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A little over a month ago my life changed drastically when my green card application to the USA was declined.
I had been applying for residence so I could live in Seattle where the person I love most in the world (Michael Johnston, for the record), is working a really good job at Microsoft. It was a shock, seeing as I’d been a super paranoid mess about making sure every document was correct and that I had sent in everything the government needed over the past year. I had also called many times to check up on my application and each time they told me everything looked just fine and dandy.
Turns out I hadn't submitted some necessary evidence right at the beginning (by accident) and the letter to tell me about my mistake never reached me (damn snail mail). Long story short: no appeal was possible, I had to leave and I had no idea what to do or how to feel. Well, I definitely felt upset but beyond that I wasn't sure.
This year was an unusual change-of-pace for me. I moved to Seattle to be with Mike, knowing no one else and unable to work or even go to school for most of the year. I had just come from having my ego brutally shattered by the negative effects of a year full of failing at running a business, failing at managing a house, failing at being a good daughter or girlfriend and just generally failing at being an adult. Or at least, that’s how it felt.
I mean, I tried my best in 2013 but the hits kept coming, even when I was on the ground. Renters who didn't pay rent, fleas, ants, mice, things breaking, lies, deception, let-downs, disputes, constant work (at some points a full-time job plus the business)- you name it, I experienced it.
I couldn't believe I had been so cocky and naive to take the world on like I did. I had been so foolish, so immature. Exactly what I wanted to avoid. I wanted to prove I was an adult and I ended up feeling like a stupid kid. Eventually I decided I needed to close everything up in the best way I could and walk away, feeling shame and self-hatred on the inside but acting, as I always did, like everything was okay, that this was all part of the plan. Except of course it wasn't.
I went to Seattle with Mike, brooding about what a dumb idiot I was in coffee shops while rain beat against the window, and I tried to remember myself. The confident Rose. The one who always knew exactly what she wanted to do. The one who was brave. The only thing is, it’s actually kind of hard to find yourself all alone, with too much time on your hands and in a city that just oozes angst (sorry Seattle. I still love you.)
Also, I got sick. Really sick. Seriously, chronically sick. I spent much of the winter wishing I could get out of bed and wishing I had something to get out of bed for.
But I also wrote a book. And every time I stepped in to the new world it healed me, every time I wrote I was free. Then I started writing another book. Along the way, mostly due to my new-found interest in fiction writing, I made some very deep friendships friends that I am so, so grateful to have. Seriously, when I was asked to join a weekly dinner group by one of these angels- that gesture made my life recognizable again.
I had friends! People who knew me! And they were so kind it made me feel like crying! Sounds dramatic, I know, but when you spend your days alone, bullying yourself, some kindness can shock the crap out of you.
Leaving my friends in Seattle was (and is) hard. Leaving that pillar of wisdom, patience and virtue known as Michael A. Johnston was (and is) even harder.
But it’s not all bad. I don’t know what it was, but I hit a breaking point. I didn't forget to take away lessons from the mistakes I’d made, but I forgave myself for royally messing up my 20th year. I thanked myself for not driving away my partner or any of the other people close to me, and for doing my best given my situation. I was tired of being a bitter, sub-par version of myself (after all, that really wasn't helping anybody), and tired of being afraid of failure. I wanted to be courageous again.
And a day after I got that letter telling me to leave, when the panic and shock had subsided enough that I could think, all of a sudden this feeling hit me, like some switch had been turned on inside my brain. I was ready for the world again, ready to take chances again. Maybe I'd fall on my face, but I'd try nonetheless.
Hence this post. I’m more terrified of telling everyone I know about my feelings than jumping out of a plane or seeing a thirty foot wave approach me. I don’t tell people what’s going on inside me. I just don’t. I never have. And that’s why I’m going to do this. Because I need to face that fear. Because if I had been able to do this in the first place I could have just asked for help when I needed it, rather than sinking in to despair. Because I owe it to my friends and family to be one hundred percent real and honest and able to accept their kindness. Because I get it now: no person is an island. No one stands by themselves in this big crazy world. We all survive through other people, and that’s not shameful, that’s just love.
I’m also dreaming big again. Do I know exactly what I’m going to do next? Not really. I have a few ideas- try and sell my book, which I’m just about to finish. Scrape up the money to attend a screenwriting program in Vancouver, if I can. That would put me closer to Mike, as well (Seattle’s only about a three hour drive away from Vancouver).
But that all depends on whether I can find a job and save up. This is life. It’s not easy, and everyone has a bad year occasionally. Or two. Or three. But it’s also beautiful. All I have to do is think of the smiling faces of the ones I love, and I’m thankful. And, added bonus, I've found my passion. I can write anywhere, anytime- all I need is a pen and paper. Or charcoal and bark. Or a stick and some damn sand. I know what I love. All I have to do is continue to work hard, love well and stick my neck out when opportunities come along.
This doesn't mean, of course, that everything is going to be one hundred percent fine and good forever. This is not a movie with a perfect, tidy ending. I have doubt. I know I’m going to have to work really hard to make any of this stuff I have planned actually happen. I know I’m bound to have bad years in the future. But I do know that a certain phase of my life has ended, and a new one is about to begin. And I feel really, really optimistic about this one. Everything is within my grasp. I just have to reach out and take it.
So that’s my year in review. A year which a couple of random Facebook photos or a chirpy, upbeat paragraph really could never represent. This is the real me. To all the friends and family that I am so lucky to have: thank you, I love you. You mean the world to me. I hope you have a love-filled holiday, and here’s to another wonderful year on earth.