Monday, March 26, 2012

On Being a MK

 I am an MK.  I know the new term is TCK, but it is not my term.  I am a MK, and I am proud of that title.  I am fundamentally different than an "army brat" or an "embassy kid" or many other types of TCKs.  We may share some commonalities, but there are also vast differences.  I am not only a MK, but I am the child of an MK.  I am also the grandchild of a MK.  My children are now the fourth generation of MKs in our family.

At times when people hear that, they ask the obvious, "oh, have you read this or that book about TCKs?"

I haven't.  Maybe I should.  Maybe I will one day.  There is a reason, though.  When I grew up as a MK, there was the "normal" way to be a MK.  You went out, and you either went to boarding school, or if you were lucky enough to live in a country where it was possible, you went to local school.  (That was 30-40 years ago, homeschooling was just not common.)  We did neither.  We home-schooled.

I went once to a MK type of event.  I didn't fit in.  I felt like a stranger even among what was supposed to be "my own".  There was no space for me.  I didn't fit either mold.  No one had really encountered us yet.  I felt rejected, estranged.  And I walked away.  I don't struggle with boarding school issues.... my grandma did, and she told my parents not to put us in one.  I don't struggle with local school issues - we didn't have one.  I had my own issues... ones that few understood.  And I felt left out, so I turned my back on all the TCK stuff and walked away.

I may change that stance.  I am taking my kids to a MK event.  I realize they have a need to have kids who can understand things in their lives that other of their friends just can not.  I'm happy that their lifestyle is not so odd.  How I was raised is also not so odd now.  Many kids are home-schooled on the field now.

I may even read that book.

But before I do, I thought I would write a little about being a MK.  I've been thinking about it recently.  Life as a MK is much like looking through a kaleidoscope.  Kaleidoscopes are beautiful, mesmerizing, entertaining.  "It must be so exciting!".  This is always said by people with two feet on the ground, never by the pieces in the kaleidoscope. 

I'm approaching 40, and my life is still like a kaleidoscope.  Full of beauty, but ever changing.

Being a MK is a life sentence of living with a profound sense of loss.  Nothing will ever be the same as it was.  There is no "home" to return to.  The experiences we had of "home" were transient - pieces in the kaleidoscope lined up a certain way, making a beautiful pattern.  That was our "home", our "normal".  And then it turned.  It doesn't take much of a turn to adjust the pattern - what was familiar is gone.  People moved, we moved, people came... the ever changing pattern.  Other people can go back to where they grew up, and there is the school, the neighbor, the store, the park, the....   Our lives have none of that.  Even if we go back... different people are there.  Even if we visit old friends, they are in different settings among different people.  Our home does not exist - it was only a certain moment in time.

It is like a kaleidoscope.... every piece, every pattern... turn and it is gone... never to return.  Each new turn is interesting and has a beauty of its own, but each turn means a loss... pieces are there, but the picture will never be the same again.

I enjoy change and cope with it well.  But I grieve what is lost.  What people in our churches don't fully grasp about the life of a MK is that it is not just the moves we make that are hard.  It is the constant moves of those around us.  If we love, we lose that relationship soon.  Communication has improved and this does enable us now to keep a minimal contact with old friends, but that day to day fellowship in close quarters changes.  The colored chips fall in a new pattern.

Kaleidocopes are mesmerizing.  They suck you in.  Each new pattern calling you to enjoy it.  There is beauty in this life. I wouldn't chose a different life.  I have no desire to be a normal kid, but I live with a profound sense of loss.  No permanence, each move - whether my move or others' moves, brings a change to my kalidascope, never to return to what was.  It is this deep sense of loss under-riding life that is different about a MK.

There are days I just stop.  I just go for a walk and am sad.  I can't explain it to everyone around me, and I stop even trying.  I go to be alone, to mourn alone, to walk, to remember, and then to come back.  I struggle on some days being totally involved where I am when my memory goes to a time before... a pattern of a previous turn, and I feel homesick.  Homesick for something that no longer exists.  Then I go on.  The kaleidoscope keeps turning, the pattern keeps changing..... each design has familiar elements, a different pattern, so familiar, so new.  I enjoy the new view.  I miss the beauty that is gone.


Alan said...

You've got me beat by one generation. I, too, didn't fit the mold. We changed fields and countries constantly, due to the nature of my Dad's position with the mission. By the time I graduated from highschool, I had attended 12 different schools in 8 or 9 different countries. I knew almost all the MK's (I, too, am a proud MK, not just a TCK) in our mission, even ones who didn't know each other, but was close to none of them. They were a pretty chip/color that showed up now and then in my kaleidoscope.

I remember one night as an 11 year old on furlough, crying in my bed, from homesickness. When my Mom asked what I was homesick for, I didn't have an answer! (So I made something up. I'm still trying to decide what I'm homesick for.)

I spent much of my life searching to belong, trying to be good enough to fit in. I'm finally safe . . . in the True assurance of my FATHER'S love . . . and in belonging to my patient, non-judgemental husband. I often wonder how long (or if) my children (3rd generation MKs) will search for belonging, or if I can truly pass on to them a heavenly perspective and a peace with themselves as they are.

Thanks for touching my heart!


Ellie said...

Security in belonging to a Father.... so interesting that this comment comes now as I am in the middle of writing a friend about the whole "God as a Father" struggle for me (which I most likely won't be able to write much about on this blog as some people read it that I would prefer that they don't). But my safety in belonging was shattered by two events that destroyed even that security in my life. I'm on a path now through it, but it's been rough.

I actually like who I am. I just have accepted that I will live with a degree of sadness and loss. When it hits too hard, I tell myself, "one day, heaven".

Good to meet another "generation MK"!

Alan said...

Yeah, the whole God is your FATHER thing is hard when our earthly father's were/are so fallible. I was the most like my Dad, who didn't like himself, so it has taken me decades to come to see my Heavenly Father as loving, and proud of me, rather than disapproving and mad at me. God was so kind to give me a husband totally opposite of what my Dad was. It's taken 20 years, but my perspective is changing and I am learning to trust and to expect good.


Phil and Pattie said...

Thanks so much for writing about this. This really helps me understand my husband who is an MK better (he can't stand TCK) and my own children who are MK's. It also helps put into words some of the feelings that come along with what seems a constant shifting of relationships. I often try too hard to cling to things that I need to let go of because that is not how I grew up and I struggle with my kids not having the sense of security that a permanent address gives but I also know how much richer and fuller their lives are as well because they are living a kaleidascope with so many beautiful things to see and experience. Thank you again for your beautiful and transperant writing. Pattie