A joy of blogging is the number of people who come into my world. Katha is one of those people. We emailed a bit after a comment she left on Communicating Across Boundaries and today she writes a beautiful piece on living between the niches for the“Finding Your Niche” Series. You can read more about Katha at the end of the piece.
To me, the word niche implies that you have found a place you belong, a place where you can fulfill your purpose, where you’re content with life, people, surroundings, yourself.
I am not sure if I have found my niche yet.
It might be that TCKs have trouble belonging, since they travel a lot and seem to belong everywhere and nowhere. It might be that as a student (which I am) you feel a bit in between.
Between living with your parents and making a home for yourself.
Between taking in a lot of research, literature, marveling at the immensity of wisdom out there and the nagging fear how you can turn this into a future job.
Between doing what you love and doing what you have to do to pay the monthly bills. Between enjoying singleness to the fullest and the growing desire to have a family of your own.
Between reminiscing the bitter-sweet memories of my late childhood in beautiful Uganda and the feeling of being ‘grounded’ in Germany at the moment.
Between giving in to nostalgia and struggling to move on into the future.
This in-between stage I find myself in might be my niche. At least for the moment. It might be a time of waiting, but not of wasting. I have been given this time, and I am challenged to use it. Everyday.
When I re-entered Germany after two years in Uganda at the age of 14, it took me a long time to get used to my passport culture again. I felt lost and overwhelmed by all the changes that had taken place in the course of two short years.
But I found a place to belong with other TCKs at annual camps, where it was okay to be a TCK. To feel lost once in a while. To struggle through the challenges together. And to use the advantages the TCK lifestyle has to offer. A bunch of teenagers with a past in countries like Peru, Afghanistan or Zambia quickly grew into a family.
I am still part of this family today. I am done with the re-entry process, but I have something to give to those who come after, who feel lost just like I once did. And it is such a joy to watch TCKs coming for the first time – shy, lost, homesick, angry or depressed – experience healing, a sense of home and belonging, and eventually turn into confident, joyful, young leaders, who are a blessing to me and the communities they settle into.
In the last three years this family has grown. Beyond the boarders of Germany, into a European network. I am part of a committee that wants to connect TCKs across Europe, but also to share resources with TCK caregivers – about TCK camps, re-entry and pre-field orientation, challenges and advantages of a TCK lifestyle and a lot more. It is such an encouragement to connect with others and see how God is at work in other countries.
I fill my current niche with passing on some of the blessings I have received when I felt lost on my TCK journey. I am definitely not done yet, and (since we all know TCKs are like that J) I will probably have to move on very soon when I am done with my studies. The future ahead of me is exciting and scary at the same time.
Will I find another niche to fill?
I don’t know what the next steps on my journey will look like.
I love the things I am doing right now, but I also know there’s a world out there with so many countries, people and opportunities waiting to be discovered.
In moments like these, when I find myself wondering if I have invested my time in the right things and people, if I will ever find a place where I feel fully at home – in such moments it helps to remind myself of the One who created me, and who promised to carve out niches for me as I walk with him on this journey.
About the author: Katha von Dessien is a TCK, who spent some of her teenage years in Uganda and South Africa. She is now based in Germany finishing her teaching degree. More stories and thoughts she shares on her personal blog: http://thisiskatha.blogspot.de/
8 thoughts on “Living In Between the Niches by Katha von Dessien”
Lovely post. I know how you feel as a TCK myself. I would say that that feeling of being ‘in between’ was most during my middle school, highschool, uni years, and my first years here in London. Now that I have lived almost 4 years in London, worked at a company for 3, and met an amazing guy about 10 months ago, I finally feel less ‘in between’. It took me a while to get here though. I’d say that only really from the age of 24/25, and spending a couple years in the same place, and increasing my stability in the community and in London, have I felt less like I am lost.
I definitely agree though that as a TCK (Dad is French; Mom is Belgian; born in Japan, lived in Dusseldorf, Johannesburg, Vienna, Hamburg, Boston, Auckland, and now London) it takes much more time to gain that feeling of ‘settled’ and starting to make a place your home. I would also say that it’s when you’re ready as a TCK to make the effort to create sustainable friendships and relationships. I know that I wasn’t ready when I was in university as I knew there was an expiration date to my time there so I felt I could just meet new people wherever I moved next. Great post. I’m discussing similar topics on my bog : TCK Dating.
Thanks for your comment, Olivia!
I guess the feeling of belonging is determined by many factors, such as stage of life, relationships, age…and the feeling of having an expiration date is particularly strong for TCKs!
And yes, it does require some effort, even though this can be very hard at times!
I wish I had done TCK camps when I was starting college. I don’t think they existed yet in the 1970s. I recall how my heart lifted at an IVCF retreat when I met fellow students raised in Kenya and Korea. I made frequent trips to Dallas to see kids I’d gone to high school with in Colombia. I went home to Medellín every year and a half. I majored in Latin American Studies and Spanish literature. I hung out with international students. I attended missions conferences. All of these things helped, but nothing was a real niche until I went to Honduras to work with refugees, and my fellow volunteers were MKs from various Latin American countries. That was a good year.
Most of the jobs that followed involved Latin America in one way or another, with varying degrees of satisfaction. I currently work as a translator, but it doesn’t provide a lot of fulfillment. However, I recently married a lovely Colombian lady, someone I had known way back in high school, and this has given my heart the bicultural home I longed for.
Thanks for sharing! I don’t know when the TCK ministries in the different countries started, but there seems to have been some new beginnings in the 90s. I know many older ATCKs who wished they would have had something like that. And I must say I am truly blessed to have attended such camps, they made many things easier, and I now enjoy blessing others with it.
Where are you based? I might have some contacts I could link you to if you’re still interested.
Wow, I love how you still managed to use your TCKness to bless others, how you used that feeling of being drawn to internationals and Latinos- that is so valuable! Congratulations on your marriage, I hope you find your niche where you can serve and experience fulfillment together!
I love it when different parts of my world collide! Here’s Katha, who I have had the privilege of meeting and working with at a couple of different conferences recently, writing a wonderful post for one of my favourite blogs!
Bayta – this is so great! I am so happy to know you know each other and have worked together. The small world of the TCK! And thanks for your wonderful words about communicating across boundaries – my heart sang :)
Yes, Bayta, the world is really small, especially the missionary one…:) Great to see you here, hopefully we cross paths again soon!