In a post that is no longer relevant to the recent craze of the Crazy Rich Asians film, I’ve spent the past few weeks ruminating on the film and what has been stirring about in my mind after watching it. It doesn’t hurt that an old post I wrote years ago was referenced twice by two bloggers here and here. So before you click “read more”, understand that this is 100% about me reacting to the film rather than being about the film, which you can read about elsewhere and its relevant controversies all over the Internet.
Prologue: Friends Are Either God’s Way of Apologizing to You For Your Family, or Proof That There is No God
“Your friends are your family” a woman once told me in response to my situation. I suppose that a caveat there that many people miss is to consider what their definition and criteria for what makes someone a friend is, and it’s a life-long process of culling people until I find the right ones. Another view I’ve heard is that the definition of Hell is Other People.
Going into the unknown temple of my soul
Prologue: Standing in the Sunset Glow
I once read an interpretation of an old Japanese television series I watched about child soldiers, and one of the main themes was that you could subject children to extreme brutality and hardship, but for some reason, something in each individual’s inner nature causes them to become different people. Some were honorable warriors, others were bloodthirsty savages. A very big metaphor for the nature versus nurture argument. In my view, nurturing people is what brings out something within them and triggers who they naturally are, which is why the extremes of hardship and privilege will tell you enough about someone.
Another quote I heard best summarizes this:
Two things determine your character: your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything.
The one argument people in my family use to dismiss the complexities of my life is to point at my younger sister. What they do not realize is their assumptions tell me more about them and what lies my father told them about our life; that people truly did believe we were extremely privileged people. The problem is, they didn’t know my father, and my father didn’t want them to know either.
Orestes, torn between mother and father: his suffering caused by his family
Introduction: This Boy’s Life
It’s hard to talk about my past and discover where the divergence in problems begins, for my family has historically been downright abusive, neglectful, and toxic. My childhood is full of moments of abandonment, lies, and scapegoating, and as a result of the disease of life, I was eventually made into a Third Culture Kid, dragged around the world with no end in sight and the belief I’d eventually return to the childhood friends and home I was taken from a delusion I held onto for sanity. Consequently, by becoming the Third Culture Kid I am, it created an even deeper divide between my family and I.
Alone in the world.
As of today, I will have been back in North America for 23 days–nearly two years of being being in an alternate universe known as Cambodia (or rather, a few different universes, considering it’s been many, many countries in the developing world since I disappeared in 2012). I could handle the malaria and dengue, the landmines and gunshots, the muggings and chaos on the streets, because it gave life meaning as I was there to directly experience the impact I made in the work I’ve done helping others. But the biggest challenge is finding that place I belong when in civilian life, where the world I come from is practically science fiction or a Hollywood movie, and people trivialize my life by whatever stereotypes they see on television and make funny assumptions.
I’ve been back in the Philippines for two weeks now after my stint in Bangkok. A conversation this weekend that I had with a friend I last saw five years ago happened to be about one of my blog articles, or rather, the content in one that struck a chord with her: about being a failed Filipino. Arguably, her situation might be worse than mine, seeing she grew up in a Filipino family most of her life in the Philippines, and I spent but five years in Manila, in the international school bubble, speaking English, after having lived in America and Hong Kong.
Jonathan Livingston, Seagull
When I first discovered the term “Third Culture Kid”, I didn’t immediately say “Oh! Now I know what I am! I’m not crazy!”, my first reaction was “Am I really a TCK?” After wondering and wandering through cultures and continents, the answer is a resounding yes at this point, but it’s not the whole of who I am. Last year, I came across one of the jargon terms used in the TCK literature, “hidden immigrant” which pretty much describes who I am when in America.