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.
It’s refreshing to talk to a certain kind of person who is well-traveled, one who understands that their assumptions about people on a group and individual level go right out the door whenever they meet someone new. So far, I’ve gone through Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila, Jakarta, and Bangkok in the past few months, and next week I will be in Colombo. There’s a lot I do have to say that only reinforces my last post on the lie that is multiculturalism now: it’s better to be an outsider and recognized as one by both others and by yourself than it is to be an outsider trying to fit into cities and societies that pride themselves on the falsehood that is diversity.
The depth of experiences and the diversity of stories that those who travel and undergo great changes in life are sure to make for great conversation starters at a cocktail party. Unfortunately, there is a point where that bragging and exceptional uniqueness becomes a distasteful hubris that alienates people from one another, leaving them to sulk in the corner and meet like-minded folks who were similarly rejected. It is upon this moment they realize they are both not just travelers, but fellow Third Culture Kids, and they decide to talk about how everyone else is closed-minded or doesn’t get them, and generally caught in a bog of stagnant muck unable to see what’s out there. The two of them enjoy a moment at the party, and everyone else lives their lives mingling: the two of them stand in their corner, martinis in hand, laughing at the bubble in front of them. That is openness and sense of adventure becomes lost in “civilian” settings and results in the so-called “worldly” people to merely replace one bubble for another instead of “venturing outside their comfort zone” and “exploring the world” or being “more open-minded” than “others”.