Keeping and building strong relationships is one of the most difficult things for TCKs to do. We are challenged by moving from place to place, country to country, school to school, and language to language. Sometimes the process of keeping friendships can seem daunting. While we understand that we can maintain a relationship through social media (Facebook, Skype, Instagram, Twitter…), we all know that those relationships are rarely the same. You may be one of the few that is able to maintain your friendships through those means, but most of us simply can’t. Time zones are a challenge. When we want to talk, we can’t. When they want to talk, we can’t. Access to the internet can be a challenge. Family commitments can make it challenging. Simply put, there a very few relationships that can maintain depth through distance.
That is a simple, but true, challenge of the TCK life. I had some great friends when I was in high school. I played lots of sports, and really was connected with great people. Since I went to an international school, my friends were from everywhere. However, I don’t have a single friend I went to high school with that I am still in contact with today. Everybody went their own way. They are spread out around the world.
Understanding the TCK life, I know of TCKs that have simply decided that it is too difficult to make friends so they virtually withdrew from relationships. Often times, we spend one, two, or three years in one location before our parents are re-assigned. We seemingly just get settled in, start to make some meaningful relationships, when we realize that we will be moving again. We start to expect the transitions, and the pain that accompanies them. We start to think we won’t be living in a place long enough to make meaningful relationships. We try to avoid the painful process of saying goodbye by simply not engaging with people. Just by the nature of being TCKs, we have had to say some really painful goodbyes.
With all those challenges, I want to let you know that it is never bad to build friendships – EVEN if you know that friendship may not last. Those relationships are critical to who we are, and who we become. It is worth the pain to engage in meaningful relationships. You will walk away as a better person, and so will they. That doesn’t mean you won’t have those moments of tears, because you will. But, you will have great memories. You may also gain a life-long friend. I have a few friends today that I have known since I was a kid. Jonathan, is an MK from Brussels. I see him once or twice a year. But, we always have an amazing time with each other. We love reminiscing about our high school days (although we played sports for competing schools).
I want to encourage you today. Open up to relationships. Don’t hold out, simply because of fear of losing a friendship. You have a lot to give to others. You never know. There may be someone that is desperate for a friend. God may have brought you into their lives for a specific reason. Even though I am no longer in touch with my high school friends, I value those relationships. I value the time I had with them. Yes, we had to say goodbye. Yes, it was painful. But, in the end, the challenge of the farewell was worth the investment of time in the relationships.
We had a certain student move to Brussels while we were youth leaders at the international church. She moved to Europe as a seniorin high school. She was miserable. She didn’t want to be there and was upset at her parents for making her move. She spent all year with pent up frustration and anger at her parents. About two months before her graduation, she started to realize that she had made some amazing friends. She truly fell in love with her school, the friends around her, and with Belgium. She was then filled with regret that she wasted most of her senior year trying to avoid connecting. Don’t waste time when it comes to friends. Allow yourself to love others, no matter what the future may hold! If you lose friends (which you will), allow yourself to draw closer to God in those moments!