Residency, At Last

My New Zealand residency came in the mail on Friday, just like that. It’s in my passport along with my visa stamps from Australian and Fiji and Rarotonga and a truly horrifying passport photo that makes me look like a well-meaning glasses-wearing emu. All the forms have been filled out and all the fees have been paid and I’ve got something I’ve been wanting for what seems like a really long time. I still don’t feel giddy about it or anything, but I feel way more excited than I would right now if I hadn’t got it, like if I had to continue to worry about temporary work visas and whether or not I’d be able to stay here as long as I want to, however long that turns out to be.

Good question, right? Last year when I really started trying to make this all happen, I was saying that I’d spend the rest of my thirties (which also seems like a long time but actually really isn’t) in New Zealand and then reassess; I just wanted the option of being able to come or go as I pleased. Everything seemed so up in the air and all I could think about was getting back to Wellington and picking up where I left off and the residency application process was just a means to that end, obviously. I didn’t really understand then—and I’m talking six or seven months ago, like basically no time at all—that there’s no picking up where you left off, anywhere, with anyone. I am very fortunate and grateful to still love this city and all my friends here, old and new, but make no mistake, it’s different. I’m different, everything is different, and residency is just part of that.

The other day I was talking to a friend about being a late bloomer, how I stayed twelve years old until I was about twenty, how I still find it very difficult to believe I’m a voting adult. We were talking about getting into your thirties and I realized that basically my reaction to all the questions and worries and doubts that that milestone birthday was to run away to the other side of the world and sort of…regress a little. Developmentally speaking, life stage speaking. When it feels like everyone else was marrying and buying houses and having children and making partner, I was staying in hostels and wearing tube tops and coming home at eight in the morning, all things I never did in my actual twenties (because I was only twelve back then, I guess, and apparently not allowed to stay up that late). I was able to damp down those bigger questions that the thirties sometimes bring and distract myself with crushes on inappropriately aged people and what I thought were going to be temporary career changes and swimming with dolphins and just the plain old novelty of being somewhere where no one knew me. I felt like I belonged here pretty early on and maybe I thought if I just stayed here I wouldn’t ever have to go back to what I hesitate to term “real life,” because that was real life, what I was doing then, and it is real life, what I’m doing now. Maybe I thought that I’d leave all my questions and worries and doubts permanently in the Northern Hemisphere.

Well,yeah. Obviously I haven’t done that, as every single entry that I’ve been writing since I got back—there are too many to link, girl–would indicate. Those questions and worries and doubts are here with me now, still, as I start thinking about being thirty at the age of thirty-four. I may live other places, I imagine, and do a lot of other things, but now I know that just picking up and moving doesn’t mean you get an indefinite free pass on all your everythings. You’re always you and your problems usually stay your problems, your joys stay your joys. You still have to make a life, every minute of every day. I feel so lucky that residency allows me to do that here in the wind and the rain and the cold of Wellington’s winter, that I can choose to stay in a place that chose me.

5 comments

  1. On a whole lesser level, I get that about nothing being the same when you come back to it. I found that out after moving back here to South Carolina after spending almost ten years back in my home state of Florida (well I was born in NY, but I don’t count that). I thought I’d still be friends with the same people, hang out in the same places and life would be awesome like it was in the mid-nineties when we left. NOPE. I still don’t regret moving back, but there’s no getting around the fact that nothing is ever the same and I understand a little more the saying you can’t go home again.

  2. Really needed to read this. Thanks.

  3. This is so beautifully written and articulate! I envy your talent as well as your self-awareness.
    The last sentence of your third paragraph really spoke to me. I have had many times in my life when I have made a change, often dramatic, thinking I could leave my questions and worries and doubts behind me only to find them sewn into the liners of my suitcases and clinging to my new clothes like the scent of detergent. I think some nagging thoughts you just carry with you throughout your life learning to ignore them whenever possible, others can only be left behind when they are given their moment in the sun and put to bed with reason, still others shrink over time due to experience, but have the ability to grow stronger if fed. It is nice to be reminded that you can’t focus on those naggers without the missing the life around you. (Ian teases me about being racist when I call my negative thoughts naggers, but I don’t have another concise term for them.)

    Congratulations on your residency. I am very happy for you, and I hope you get to feel giddy about it sometime, but that is a selfish hope because of how much I enjoy feeling giddy.

  4. Being yet another American in Wellington, I can related on certain levels to what you write so eloquently about. And one of them is that Hey! We’re! In! New! Zealand! O!M!G!!!

    Thing is, life is life, no matter which hemisphere you are. And even escaping to the bottom left-hand corner of the Pacific can’t change the fact that most of our time is taken up with work and deciding what to eat. Even when we’re in Godzone. Sucks to be human sometimes. :)

    Remember, 40 is the new 30.

  5. Hrmm. Yeah. I agree. And even coming home last year, after 3.5 years away from Wellington (my home town, where I have lived 18 of my 27 years), I had lost the friends I had (moved or got busy), felt lonely, got used to living in a new place, starting a new lifestyle, making new friends. This despite the fact that my family LIVES here. Well, my immediate family and only about 15 other people related to me quite closely.

    Life takes time.

    But, nau mai, haere mai ki Aotearoa.

    Wanna go to Te Papa sometime soon? :)