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.