Today, I'm absolutely thrilled to welcome Julia Martin Munroe Martin to the blog. I first met Julia, a freelance writer and editor who describes herself as a 'Novelist-in-progress', on Twitter, where I discovered her fascinating blog, wordsxo.com. There, she blogs about all sorts of things to do with writing and her life on the coast of Maine - if you haven't checked it out yet, it's well worth a read!
Take it away, Julia…
When Emma posted recently about feeling like she was on the Outside Looking In as a teenager, I could really relate.
I felt a lot of the same ways Emma wrote about feeling—and in many ways I really was on the outside. That’s because even though I’m an American, I spent a significant amount of my childhood outside the U.S.
In fact, I wasn’t even born in the U.S.—I was born in France. Then, when I was seven, a year in Belize; at eleven I lived in Kenya and Uganda; at fifteen I lived another year in a different part of Kenya. My problems were compounded by the fact that I also missed formal schooling (and more importantly meeting friends) during those years. Add in that time, my parents moved our permanent U.S. home base 3000 miles from one coast to the other…. and I think any of us who are parents can clearly see a perfect storm of problems gathering like clouds for a child raised like this.
But here’s the thing…my parents—cross cultural researchers—didn’t see. They were so focused on the end result of their own work that their own child’s, my fitting in, my cultural experience, took a back seat. (I should add that a few years ago—when I was in my forties—my father apologized for “dragging” me all over the world, acknowledging that it might not have been a best practice in child rearing.)
I know, I know, lots of you may be thinking “cry me a river, what an amazing life, Julia.” And sure, I had an amazing life: game parks in Africa, traveling by river boats in Central America, eating hippopotamus on the shores of the Nile River, side trips to the Egyptian pyramids, London, Paris, Rome, just to name a few.
But for every exotic lovely memory, there are the others too: no friends to speak of, always feeling and being different in every culture, never fitting in anywhere, and really never knowing what on Earth (or where on Earth) I was going to be.
So much so, that here’s what happened. The only time I ever felt comfortable, really comfortable, was when I was with other people who had the same background I did—other third culture kids:
A third culture kid (TCK) (first coined by sociologist and anthropologist Ruth Hill Useem) refers to children who accompany their parents into another society—a child who spends a significant period of time in one or more cultures outside their own.
And now, to quote Emma: “The trouble is, when you’re a teenager, fitting in can be everything.” And I didn’t. Fit in. Not ever. So I kept looking and wondering: where do I find those people, those kids, those other third culture kids? They were few and far between.
The phrase uncomfortable in my own skin probably best describes it even now. Unsure. Always questioning why, as Emma said. Usually a loner. Add to that, almost always feeling more comfortable with people who aren’t “from the U.S.” or more—were brought up like me: in cultures outside their own.
It’s one of the things I love most about social media: meeting people in other countries and cultures, with different experiences, far from my usual beaten path, and realizing the world is truly getting smaller—people who make me feel more at home. It’s especially wonderful when I meet other writers, like Emma, who make me feel less alone, less different.
So what’s the upside? Is there one? Yes being a TCK makes me a better writer—this feeling of not belonging, of looking at things from every possible angle—providing me with not just a multi-cultural but a multi-dimensional view. And writing also gives me a way to help make sense of everything, especially where I fit in—both literally and figuratively—again and again I write about home and searching and wanting to fit in—in my fiction, my personal essays, and on my blog too.
Because here’s the thing, I am searching, always searching, but I’ve also come to terms with the realization that I’m comfortable with the discomfort—and that’s partly because of the writing. In the writing, when I create those other worlds, I can also create the closure, and by doing that I create the transformation for my characters that I myself have so desperately sought my whole life long.
But my story, that story? My story is still being written word-by-word, scene-by-scene and chapter-by-chapter.
If you want to find out more about Julia, here's her blog link again: wordsxo.com You can also follow her on Twitter: @wordsxo
Thank you so much for stopping by, Julia!
Thank you so much for stopping by, Julia!