So I’ve hinted at my life as a military kid, but I’ve never really told the story of my upbringing as a military kid and a self-proclaimed “third culture kid” (TCK). I say self-proclaimed because I feel that the term TCK is mostly used in reference to kids who grow up overseas away from their parent’s home country. However, I feel that my story aligns very well with the overarching meaning of the term. That I grew up in multiple places and away from my parent’s home “culture.”
I was born to two airmen (yep, both genders are airmen in the Air Force) who were just a few years into their Air Force careers. We lived in Abilene, Texas at the time. A place I don’t really remember at all. But I apparently had a very thick Texan accent (And sometimes it comes out when I’m angry or very excited about something)! My brother was born in Texas when I was three.
We moved from Texas to Wichita, Kansas when I was five years old. I was signed up for Kindergarten just in time and was able to attend a great performing arts magnet school across town where I met my life-long best friend. We basically grew up together and she helped me through some of the hardest times of my life. It was just three years after I moved to Wichita that I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. Our time in Wichita was spent hauling me up and down the state of Kansas to the children’s hospital in Kansas City for treatment.
But I also remember that time of my life very fondly. We grew up in innocence there. We played outside until the street lights came on. We rode our bikes around the neighborhood and to the nearby gas station for ice cream. It was a great childhood.
We did move homes once in Wichita to base housing while my dad was overseas in Guam. He was gone for 18 months and we were unable to go with him because of my Crohn’s Disease. That was a rough time for us and I was very sick. But again, I had my friends and family to lean on always.
Shortly after my dad came home from Guam we got orders to Colorado Springs, Colorado. We got ready to go, but, OH, the Air Force changed their minds and we were instead going halfway across the country to Travis AFB, California near the Napa Valley. I was very excited about this change of venue, even if it was further away from my friends. I was thrilled for a change of scenery and a new adventure. A few weeks later, we headed out with our cat and Golden Retriever to make the trek across the county.
Unfortunately, a house wasn’t available for us at the time of our arrival so we lived in a tiny town about 40 minutes from the base. We started school in that tiny town and it was AWFUL. I remember my English teacher telling me that basically since I was coming from a Kansas school and I was used to making A’s I would likely not do as well in her class, and not to let that worry me. Thanks for the pep talk, teach!
I was anxious and sick all the time but made it through the last semester of 8th grade there, with flying colors. Thanks again, English teacher, for believing in me! And I started high school there the next year. Now, I’m sure high school is a big change for all entering freshman, but it was an especially big change for the very-small-for-her-age girl from Kansas. I was teased and picked on by older students. And I had entered a world of drugs, alcohol and promiscuity that I had never seen before and wanted no part of, another thing that made me stick out like a sore thumb.
Desperately needing to get out of this small town I asked my parents to take me to a church near the school I would eventually move to when our house was available on base. I very much needed to make friends that would understand me, unlike most of those who I went to school with. So I started attending a Wednesday night youth group, where I met my second life-long best friend on the very first night.
My high school years and how the military life affected my choice of college and affects my life today in Part 2, coming soon!
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