TCK Voices: Lisa Elis

TCK Voices: Lisa Elis

Welcome to TCK Voices! Today we have Lisa with us. Welcome, Lisa!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the different cultures you are part of?

Yes, absolutely! So I’m a mixed kid; actually, mixed culture kid (MCK) might be a more specific description as compared to TCK. I’m half Finnish and half Singaporean-Chinese, which is interesting because Singaporean-Chinese is kind of a mixed culture in itself already. I was born in Finland, lived there until I was seven, and then my family moved to Canada. I think I often assume that I’m more Canadian than Finnish or Singaporean. In terms of language, lifestyle, and culture, I think Canada has had the strongest influence on me—and by that, I just mean I’m really Westernized in the North American flavor. But then there’s a lot about Canadian culture that I don’t know—such as, what do Canadians eat day-to-day? In my family, our food is very Asian-influenced.

Another example—funnily enough, we don’t read or watch Canadian newspapers/news regularly. My parents read more Singaporean and Finnish news. I think that brings a slightly more international perspective to my worldview. One would think that being a part of several cultures would bring more variety to one’s experience, but sometimes it has the effect of cancelling out everything about all the cultures instead. For me, that happens with holidays. Other than celebrating Christmas and remembering Easter (because we’re Christians), we don’t keep Canadian, Finnish, or Chinese holidays/festivals. It’s a very interesting mix of experiences, for sure.

Bio picture of Lisa Elis
Lisa Elis

What is an advantage of being a TCK?

I think my perspective on life, people, and the world is broader because I’m a TCK. I’m not saying non-TCKs are narrow-minded, but I think TCKs can probably understand differences better, in a more nuanced way. I have experienced life in different parts of my country and know people from different corners of the globe. It makes me interested in other viewpoints and makes me want to diversify my sources of information and entertainment.

Also, I think—dare I say—I’m a braver person than I would have been, had I grown up in only one place. The idea of living elsewhere, moving outside my comfort zone, doing things out of the mainstream, looking a bit weird to others, not having an easily defined identity—it isn’t scary. It’s great, actually. Being a TCK has this advantage for me—I’m freer. I’m not as restricted by the standards and conventions of one place and one viewpoint.

What is the hardest thing about being a TCK?

Actually, I haven’t experienced much hardship in being a TCK. A lot of common “TCK struggles” don’t really relate to me.

The hardest part has been the distance that I have between family and friends. All my relatives are overseas, and, for the most part, my friends have been long-distance too. I have always thought that I would be closer to them relationally if I were closer to them physically. This might not be true—but it’s something that everyone assumes.

I have this weird paradox of emotions when it comes to how I view loved ones. On the one hand, I want to be close to them, and I hope that I will have the chance to do so in the future. But on the other hand, if I had to live the rest of my life away from them, I wouldn’t think twice about going through that pain or about putting them through it.

I would never rewrite history. And I find that when I search my memory of all the times I moved and left people behind, I don’t remember ever missing anyone. It’s like I’m torn in two by the thought of comfort and stability and the thought of freedom and adventure. And it makes me wonder, what kind of person does that make me? I feel guilty every time I think about it. I often think that I am, actually, an incredibly selfish person, because I know the pain of distance, but I wouldn’t care if I inflicted that pain on someone else. It’s like I’ve become apathetic.

What is one thing you learned from being a TCK?

It’s a bit hard to answer this question because I don’t really know that I wouldn’t have learned it otherwise. But, to the best of my knowledge, TCK-hood has taught me that stepping out of my comfort zone and my little well of individualism is a very valuable experience. We should seek it out more! It’s really easy to be self-centered and to look at the world through only one lens. The other thing is that public opinion, or the conventions of society, is over-rated. Being approved and 100% understood by everyone isn’t that essential. Maybe this is just my personality, but it’s not that important to me whether others understand what I’m doing. If they can accept it and roll with it, that’s enough.

How has being a TCK influenced your faith?

My TCK experience has always been inextricably linked to following Jesus. I am a TCK because my parents sought to follow Jesus even when it meant doing unusual things. They’ve taught me that following God is the most important thing in life, but it is a paradox because while it’s the safest thing you could possibly do, it is still scary, confusing, and difficult. The experience of being a third culture kid could be a metaphor for faith in a way. Both force you to go against the current, to do new and unusual things, and to learn not to pay so much attention to other people’s expectations and judgement.

What is one thing you would like to tell your fellow TCKs?

Corrie ten Boom used to give an illustration about how life is like weaving. I think if you read her poem that describes this idea, it would accurately convey the message I want to give my fellow TCKs. But also, enjoy life as a TCK! Own it! Be a TCK in all gratitude and happiness! This is not to downplay the difficulties: it’s hard sometimes and comes with its griefs, but so does every experience. Remember that there are far better things ahead than any you have left behind (that’s from C. S. Lewis).

Thank you so much for sharing, Lisa!


Reference:

Ten Boom, C. 1971. The Hiding Place. Quoted in Beal, J. “‘Life is but a Weaving’ (The Tapestry Poem) by Corrie ten Boom” In The Poetry Place. Retrieved June 11, 2022, from https://thepoetryplace.wordpress.com/2018/02/21/life-is-but-a-weaving-the-tapestry-poem-by-corrie-ten-boom/


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