I often wonder if I took a survey of my fellow TCKs, how many of us grew up to have a career that continued the wanderlust of our youth? Without peeking, I can name several of my classmates who did. There was a couple from our high school who got married and both became Foreign Service Officers. One IS Manila alumni that I spoke with is now back in the Philippines working, after 30 years in the States. Another friend is an attorney in Shanghai. A friend from Japan was a photojournalist who traveled the world for one of the large news agencies, photographing Princess Diana and the Pope. Yet another buddy works for a major airline in Rome.
Myself, I had big plans. After graduating from college, I tried on law school for size, but it didn’t fit. (I was one of the “I have a liberal arts degree, now what do I do?” crowd). I tried to join the Navy. (All those fun weekends at Subic Bay inspired me. Yay, another idea for a blog post!). I had studied Russian language all through college, and thought that a career in military intelligence was my destiny. Even passed the OCS exam and had my physical. After all that they made some excuse about a freeze on hiring women. Or maybe they realized that I was a wimp and would never make it through basic.
I took the Foreign Service exam (twice) but there is a big emphasis on economics, which was never one of my strengths. Ultimately I ended up working as a paralegal, and the closest I got to being “international” was working on a maritime case. It involved a Japanese freighter that crashed into an American ship on the Mississippi River. While the law of the seas requires the captain to make notes in his log in English, this particular captain, seeing the collision happening in front of him, freaked out a bit, and reverted to writing in Japanese. My task was to find a native Japanese speaker who could translate the frantic kanji scribblings of the panicked ship captain.
Remember our friend Steve? The one who was in “Apocalypse Now”? Steve spent several years as a flight attendant for Miami Air, a charter jet group**. Based in Miami, Steve never knew if he was flying domestic or international. It was Boise, Idaho one minute, and walking amongst the ruins at Pompeii the next. Miami Air would fly their flight attendants on commercial planes to meet their charters. Steve remembers fondly one trip flying Alitatia (Always Late in Takeoff, Always Late in Arrival) non-stop from Miami to Rome, then to Athens. The flight ended up being non-stop partying as well, and then on to work. Ah, isn’t youth wasted on the young?
Then there were the military charters, to Egypt and Kuwait, the ten-day layover in Iceland, and bonding with the local Greeks after the Parthenon closed early in the afternoon. Now THAT is the life.
I know that being a TCK makes me comfortable in foreign cultures. I have great empathy for international students who come to the states. One summer I worked at the information desk at Trinity University. A poor guy from Indonesia turned up one day, ready to start school. Some misunderstanding had resulted in a date mix-up, and what were we to do with him? I felt so sorry for him, imagining myself in his shoes. We did some finagling and got him a dorm room for the rest of the summer. I’m not sure what happened to him after that.
I always thought if it was just me, if I didn’t have kids, or a husband, I would be the first one to apply for a job overseas. Don’t think I don’t get excited when I see a job listing for a librarian in Dubai, or Singapore, or Qatar. (Well, I might draw the line at Qatar). Didn’t Jimmy Carter’s mom join the Peace Corps in her seventies? Realistically I have to remember that it is a totally different animal to be the grownup and breadwinner living overseas, instead of the kid. Still … the world beckons to me. A girl can dream …
**No, Steve is not the infamous Steven Slater with Jet Blue who famously cursed out a passenger, grabbed a beer and quit his job going down the emergency slide.