I have been smiling to myself since yesterday afternoon at about one o’clock, when I got a very enthusiastic email informing me that my application for a New Zealand working holiday visa has been accepted. I’m moving to New Zealand for a year in August 2006. This is the culmination of the Top Secret Plans, in all their iterations. I can hardly believe I am writing those words, that those words are true: “I’m moving to New Zealand for a year.”
After I fessed up to the Internet about the nature of the Plans, I was pretty unhappy for a while in there. I kept telling myself that I hadn’t wasted another year in Seattle, that I was doing something to make the Plans happen. I spent quite a bit of time wondering if trying to revamp the Plans was even worth it, in the grand scheme of life, if I shouldn’t just give it up already. When I first started thinking about London I told myself that I wouldn’t go if I couldn’t get either my social work registration or my Italian passport, and it was really hard to admit that I had run up against one of those dealbreakers because I wanted it to magically just sort of work, I wanted it to be this fairytale thing, where I overcame the obstacles and emerged triumphant in the end, with my chin held high and swelling orchestras in the background and maybe people throwing rose petals at me. For almost a month I just couldn’t accept that I wasn’t going to get the happy ending. It got darker and colder and windier in Seattle and I stewed and sighed and stomped my feet and yelled NO FAIR!
And eventually I started thinking about what was so special about the UK, why I wanted to go there specifically. I knew I wanted to work and live abroad for at least a year, and hence needed to be somewhere where I could speak the language well enough to get a job that would support me…which sadly eliminates any Spanish, French, or Italian-speaking countries. I can speak all those languages to some extent but not enough to really make a living, and I need to make a living because I don’t have enough money to just travel for a year. Plus I thought it would be interesting to really live somewhere and not be so much of a tourist. Getting up and getting on the bus and going to work and going to the store and going to the roller derby is sort of routine but doing it in a different part of the world is less so, you know? And I had friends in London, and they were recruiting overseas social workers, and it seemed like a good fit, so…that was that.
And then, right after I got the bad news about the Italian passport, I found out that not only would getting a regular working visa over there absolutely suck, but also all my American friends living in London would be coming back to the States in 2006, which pretty much meant that all of a sudden there was nothing special about going there, and that I could expand the general idea of the Plans to anywhere English-speaking. And I started aimlessly googling around, trying to keep an open mind, and about a month ago I found a program for working holidaymakers in New Zealand that would accept Americans (something that was really difficult with the UK) and would also accept people over thirty (which had also been a sticking point with the UK). I was sort of stunned when I found it, like, really? I can maybe do this? This is okay? New Zealand, huh. I’d never thought about going there but it only took a few minutes for me to come to the conclusion that hey! They speak English in New Zealand! And they need social workers! Indeed, they need any non-sheep-based life forms over there! I qualify! All right! Cheerio, England, and kia ora, New Zealand!
So I filled out a one-page application form, acquired a money order, and popped the whole shebang in the mail (after kissing the envelope for good luck) on my way down to Tacoma Saturday afternoon on my way to a Narnia-themed party. I wasn’t expecting to hear back for at least a couple of weeks, if that…my experience with the GSCC and the freaking Italian consulate having hardened my heart…so you can imagine how surprised I was yesterday to get an email all, “Hey! Best get cracking on tickets for a twelve-hour flight!” Just like that, and I’m going in eight months.
I don’t remember the last time I was this happy. It’s weird, I’m excited but I don’t feel giddy, I’m not hopping around or chattering about it nonstop. I’m working on a research presentation for work and I went to the gym this morning and I have some fun things planned for the next couple of weeks before I leave for Miami again and I feel, all things considered, pretty normal. I guess it makes sense because it’s not like I’m leaving in two weeks or anything. I’m going to keep on doing what I normally do until I leave in August: get on the bus, go to work, go to the market, go to the cupcake store. I have a huge subcategorized and cross-referenced to-do list already and there’s certainly a few more steps to take before I get the actual visa in my physical hands, but it feels so different than all the frustration I had with getting everything ready for London, with all the constant mixed messages and delayed gratification and hedged bets.
I feel so calm. I can’t even explain it. I am, to put it mildly, somewhat obsessive and future-oriented, but I don’t feel anxious or frustrated about any of the difficulties this new idea presents, you know, like going to live on the other side of the planet where I know not a single person. I know some things will be hard (how the hell will I pack enough stuff for a year into one bag?) and scary and intimidating, but I just…I don’t know, it’s just fine with me. I’ll take care of everything somehow, I think. I think everything is going to work out all right.
On the bus this morning I was considering whether to wait until I got the plane tickets to fess up again to the internet, whether to continue being a little sneaky about the whole thing, but I don’t think I care about being sneaky anymore concerning these plans. I am too happy to keep it a secret; I want to bring everything to light and enthuse endlessly. Last night I was on the phone with a friend, talking about how excited and happy I am with the whole thing, and how it’s happened sort of quickly but it’s also been sort of a really long time since I first started thinking about living abroad. I said that even though I am a tiny bit scared, it’s not because I think something bad is going to happen to me when I’m over there or anything, but because I am not totally used to things working out in my favor and kind of don’t know what to do with myself. It’s such a relief. I made it happen, I’ll continue to make it happen, and then August will be here and it will happen some more and then 2007 will be here and it will happen some more and I’ll come home and it will happen some more, all sorts of things will happen. Maybe this is the first time in my life that I have felt that I am really choosing my life, maybe that’s what’s scary.
After I got off the phone last night I went into the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth and I got distracted by my face in the mirror because I was smiling so hugely. I just stared at myself smiling and smiling and I knew I was ridiculous but I couldn’t stop, there in my fuzzy slippers with my toothbrush in my hand, just grinning at myself in the mirror at ten at night. I have never seen myself so beautiful. I should have taken a picture of myself there, showing all my teeth and crinkling my eyes and thinking that this is what happiness looks like, feels like, is: the day you realize a dream, the day you know that your life will change.