not in our stars, but in ourselves
It’s me again. I’m not dead yet.
Like many of you, I imagine, I’ve been in one hell of a slump over the past few months. We all knew things would be bad under Trump, but it’s been absolutely staggering just how bad. Every day feels like a fortnight; every headline and story and action and reaction is so toxic, so horrifying, so deeply stupid and bad that sadness is like radiation poisoning: I personally cannot escape it, and I can feel it wearing away at my mind, my insides.
Today, as it happens, is the sixth anniversary of what passes for a momentous occasion in my drab little life: on this day in 2011, I landed in Melbourne, Australia, to begin (I thought) a new life. I’d moved there for (again, I thought) true love; for visa purposes, I moved there to get my master’s degree. In other words, I never thought I’d come back to America, not for any reason other than occasional holiday visits to see my family. I thought Australia would be my home, and I was excited about that.
Things fall apart. The relationship ended, just around the time when it was too late for me to figure out any other visa options. Besides mine, this isn’t anyone’s fault. It was miserable, though; and so, after beginning to lay the groundwork for a new life in whatever shoddy, haphazard way I was attempting, I had to tear it all up and leave. I came back to America, back to freezing Massachusetts, back to my childhood dog dying a painful death, back to nothing.
I managed to rebuild, somehow or other. I re-learned how to make friends, how to let myself feel hope, how to forgive or at least how to let go. It took a long time, and it hurt a lot throughout, but I did it. The wound closed up.
It’s torn open again now. The process started on election night, when it became clear what was happening, and I “jokingly” texted two of my friends in two different countries (U.K. and Australia) that they might have to convenience-marry me. The more I thought about it, though, the more it seemed the only way. The more I thought about it, the more those years of healing came undone. I had never wanted to leave. I had never wanted to come back to this blighted country, where the signs of rot had been visible to anyone paying attention for years and years. And here I am, and there I was all through the election year, barking like a dog on a burning, sinking ship – and it’s all too late.
You won’t believe this, but I really do try to focus on the positives. My boyfriend is a wonderful, calm, level-headed person, who’s patient and kind and gentle with me – even when I’m a complete wreck, even when it must tear him apart to hear me launch into my prophet-of-doom routine. My job is stable, easy, comfortable. My family is warm and loving. Personally, I’m very lucky. Over the past six months or so, I’ve gotten involved with the Boston branch of the DSA, and I’ve been tremendously heartened by the surging interest in leftist politics. The marches, demonstrations, protests – planned and spontaneous alike – have been encouraging signs that we’re not sleepwalking through this vile last chapter of American history.
But I do feel like it’s the last chapter. I feel like, as my friend in Australia puts it, the sun has set on America forever. And I feel like this was never what I wanted, like it’s unfair that I’m back on this burning, sinking ship, like I have to get out for my own sanity.
That’s tricky, of course. Even if I were considering only myself, it’s not exactly the easiest thing to secure a semi-permanent visa for living and working in another country (and I am sure, dear reader, you have identified the country I prefer). I think I’m a pretty good worker in my way, but I am by no means unique. My skills are not required in any country I’m aware of. I would therefore have to apply for a job that doesn’t specifically bar applications from people who don’t already have the right to live and work in that country; and, as I say, I am not unique. University administrators are a dime a dozen. Why should anyone sponsor me for a 457 visa if they can just hire someone who’s already there? And even if I did manage that (and I’m trying, believe me), there’s the question of all the people I love. My boyfriend says he’d come with me if I got hired by some Australian company or university, but it is very, very, very far from his first wish. How can I do that to the most important person in my life? My parents are closer to retirement now than they were when I left the last time; how would it affect them if I fucked off to the other side of the planet again?
So I spend most of my days sad, panicky, praying for a miracle of some sort. I am selfish and stupid to feel this way – most of the worst of what’s happening and about to happen won’t hit me as hard as it will hit others – but I feel it all the same. I don’t want the same old life that I was trying and failing to build before, but I want to try to re-build it there again. When I lived in Melbourne, I was homesick an awful lot, and I was also isolated and lonely, but I believed I had a future. I don’t believe that here, I don’t believe that now.
In short: if any of you know any particularly clever immigration lawyers, or hiring managers desperate for American talent, or anyone who could provide any help at all – please get at me. I am trying to keep my head above the water, but every day is harder and harder.