‘Freeze this moment.’

I’ve discovered a new phrase for TCKs. It first hit me when my family and I were running through the Tokyo airport last week to catch a connecting flight.

Okay. Running would be an understatement. Racing would probably be a more accurate description. It’s was the gasping, sweat-dripping, luggage-bouncing, desperate-looking, head-turning kind of run my family of seven succumbed to EIGHT minutes before our flight’s departure time. Trust me. It was not a pretty (but definitely hilarious) sight.

With our gate far in the distance, we pressed onward. A loud speaker overhead announced the third final call for “Flight 621 from Tokyo to Bangkok.” My eight-year-old sister plummeted over a gaping passerby in her desperate attempt to keep up. My mom shouted an apologetic “excuse me.” Laughter bubbled up inside of me between loud, short-winded, and entirely-unattractive gasps. Seriously, the moment was priceless.

You know those memories you just don’t want to forget?

Well, this was one of those. For a split second, I withdrew from the present. I ‘froze the moment.’

Hence, the birth of a new phrase for TCKs.

Valuing the TCK Journey

You see, TCKs have been given many moments we could freeze. But sometimes, sadly, we don’t realize them. Because our lives are crazy, (I’m drawing comfort from the fact that you’ve probably had a similarly-insane airport experience too) the unexpected is normal.

Because of our life-styles, we’ve learn to embrace ambiguity. We’ve learned flexibility. And we’ve learned to cope with constant and/or startling change. But these life-learned traits often come with a downside:

When the unexpected becomes normal, and when change becomes routine, we don’t even think about freezing the moment. These memory-making opportunities can pass us by so quickly as ordinary or usual. The hilarity, beauty, or fun of our experiences can become dull, typical, or simply lost in the moment.

As TCKs, if we take a minute to step back and look around us, we will see that there are many moments like these woven throughout our everyday lives.

I’ve discovered that transitions seem to highlight and draw them out. With life-altering changes like these, I’m typically struck with the painful realization of what I’m leaving, losing, and letting go off. Suddenly, every experience becomes precious. I view my surroundings with a fresh perspective, spurred by an aching sadness and an increasing urgency to live those last few months without regret.

I just started my last year of high school. This reality hits me time and time again. My last time visiting China. My last annual trip to Hong Kong. My final time seeing this particular friend or spending time with this family. My last year as a TCK with a TCK lifestyle is dwindling. Honestly? I’m sad. As I look back on my TCK life, I’m remembering a few of the moments I’ve frozen. I’ve begun to realize what a gift they are.

With this new awareness of another season coming to an end, I’m learning to freeze the delight of my everyday experiences. I’m learning to capture these meaningful moments and beautiful memories to tuck in my heart. I don’t want to forget them as I seek to build a new life in a new place.

Taking a Snapshot of Your Surroundings

When a wave of longing hits for whom or what you’ve left behind, do you ever open the photo app on your phone and scroll through your pictures? With a bittersweet smile, I do this frequently.

There’s something comforting, even heart-warming, about sitting and remembering the places I’ve travelled and the people I’ve met. It reminds me of who I really am deep inside, when my surroundings change and I briefly forget.

Freezing the moment is just like taking pictures. It’s like capturing a snapshot of your surroundings to store in your heart to remember. Just like pictures, I don’t want to miss capturing any of these moments. Most of all, I want to freeze moments when I’m supposed to.

As TCKs, how do we do this?

I’ve discovered it begins with being more than just ‘aware.’  Freezing the moment means, for an instant, withdrawing from the present. Briefly moving from within what is happening to the viewpoint of looking in. It means memorizing your surroundings. Listening to the sounds. Taking in the sights. Inhaling the smells. It means for a moment, becoming an outsider with an outsider perspective in your own surroundings.

Just like ‘saving’ pictures on our phones, we can ‘save’ these special moments in our hearts to remember. When an occasional wave of wistful longing for what was suddenly hits us, these memories will resurface. As we move through life, they will remind us of our identities, that we have many homes, and that our TCK hearts can stay rooted in all of these places.

For TCKs, what are some experiences that you want to freeze now? For ATCKs, what experiences have you frozen?