I’m ready to get on the plane. We’ve fully entered the transition zone, my least favorite place to be. It feels like we are neither here or there. We will be moving from bed to bed from now until we land in Auckland. Routines disrupted. Personal space diminished. All of these things knock me off balance. And still I worry about what could go wrong between now and take-off. Covid-19 has taught us all how fast the world can change.
We are disassembling our life. Again. May is the month we tend to do this. Last May, we began the process of moving back to the States. May of 2018 we disassembled so that we could move to New Zealand. In May of 2015, we were leaving Asheville to begin a road trip that feels like it still hasn’t met its end.
I’m hoping things around the house look better by the end of the day. I suspect that they will. There is a time period during a disassembly that things look hopeless. There are piles everywhere and you have no idea where they are going to go. But eventually, these mounds get tucked into bags or boxes, redistributed or discarded until with a sudden sense of relief you look around and there is nothing left to squirrel away. Well, there’s always something. Usually, whatever this is just ends up getting tucked it into a closet somewhere for the new occupants to deal with.
It’s no wonder we’ve procrastinated our way into a stressful situation once again. The act of disassembling your life is not pleasant. It involves sorting through piles of things I’ve come to identify as part of me and then deciding which ones to keep and which to discard. My tendency is to want to hold on to all of my pieces, just in case I need them again someday.
Even though it stresses me out, I’ve become good at disassembling my life. But now I really wish I could be better at assembling one. Destruction comes easily for me. Creation, not so much. I don’t know how to break out of this pattern I have created. I don’t know how to stay.
Am I having regrets? It’s difficult to tease out. But it does not matter much at this point. This is how it is right now. This is the only place from which we can move forward.
A few days ago we learned that Immigration New Zealand has begun reviewing our Skilled Migrant Resident Visa application. If approved, it means we will be able to come and go as we like so long as we spend at least six months of the first two years after approval in New Zealand. Getting our application to this point has been a long process with many ups and downs along the way.
Not long after we arrived in New Zealand, people Mary worked with began suggesting we should immediately start looking into a resident visa. In our initial excitement about being there, this seemed like a good idea. But it got lost in the morass we both slid into as the months wore on. In the first few months of 2019, we were both unhappy and seriously considering leaving so the thought of residency was far from our minds.
But we pulled out of that trench. Mary quit her job, meaning we had to come home. She then realized she didn’t necessarily want to come home, she just didn’t want that job. She moved to a different department at the hospital and our interest renewed in remaining long term. In March of 2019, we submitted our first application for residency.
And it was rejected. Acceptance is based on a points system and we didn’t have enough. Barely. We were not happy. Mary felt rejected and said she wanted to come home. But that day we went ahead and bought a camper van anyway. By this point, I’d already submitted my application to The Outdoor Academy because I felt there was nothing to lose by doing so.
But I soon realized I had made mistakes on the resident visa application. I had not included her employment in New Zealand, which would have granted her enough experience points to get over the line. Life got busy. Mary’s mother died. I received the job offer from OA and reluctantly accepted it. Had I correctly completed that first visa application and had it been accepted, I probably would have never taken the job. We would have felt like we were too close to having the freedom to travel back and forth as we liked. But that’s not what happened. We came back to the States.
Last fall — just before going out for a 5-day backpacking trip —I learned that we would no longer be eligible to apply for the type of work visa that got us to New Zealand in the first place. I felt panicked. I feared that the door to getting back there was closing. It was a wake-up call.
I corrected my errors from the resident visa application and re-submitted it. It arrivied one day past the deadline for resubmissions. Ugh.
I filled out the whole thing again. Paid the fee again. Submitted it again.
And this time…
Success! Our application made it past the initial screening and we were granted an Invitation To Apply (ITA)for residency. One problem. The whole thing was based on Mary having an offer to return to her old job. This was something we thought would be easy to get. We were wrong. Since her position was not formally posted, they could not just hire her back. Panic again.
The job search began. We contacted recruiters, and submitted job applications. The deadline for getting our ITA mailed back to New Zealand was looming. Just as I was beginning to think that the door was closing for good, Mary’s former job got posted, she applied, and without an interview or any conversation at all, she was rehired. It felt like a miracle.
And so here we are, on the cusp of learning whether or not we’ll be able to become residents of New Zealand. It has been a long journey. But that journey has forced us to face a myriad of emotions and decision points along the way. Enough of them have directed us back to Aotearoa, the Maori term for New Zealand. It hasn’t been easy, but that is one reason that this feels like the right decision for us. Not long before we left New Zealand, our friend Sue said that the paths we take in life rarely lead in a straight line. This has certainly been true of this journey.