Guest Post: Who Am I?

Today I am happy to introduce you to Clair Pringle. Clair has been a TCK since the age of 5. She has lived in the Philippines, Malawi, Costa Rica, Guam, Bermuda, and now currently resides in California, USA. Having just celebrated her 37th birthday, she was kind enough to share her story. Enjoy!

As a TCK who happens to have just celebrated her birthday, I reflect on who I am today. Although this nagging question pops into my head every now and then, it has constantly been on my mind since I lost my wallet while grocery shopping a few months ago. One moment I’m wandering the aisles of the Asian grocery store, mesmerized by all the various food products on the seemingly endless shelves, reminiscing about my favorite snacks and excitedly asking my parents to buy me some while on my best and sometimes not-so-best behavior as a kid; and the next moment, as a grown adult, I’m frantically wringing my hands in a panic over where I might have dropped my wallet, anxiously pacing up and down the aisles, wondering if I left it at this store or at one of the other grocery stores my husband and I had stopped by earlier. I never did find my wallet, nor was it ever returned to me. 

After making several phone calls to cancel my banking cards and any other transaction cards which were in my wallet, I started coming to terms with the loss. When I asked myself what I found most upsetting, it wasn’t the bit of cash I had, or the transaction cards, or even the beautiful soft brown leather wallet my husband had given to me as a gift. It was the loss of my ID…my driver’s license, of all things! I knew it was something I could easily replace at the local DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), but for some unknown reason, I was mourning the loss of it more than anything else in my wallet. 

During some thought and reflection, I finally understood why I was so upset over losing my ID. It wasn’t the long line I’d have to endure at the DMV, or the thought of someone using my ID for nefarious purposes. It was a tangible reminder of who I am…at least who I thought I was, anyway. In the midst of wallowing in my misery, it was as though I got zapped with a lightning bolt of realization! Why on earth am I even allowing an ID card to define exactly who I am? Simply because it lists my personal information, such as full name, current address, date of birth, weight, eye and hair color, etc.?

Although my date of birth will never change, my address has often changed throughout the years as a TCK.  When I got married, I changed my last name.  And if I ever wanted to shake things up a bit, I could get colored contacts to switch my eye color, dye my hair a totally different shade and gain or lose some pounds.  But would that change who I really am, deep down inside?  Not one iota…not even a bit.

Within me resides the child whisked away by her missionary parents, at the tender age of 5, to live in Malawi, known as “The Warm Heart of Africa.”  I recall falling asleep to chirping crickets and the distant sounds of laughing hyenas, racing my sister through our family friend’s tea and coffee plantations, going on a safari to spy on wildlife from a treehouse telescope near the local watering hole, getting nipped on the ankle by our next door neighbor’s “guard duck,” playing with my classmate’s pet monkey named Jojo, kayaking at Cape Maclear with my Dad and taking the train to stare in awe at the powerful, majestic Victoria Falls.

Moving to our primary base of Southern California at the belligerent age of 8, I stubbornly refused to cave in to the peer pressure of wearing my heavy backpack over only one shoulder just to “look cool and fit in” with the popular kids, not understanding how or why it was their biggest concern, as opposed to worrying about no food on your table, eating roasted rats or flying ants, or carrying jars of village water on their heads to their mud huts, like our friends in rural Africa.

Fast forward to my awkward sophomore year of high school in home study, having moved to Costa Rica, motivated to learn Spanish from my cute next-door-neighbor crush, watching the glorious sun setting on the black-and-silver-streaked beach sand while listening to the faint melody of someone gently strumming their guitar strings to the wail of a Rasta Bob Marley song. 

Just before my senior year of high school, my parents decided to move our family to the tiny island of Guam where I’d catch huge coconut crabs on a rainy night and experienced my first category 5 Super Typhoon Paka, resulting in our electricity completely wiped out for an entire month during the hot and humid month of December, so Christmas dinner was on the BBQ grill!

After meeting my husband-to-be at a California university, we eventually moved to his home country of Bermuda, where typhoons happen to be called hurricanes, all commercial buildings and homes are beautiful pastel colors, the beach sand is pink, and the top echelon of society race their fitted dinghies each year and send their kids to learn how to sail boats at summer camp.

So who am I? A lifetime of global experiences have shaped and conditioned me into the woman I am today. I don’t need an ID to remind me of who I am, since there’s no way all my lifetime acquired memories and experiences could ever fit on a rinky-dinky, piece of plastic card. I am Clair Pringle and I’m proud to be a global citizen!

Tayo Rockson

Tayo Rockson is a storyteller, cultural translator, and brand strategist for change-makers on a mission to use his difference to make a difference.  He is a 4x TEDx speaker, the CEO of UYD Management, and the host of the As Told by Nomads podcast. In addition to that, he's been named a "Top 40 Millennial Influencer" by New Theory magazine. His book Use Your Difference To Make A Difference is based on how to connect and communicate in a cross-cultural world.

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