to be present at a time where we already know history is being made. This COVID-19 pandemic, officially announced yesterday as such by the WHO, has currently infected more than 115,800 people over the world and has spread anxiety and uncertainty all over the world in much larger numbers. The financial and political results are still developing as I write.
One of the unimaginable outcomes is seeing our national borders begin to tighten up significantly. Just last night it was announced that President Trump suspended travels from Europe to the US! We are expected to stay still where we are, stop traveling and minimize physical contact as much as we can. It is challenging for people all over the world and more so for the global nomads, the impact is dramatic. Global mobility was one of the most powerful changing forces in the last century, it changed our cultures, economies, identities and more. Limiting our mobility can alter our lives significantly in ways we may not have thought of.
One of the well known characteristics of TCKs - Third Culture Kids, who grow up internationally, is developing a possible sense of restlessness and rootlessness. For many of us who identify ourselves as globally mobile, airports are a place of comfort and excitement. When your life has taken you through many cultures and places, the spaces in between are becoming familiar. It is not uncommon to hear from TCKs that they feel at home in any airport. When the freedom of mobility is taken away there is a huge potential of uneasiness.
Following the news and listening carefully to my clients in the last few weeks I started to see a pattern. The question: “Where is home?” was becoming real, not just an idea to think about theoretically. One example came from higher education. As universities are starting to close and move to online teaching many international students are experiencing the painful reality of having no good default. Should they stay in the university while their peers are going home to their local hometowns? Or should they go? But where to? Some of the universities are even closing their dorms!
Others explain that they traveled for work to other places and were treated suspiciously when people realized they were coming from abroad.
These are times that can be harder on the third culture community, when the sense of belonging is already fragile. Being labeled as a threat, taking away the option of flying back somewhere that you can feel comfortable in, or worse, flying back and being treated as a threat, being apart from family without knowing when you can meet again, are all potential stressors for the globally mobile population.
There is a growing sense of alertness, a voice that is calling everyone to go back to where you think you can best cope in these challenging times. But do we all have clear answers? Do we all know where you prefer to be ”stuck”?
Many ATCKs ( adult third culture kids) have many options, many places that in normal times can make you feel local, but when you are pushed to the edge where will you go? To your passport country? To where you grow up? Where your parents live today?
My heart is with all the people out there that have no easy answers.
These are times to support each other, to care, to ask for help and give help if possible.
As a Psychologist I want to support and say that feeling stressed and anxious is expected, it is normal, this specific population has an extra stressor. We should acknowledge that.
The best we can do is to accept it, work with it, talk about your situations, engage in mindfulness activities, show compassion to yourself and others.
Take care wherever you are and stay connected!