Yesterday morning I walked down to Immigration half an hour before they opened and stood in the queue for a while before taking a number and taking a seat, my application with its two laughably unflattering passport-size photos in hand. A nice man called me over to his desk, I paid him a hundred and sixty dollars, and he printed me out a shiny blue-and-white sticker that says “New Zealand Welcomes The World: Rugby World Cup 2011” and stuck it in the penultimate blank page in my passport.
The sticker also says “ Permanent Resident Visa,” which means…I’m done. “Visa expiry: indefinite,” it says. I got residency in 2009 but had to spend at least 180 days per year in New Zealand for two years before I could get indefinite visa, which allows me, theoretically, to get on a plane tomorrow and come back to Wellington in five or ten years and still be able to work and vote and collect unemployment and everything else. Among the other immigrants of my acquaintance in Wellington there’s a lot of talk about Your Two Years; some people will go back and forth and cut it quite close. It wasn’t very hard for me to do even though I’ve traveled a bit since May 2009, but it’s still a milestone, even if a slightly anti-climactic one.
Last night at a friend’s birthday drinks at the bar down the road from my house I carried my passport in my back pocket so I could show everyone my hundred-and-sixty-dollar sticker (or, really, my seven thousand dollar sticker but let’s not get into that) and that was pretty fun, but other than that nothing has changed, really, since the last time I wrote about the American thing or the last time I wrote about everyone leaving. I live in Wellington, as I have done for quite a while now. I have no plans to leave; most of my plans involve deciding what to wear to this weekend’s theme party or updating my CV or whether I will be able to do a flat pike on trapeze this weekend. I don’t know how long I will live here but I suspect it will be for many years; I used to say I would spend my thirties here, as if that was some huge unimaginable chunk of time, but I’m forty in four years and I know that will go like nothing. I know there was a time when all my energy, it felt like, was directed towards that shiny sticker, but it’s so hard to remember. It’s so hard to think about all the anxiety and the unknowing, the inability to make plans, the dread that I would not be able to come back and that I would have to revert to my plan B, when really if I was totally honest I didn’t even have a plan B. The fear that I would have spent all that money for nothing, nothing.
How often do you get what you want? How often do you know what you want? I got it, I got a thing I wanted. I am so lucky to have got what I wanted. There is a little part of me, however–even though I would never want to go through this whole thing again–that wishes I could have that same clarity and focus again, the way I did in 2008 when I was living at home and I really just did not know what would happen next. All I knew was that I wanted New Zealand permanent residency, and everything was about wanting New Zealand permanent residency. I have New Zealand permanent residency now, thanks to my sticker. I got what I wanted. It’s just funny to think that I can’t think of anything else that I want, now, with the same intensity as I did back then.