The Water Is Different Here
If you’ve read my last few posts you’ll know that my husband, Andrew, and I are in the midst of a massive relocation. And, yes, I was all for Andrew accepting the job offer in NYC, even with the many ways in which we had to perform to ensure the acceptance of our application for TN (principal alien) and TD (non-immigrant dependent) visas.
Get married? No problem.
I can’t work? No problem.
No control? Umm….
Don’t misunderstand me, I am still THRILLED to have the opportunity to be here and experience this exciting part of the world. There are just a few things that I wasn’t expecting, and it’s making the transition a bit painful.
Why Is It So Painful?
I’m an extremely independent person…always have been. I hate asking for help or relying on others to make things happen. I remember, as a young girl, asking my dad for the definition of a word. He told me to go look it up. At the time I was annoyed, clearly he knew the answer and just wasn’t going to tell me. As I matured I realized that he was training me to be self-sufficient, teaching me that when I needed or wanted something I didn’t have to wait around for someone else to provide me with it – I had the power to go get it myself. It was a valuable lesson and has served me well in life.
But at the moment all of my learned autonomy is causing me to suffer. I’m not able to function as independently as I’m used to…and I don’t like it.
I have no bank account, no social security number, no U.S. I.D. In a sense, I don’t exist in this country. I’m starting to understand the “legal alien” thing – even though I’m permitted to be here, I am not of here, and this country is not going to let me forget it. I am merely an appendage of my husband, who, because he has a job, also has all the control. For a self-confessed control-freak, feeling powerless is frustrating and frightening.
The “What If’s” Are the Worst
Not knowing the full extent to which I’m hobbled fuels the Anxiety Inquisitors that have suddenly taken up residence in my mind…and they’re inventing all sorts of fictional apprehensions to plague me:
Do you think you’re going to be entitled to get a library card?
Do you think you’ll be eligible for a NYC driver’s license?
Do you believe anyone will allow you to apply for a studio lease without a bank account, cheques, and an SSN (especially if you keep spelling words like “cheque” as a Canadian)?
It is likely that I will be able to obtain these things, although probably the studio will have to go through Andrew. Not the end of the world, but certainly humbling on a scale that I’m not accustomed to.
Less than a week ago I was Canadian, a homeowner, and in control of my own finances. Logically I know I am technically still a Canadian citizen. Emotionally, I am displaced, in between two countries and not fully belonging to either – an interstitial hybrid existing between the bureaucratic gaps.
It’s an odd place to be.
The Most Frustrating Aspect
I was just getting comfortable with the idea of myself as an artist that could be financially sustainable through selling my work. The “not permitted to accept employment” clause may extend to my selling online as a self-employed artist. If it’s true, it will be like being told I’m not allowed to swim in the Big Kid pool. Until we have the chance to talk to an immigration lawyer who can explain clearly where the “no making money” boundaries are, the Inquisitors are going to work overtime:
You want to sell your work online? Sorry – that’s being self-employed and according to your status, you are not allowed to be employed.
You want to show your work? Who do you think in this capitalist mecca will want to exhibit work by an artist who’s not allowed to sell?
You can’t sell, and you won’t be able to show because you can’t sell, so you might as well surrender to the fact that the progress of your practice is stalled. How do you feel about going shopping, buying some chic clothes, and working on becoming some nice arm candy for your employed husband?
Oh my, the Anxiety Inquisitors are being extremely unkind…to everyone involved.
I’m trying to consciously avoid spinning stories of “what if”, but until I have answers I fear the Inquisitors will remain as my unwelcome cerebral squatters.
New Pool, New Rules
Yup, the water is definitely different here.
I am hoping that once I can let go of who I thought I was – and what I thought I was in control of – I will experience a sense of freedom and accept this new version of existence. One where I can allow myself to comfortably float on the pool-noodle of trust for a little while, resist feeling limited, and enjoy the ride…because, hell, I’m in New York City!
Have you ever had to give up control and alter the way you perceived yourself? What challenges did you experience and what strategies did you use to use to work through these challenges? Please share in the comments below.