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Refusing to Be Erased

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Refusing to Be Erased:

Acknowledging the TCK Experience

[An exploratory opinion piece by Myra Dumapias.  Opinions shared in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of TCKid as an organization, or its staff and volunteers.]


Source: Used with Creative Commons license

“Erase and Rewind” by Neys Fadzil

I love great conversation.  I love stimulating intellectual discourse, and I love passionate debates that stay within the boundaries of mutual respect.  However, there are some topics that are not up for debate.

If I had a conversation with colleagues about how I made my career decisions, most likely, they would not argue with me about it.  If I spoke about my influential teachers and role models, they probably would not debate me in response.  If I described the utmost significant relationships and events that impacted my life, people probably would not challenge me about it, and it would be unthinkable to minimize my expressions of reverence about family members who have passed away.

Most people would not scoff at matters close to another person’s heart or stories out of someone’s struggles, battle scars (literal or metaphorical) and victories. Yet, for some odd reason, there still seems to be a point that some people doubt, minimize or challenge:  the Third Culture Kid (TCK) identity and/or experience.

 It is as if the cause of what many TCK’s experience as adults cannot be due to growing up as a global nomad or in a mobile family.  The cause always has to be something else…


Throughout the years, I have heard the below responses that minimize the impact of a globally or culturally mobile childhood and adolescence, the first three of which I heard before I knew the term TCK:

“Yes, but I’m talking about real childhood struggles, like about money, gangs or drugs, not just emotions.”

“Maybe you’re affected this much about (best friend) leaving because you don’t have brothers or sisters.”

“But what does moving frequently have to do with romantic relationships?”

“You sure it’s not because you’re single?”

“Oh, I always wanted to travel and you’re complaining because you travelled so much?”

“You’re just being nostalgic.”

“Isn’t it just abandonment issues?”

“But I know some military brats and they didn’t complain.”

It is as if the cause of what many TCK’s experience as adults cannot be due to growing up as a global nomad or in a mobile family.  The cause always has to be something else: being overly nostalgic, sensitive, single, sheltered, abandoned, the list goes on.  Some people cannot seem to accept that the frequent relocations or good-byes, the ever changing cross-cultural environments, the occasional separation from one or both parents, the constant pattern of leaving and making new friends, the sheer impact of multiple losses and other experiences can lead to the struggle to belong, the risk for depression (and in some cases, risk for suicide and PTSD), the existence of certain attachment issues, the itchy feet, or the sense of isolation.


 …If adult children of parents with career paths entirely different from each other, but share the commonality of global or cross cultural mobility, have found validation among one another in ways other identities or experiences do not, then it is not an imagined correlation


Of course, the effects are not only negative.  There are also the gifts that are common, such as the tendency to be able to engage in dialogue or relate with just about anyone, global consciousness, innovative thinking, sharp observational skills, the ability to adapt to different environments, insight to cultural nuances, an ability to navigate language with advanced analytical and communication skills and other talents.  However, the negative impact is something that is either underestimated or just dismissed.

It is true that global mobility or mobility through different cultures is not the only cause of these traits or experiences. Non-TCK’s can also share certain traits with TCK’s.  However, if adult children of parents with career paths entirely different from each other but share the commonality of global or cross cultural mobility have found validation among one another in ways other identities or experiences do not, then it is not an imagined correlation. It should not be dismissed.

It is also true that in the grand scheme of everything within the scope societal problems, the struggles of TCK’s do not have the same impact as the struggles of youth born into forced slavery or trafficking, for example, or major illnesses or extreme poverty.  Still, for those who are affected, it can impact many things in life.  This is why the persons who know the impact of certain experiences should be experts of these experiences, rather than someone who never experienced them.


 Some Words for My Readers:

For my readers who may have thought or uttered statements similar to the above, I am not angry with you and do not hold anything against you.  I only ask that you try to “listen” to the rest of what I have to share, letting me be the “teacher” for once.  Questions from a place of curiosity are welcome, but please not from antagonism.  I do not presume to know more than you about your life and the significance of your experiences.  In return, I respectfully ask you to see how you cannot be the expert of my life experiences nor that of thousands of people who have benefitted from discovering they were not alone in our shared experiences.  I ask this from you especially if you interact with TCK’s or provide any services specifically geared towards TCK’s (military brats, foreign-service brats, missionary kids, corporate dependents, and others who grew up globally mobile).

For my readers for whom this may be new or more in-depth knowledge, I hope this will be somewhat informative for you.  I appreciate your time in even reading this far and am grateful for any support for the TCK tribe.  If, through your further discovery of other TCK topics, you find yourself relating to this identity, welcome to the tribe!

For my readers who may fit the TCK definition, but do not necessarily relate to how global nomads have connected with one another around their TCK experiences, I am grateful to those who support us nonetheless. To those who were alongside us on our journey at some point but “got over it,” I celebrate the diverse ways different people have moved on from the initial stages of discovering the TCK identity. Continuing to work in this field as it evolves is simply my way of “getting over it”

Last but not least, for my readers who can relate to my experiences above, may the remainder of this article remind you that your voice is valuable and that you are not alone.  To the early community leaders, artists, writers, researchers, speakers, educators and supporters out there, I would not even be here discussing this were it not for the hard work you have paved the trail with, which you blazed for us.  I am deeply grateful for your sacrifices.

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Written by Myra Dumapias

December 13, 2014 at 2:54 pm

21 Responses

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  1. Thank you, Myra. This article eloquently states exactly what the issue is and has been about. Our identity — the past and the future. You cannot cut today’s BRAT off from yesterday’s BRAT without doing extreme harm.

    And no amount of research on the subject of the military child will ever be valid if you refuse to communicate with and include input from those who had a military childhood.

    We have every right to be angry, incensed and outraged by this hijack. And when confronted, instead of recognizing their failing and asking for input (which they would have gotten…if they were genuine), they chose to vilify us because we were criticizing them for being pure good souls who only wanted to help us.
    The first step was to acknowledge us by our name — not tell us that it was not good enough.
    They owe us a huge apology — not just for their initial hijacking, but also for their constant vilification and dismissal of us. [oh, I don’t intend to suffocate waiting for it though.]

    Misty Corrales

    December 13, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    • Exactly.. you put it so well! I am still hoping that some will realize their mistake in dismissing your concerns…. the way your concerns as a military brat community were dismissed makes it evident that there is an underestimation of who today’s military brats are exactly.


      December 15, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    • Well said! I needed this tribe years ago…but God used the well meaning but hurtful comments to draw me closer to Him…I now worry less what others think (yup, even in the church) n more what He thinks:)

      Beverly Young-Kniegge

      December 16, 2014 at 6:18 am

  2. Eloquent is an understatement. Thank you for putting words to our feelings.


    December 13, 2014 at 10:28 pm

  3. Wow! Well thought out, expressed and speaks as if it came from my own soul. I am a proud AF BRAT! Ten schools in 13 years. It made me work at getting over the social anxiety. lol I learned that since we would probably be moving in a year, I had better make friends fast or I would be lonely all year! Thank you for putting words to the song in my heart. ~hugs~


    December 13, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    • Yes as a civilian and foreign service brat, I completely relate to that! I think I invested time into this article because I was just trying to make connections when I felt overwhelmed with a spirit of rejection… extreme rejection in the skepticism of that conversation and the rejection of the precious voice of military brats ( some of whom also happen to be Vietnam vets!)


      December 15, 2014 at 2:44 pm

  4. “Please visit this page to watch an interview with military brats about this issue and how they wish to proceed with services and programs for military brats.”

    I’ve read the article twice and I still can’t figure out what “this page” is to watch the video and who “they” are? Is they a generic reference to older military brats? A specific brats organization and its leaders? Or an individual brat and a video they made? This is mixed in with a paragraph talking about Operation CHAMPS in the previous sentence. I don’t think the they is them even though they are the closest antecedent!?!

    Overall a very good and articulate article – but needs a once over to tighten up the grammar.


    December 14, 2014 at 7:40 am

    • Thanks! That one sentence was clarified to : “Please visit this page at a later time for a link that will be added in the near future to an interview with military brats about this issue. In the interview, we also discuss how they wish to proceed with services and programs for military brats.” … “this page” refers to this, here, page that this article is on.


      December 15, 2014 at 9:19 am

  5. Bravo Myra. WOW! I was going to say much more, but…WOW.

    Robert L Webster

    December 14, 2014 at 9:27 am

    • Robert, thank you for remaining very supportive and a great resource to partner with for the TCK community. I look forward to working with you as this year unfolds.


      January 23, 2015 at 1:02 pm

  6. Thank you for writing this. It’s important to have a calm and erudite voice on this issue, and you have provided it.

    Susan Haney

    December 14, 2014 at 10:25 am

    • Thank you, Susan. Believe me, I also had to find stillness before writing this. I was offended alongside you all.


      January 23, 2015 at 12:56 pm

  7. I hope all of our TCK experiences can encourage each other…I have forgiven unthoughtful comments, but feel I can use that experience to encourage others…if you’re new to an area and someone says ” You don’t seem to have any friends” turn a deaf ear…it does not define you. If someone puts down what you share comparing you to a Seattle street kid, they have no clue and no gift of empathy…please don’t let rude comments define how you feel about a place you live…it has taken me 20 years to forgive…may you be able to sooner:)

    Beverly Young-Kniegge

    December 14, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    • Thank you, Beverly. Yes I am in similar shoes as you – I just wanted to help those who have experienced being dismissed know that they are not alone. Writing and connecting with you all helped me move beyond how insensitive comments affected me.


      January 23, 2015 at 1:02 pm

  8. Thank you for bringing up some important issues, Myra. To the outsider our TCK experiences may seem trivial since they have no way to relate. I agree that our TCK needs are best met by other TCKs who have firsthand experience with the issues. I feel very fortunate that my experience as a TCK was more on the “gifts”/positive side, but I can certainly relate to some of the TCK challenges which I only really feel comfortable discussing with other TCKs. And your premise of protecting our identity as TCKs/military brats/whatever the case may be is spot on.

    Lily Ann Fouts

    December 15, 2014 at 8:59 am

    • Thank you Lily! It’s nice to hear that you could relate and agree to this as a civilian TCK!


      December 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm

  9. I await the completion of this treatise with bated breath and unbridled anticipation. The link to this article has become my standard for introduction of the uninitiated to the CHAMPS/BRAT fracas (and all things TCK)
    You have drawn up a dictionary, encyclopedic entry, historical document, and contact list/bios, in five easy pages that explains the basics (plus) clearly and concisely.
    Keep an extra copy on hand, ‘cuz I think I’m going to wear this one out.

    Michael A Payne

    December 20, 2014 at 3:24 pm

  10. As much as those close to me try to understand the struggles a Brat has undergone, they will admit that they don’t completely understand. Visiting my son recently we were discussing how many schools I attended, 15 total, which included 4 high schools (2 years in the same school), he lovingly said “no wonder you have wanderlust.”

    Kay Harrell Kern

    December 20, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    • Hi Kay… yes, those experiences are one of the things we have in common… I attended 3 high schools and spent 2 years in one school too! We need more people like us in leadership positions so that little things like this aren’t easily dismissed.


      January 23, 2015 at 12:54 pm

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