“Betwixt and between,” she said jokingly!
I still recall the day that an older co-worker came over to my desk where I worked as a newly promoted employee in the Sears Credit Department. In what seemed to be good-natured humor she said, “betwixt and between.” As she continued to chuckle, I curiously pondered what it was that she was saying. Was she making reference to my racially mixed background? If she was, indeed, poking fun at my identity, then I failed to see the funnier side of what she seemed to be so exquisitely enjoying.
Was it possible that she was making reference to my transitional phase of moving from adolescence to adulthood and landing my first real job? Or, perhaps, she was referring to my novice skill level, given that I had just moved up from being part-time salesclerk on the “flying squad” rotational unit to a full time credit department employee. As I continued to scrutinize her face for some glimmer of understanding, she continued to laugh, as she pointed to my hair. “Betwixt and between” she again declared. “That’s what I call my hair,” she said, still chuckling! “You and I have something in common!” Pointing to her hair in return,… I laughed. She was right!!
You might ask what does discussion about “betwixt and between” hair has to do with a blog about third culture kids and adults.
Where do I begin…
First, I have been pondering some of the comments that I have received from readers, both on this blog and in emails about mixed race and minority TCKs, as well as first hand experiences around issues connected to being a mixed ethnicity TCK. In addition to those of feelings of rootlessness or not quite fitting in that most TCKs typically know… that sense of not having a place that they call home … that feeling of being from nowhere and everywhere, for some, there often exists yet another layer of experiences that accompany living in an internationally mobile lifestyle.
TCKs who are from multiethnic backgrounds have an added sense of not belonging within a explicitly defined category. For example, there are no neat little boxes that can be checked off on an application… no space where he or she can connect from an aspect of a clearly categorized identity. There also a heightened struggle for acceptance for being just “who they are.” I will never forget my son’s frustrations when filling out his first job applications and experiencing feelings of the ambiguity of an identity that could not be characterized both from the perspective of being biracial and as a TCK born in and spending formative years in countries outside of the US.
A couple of months ago, I came across the most interesting discussion about liminality on Charles La Shure’s blog about his betwixt and between word of being a westerner living and working in Korea at Liminality: The Space In Between.
If most of you are like me, you have never heard of the term liminality, and most probably not associated with a discussion of being a Third Culture Adult or a Third Culture Kid. So for purposes of this discussion, I think that it would be best to start with providing a definition of liminality. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines liminality as: of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition; in-between; transitional. For a more detailed definition and historical explanation of this concept, see LaShure’s comprehensive discussion.
In this sense, TCKs could certainly identify with this state of liminality… existing in neither one culture nor the other space of being … betwixt and between …. the third culture. Certainly, TCKs of a mixed race background, especially those whose parents are from differing passport cultures might especially recognize the liminality of existing in “the space in-between.”
The other reason that I chose to open this blog by poking fun at my liminal, “betwixt and between” hair was because I wanted to introduce a lighter touch to open a dialog(ue) about a very serious topic that I believe will only grow, as we continue to experience massive demographic and societal changes that have been brought on by increasing globalization.
I'd be delighted to hear stories from my readers about what’s different and what’s the same for TCKs from a biracial/bicultural or multiethnic background and the usual experiences of other TCKs. What are some of the challenges that you believe you have faced that are different from the experiences of TCKs whose parents are of the same race, ethnicity or passport culture? What are some of the gifts that you believe you have developed as a result of your unique identity and place of liminality?