I am a Triangle

Coming home from the mission field is no homecoming. Returning missionaries come home to a rude awakening; coming home is more difficult than their early days of arriving on the mission field.

In a recent podcast, Jeff Jackson refers to the following article by Naomi Hattaway.

I am a triangle and other tips for repatriation

by Naomi Hattaway


Imagine a place called Circle Country. Everyone who lives inside of its borders are Circle Citizens. The Circle Country has very specific culture, holidays, celebrations, food preferences, a language that is unique to them as well as music, education and political categories.

Let’s also talk about Square Society. Everyone who lives inside of its borders are Square Settlers. The Square Society also has the culture, holidays, celebrations, food preferences (and on and on) as the Circle Country, but they are completely different.

triangle image one

photo credit: Naomi Hattaway

One day, a Circle Citizen got on a plane and flew to Square Society. That Circle landed squarely (pun intended) in the middle of the Square Settlers and their Square Culture.

triangles image two

photo credit: Naomi Hattaway

Circle Citizen now lives in the midst of Square Settlers, and he or she may adapt to a degree, but will never become a truly Square Settler. At the same time, this Circle Citizen will also start to lose a bit of his/her Circle culture.

The normal circle things start to blend together with the new square culture. The major holidays in Circle Country might dissipate a bit to allow for the celebration of Square festivals.

Favorite comfort foods that remind her of Circle Country give way to the acceptance of new Square foods. The Circle culture never quite gives way to the new Square norms and at the same time doesn’t go away completely either.

He or she slowly – and seemingly unconsciously – evolves into something completely different. The transformation to a Triangle Tenant begins. Being a Triangle means you have some of your original Circle culture mixed with some of your newly adopted Square culture.

You are no longer 100% Circle, but you’ll never again be 100% Square. You are left – almost hanging – somewhere in the middle.

triangles image three

photo credit: Naomi Hattaway

Now, imagine that after some time, this Triangle Tenant hops on yet another plane and returns to Circle Country. This Triangle doesn’t revert to the previous Circle status just because repatriation has happened and he has landed home. This Triangle remains forever a Triangle.

triangles image four

photo credit: Naomi Hattaway

I will always be a Triangle.

As I find myself back in Circle Country, the good ole’ US of A, so far, I’ve found that I am mostly surrounded by Circles. Folks who haven’t ventured too far out of the Circle boundaries. It felt good to have this validation of sorts. Someone saying “it’s totally ok that you’ve turned into a Triangle and you’ll be better for it.”

triangles image five

photo credit: Naomi Hattaway

I still don’t quite know where I fit in. My “pointy parts” don’t blend in so well with the smooth edges of the circles. My time amongst squares leaves me with memories that will stay forever, yet there are pieces of that culture that I am thankful to not have as part of my own.

Find more resources from Naomi on this topic in her original article here.

Check out the I Am a Triangle Facebook Group

Follow Naomi Hattaway on Twitter.


  1. Reply
    Naomi Hattaway says

    I’m so glad to see this share of my article! It was such a source of comfort for me, and an “a-ha” moment to realize I wasn’t alone! Thanks for all YOU do to help ease the feelings of not belonging, culture shock issues, going “home”, and all that goes with living abroad!

    • mm
      Bryon Mondok says

      Thanks for your comments, Naomi. We appreciate your work and experience you share as well.

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