I Found my Smile

One reason I blog is because I love to write and share photographs. When we moved back to England I wrote a piece entitled ‘I found my Smile’ and shared it with my friends on a facebook note.  It was written during a big turning point for me as this nomadic free spirit.  As a Third Culture Kid (TCK) I have no real home to go back to and I always wondered what direction life would have me go.  I really wanted to share this letter with you all.

Bonnie Rose Photography © 2013 – All Rights Reserved | http://www.bonnie-rose.co.uk
“The last fourteen weeks have flown by and I have yet to cease photographing every second of my return back to England.  So much so, that between my iPhone captures and my  DSLR photographs, I have filled up almost all my available space on my latest external hard drive.  From capturing daily memories to photographing the beautiful aspects of my European surroundings, there always seem to be something catching my eye.  My taste buds have also been continually won over by a variety of Cadbury chocolates, copious amounts of tea, and delicious meals my husband has prepared with all English ingredients.  The most meaningful of these are the ones that I have grown up with as my personal ‘soul foods’.  I have long been teased by Americans for my extreme fondness of Beans on Toast, and now I can not only order it at almost any food establishment, but it is also common to find jacket potato with beans & cheese on the menu, which is another of my favourites.  These once believed ‘bonnie-isms’, have been clarified in my mind recently that I claim more to being English, than just holding my UK Passport. Of course I am not saying liking a certain type of food is sole reason to claim a nationality.  Being a Third Culture Kid,  I can compare it to waking up from a coma and suffering amnesia.  It is the little things like tastes, sounds and smells that instantly take me back ‘home’ and for a mobile girl with no home per-se, that means the world in my eyes.  Finding happiness and a sense of peace, has cemented itself as an important milestone in my life.  It has been a decade since I moved from my ‘homes’ in Europe to the USA, and I have had my share of loss, persecution and trials specifically in the last three years of that time.  I have also experienced growth and knowledge through the hard times, forever changing myself into whom I am today.  Through the thick of it I cried out in anguish to God, but now  I can now look back and see the work that has been done on me. The devastating loss of my dad, the loss of my marriage at one point, and the loss of friends when I needed them most  is an accumulative total of pain I would not ask to be put on anyone else.  I have learned to rely on myself and that being on your own will not kill you, but make you stronger.  Looking back in retrospective on my life, I can honestly say I know who I am and everything that is my world today, holds so much value against any stressors that may come my way now.  

Since the day I moved away from Europe in 2000, I knew I would return back ‘home’.  Any friend I have made in the USA  in the last decade has known that has been my goal. I have not faltered with that dream.  But along the way from acquaintances,  friends, family, and even now to people I have just met here in England, I have been asked why I would want to move away from the USA.  I hold US citizenship, I have an american accent, and I was born to two Americans. Although they grew up in the USA, I grew up moving across military bases in Europe until I was about seventeen years old.  I personally feel I have never been able to assimilate into American life, with other Americans, in the USA (despite the numerous places I have lived over there) and from my study of Third Culture Kids as Adults, I understand that it is perfectly normal for that to be the truth of the matter.  But in the last decade I have been forced into this Mold  ‘ala Americana’ by my peers, my teachers, my bosses, my mother, and my husband’s family.  Yet all I have wanted is to be accepted for being different, having a multifaceted life of culture as my nationality, and for being a girl who just loves to live and experience all life has to offer.  Every therapist or psychologist that I have met with has met my goal to move back to Europe with a rigid opinion that doing so would be a bad life choice on my part.  To this day I still do not know how to relate to people who are not personally a TCK, despite their professional qualifications, that I’m not moving to Europe to relive the past in a unhealthy mindset.  I have moved back to Europe because of growing up there in my developmental years, I have formed a sense of nationality and home to that area, and it holds something for me that America could never offer.  It is like the analogy I have heard of where you live in a blue society and everyone is trying to force you to dress in blue, but you come from a yellow society where as much as you could acclimate into that world you were not fully accepted as yellow.  So you step out, standing out in green because that is who you truly and are most happiest.  For me, I am a mixture of more than just two cultures, countries, or continents.  I am a Third Culture Kid and I have always been proud of who I am, even if I am continually misunderstood.  Which is why this move has been so important to me.    The one question, spoken by many, looming over my head, “What if you move back, and find that you are not happy?”  It is a pretty big ‘What if’ and especially given the big process of moving my family to another country.  There was a slight fear, that what everyone felt would happen, would be true.  Because then I would truly not have anywhere in the world I could ‘move home to’ and feel at peace.  With such a long wait to return to Europe, with leaving so much pain behind me and mixed in with everyone’s opinions about moving, I embraced life by the hands and took the leap. 

 Still I may be in the honeymoon stage of living here, but theres an undeniable fact that resurfaces daily.  Despite any stresses that have come along the way with uprooting to another country, I have indeed found my smile.  For the first time in my life, I am not waiting to move somewhere else or wanting to be somewhere else.  It feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Its not even a specific of wanting to be in Brighton, England, but just being back home in Europe that means everything to me.  It has been eighteen years since I was in England before, and I am enjoying every aspect of it.  Its familiar and comforting, but new in its own right.  I love my days off because I can enjoy all England has to offer with my family, who have not lived in Europe before.  I enjoy going to work because everyone I work with is a pleasure to be around.  I love my coworkers and I love my clients, it feels so rewarding.  I’m not going to make this a blog about ‘American girl drama’, but from the social interactions I’ve experienced in the US compared to England there is is a huge difference with how people relate, respond, and problem solve with each other here than what I’ve experienced before in the USA.  It just drives home to me that this is where I am supposed to be, because I finally do not feel like I’m not having to force myself into a cultural way of acting or acceptance that is foreign to my upbringing in a multicultural and mobile world.  It has been a huge moment of clarity for me, for witnessing the way I react to negativeness that may come my way.  In just the last three months I have heard negative things said about me through other people, I have had people say toxic things to me directly, and I have witnessed things that are simply stated not very compassionate.  Yet the overwhelming state of peace and an almost zen like attitude that has befallen on me since being here has made resilient and accept that toxicity will always be present, but I am in control of how I react to it.  I am so happy to be here, so happy to be having my family here to experience a life I have wanted so much to live that it simply does not matter.  I am stronger than I have ever given myself credit for and I can be indifferent..but I don’t have to be angry.  That is how finding my smile has changed my life.   If my life of growing up in lands far, far away is the beginning of my fairytale, this return to Europe is certainly not the end to my story.”                      
 Written by Bonnie Rose August, 2011

A year and a half later I look over that letter and at the girl who felt and wrote those words.  What I really take away is how important it is to be yourself and to find the happiness in life.  I mentioned in the letter that I was experiencing the ‘honeymoon’ stage and to be fair I feel like I am still experiencing it.  Granted I did move to a different city in England this past December   However the finer points of noticing the little things, finding happiness in the simple things, and sharing each cherished memory with your loved ones are key.  Who says you cannot live live with a ‘honeymoon’ outlook.  Life is so short and I hope you all find the love and happiness you each deserve.  :) 

I would like to thank the close few whom have been there for me especially in the last several years.  You know who you are, and I am who I am today because of your kindness, acceptance, forgiveness, and love.  
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01079473916722620673 Erika @ CHiMERiKAL.com

    “Despite any stresses that have come along the way with uprooting to another country, I have indeed found my smile. For the first time in my life, I am not waiting to move somewhere else or wanting to be somewhere else. It feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.”

    I really enjoyed reading this… and I hope to find it someday. I’m not a TCK, but I do have a bit of a nomadic spirit and I have since I was younger. I longed to move, to keep moving. And I am sort of “still” for the moment, and maybe it was necessary, but the place where I am at just doesn’t feel right. I think it’s hard to explain to people who haven’t really lived outside of their own country that… there are differences between places and some places just make you feel alive! And you captured it perfectly with this post… in that… the little things don’t get to you as much and you are better able to see the beauty and small wonders of life.

    There’s something about a place that can be magical, that can make you feel aligned, like you belong, excited, and included. I’ve experienced it as a traveler and I had a little bit of that feeling of home a bit in Michigan, but I think it’s still out there… maybe. I’m trying not to look to a place to define me, but to SUPPORT me and my dreams and my potential.

    ANYWAY, I’m writing my own blog post here in the comments now, haha! So, I’ll stop here!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10278068738190185891 Susanne V.

    Wow, this is one amazing letter. I think you just put into words what every TCK feels. I sure know I feel that way.
    Thank you for this lovely, amazing and beautiful post!!


  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10278068738190185891 Susanne V.

    Wow, this is a lovely and amazing and beautiful letter. I think you put into words what every TCK feels in one way or another. Or atleast, you put my feelings into words.
    Love it!!