Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Who are you and where are you from?

Such a simple question. Or is it really? Most people in the world have always lived in the same place, country with maybe an odd house-change here or there sprinkled in the mix, but on the whole are easily able to define who they are and where they are from.

Ask me the same question and you're likely to get a long-winded slightly varied answer. It will depend on who you are, how interested I judge you to be and how much I am willing to share of my life at the time. Something along the lines of I'm originally from Australia, but lived in Zambia for 6 years, have been in the UK about 18 months and have lived in at least 20 houses in the last decade (I have no idea where to begin to count them all). Actually I just wrote down a list of the last 22 something years of my life (see below for the timeline of my life if you are interested) and not counting hostels or other peoples houses I temporarily stayed at, or any travelling of any kind, I have lived in and moved between at least 32 different buildings or 'homes'. No wonder I lack a sense of identity.

Not being able to easily answer where you are from is a pretty common response for TCKs (third culture kids), MKs (missionary kids), CCKs (cross culture kids), global nomads, military brats or any other name used to describe people who spent a fair proportion of their childhood living in another culture becoming ATCKs (adult third culture kids). When asked the question, "what animal are you?" I have always described myself as beign a chameleon, generally able to adapt, fit in and get along with almost any location, situation or person

I am restless, feel more confident with change, am terrible at making decisions finding it easier to make a life-changing decision on the spot without thinking about it, I am rootless and feel like I belong everywhere and no where at the same time. It can be explained as feeling like everywhere is home, being relatively comfortable and at ease no matter what country, house, building or location. I frequently confuse people talking about 'home' because it could mean anything from the current building I live in London, Liverpool, where my parents are in Zambia, where I grew up in Australia.....

Why am I looking into this now? Well, I guess I'm having a bit of an identity crisis. And if I don't know who I am, how can I know where I am going, what I want. I've always struggled knowing what I want. There's things I think I want, but I am rarely ever 100% positive about something, which then comes across negatively in relationships, friendships and family when you repeatedly push people who care about you and who you care about, away for no apparent reason. TCKs are known to often have troubles developing intimate relationships (thankfully this issue has skipped the others in my family, just me to deal with here!) and are more likely to maintain emotional distance as a coping or prevention method of the pain that may come with future separation.

So. I want to sort myself out, become stronger as a person and let in the people I love, let them know and feel that they are important to me, and that ultimately I do love them no matter what.

Time line of my life
Pre 1998 - Grew up in Springwood, NSW, Australia to the age of 11, moved twice (that I remember) George St, then Frazer Rd

1998 (1)- June relocated to Mukinge, North West Zambia

1999 - Mukinge, Zambia

2000 (1)- July, returned to Australia for 6 months, living in Halcion Avenue

2001 (1)- January returned to Zambia, living in Ndola

2002 (2) Ndola, Zambia - flew independently to Australia for a month November-Dec to complete year 10 exams, lived with the Coghlans in Winmalee

2003 (2)- Ndola until October, flew independently to Australia to commence Yr 12, lived with the Coghlans for 3 months in Lee Rd

2004 (1)- Frazer Rd, Springwood for year 12

2005 (1)- Moved to Wollongong for 1st year uni, boarded with a family on Murphys Avenue, Keiraville

2006 (1)- 2nd year uni, moved to Grey Street, Gwynville, Wollongong with a friend

2007 (2) - 3rd year uni, "moved" back to the mountains and commuted the 1.5hr journey to uni 2-3 days with an overnight stay at a friends house for 6 months, then between sydney-mountains doing a research project

2008 (6) - Moved to Coniston, Wollongon with a class mate Feb-May, June-July moved home while on placement in Katoomba, July lived with a classmate's family in Shoalhaven on placement, Aug-Sept lived on site in Liverpool for placement, Sept-Oct moved onsite to Bathurst for placement, October relocated to Bendigo, VIC (10hours drive from Sydney, 2hrs from Melbourne) for my first job post uni for 3 months. Returned to Sydney approx 4-5 times.

2009 (3) - Jan finished in Bendigo VIC and moved to Balmain, Sydney, lived in Nurses quarters for 3 months. April moved to Annandale, November returned to the nurses quarters in Balmain as our lease was terminated unexpectedly

2010 (6) Jan - Balmain, February flew to South East Asia independently and spent 3 months travelleling Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, May - returned to the mountains and my old job in springwood, June - relocated to Mildura, VIC for 3 weeks locuming, July - relocated to the UK and the Lakes District as a locum dietitian living on site until September, October - Couchsurfed in Manchester for 3 weeks with mates while working at Christies hospital, October - affected by the cold with ?SAD volunteered for 2 weeks in South Spain and lived in a bus, November/Dec - couchsurfed Manchester for 2 months until their lease expired, moved to another share house in manchester for 2 weeks prior to Christmas prior to making way back to Australia

2011 Jan (5)- Living in Springwood for a month working at the pool, Feb -April relocated with <24h notice to Liverpool in the UK for a locum position, lived on site in Bebington. April-June, felt like I needed to stay put for a while, moved into Liverpool into a share house and worked at a bar, June -Aug work in Manchester at 2 hospitals, commuted up to 5 hours a day between liverpool and manchester. September - lived in Belfast at a hostel for 2 weeks for a job, then relocated to London to start a Masters curently living in Langdon park in a box.


  1. you are in your twenties. you are supposed to be questioning your identity. be free to choose. be free to make decisions on a whim. its about accumulating experiences. otherwise, you won't have any stories to tell your grandchildren!

  2. Hi Gemma, I found your blog via Tckid.com. I think your dilemma is quite normal, especially for us (adult) third culture kids. Where are you from? I think the answer for us is often: It's complicated...Do you want the short version of the story or the long version?
    I actually wrote a guest post on the website of Expat Explorer with the same title: http://expatexplorer.blogspot.com/2011/11/where-are-you-from.html
    I lived in Zambia too as kid and was born there :-).
    Here is another blog post that might be interesting for you: http://drieculturen.blogspot.com/2011/09/third-culture-kids-learning-to-be.html

    I do think writing helps, so keep writing!