Thursday, July 16, 2015

Who am I? Where do I belong?

I just spent quite a bit of time reading through the results of a lengthy survey on a friend's website...a survey of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs).  The results are fascinating.  There is talk about belonging, and faith, and pressure, and whether or not experiences on (and off) the mission field were positive, and the impact people and experiences and places have had on their faith.  VERY fascinating stuff.

One thing really REALLY impacted me as I read through the (quite lengthy) results...I can identify with MUCH of what was said.

I am NOT an MK.
I am not a PK (Preacher's Kid).
I am not a TCK (Third Culture Kid)....
...or maybe I AM a TCK.

I am realizing that it IS possible to grow up IN THE U.S., speaking the common language, and still not belong to the main culture of the country.

My parents were Presbyterian/Moravian/Catholic/Jewish/Mennonite.  (In other words, confused).

I barely remember anything other than the Mennonite Church until I was in college...soon after which I left the Mennonite Church.  I was sheltered and isolated and abused and alone and depressed and did not fit in with the community in which I was required to live.  There were rules I didn't understand, but was require to adhere to or face censure.  There were cultural taboos I didn't know or understand, and when I broke those taboos, I was ostracized.  There were manners of dress I had to adopt, or be criticized and ostracized.  Today, as an adult, I have friends from that community, but as a child, they were few.

I have said repeatedly that college was culture shock for me.  I am only just now, as an adult, realizing how much that was true.  

Of course, another perspective is that the community in which I grew up had a bit of a cult-like feel...which can also be cultural in nature.

Meanwhile, 20+ years later, I am still trying to figure out who I am, and where I belong in the world.  Which brings me back to the above-mentioned survey.

From the Survey:
Belonging (identifying with a community and being accepted into it):
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I think on this subject I fluctuate.  I STRONGLY fit in the "longing to belong" camp.

I KNOW I BELONG to God.  I am part of His family.  I have NO DOUBT about that.  What I question is what part of that family best represents where God has me.  I also feel like I haven't belonged in an extended physical family for a long time.  Of course, I belong with my husband and kids...except that the kids are graduating and moving on (dangit, I blinked!).  I am starting to feel (after more than 15 years!!) like a legitimate part of the military community.

But there are other parts and pieces that don't seem to fit anywhere.
**I still feel like an outsider in the counseling/psychology realm.
**It feels weird, after my oldest child is 21 and my youngest is 11, to say that I *might* feel like I know something about parenting...but I KNOW I don't have it all...and definitely don't feel like an "authority".
**It always unnerves me to have people looking up to me as an authority on ANYTHING.
**I still don't like so many cultural things...TV, movies, baseball/football/basketball, crowds, shopping, makeup, small talk.  It's hard to make small talk when one does not participate in those things about which most make small talk.
**The things I learned to do to fit in my old culture don't work so well in the culture in which I now live.

Reconnecting with friends from my early years in the Mennonite culture has really stirred things in my head.  Yes, it is hard to know where I fit, but it sure is great knowing that there are people who understand that part of me!!

Help me out, please!!  Please comment (below), and let me know:
How do you know who you are, and where YOU belong?


Toddop said...

Laura, first let me say how much I enjoy your blog! You are an excellent writer and you provoke me to think. I identify with this particular blog for many reasons. I too, felt a huge culture shock when I went to CIU/CBC (I don't know if you remember me from there but I remember you ��), though for different reasons. Like you, I grew up in the U.S., and though I was not directly abused, there was rampant alcohol abuse in my immediate family. That abuse (and I suspect this was the same for you?) required putting up a front of "normality", in church and socially, when little emotional stability existed at home. When I went to CIU, I felt a outsider as I did not grow up an MK, or PK, and I didn't know anything about much of what was discussed theologically (until I studied it!), despite having grown up in the church. As an adult, I have a solid group of intimate friends -- a group much larger than I ever imagined possible! However, they are scattered all over and I don't have a social group locally with which I can just hang out. So, I'd say I've found individuals with whom I fit in, but not a group. Does that make sense?

Laura said...

Todd, thanks so much for your comment!! I agree with the need to project a "normal" facade, which is not supported by home-life, and is exhausting to maintain! Years of healing later, and I STILL find myself falling back into that coping mechanism. Also, yes, my friends are scattered everywhere...such is the result of going to school with future missionaries, pastors, and for me, being in a military community.

Again, thank you for visiting my blog! I love feedback!