Baltasar Gracian’s Art of Worldly Wisdom is essential reading in anyone’s library. I found this rather fitting for the Third Culture Kid context.
Aphorism #198 Know how to transplant Yourself.
There are nations with whom one must cross their borders to make one’s value felt, especially in great posts. Their native land is always a stepmother to great talents: envy flourishes there on its native soil, and they remember one’s small beginnings rather than the greatness one has reached.
A needle is appreciated that comes from one end of the world to the other, and a piece of painted glass might outvie the diamond in value if it comes from afar. Everything foreign is respected, partly because it comes from afar, partly because It is ready made and perfect.
We have seen persons once the laughing-stock of their village and now the wonder of the whole world, honoured by their fellow-countrymen and by the foreigners [among whom they dwell]; by the latter because theycome from afar, by the former because they are seen from afar. The statue on the altar is never reverenced by him who knew it as a trunk in the garden.
In my experience as a Third Culture Kid, I find when I have problems in one place, it’s because I get attached to the environment and people. It is only when I travel to another city, state, country, or continent do I realize where some problems begin, and it isn’t me. Likewise, when I move between groups of friends, I realize I don’t belong to them, I’m merely amongst them, and their drama and joy is mine as long as I stick around. This is why I move between different social groups often, whether it is my friends in the circles of taiko drumming, acting, parkour, spiritually-inclined, fighting, Third Culture Kids online, graduate students, Asian-American activists, indie music fans, b-boys, gamers, and the legal field.
Whenever someone tells me that I have a lot of interests and not a lot of focus, I disagree because all of these relate to one focus: self-improvement and increasing my ability to relate to more people. Transplanting oneself to me doesn’t mean just up and leaving for another city or country, but being able to talk to someone about video games one minute before being inspired to transition into talking about Kierkegaard and post-modernism because of the artistic inspiration behind a game we both enjoyed.
In other words, transplant yourself as necessary by being a renaissance person, and have at least one or two specializations. That way, you can keep yourself open to the flow of life and show a certain awareness and appreciation, while at the same time having a solid foundation in your specialty.
Know your audience and know yourself. When speaking to the youth, try to keep abreast of what’s going on in the their popular culture: transplanting yourself means knowing when to use dirty jokes to illustrate a point or to talk about someone like Justin Bieber when dealing with different people. Know how they might perceive you, and try to gauge just how much of what you can control in changing or controlling how they see you. Doing so means a mastery of transplanting and adapting instead of remaining static and parochial–which is what Third Culture Kids and fellow travelers learn in order to redefine themselves in new cultures and countries.