With one plane ride the whole world as TCKs have known it can die. Every important place they’ve been, every tree climbed, pet owned, and virtually every close friend they’ve made are gone with the closing of the airplane door.
—David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken, Third Culture Kids
This closing door doesn’t just happen to Third Culture Kids. It’s also the experience of immigrants who leave behind many what-could-have-beens in their old country. Cross-cultural workers feel the door close when they leave their work and return “home.” (What other job requires you to leave the country once you’re no longer on the payroll?) International students close the door with the hopes that new opportunities will open many more. And refugees often see the door slammed and locked by soldiers carrying guns.
But while the door is closed, the mind is still open to thoughts about what was left behind. Some thoughts are joyous and life giving. Some are hurtful and life stealing. And often they come intricately, painfully intertwined, called up by a scent, a word, a sound, a flavor, a feeling or a dream. Bittersweet.
For those who find themselves on the other side of a closed door, I offer this prayer. It’s inspired by Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer.” I hope I chose the right words. It’s something I’ve been trying to articulate for some time now.
God, grant me the confidence to let go of the regrets that I should not hold on to,
The openness to hold on to the memories I should not let go of,
And the wisdom to separate the one from the other. Amen.
(David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up among Worlds, Boston: Nicholas Brealey, 2009)
[illustrations: (upper) "Joined" and (lower) "Cupped") by Pete Hobden, used under a Creative Commons license]