If you are on the fence about attending the upcoming Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference, please take a moment to think about where your globally mobile life has taken you so far. Then imagine being part of a community where you will feel inspired and encouraged to thrive, and help others thrive, through this globally mobile life. Norma McCaig, founder of Global Nomads, once eloquently referred to the FIGT conference as “a reunion of strangers.”
As I share my journey that led me to FIGT, I hope it will encourage you to join us at FIGT18. I imagine this year’s conference to be a beautiful 20th anniversary celebration and much-anticipated reunion of friends for many who have become part of FIGT over the years. However, I also hope it will also be the beginning of an incredibly rewarding journey for those who will join us for the first time. Coincidentally, on FIGT’s 20th anniversary, I find myself connecting the dots from an email exchange with Norma McCaig that took place in 1998.
Twenty years ago, I was an undergraduate ‘international’ student at the University of Vermont. Realizing during my studies that I clearly had some identity issues due to moving around quite a bit, a family friend introduced me to Norma. Norma and I exchanged some emails about the challenges and benefits of being an international school kid venturing out into the wider world. Her thoughts on global nomads deeply resonated with me.
However, I graduated and life happened. I kept moving around, was busy trying to figure out the rest of my life, and moved the (oh so important) questions around my ‘global nomad’ identity to the back burner. Unfortunately, I lost touch with Norma before I ever had a chance to meet her in person. However, I recently realized that the seed, eventually leading me to FIGT, had actually been planted in that exchange almost twenty years ago.
Almost ten years later, while teaching at an international school in Myanmar, I came to learn that, no matter how far away you move, you cannot dodge identity questions forever. While researching how moving around can affect us, I had my ‘a-ha moment’ (as many other did and do) while reading Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by David C. Pollock and Ruth A. Van Reken.
Not only did I recognize Norma’s name in chapter two, but I just couldn’t put the book down. All of a sudden my entire life made sense and my feelings about it finally felt validated. Those feelings of belonging absolutely nowhere, yet feeling strong attachments to every place I ever lived. The feeling of guilt about even struggling with the privilege of growing up in different countries and only truly feeling understood by others who had a similar upbringing. The kaleidoscope of my wandering and wondering soul, constantly changing its shapes and colors, started to fall into place.
Another three years (and two more countries) passed and I had the opportunity to attend a presentation led by Ruth Van Reken in Geneva, Switzerland. Pregnant with our first child, I was intent on guiding our own child and my students through the challenges and benefits of living a globally mobile life. I had wasn’t sure how, but I had an idea for a children’s book.
I spoke to Ruth for a few minutes and hesitantly pitched my idea. Her words of genuine encouragement gave me the confidence to at least give it a try. She signed the copy of her book with her email address. After several email exchanges, she told me to get in touch with Jo Parfitt at Summertime Publishing.
Fast forward another four years and I found myself in Washington, D.C., attending my first FIGT conference with several copies of my published book for the bookshop in hand. Not only did I meet many fantastic individuals, I was also taken aback by the connection I felt to the group as a whole. People listened to your story if you chose to tell it, and people generously shared their stories with you. I came home inspired and with a true sense of belonging. I had found my tribe.
While attending the Early Bird Writers Forum (EBWF) during that conference, Ruth Van Reken was part of our discussion group. We spoke of all the research being done on the topic of TCKs and mobility, and she asked us the important question of ‘so what?’ Why is it important and what are you going to do with all of this? How can you share your knowledge and support others on their journey, through writing or by any other means?
The following year, as a presenter at the EBWF sessions, and eventually as its coordinator over the last two years, I have had the privilege of getting to know this smaller part (and there are many other parts!) of our FIGT community even better. From talented publishers and accomplished writers to aspiring writers and bloggers to simply the most amazing storytellers. Every single one of them has been a source of inspiration and encouragement during my own writing journey. And they have each taught me about different ideas, tools, and resources to manage transitions. I learned about publishing books, writing for international online newspapers and magazines, writing blogs and inserting pictures legally. And through it all, Ruth’s question of ‘so what?’ continues to guide me as I continue to develop and share any work related to transitions.
I cannot emphasize enough what a wonderful opportunity the FIGT conference brings and what a privilege it is to be surrounded by so many talented people from all sectors. If this will be your first time, it might initially feel to be a magnificent ‘reunion of strangers’, but it is a forum and conference where lasting and meaningful connections are made. And as wonderful as it is to stay virtually connected during the year, nothing beats being part of it in person. If you are a globally mobile individual, do come join us at FIGT18 (Early Bird discount ends in two days)!
And if you are interested in reading more about FIGT15 and FIGT 16, keep scrolling down. As amazing as FIGT17 was, I never ended up writing about it so instead I wrote about FIGT18 before it even started.
Pictures courtesy of Pixabay