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….

Now that I’m here, in New York,  it’s starting to sink in just how much control I’ve relinquished.

coloured flag whole large

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

Boat Pond Central Park

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.

6 Responses to “The Water Is Different Here”

  1. If you cannot sell your art, perhaps you can sell your blog. I don’t know how that work, but hey, other people do it. Some people makes loads off their blog … and yours is fantastic. It’s a work of art on its own – not to diminish your portfolio, which is another marvel. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    • Thanks for reading, Linda! I’ve always been amazed at how folks make money off a blog. I haven’t figured out how yet, but thanks for saying that you think mine is worthy 🙂

  2. Oncle Hoonki says:

    One million years ago, back in 1999, I left comfy old Vancouver to become the kept, penniless plaything of my new-ish gal pal, a high-earning powerhouse recently relocated to London, England. I had very few employment options (was not interested in them, looking back), and had to really come to terms with the limits of my new, tiny world.
    What I want to say is – it all worked out just great! Not anything like I imagined, but great. The world I’d entered turned out to be human and filled with unforeseeable opportunities. Honestly, I didn’t sell any art. But you could argue that I traded the art I made for an adventure.
    Take the time to do as you please, if you are at all able.
    Don’t worry about art sales, or career moves or any of that BS!
    You are already Jody MacDonald.

    • Some very fine advice indeed, Mr. Fire-Man! I’m not used to being a kept, penniless plaything, but perhaps I can give it the ole college try 😉

  3. Nadina says:

    Jody the growning pains have to be for something really big .
    Thanks for the detail in your memoir . I am specific but lack details so no one really knows what I am talking about in any given time . I appreciate how clear you are.

    Ta, nadina

    • Thanks for reading, Nadina.
      I must keep reminding myself that when change is a bit uncomfortable, the pay-off is usually great. Thanks for the appreciation, although I find a little mystery is nice, too 😉