Most people think the third culture kid is synonymous with the constant traveler.
But I am not a traveler.
To travel is to go somewhere for a couple days, a couple of months, maybe a year.
To go with a mind primed for adventure, new rhythms, new people, new experiences.
My life however, (and there are thousands like me) is reluctant. Movement is birthed of necessity, following our parents who chose for various socio-economic reasons to pursue careers always elsewhere.
Forced to embrace whole cultures, adopt new habits, and re-orient our vision because our survival and quality of life depend on it.
Foreign soil does not always represent adventure or new experiences.
Sometimes, it speaks a struggle to accept “home” as here…wherever here happens to be.
There is little choice in the matter.
My constant movement is not wanderlust.
It is a constant oscillation between fixed points of the self.
A self geographically divided, held together by belief.
What happens then, when home becomes wherever I have once taken root?
My life often feels like I’ve been repeatedly slammed into the soil.
And I have learned to reach deep to live well.
Embracing is the only way to grow.
For even when uprooted, where the firmness of tangles once carried life, tunnels remain.
They exist everywhere I have been, extending outward in spiralling loops carrying the rush of echo, the quiet stirring, the occasional nostalgia.
Proof I was once there.
Proof of the self, indented in the earth.
There is fear too, crumbling against the brown walls.
A city still and waiting in the past. Homes I am afraid to return to.
Afraid that the tunnels will have caved beyond recognition, paved over and overrun with new scents and shifting skylines.
Where do I find the quiet earth my memories carved space into?
What is a home?
That is the catch, after all.
The price to pay for displacement.
Life goes on wherever we are.
Home developing without us, even though they are still and eternal within.
I am not traveling, I am always returning.
And somewhere along the way, I have lost years of places and faces.
I have missed the shifting tideline and the extending crack in the concrete.
The first journey out of any airport is always sensory.
My eyes watching, my ears waiting, for the same, for change and the spectrum in between.
Touch like a warm palm against cool glass – the slow transfer of heat.
Time acclimatizing me.
The shock of loss giving way to the acceptance of change.
There is a building here that wasn’t here before.
The lady sitting at the gate does not work anymore.
Here is new death.
Here is old life.
The condensation of familiarity reaffirming my handprint on the window.
The bus driver who took me to school still does the same rounds with his wife.
I can still retrace my footsteps in this maze of corners and shops.
I was once here.
I am here again.
This is what my life is.
This is the tangle of home.
There is a cookie store in a small airport in a city on the island of Borneo, where I’ve been buying 200g bags of Butterscotch Macadamia cookies for ten years now.
Surrounded by family in a house that I cannot locate on a map, in a city I do not know.
That is also part of home.
I know many airports. They are homecomings. I go from homecoming to homecoming.
I scan my digital thumbprint at one entrance and scan the same thumbprint at the other exit.
I am always returning to
the FOX candies and waterfalls at immigration counters.
the long slope toward the taxi stand we drag our feet along as we ride the trolleys.
the wooden arched ceiling and straight rows of palm trees.
the smell of coffee and the promise of long winters.
And everywhere, the tunnels carry whispers,
Welcome home. Welcome home. Welcome home.