MK n. 1. Missionary Kid - the offspring of a missionary. 2. Sometimes referred to as a TCK, or Third Culture Kid, (Sometimes also called Global Nomad) "refers to someone who [as a child] has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture" (Courtesy, Wikipedia).

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Hardest Thing

If you asked me the most difficult thing I encountered as an MK, I would quickly and wholeheartedly reply with, "Good-byes." A missionary's life is divided into term segments with furloughs in between. While the ease of travel today provides many scheduling options, back then there was one: 4 years on the field, 1 year back in the States.

During the 4 years, there were many good-byes. Once I was older and at boarding school, we would pack the car to the hilt and head to school where it was good-bye to Mom and Dad. At the end of the trimester, it was good-bye to friends as we scattered to various African countries for vacation. If it was summer vacation, that meant one class was graduating, the students (and often my best friends) departing for all parts of the world. Graduations were always exciting celebrations, yet celebration mixed with tears.

Aside from graduations, friends were in and out of school because of different furlough schedules. The Dillingers and my family were never on the same schedule, so the good-byes to my "sisters" for the year were always especially tough. Additionally, there were always those families who were moved to another mission field or returned back to the States permanently for one reason or another.

The Dillingers were one of these latter families. For medical reasons, they returned to the U.S. my Freshman year in high school. We were on furlough when we received the phone call. I remember talking to Sarah on the phone, though only briefly because these were the days when phone calls were so expensive. Although I spent the rest of my high school years without my "sisters", I suppose it may have been for the good; I always allowed Dawn and Sarah to overshadow me, so perhaps I was able to come out of my shell more because they were no longer there.

Aside from good-byes I was forced to say in Africa, there were also the good-byes that had to be said in the States. Furloughs were tough. I had the good fortune of being able to attend the same school my 5th grade year and my 9th grade year, so there were a few familiar faces when I returned the second time; however, my best friend from 5th grade was no longer there, so I had to, in effect, start over with friends. With just a year in the States, it seemed that friendships were really beginning to meld, and it was time to go home to Africa again. Back to old friends but good-bye to new friends.

I imagine all of the good-byes of an MK's life are very similar to those in the life of any military family. And what effect does this part of MK life have on my life now? Well, it's kind of had a polar effect. There have been times in my life when I have completely pushed people away and made little effort to form anything but a shallow relationship to those around for the simple fact that I anticipated a good-bye and did not want to experience the hurt of the parting. On the other hand, knowing so well the inevitable good-byes that come with life has also driven me to delve deeply into friendships. And, well, some Americans get that and embrace it; others don't.

Honestly, though, now that I have a family, the sting of good-byes has been greatly alleviated. I know my family isn't going anywhere. And of course it helps that my husband completely gets all of this as well. All of the advances in technology now too have sure made the world smaller.


CrossView said...

As a military "brat", I get this. Completely.

I actually have a dear friend that has known me since we were 12. I cherish that friendship because of it's roots. Well, that and the fact that she's known me that long and loves me anyway! ;o)

Though I have fond memeories of other childhood friends, we all went our separate ways. Such was the life of a "brat"...

TeacherMommy said...

That endless series of goodbyes has been one of the strongest influences in my life--unfortunately, more for the negative than the positive. I'm still learning how to make real friends and open up enough for them to be deep, even though there's always the possibility of another goodbye someday.

LoriM said...

Yay - Growing Up MK is back!

I'm torn on the friendship thing too. People have told me I'm hard to get to know. But I think I'm quite friendly - I guess that maybe that doesn't happen til you get to know me. I can be friendly with strangers though (helpful as a receptionist) - and I love *Deep Conversations*. It's just the in-between small talk that I have a hard time doing. Small talk is very handy for new friends - but a waste of time if you're going to be in my life for a while. Never thought of it but I think that's my philosophy.

And I do treasure my old, old friends - one of whom I got to see last night.

Nishant said...

Such was the life of a "brat"...
data entry work from home

Carrie said...

I visited your other site because of You Capture and had to click on the MK link. I'm married to one - best decision I ever made. :-) We then spent several years overseas ourselves and so I absolutly "get" what you are saying. We were always the ones saying good-bye and yes, it did get old sometimes. However, having my husband helped - a lot. And it's amazing how far technology has come! He used to talk to his grandparents once a year via hamm-radio phone patch. Now we video Skype with family and friends around the world for free. Wow. Blessings!

Evelyn S. said...

I'm so glad I came to your 'other' blog after our e-mail exchange! I'll be visiting more often to read your story.

Jennifer Dougan said...

Sheryl, is this your blog too? I followed it here from your site. :)

Otherwise, hello to whomever this is! I am an adult Mk from West Africa too. I was in Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, and France

Nice to meet you. what years were you in CI?


Jennifer Dougan said...

Nice to meet you, Kathleen.

I lived in Seguela and Mankono for awhile, mostly Mankono. :)