I just finished reading Elna Baker‘s memoir, The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance. In it she recounts the struggles she faced as a 26-year-old Mormon virgin looking for true love in New York City. She’s a funny writer and her insight into the Mormon faith was interesting and informative. Now 30, Elna is no longer a virgin or a Mormon but a successful writer. She made the very personal announcement in an essay she wrote for Glamour, “Guess What? I’m not a Virgin Anymore!”
Though I wasn’t raised Mormon or even religious, I loved Elna’s voice (the chapter about her trip to Tanzania is hilarious) and could relate to her as a traveler. Elna split her childhood between Washington, London and Spain (her family moved around a lot because of her father’s job). Here’s an excerpt from a conversation she had with her co-worker about soul mates that I found particular relevant to life as a travelholic.
“Vinny,” I began. “Do you believe in soul mates?”
He thought about my question. “Nah,” he shook his head. “Take my wife – she grew up five blocks from me, only we didn’t meeet till we were thirty-five. I’d been in the army, I’d traveled the world, and still I married a girl from Astoria, Queens. What are the odds that my soul mate grew up five blocks away? Is it fate? No. In the end, people just marry other people who are like them.”
I was disappointed by his answer, but nodded my head.
“You know what your problem is?” he continued.
“You believe a buncha different things, you’ve lived in a buncha different places, and now, nobody’s like you.”
“Thanks, Vinny. No one tells you what being unique actually means: that you’ll die alone.”
That quote reminded me about something I’d read about ‘Third Culture Kids’. ‘Third Culture’ is a term used to describe children (usually American military brats or the offspring of missionaries) that were born in one culture but raised in another. It’s sad because usually these children have an incredibly difficult time adjusting to life in their home culture when they return. Though they were never fully able to assimilate into their host country’s culture, they find that when go back ‘home’, they aren’t fully able to assimilate there either. They’re forever stuck straddling two worlds; never fully feeling like they belong anywhere and having difficulty relating to anyone except for other ‘Third Culture Kids’.
Though no one can fully identify with someone else (as everyone’s life experience is unique), for those who’ve lived abroad, it seems particularly difficult. It seems ironic that some of the experiences we’ve had as travelers that make us most interesting are also what make us wholly unrelatable; an alien race of no-culture nomads.