Parrots are an important part of my story. Rosita, who lived on a perch on the porch, was always there to sing, laugh just like a human, or grumble when she did not like her food. Sometimes she simply paced up and down her perch and watched us before attempting to repeat our words or sounds.
I thought we were doing Rosita a favor by keeping her on a perch on the open porch rather then locked away in a cage in the house. We would leave her unattended because we kept her wings clipped so she would not fly away from us. Yet I now wonder if she harbored any deep feelings of resentment towards us when she regularly heard the flocks of parrots flying through the pine trees or in their flock, high up in the sky. Was our gesture of giving her a life of freedom actually a cruel and unusual punishment?
It all depends on your perspective. If she compared herself to her caged friends, she was most fortunate. But in comparison to her family members, who were free to fly anywhere in the world, it was a sad situation.
I was thinking of Rosita today as I thought about my own clipped wings. As a Third Culture Kid, I was able to freely fly from land to land, forest to forest, mountain top to mountain top and just up into the blue sky. Today, I am often in the company of friends who share their worldwide adventures with excitement and wonderment. I am happy they get to travel this world and I soak up all of the details about those other worlds out there. Yet, I feel like Rosita, with my clipped wings, pacing my perch with my up-to-date passport safely tucked away close to my perch.
Many TCKs seek out careers where they can travel at the expense of their employer. They join the military, Foreign Service, international agencies, or they set up their own businesses with an emphasis on international travel. Some never settle in one spot, but relocate frequently to various countries, working a short time in their one location before moving on to the next country.
Other TCKs are like me. They are now older and looking at retirement and fixed incomes and caring for their elderly parents. Therefore, they may not have the option of satisfying their love of travel. There are some who have a spouse who say, “No, you can’t leave home. It is too dangerous.” Some are advised by their financial planners that it is now time to establish roots somewhere in order to stretch out those retirement dollars.
Some TCKs are still young, but just cannot afford to travel due to their current job, income, student loans, family responsibilities, an unsympathetic partner, the absence of a traveling companion, or a physical challenge. These are the ones who are left at home to water the plants, pick up the mail, or care for the pets (or children) of their globetrotting friends.
Do we just dance up and down our perch and mutter, like Rosita? I knew one parrot that would repeat Spanish vowels in a very angry tone whenever she got mad at her owner.
Here are some things that I have done to try to fill that void of flight.
- Haunt international stores or international neighborhoods for hours on end.
- Watch the Travel or National Geographic channels on television.
- Revel in deep conversations with internationals or other TCKs who understand my desire to escape.
- Spend the day at an international festival and imagine I belong to that other world.
- Read good international books, see a foreign film with subtitles, play that special album of my favorite international music from my iTunes library.
- Travel to an unexplored part of my community or state.
- Keep my passport up to date and save those dollars from babysitting for my globe trotting friends in anticipation of that chance to escape.
I know it isn’t the same as traveling to another part of the world where they actually stamp your passport. But, as with Rosita, it all depends on your perspective. And like Rosita, I keep waiting for that day when no one has noticed that my clipped wings have now grown back and I am OUT OF HERE!