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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Was it Worth it?

Does the achievement of a goal signify it is no longer necessary for validation? I have a synthesis paper and a portfolio presentation standing between me and a graduate degree but in all honesty, I've lost the excitement, the feeling of achievement. For one terrifying moment I wonder if it was worth it. I'm not sure I know the answer.

Perhaps I should have traveled the world with the more than $20,000 I spent on tuition, fees, books, and travel. Would I have changed? But regret cannot be on the plate this time. I made a promise to myself that I would see something through, that I would complete my program without debt, and I achieved that goal.

So tonight I wrestle once more with words that refuse to express the change, remember the dull theory, or open up to the wonderment of learning. And yet I cannot say it was without point because while I now know I can complete doctoral studies, I realize it is no longer my desire to do so. I am weary of study. I want to experience life, not be tied down to its dictates.

To Sing, To Remember

It's one of those bittersweet moments. After midnight but I'm so pleased to be finished with my competencies. To me, it was worth it to stay up this late so I could be done. This brings a close to the monotonous slog of the studies. Now I wait for edits and for approval of competencies. I slowly write my synthesis paper and then put it to PowerPoint for my final presentation summing the last two years of my life.

I cannot believe it is nearly over. I am glad. No more early Sunday mornings and no more late study nights. I'm also somewhat nostalgic as I remember the three life-changing times I went to my university. The first I was scared, nervous, and worried. I balanced the emotions with joy at spending time with dear friends, some of whom I had not seen for 15 years. I sped down the bumpy highway, humid summer breeze blowing and Blake Shelton singing. The second I was at ease but it was the summer Karen died and I still remember hearing the news, crying, as I sat down on the steps by a garbage disposal. I withdrew to process and it was a quieter time. Then November and I'd returned for a job interview in winter's exhilarating cold. Days were filled with precious moments that I quickly had to leave behind. Soon I shall return for the fourth and final time. To march in the black gown I vowed I'd one day wear. My name printed in bold with the words Summa Cum Laude beneath. Hard-earned words.

This I can say with certainty. . .it was worth it.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Please Shut Up, I'm Speaking

There are a few things that get my blood boiling. Injustice. Discrimination. Unfairness. Tonight it was a FB post discussing religious freedom and Caucasian monocultural Americans making inaccurate statements about Islam.

I was born and raised in the Middle East but unlike the brash Americans who speak their mind without thought, I learned to speak softly and in truth. I learned to respect my elders and call them Auntie or Uncle, rather than brazenly address them by their first name even if they were in their 40s and I was a teenager. But this is not about cultural expectations, though I could wax eloquently on that. This post is about the TCK's (third culture kid) need to defend cultures not their own because they understand the common bond of humanity.

I defend cultures I have never lived in, religions I do not practice, and people I've never met. I become pricklier than a bear in a blackberry patch when I perceive ill-founded assumptions are being flung about as if absolute truth. My heart starts racing as I formulate and reformulate my words before carefully writing them out in reply. If I must speak, I will often say No, that is not true, and then attempt to speak truth.

The problem is. . .they never listen.

We grew up learning to listen, to absorb, to integrate multiple worldviews into a single kaleidoscope of a myriad of rainbow colours. I still spell in British, I crave Middle Eastern food, and I book airline tickets to Asia. Even as I slip between cultures, I take pieces of them with me, hoping they will change me.

Then there are those who resist. They have not lived in someone's home, eaten their food, wiped their tears, or held their hands. Their experiences are limited to a single solid colour of varying shades that can never expand beyond clearly defined boundaries. In the same way, they expect to place their endpoints on other worldviews, certain those will fit neatly into a predefined box. It is not so.

It is possible to live in the United States of America and be a bigot even if having Middle Eastern neighbours, shopping at the Asian supermarket, and eating pasta for dinner. Moving across state lines or even traversing from one coast to the other does not guarantee the ability to open one's mind to a broader perspective. Of necessity, cultural understanding is best found when lost outside familiar borders.

The TCK knows this. They purchase visas like American teenagers pick up a pair of jeans at Gap. They navigate public transportation systems easier than riding the Greyhound. They eat unpronounceable and unrecognizable foods when children refuse to eat their vegetables. They carry passports like state IDs, ready to exchange currency, purchase an airline ticket, and step into alternative universes where monoculturals see extremists in every foreign face. They are fluent in culture while others cannot pronounce "Iran" correctly.

Ours is a lifelong battle. Even as we learn to accept our gift to live in liminality, or between places, we know it comes with a price. Our understanding means we are now called to be guardians of truth. We must defend; we must protest. Ours is a lonely battle, familiar only to those who fight it with us.

The borders are rapidly shrinking. Our world is becoming less compartmentalized and more open to the diversity we have always carried within us. It is to this tune we march on, ever hoping, never flagging. We will defend; we will protest. Until everyone knows little girls dream of puppies and little boys dream of trucks the world over.