Finding Your Identity as a Diplomatic Kid

There has been a running theme that I keep encountering with Diplomatic friends, their kids, as well as the random group of lovely Third Culture Kids I have collected as friends from around the world: none, and I mean none, have grown up feeling like they had an identity.

My Mother was always Canadian, she grew up in Canada, as much as she moved around within Canada, there was a sense of belonging, and a feeling towards a flag, a passport, to a national anthem. She identified as a WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant lets throw in a W for woman).

My Father represented Canada, he loved Canada, but I am not entirely sure that his identity was completely wrapped in Canadiana culture, as so much of him was also a TCK, he was born into a British life, yet France, Morocco and the U.S were peppered into his upbringing. His best friend from the age of 19 was Chinese Canadian, his friends were always visible minorities, his mannerisms shifted subtilty to mimic those around him. He was a Third Culture Kid.

I was confused from day 1. At times, I thought my white skin was ugly, and attempted to permanently alter its colour by taking a brown permanent marker to it. I begged my Mother to allow me to dye my hair black in hopes I could look more like my classmates. I even attempted to buy brown contact lenses to cover up my blue eyes, but soon discovered that I had a gagging reflex touching my own eyeball.

Coming back to Canada, I couldn’t identify with my very white classroom. The oddness of seeing a room of kids that looked like me, as well as a teacher that looked like she could pass for my cousin, was unsettling and frightening because their gestures and facial expressions were nothing like mine. We began each day with the National Anthem, in French and English, then the lords prayer. I didn’t even know our National Anthem, having spent 6 years abroad, I was lost and always had a flight or fight feeling.

I was always hyper aware of my differences, not only in the way we lived our life, the languages we spoke, but even the way I was taught to think. It was all different. I didn’t grow up realizing there was a tribe of people just like me.

As I began working at Foreign Affairs, I realized pretty quickly, that I couldn’t even identify with other Foreign Service officers, they didn’t have the same experiences that I had growing up with. instead, it was the group of friends that I had accumulated from around the world at International Schools. The friends I thought I had lost touch with, until Facebook brought us back together.

When I became a mother, I didn’t notice my natural desire to show my child the world of architecture, art, history and culture until it became glaringly apparent when he began school. I was the Mum who found myself taking my child out of school to travel, to take trips to museums and art galleries. I attempted to immerse myself around other Mother’s, trying hard to fit in, feigning interest as they spoke about clothes, decorating and Florida (no offense to Florida), I began to lose myself, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do.

I had come to terms with my identity on some levels, but didn’t realize that my confidence had left my body along with my placenta. I had to work on me, build a person that had actually been lost in Identity from birth.

I had to go back, and embrace the one thing I was told was not an identity. Being a Diplomatic Kid. No matter what shade of skin, hair colour, passport, birth country- we all inherently lived a strange life. We lived in between worlds, some of us had a front row seat to some incredible history moments, some of us lived through coup attempts, fled danger, got evacuated, said hello and goodbye a thousand times.

Being a Diplomatic Kid is an Identity all on its own, and it is o.k, to embrace that.

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