I know. I know. It’s a Hannah Montana song. I don’t know much about that show, I didn’t grow up watching it, but I DO know about living in between two worlds, living the best of both worlds. I’m not talking about being a teenage superstar and trying to balance having a normal life. I’m talking about growing up with two cultures, two backgrounds and a whole lot of goods and bads to pull from. If you don’t know much about my background you can read my first blog, Sticking in like a sore thumb.
In my story I lived in two different parts of the world, I spent most of my childhood in Papua New Guinea and my adulthood so far in the United States. So I lived in two literally different worlds, different in culture, language, people groups, and so much more. I moved from one country to the next and then back again. The last couple of years I’ve been in one place and have been able to reflect on the pros and cons of the lifestyle I’ve lived.
But everyone’s story is different. Everyone has different worlds that they live between. Maybe you come from a military background where your family moved from base to base, country to country, where ever the military sent you and your family. Maybe your family moved for business or as missionaries. Or maybe you just moved because of other circumstances.
Maybe you have parents from two different cultures so your worlds consist of two or more languages and two or more traditions that are blended together. Maybe you are an expatriate, an immigrant, or a refugee. Each of us have worlds, cultures, communities that clash, intermingle, and intertwine to make us who we are. And there are pros and cons to living in multiple worlds.
#1 PRO: Experiencing diverse and unique countries, cultures, and people
Because I got to move around a lot growing up, I was able to experience unique countries, cultures, and people. We passed through various new places on our way back to one of my two worlds. I experienced new people that I interacted with in both Papua New Guinea and the U.S and now as an adult visiting countries that I’ve never been to and exploring the world. These experiences have shaped who I am, it’s added to my personality, and my identity.
#2 CON: I never got to paint my room
Because we moved a lot, we had renters in our houses, so our walls always had to stay one color which was white (or a light blue in Papua New Guinea.) I always wanted to paint my room, but I was never able to. When my husband and I bought our home, (his childhood home, I might add) we had his sister paint a beautiful sunrise picture of Papua New Guinea in our bedroom. I love my wall!
Do you have something like that because of all your moving around? More important than painting your room, having multiple worlds means that it’s hard to put down roots. And that can be exciting, but it can also be painful, to never have a place that is home.
#3 PRO: Being flexible and adaptable
I’ve learned to be adaptable and flexible in various situations and life itself. You learn to sleep in airport chairs or on the floor, you learn to pack a suitcase in haste and take only the essentials. You learn to pick up and go wherever the mission, military, business, or family told you to. My flexibility is an important part of who I am. It helps me adapt and be flexible in situations, in new experiences, and with new people.
These learned skills have helped me throughout my life with jobs and relationships. It’s especially helpful with change. Change is sometimes our worst enemy. We try to control change because we fear it. But being adaptable and flexible, it helps us embrace change and we make it our friend.
#4 CON: Struggle with identity and a sense of belonging
Feeling like you are from everywhere and nowhere. This one is a tough one. Having multiple worlds means a split identity and losing a sense of belonging to all places and no places at the same time. This can bring on despair, confusion, and sometimes depression. I talk about this in my blog Sticking In like a sore thumb. Check it out for more details.
#5 PRO: Being Bilingual or Multilingual
You can speak several languages. With rich culture and experiences comes the ability to communicate with people in the language that you grew up in. I’m so grateful to be bilingual or multilingual. It helps me with communication, not only linguistically but also through body language, and cross-cultural similarities. You learn to find the commonalities between yourself and people that might seem different to you.
#6 CON: Saying goodbyes and see you laters
The hardest thing about living within multiple worlds is many many goodbyes and see you laters. It’s tiresome, painful, excruciating to continually say goodbye to those you love as you move. It hurts, and it takes a part of you every time you do it. BUT it’s always amazing when you can turn those goodbyes and see you laters to hello again!
#7 PRO: Being a Global Citizen
With all the traveling, and cross-cultural experiences we have become global citizens. Global citizens that understand the world, care for it, and hopefully change it. Because of all my experiences, my heart hurts for the world – all the poverty, hunger, and injustices. And as a global citizen, I try to do what I can to fight these injustices.