Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 06/06/22

Coming of Sage. In The Courage to Identify Who You Are, Indian-American author Sharon Angel shares the wisdom she’s learned growing up as a “third-culture kid” confronting group identity expectations and emerging to discover her true identity.

JWK: Who did you write this book for?

Sharon Angel: It is for young adults, anywhere from 13 to 35, who are just out of school/just out of college trying to figure out where they want to go in life and what they want to do. I think especially during the pandemic there was so much uncertainty that most of us didn’t know (what) our future would be like. So, I wanted to tell my story (and) share my experiences on how I found out things for myself…so maybe (readers) can take excerpts from that and make decisions for themselves.
JWK: You use the phrase “third-culture kid” when talking about your background. What do you mean by that?
SA: A third-culture kid is basically someone who is living in two different cultures or maybe even three different cultures. I was born and raised in India and then I had to move to the US.
JWK: How old were you?

SA: I was 17 when I moved. So, being with family, being with some of me closest friends from high school and so on, there’s a certain culture and certain values that I carry within myself…And then I’m here in the West currently. I work here. I have my own company. I have a whole different friend circle, a whole new life. But, by myself, constantly navigating back and forth, there are certain values and traditions that I would still like to uphold from my old culture.Then there’s also my passport culture which is the United States and there are certain freedoms, there are certain rights, there’s a certain kind of life that I have here. And there’s also, from both cultures, certain things that maybe I’m divorced from, maybe I have let go of and I don’t agree with (and) that are not necessarily my lifestyle.

A third-culture kid is basically a combination of the two where there is a certain culture, there are certain values, there are certain principles that I have made for myself which is a combination of both that is unique to my identity (and) unique to who I am as an individual.

So, as I was doing my kind of identity journey I found out that there are several people – not just in the US but also throughout the world – who identify as TCK/Third-Culture Kids because they might be from different backgrounds – both their parents might be of different backgrounds or they might had to have settled in a different culture and kind of reinvented themselves and found values and behaviors that they have made their own. So, finding other people who are on the third-culture spectrum is super helpful to talk to and to relate with.

JWK: What kind of reaction have you gotten from your book from TCK people? Have you received reaction?

SA: Yes! The book itself has a 4.9 rating. I’ve seen that most of the readers are in the 18-to-30 age range and they’re from all around the world. I saw that the book was sold in Canada, in Japan, many parts of Europe and so on. These are all new audiences to me.

So, after the success of the book – it was awarded #1 new release on Amazon when it came out – I decided to start a podcast called Courage to Identify Podcast the next year after the book was released. In the first season I did an episode on third-culture kids. Many people (who) messaged me on my social media have said that this is something that is new, something that we don’t really hear spoken about too often. A few of them wrote to me saying that “I identify as TCK. I just didn’t know that there was a name or a term for that.”

JWK: I would guess there are both good parts and challenging to that.
SA: Of course!
JWK: What are some of the challenges?

SA: Well, I speak two languages and I also learned French in high school and college. So, just the language itself – knowing two different languages which are very, very different from each other. One of the biggest things is you have to switch your brain while you’re speaking another language. The accent is different…It’s almost like you could be a different person while you’re speaking that language or you’re practicing that culture.In the West there are different things that the people in the East don’t do and there are certain things in the East that people in the West don’t do. So, it’s almost like borderline faking it in many ways but then once you know what you’re doing (and) why you’re doing it – understanding the meaning and definition behind each behavior – even going to a party or a festival, once you know the meaning behind each ritual, each tradition, then that strengthens identity. I think the biggest thing is just being true to who you are, being true to what you believe and so on – and being able to practice it in freedom because, if you don’t do that, then you’re just being like someone else and..most TCKs don’t want to be someone else. You want to be yourself.

JWK: How did you come to a point when you were, basically, being yourself without worrying too much about fitting into either culture?
SA: That’s the thing. Sometimes I won’t be able to (perfectly fit into) a certain culture because I can’t put myself in a box. So, that’s why being a TCK helped – having that definition of “Oh, yeah, there are certain things from this culture (and certain things from that culture that I) take in…and that is naturally who I am.

JWK: Finishing up, what do you hope people take from your book?
SA: I hope they pursue finding who they are without without fear. I think life is all about making small decisions every day and those small decisions need courage and tenacity…to be able to face life without fear.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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