“Heidi Sand-Hart’s “Home Keeps Moving” authenticates the TCK experience. Her personal stories demonstrate the tangible reality of the TCK theories we have been reading and hearing about for years.” – Tina L Quick, author of The Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Denizen interview

I did this (1,556 word) interview for Denizen online Third Culture Kid magazine and was disappointed to see that it wasn't used for their "review". So here it is in its entirety:

- What was the process of getting inspired to write the book? In the book, you mention encouragement from others to share your TCK experience.

I first started processing my TCK experience shortly after leaving home. I had moved to L.A to join a missions organization (YWAM) and realised how different I was from my fellow students and gravitated towards the older students and fellow MKs. Over the three years I lived In North America (USA/Canada), I guess my differences were highlighted to me and particularly the wealth of knowledge and experience I had gained through my well-travelled upbringing. I got my hands on “Third Culture Kids – The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds” (Pollock/Van Reken) when I was 21 and it really hit home to me in a lot of ways and I particularly related to the personal anecdotes laced throughout the book…but they weren’t long enough for my liking! I searched for more personal literature out there for TCKs and realised there wasn’t much at all. That is when the idea was birthed within me to write my own book. The task was far too overwhelming for me at the time – the more I looked within myself, the more isolated I felt from my fellow peers. So, I put the book on the back burner (already having the book title but lacking a little in direction and structure) and continued on with my vagabond life. As I grew older and experienced more of the world, I realised just how unqiue my own upbringing was and how I struggle to settle down, find my “home”…how I’m “ruined for the ordinary” …and the desire returned to share that with others.

- Bring us through the journey of writing it - when and how did you draft it, approach publishers and the like? Were you always writing it, through journals as you grew up, or did you sit down one day and embark upon it in one push?

My husband Paul (a non-TCK from New Zealand who understands me better than most!) and I returned to the UK in 2008, after living in Thailand for 6 months. I struggled to find my feet or a job and felt strongly that I wanted to finish this book that has been hanging over me for so long. I had all of my original work (from 2001) and started editing, expanding and added a lot of new stuff. Some of my original perspectives were quite “young” and a little “preachy” so I evolved them to fit with how I have changed in the past 9 years. The structure fell into place quite naturally. I didn’t have the luxury of having old diaries (journals) on hand since they are all in storage with my parents in Finland so I had to rely on memory. I was close to completion after 4-5 months and started contacted publishers in the spring of 2010. I received a few rejections but got linked in with the perfect publisher, McDougal, who even let me keep my British grammar!

- I was intrigued by certain decisions in your story - e.g. your decision to go into home schooling at 16, and your parents' decision to put Samuel into government care. Was there a reason why you didn't elaborate on these topics more thoroughly in the book? There was an explanation of events, but I would have loved further introspection, just to know what was going through your head in more detail, at the time.

It’s a curious thing, writing a book, because you never know where or when inspiration will hit and which parts of the book you want to elaborate on and which you prefer to keep to yourself. I didn’t make a conscious decision to not divulge on my feelings at that time but I suppose on the second count, Samuel (my mentally handicapped older brother) went into government when I was 5 years old and I couldn’t tell you what my feelings were at the time. Initially he came home on the weekends and that seemed like a normal solution to me as a child because I didn’t know life any other way. My parents were exhausted raising three children as well as doing full-time missions work and for them to maintain their energy and sanity, it was a necessary decision. Particularly because they knew Samuel could not adapt to life in India (he needs his routine) and that was our next stop. I didn’t want to invent things that weren’t there and for those fragmented moments of my childhood where my memory failed to conjure up emotions (of which there are many), I felt it best to stay factual. So no, it wasn’t intentional…it just happened that way.

- Your parents paid for you and your brother to go to counselling in Switzerland for a week, upon your discovery of being a TCK - and you mention the sessions weren't as helpful as meeting another TCK there. Why was this - what was particularly unhelpful about the sessions, and how do you think this can be improved for others in a similar position?

Like I say in the book, I found it extremely helpful to talk things out – free license to talk openly about my childhood without being paranoid that it would tarnish my parents reputations. However, the counsellors that my brother and I had didn’t have any experience of working with TCKs and it felt like we were on the receiving end of their “pet answers” because they didn’t know what to do. For example, my brother was sharing his difficulty in figuring out what to do with his life - his desire to explore the earth and live in different countries – and the counsellor told him to “get a job and settle down”! They didn’t really have the understanding or resources to tackle our chaotic upbringings since we didn’t fit in the usual boxes. I think there are far more “member care” and TCK places out there these days who are equipped to help and counsel TCKs so look out for those!

- What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

It was really difficult to decide which stories to include and to make sure it came across well to the reader. I didn’t want to cause offense with my book (to non-TCKs) but I also wanted to speak freely and hope I have found that balance. It was also very difficult to know that I will be judged by Home Keeps Moving…that in being open and vulnerable at times, I have put myself out there and people may have critical or negative opinions of it. So far, the feedback has been extremely positive.

- You mention that "In a society consumed with education and diplomas, I do feel inferior at times, even though I believe the best form of education is gained through experience. But I still fear that my educational “mess up”will come back to haunt me one day." Where does this inferiority come from - can you elaborate on this, for other TCKs who might also not have chosen a university education?

It comes from most Western Societies I have lived in. People are judged by what they do. The only question that is as hard for me to answer as “Where are you from?” is “What do you do?”! It’s the way success is predominantly measured in the West – with diplomas, PHDs and salaries. I myself have noticed people treating me very different after the release of Home Keeps Moving. Just because I have a book out, now all of a sudden people are interested in talking to me – the very same people that a year ago turned their noses up me because I was simply a “voluntary worker”. There isn’t much room for those seeking an alternative life-style.

- How did you source the contributions in your book (e.g. from Debbie Ross)? Are they friends of yours, or did you find them through the Internet, etc?

The contributions are mostly from my friends – some of whom I’ve never actually met (Lorena Smith)! I got to know Debbie Ross through my husband - whilst living in New Zealand for 5 months. I did try to get some non-MK perspectives but none of the diplomat, business or military kids I asked came back to me with anything. Hopefully one day - in a revised edition - I will include a greater varierty of TCK contributions!

- If there's one thing TCKs can take away from your book, what would you like it to be?

That I hope we all celebrate our colourful and unique upbringings and don’t run from them. Yes, we have faced difficulties that many 60 year olds haven’t yet faced but we have the potential turn those difficulties into strengths. Don’t hide your TCKness:
Don't hide your light under a bushel…

-Is there anything that you might have left out from your book, that you would've liked to add?

I’m hoping to expand certain parts and include more stories if I ever get the chance to do a revised edition – I’ve already added more background to “The Early Years” on my blog: http://homekeepsmoving.blogspot.com/ For now, I’m happy with how it turned out.

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