Saturday, March 17, 2012

"Home Again" - Michael Kiwanuka (2012)

Home again
Home again
One day I know
I'll feel home again
Home again
Home again
One day I know
I'll feel strong again

Monday, September 12, 2011

Day 44 - Anatomy of a Move and The End of a Chapter

Nooo, I have not abandoned this blog... But it seemed like -living- the last 30 or so days was more important than -blogging- about them....

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have to say I am blown away by the "finality" a move to another country can bring, after living here for so long. You literally have to "book" people on your calendar. Time is counted and so precious and you realize, what and who is priority and what/who is...well,...NOT. I wish I had always functioned like that in my every day life. When your time is "counted" every day is so optimized, you would not believe it!! In the same way, I also found myself spending more time doing things I enjoyed or rather fully doing them. Which made me realize I wasn't necessarily operating like that before...What a shame! This move is teaching me so much and one of them is to be PRESENT!!! How consumed I have been with tomorrow and yesterday over the last decade!!! I barely can face it!

Oh all the things from my American life I will miss; My favorite solo sushi spots, my mani-pedis, flip-flop, pool and grill-out season from April to October, Sunny mornings at Chastain park, listening  to Gospel music on the radio on Sunday mornings while driving to get my French breakfast (baguette and croissant), the soothing sounds of crickets in the Summer nights, I could go on...The list is long...

These last few weeks have been so very difficult for someone like me who is so "attached"...I explain...I have had to sell the furniture that has  made my little nest here, throw away, donate...Separate myself from these material things with which I have had history. It is a really eerie thing to see your furniture driving away in the back of some one's truck... Then I have had to pack boxes with what I will ship which, forced me to decide what had to go and what would come with me on my new life. Every single item's fate had to be decided with all the memories that it carried. It has been extremely hard making these boxes and in the first couple of weeks of packing, every single item I put in a box would come right out in the following hour (!!!) as I just could not stand to see my things in boxes. Needless to say, I wasn't being very productive at first and it has been a process, to say the least!! In two days the shipping company will come and pick up these boxes and it will mark another step taking me closer to leaving.

My weeks are incredibly emotional and busy from trying to fit "one last dinner/drink/lunch" with every one of my friends. And it is never really the "last" one, as neither of us can come to terms with the fact that is indeed "the last time", so we plan to see each other again at another time before my departure...In other words I have had at least three "one last dinners" with every one...and counting!!! I am also continuing to do some work for the few clients I still have. Even though that hasn't been very productive either since mentally, it has become difficult having continuum and dedication to projects that are based HERE when my mind is making an inhuman effort to project itself -THERE-.

Everything in life is a process and going through this transition is no different, it is a process. Every hour, every day, every week is time for my mind to wrap itself around this new reality to come. I would rather do it without all this pain, sadness and misunderstanding surrounding it, if I had a choice. But from my few decades on this planet, I know that things often make sense later. So my faith is strongly based on this concept at this time. There isn't anything in all of this that makes sense to me anyway. Not why I have to leave all of my friends behind, not why the only man I truly ever loved, my companion, my best friend won't keep me here with him, not why I can't have a real chance at this life that I want so much, nothing. So I have to develop this faith in the unknown and trust that all of this will make sense someday.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 10 - The Possibility of New Possibilities

By definition new chapters in our lives hold a lot of possibilities and hope for different, maybe bigger and better things. 

So as we all know, France/Paris gets its reputation more for making amazing food, speaking the "Language of Love" and being a fashion trend-setter rather than for being a "land of opportunity"...If you see what I mean... It does not necessarily help me in my embracing of this new chapter.

But on the other hand, there is something to be said  about arriving in a country where most of the basic things I may want to do (such as work, see a doctor, leave the country and come back, etc..) will be authorized and headache free. Sure, there will battles and challenges, but the basic premise of the new chapter of this story will be that I CAN try, I am allowed to "give it a shot". Kind of a new found freedom.

When you spend so long in such a restrictive situation, something in you dies. I think I may have stopped dreaming...What a tragic conclusion I just came about...Blah! But, that's the truth. I stopped dreaming about general.

So, attached to this wind of change coming my way, there is also the possibility of many "Oui!" which will be refreshing compared to the bunch of "Nos!" I have gotten in the last few years.

I may have found something positive to focus on for the next 50 days.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 7 - The Unfamiliar Feeling of Such a Familiar Place

" Why are you so averse to moving back to France? It is your home after all!"

Granted my decade here has not quite exactly been a walk in the park, but the thought of moving back to France is just daunting to me. 

What people don't realize is that I have not lived in France as an adult. -Period- .

Everything I have learned, skills I have acquired, relationships I have made, networks I have joined, habits I have developed,...Were in the US. In other words, I don't know the French words to describe these skills in a CV (oh yeah what's a CV again??!!!),  I don't have these relationships in France, I can't imagine the concept of "a network" or "networking" is the same in France or even what networks are there? I could go and on with that list. But in a few words, it is like moving to a foreign country of which you have the passport and speak the language!!!! It is pretty wild and frightening.

It also means, that you are picking back up where you left things. I doubt that the 18 weeks I have spent in France over the last 12 years have managed to keep me abreast of the Pop-culture, socio-cultural codes and all of these elements that make you understand and appreciate a culture. My discouragement comes from the fact that I know exactly how much work and energy are involved in  knowing a country on that level, for one simple reason: I have done it before! Also, understand, that learning these new values is not synonymous of accepting them and there is a considerable amount of frustration that comes with learning something you disagree with or you have no interest in. 
I recall watching Saturday Night Live and other comedic shows on US TV for a solid two years and not ever once finding something funny. Yes, humor is largely based in the culture of a country. Now it is the other way around, people send me YouTube videos of things that aired on French TV and I ask them what I was supposed to "get" here?

I am in a point in my life where I crave to take things to another and improved level in different areas; financially and personally, to name a few; but I watch my life heading in a completely different direction, putting me years behind and  ahead of so much "work"; all of that just to become adequate again in my own country.

I see today that I have made a "really good job" at separating myself from my country and embracing America. As I contemplate what reinsertion will imply for me; I am seeing the other side of the coin of my "great American immersion".

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day 4 - The Finality of a One-Way Ticket

Have you ever purchased a one-way plane ticket? 

I never did. Neither when I first came to this country nor on the 10 subsequent times I traveled back and forth. It is quite a thing...There is something so "final" about it. 

So from this short preface, you may have gathered that I may have accomplished one of the biggest task on my "moving back" to-do list: I have purchased my plane ticket. No surprise there, it felt as much like crap as I imagined it would!!! The exorbitant amount of money you're spending, the pressure to buy it "NOW!" before the price goes up, and my (I have to say very helpful) travel agent George asking me the ultimate question with his thick Russian accent: "What is the return date M'am? I wanted to tell him to go ask my boyfriend but instead I refrained and explained that I "wanted" a one-way ticket.

It is the first time I got dizzy after purchasing something. I literally needed a minute (or twenty) to process how real this now was. I may have to increase my dose of Resveratrol tonight!!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 3 - Acceptance and The Decision To Be Happy

I have known (intellectually that is) for a long time that Happiness is something you do (active/action), something you decide. Some of us are so well conditioned growing up that we will be happy because of something or someone, that reversing these equations in our minds takes quite a bit of reorganizing of beliefs and values. Those for whom it is the first time hearing this, good luck with that concept. In all honesty, I am still working on it after years...But here is some reading that may help you The Art of Happiness - a Handbook for Living (Dalai Lama)

As some of you know, leaving the country is a two-fold issue for me and I am sure I'll get around to talking about "the elephant in the room" at some point. How could I not?? 

But whatever the reasons are for me going through this heartache, the point is that it is not what I want to do. It is something that is imposed to me (I am on the receiving end). I am being passive
Do you see where I'm going with this?.... 
Perhaps, if I found reasons to be "happy" about moving back to France (to my parent's house, Yay!), it could allow me to become more in control of the situation as I would be "actively deciding" that it is a good thing and therefore it would make me happy. As opposed, to passively receiving my sentence. No???

Now, how do you bring yourself to wanting something that you truly do not want?  
That's what naturally happy people do instinctively and others such as myself, have to do it a little more consciously. It is more of  a learned process for us to find the positive in a stack of negatives. A big part of it has to do with upbringing and brain chemistry, but that's beside the point.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 2 - A Lesson in Immigration Law and The Truth About Non-Immigrant Visas

If it was not already clear for some, I am leaving  the US against my will.

To sum it up for whomever is not familiar with Immigration laws in the US: One can only be in the US for an extended period of time, for a clear REASON. Either you are a student, an employee, someone's wife/husband, on a mission, doing research, or visiting. If you don't fall in any of these categories you better have a Green Card past 90 days, or you will become an "Illegal Alien". My immigration trajectory has been somewhat unusual and very much illustrates how I usually go about doing things in general... I am determined (or stubborn, depending on how you look at it!!!)- I rarely take No for an answer and tend to make things happen even when nothing indicates they can! Or at least that's how I used to operate...

I came here on September 29, 1999 as student. I went to school full time including in the Summer and graduated at the end of the year 2000. As a foreign student who graduates from college in America, you are granted 12 months of "Practical training" which allows you to work in your field for a year. After which, if you intend to stay, you better be super motivated because obtaining and working on an H1B visa is as easy as swimming across The Channel! And that was prior to Sept. 11!!!!

As I finished my practical training and realized I may want to try to "make it happen" here, I learned about what was involved in obtaining and being on a H1B visa: 1-You need to be offered a job by employer in the field of studies in which you graduated (Marketing), 2-the employer needs to prove to the Department of Labor that they have not found any American citizen that could do the job better than you (in other words that your skills are unique) and finally 3-they have to want to foot the bill; at the time, upward of $3,000 (as opposed to hiring a headache-free American citizen). 4-There is also a yearly quota of how many of those visas can be granted and an exact date on which you have to submit your file. 5-When you do get your H1B visa, it is given to you 3 years at a time "for a maximum of 6 years". Finally, the most important and key factor, 6- an H1B visa allows you to work for one, and only one specific employer. Should anyone end this relationship, you of course cannot work for anyone else in the country, you just cannot work-period-.
All of this describes the process at a time when it was somewhat possible to obtain an H1B visa: Pre 2001, Pre economic downfall.

2001: Is when things become interesting.... The towers fall and I immediately lose my first job. Looking for another job means going through the process described above, all over again. So I did.
2002-2003: I entered the corporate world in America- (I have my own considerations about it that I will not cover here). The impact of the Sept 11 attacks on the US created an economic uncertainty for a country that was technically already in the midst of a recession, so guess what happened?
I lost my job.

The next 8 years are pretty much a continued quest to make a living, which means reactivating my H1B visa or trying to figure out situations which can satisfy my livelihood, my immigration status and the development of my career, simultaneously. That was my original quest.
But the reality of things was that the rare job offers that were made to me were implicitly "in exchange for a visa"...Usually, pretty far off from what I wanted/needed to do, grossly underpaying me year after year and quite honestly often with Management and Managers that would be taking advantage of me and of the situation, since my being in the country and livelihood depended solely on them.

For my immigration law educated readers, here is a list of the visas I have been on, since I first came:
  1. F1
  2. Practical Training
  3. H1-B (3 years)
  4. B2
  5. E2
  6. H1-B (last 3 years)
  7. B2
As an answer to a lot of my friends and acquaintances to:
"How come you were always able to figure something out so why not this time?"

As you know now, an H1B visa is for a maximum of 6 years. As you can see above, I have used up all of my time... ....And quite honestly, all of my energy.