Friday, September 25, 2009

What's so amazing/ That keeps us star-gazing...

Thesis: working as a non-American in America is very confusing. I have a job that sponsors me and an immigration lawyer and I am Canadian (I can't think of a more entitled nationality to be: being Canadian basically means you get carte blanches from everybody no matter where they're from. It's awesome).

Lawyer, job, Canadian cred - it all makes it easier by 3000% to stay in the USA legally. I do not even want to think about what a drag it is to not have those things because even with them, I have basically gone through a month-long nervous breakdown over what the proper process to stay is. It finally ended yesterday, and I have felt like I'm floating through warm, soft clouds of joy and relief ever since. This shit is terrifying. For realzzzz.

About a month ago, I called the American Embassy in Toronto to make sure everything was set for me to be under my very lovely H1B work status as of October 1st. By the way, you have to pay a flat rate of $35 to even call the American Embassy, and then a $2/minute charge after that. And the representative put me on hold. WTF-vision!!!!!!

The embassy said: no, no, don't take the instructions your lawyer or the H1B approval notice gave you. Drive to the Canadian border within 10 days of October 1st with every record of being in the United States you have, plus more visa fees, plus more forms, plus a bunch of other documents. They will then decide if you should come back in. I trusted them, because their whole thing is knowing what to do with visas. I have lived and worked in the United States on and off since 2003, under three different kinds of visas, and I have two Social Security numbers, and it all seemed pretty daunting. I really hate looking at my immigration document collection.

So this was fucking scary! I was going through the whole "am I going to get kicked out?" fear all over again, which was basically the only thing that has marred an otherwise stellar year. But I gathered all these documents and stressed out for a month and booked a car and prepared to go. In the back of my head, I was always thinking, "What happens if they don't let me back in?" The panic and dread and stress over that thought had increasing effects as the weeks went by - terrible chest pain and lack of sleep and most egregiously, exposing my wonderful, patient friends to bouts of whining and hysteria. Josh Bowman, Simon McNabb, Chris Dingwall, Will Storie and Nicole Drespel are the only reasons I did not become completely unhinged. I thank them.

This week, the anxiety hit its fever pitch. Before this passing Wednesday's Jason Anderson show, I was looking up every single thing I needed on the consulate web page, and getting a billion different answers about what I should be doing. By the time I got to Pete's Candy Store, I was in a cold sweat. Just really in a bad way. I tried to smile and swallow it for about two seconds while Lee and I ordered beers, but then basically blasted him across the room with high-frequency anxiety. I described in detail the physical effects of the dread I was experiencing and challenged him to think of a time when he felt the same way so that I could have a commiserator (not the best social instinct, but also not the worst; you have to give me that). When he told his version, I became angry, basically because it wasn't my version. All my emotions over this were so strange - the anger, the fear, the frustration, the nerves. By no means am I a stalwart reason-over-emotion person, but I am almost never sucked into feedback loops of negative emotions. I am good at happiness: I like very small accumulations of weird, good things, and I like building them up into weird, great things. Probably 90% of my thoughts follow this pattern. I like problems with no solutions, and making makeshift answers to them that are satisfying because they are not definitive, because they are more just a record of an interaction between yourself and the problem. I also am lucky enough to have one of those things in my brain that refuses to accept shitty experiences as being totally negative, even if it's clear that they actually are. All things bad are a deposit in the ol' bank of character, and such. So to be stuck bouncing between every variety of bad emotion - and really recognizing that this was all just negative - was weird and scary and kind of felt like being on a bad drug trip that you can't stop. I had no tools for it. Humans hate it when there are no tools!

Luckily, a discussion of Lee's vaginal bats sketch was enough to distract me from it temporarily, and then of course, there was Jason Anderson. It bears mentioning that on the evening where I've truly come closer to a mental breakdown than I can remember, my nerves were gone about 5 minutes into the show and didn't come back until the next day. So he's magic, definitely.

I emailed Will that night to warn him that any interaction with me in the next few days was going to be tainted by my accumulation of panic-induced craziness. He responded only by asking when he could see me, which I thought was pretty fucking sweet, given it was so extremely masochistic of him. To respond to your girlfriend when she's like "I'M BATSHIT CRAZY RIGHT NOW!" with "WHEN CAN I BE IN THE LINE OF FIRE?" is a sign of an aces dude.

Simon was the person who really questioned what I was doing (I called him very late on Wednesday for reassurance). Being a Canadian working in LA, also with nebulous visa issues occasionally, he knew how to talk to me about it. He didn't think anything the embassy had said sounded right, and he recommended I call many immigration lawyers about it. I count on him to be my intuition from time to time. I should really look into getting my own intuition installed so I don't always have to borrow his.

I called many immigration lawyers, all of whom said the embassy had given me $50 of bullshit. I don't need to leave the country. I don't need a consular appointment. I don't need any of the documents I gathered. I don't need to pay any more fees. I just need to put the approval notice I already had - have had for months - into my passport on October 1st. The most impressive lawyer of all was Josh's, who got a visa for Josh in less than three months earlier this year (unheard of!), who called me right away and set me straighter than an arrow. Half my notes from our conversation are about how safe I am with what I have and the other half are about how awesome he thinks Josh is.

I was in a bland euphoric haze for almost all of yesterday, and slept better last night than I have in weeks. Which makes all the stress worth it? Yes, because I know I have awesome friends - all compassionate but not at the expense of pragmatism - and I also know there is apparently no limit of bullshit I will take in order to stay in this country. Everyone knows it's a horrendously flawed nation in a billion different ways, but...I love it here.I really do.

I had a Muppet dream last night. It's been a Muppet-heavy few weeks. I read a screenplay for a Jim Henson biopic and I am fanatical about Josh and Chuck's "How Muppets Work" podcast a few weeks back, and in general, have been thinking Muppet-y thoughts. I woke up this morning with this very specific image in my head of Kermit in New York, vivid enough that I was sure it was something I'd actually seen somewhere before. An extremely quick Google Image search led me to it. I can't articulate why the salve that my unconscious provided to relieve the upset of this past month was this image, but it seems so unbelievably appropriate that, I'll admit, I cried a little:

ADDENDUM: On Friday night, Simon texted me this: "There's a line in Jurassic Park 3 where Macy says "We've got enough juice for one call - and don't call the US Embassy, they won't do a damn thing!"


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love the ending picture! YOU'RE HERE TO STAY! For now... As I read this, I like to hear all the words in my mind being read in the sometimes-English way you say them. Aw, you are so lovely, and I'm glad that, despite the anxiety it has caused you, you are here more permanently.