Time and space are extremely abstract concepts in of themselves, so imagine how my life has influenced me to perceive them, both for the weirdness in my life and the Third Culture Kid upbringing.
Both time and space seem to have this strange relativity to them, in that they are essentially derived from a common acceptance of what a second, minute, or hour are, regardless of how they are experienced differently by everyone, whether it is the longest fifteen minutes before the work day ends or the shortest two-week adventure in Bangkok. Why does a hundred miles seem to be longer than a hundred kilometres? Well, besides the fact it actually is, I mean how it feels longer than the actual difference in distance between the two different measurements.
When I talk about going to Manila or Hong Kong, then back to Los Angeles or wherever, people who don’t live the global life or have not lived it before think of the way I speak so casually about moving between places that they are almost like locations I could walk down the street to. Their understanding is that just by being in a “foreign” country that the distance is already unfathomable. Yet when I’m in Hong Kong and take the train to Shenzhen, China, some people will look and say “Oh, he’s in China?!” even if geographically it’s not that far of a distance; others will say that it’s just next to Hong Kong, yet it feels like a completely different world, much like how my friends who drove through the EU feel in every country they’ve passed through.
I think about Manila and Hong Kong not just as places, but as moments frozen in time. I think about time in an international school as being a greater extent of that because of how sheltered it is, in spite of the ironically diverse population that goes in there and creates that new mental space and culture, insulated and in its own world, regardless of where everyone came from before. With all this thinking, I’m not really “here” so to speak, whether it’s in this present moment or here in Los Angeles where I write. I think of my childhood in various moments that don’t have any links to a place, because the only common element was my father, so part of my life is associated with all the North American cities I was raised in, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Manila.
Manila will have a special place in my heart, but it isn’t going to be a home without him, and if the rest of my friends there leave, I have no reason to be in the Philippines besides traveling around. Hong Kong, for all the memories I have with dad, will weigh heavily, yet still be calling me because I’ll know where we ate, where he bought his golf clubs, and where he asked me to translate for the fact his Chinese was lost in the 1980s from not speaking it enough to outright forgetting it. Home is where the heart is, and my father’s favorite places were Hong Kong and Manila.
For all the criticism people had for the movie adaptation of Alex Garland’s The Beach, one quote I believe really resonates well with me and fellow TCKs: “I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for, ’cause it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something, and if you find that moment… it lasts forever…” That something that I am a part of is the global TCK community. That other thing I am a part of is the empire I will build, and the legacy of my father, whose will carries on in me and through me, for what he taught me was greater than any money or estate he could have bequeathed to me.