Lost in Transition
You know that movie with Tom Hanks? The one where he is a traveler from a foreign country who gets stuck in an airport because world events have taken away his status and leave him trapped? He is indefinitely stranded with no status, no money, and nowhere to go. He can’t leave the airport and he can’t go home. Just when he finds creative ways to survive, a government official, who is determined to get rid of him, thwarts his attempts.
I am not trapped in an airport, but I can identify with his situation and feeling helpless as the master of your own fate. I also am not stateless, but I am caught in a sort of limbo while transitioning to another country. It is a very strange situation to find yourself in and one that slowly chips away at your moral.
The old saying goes “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” So true, so true. I certainly did not plan on being stuck in my current situation for as long as I have. I did my research, I paid for testing and credential transfers, started networking, and sending out resumes. But none of that does any good when you don’t have status and that lack of status prevents you from accomplishing even some of the most simple tasks.
When I looked into volunteering I found that I could not meet the requirements because of lack of status. I would need a local background check, which I am not a resident so there is nothing there. I would also need to get certifications for things like food handling and CPR, which I can not do because my current status specifically prohibits me from engaging in any educational activities.
I cannot work either. If I could convince an employer to help me with sponsorship then I would be able to move the process along more quickly. However most employers do not want to deal with the hassle of government red tape. The constant reply is “Get back to us when you have status.” It is very discouraging.
Not being able to work means that I have to cut the fat on things that are not absolute necessities, like my cell phone. Sure, twenty years ago I survived without one, we all did. But now it has become so ingrained into our culture and way of life that not having one leaves you with a strange feeling of being cut off from the world. If I leave the safety of home wifi then I have few options for things like navigation apps to help me find my way around a new place I am unfamiliar with, being able to call for help if something happens to me, searching the internet to find addresses and places that I need to go, or even texting a picture of something beautiful I see to my family.
It also takes money to do things that might normally help build social support, like joining a club or a gym. Or paying to get into a museum or botanical garden where I could at least spend some time entertaining myself and learning new things. Everything costs something. There is very little free entertainment anymore. Even things that don’t cost money themselves, still require money for putting gas in the car to get to them.
Don’t even get me started on healthcare. Just help me pray that I stay healthy and nothing happens to me.
Yes, I know, first world problems, right? It may sound like I am complaining about problems that poor people have been encountering for years. Make no mistake, I understand being poor. For most of my life I have been a single, working mother, stretching to make ends meet, so I know what it is to do without. In my past situations, though, I was at least working and felt like I was able to contribute to helping myself get out of whatever situation I was in. Being unemployed not because there are no jobs, but because you are not allowed to work because you don’t have the right status takes its toll on your psyche.
All of this stuff adds up to create a massive blow to your mental and emotional well-being. When I first arrived I tirelessly researched resources that might be available to me to help with the process, just to find that they were available only to people who had already made it through the process and had status. They can help you settle and find a job once you have official status, but they cannot help you navigate the systems to get there. I sent out resumes to employers, I wrote cover letters explaining my situation and asking for assistance, but after being told “no” so many times, I lost hope. You can only beat your head against a wall so much before you knock yourself out.
I must admit, I have not taken it well. A sense of being lost and helpless sets in. Having to be suddenly completely dependant on others just for survival is hard for someone who has been used to being independent and self-sufficient and it wears away at your self confidence and self worth. It makes you question your life purpose and who you are. It also contributes to depression setting in.
Once that happens, it becomes all consuming. It’s not just you anymore, it effects everyone around you and those closest to you. I have a wonderful husband and family who have done as much as they can to support and be supportive of me throughout all of this, but even they can’t fix the horrible feeling of not being a contributing member of society anymore. It is also not fair to them to have to live with me in that state of mind. Seeing a reflection of myself in their eyes makes me feel like a disappointment as well because I know that this is not who I am or all that I have to offer. It is unfair to them that I am not as functional as I used to be or am capable of.
So what now? Acceptance is part of healing and moving past this. I accept that I am limited, I accept that my situation is not ideal, but I am also coming to accept that things are not as bad as they seem. I am accepting that wallowing in self pity and doubt is not helping my situation. I am accepting that even though there is much in my life that is beyond my control, I need to make a better effort at handling the things that still are. Finally, I am accepting that if I don’t work on climbing out of this hole then I am going to cause serious harm to my personal relationships, and that is something I don’t want to do.
Even though I am riddled with anxiety, guilt, doubt, and loneliness inside, to those watching I may look lazy and apathetic. That’s not me. That is not who I am and not who I want anyone to think that I am, so I have to accept that the only person who can change my state of being is me. Will it make the process faster or easier? No, probably not, but it will help me keep my sanity and reduce the stress that I am causing other people. It is a hard task. I did not fall down this hole all at once and climbing back out is a slow process, but I am trying.
I am starting to take interest in the world around me again. I am trying to think of new ways of engaging myself. I am looking for options. I am working on self encouragement. I am trying to find the positive and run with it. Most importantly, I am trying to find my place here and a sense of belonging. I may not have the status I need to work, but that doesn’t mean I can’t work on my own mental status.
This battle has not been won yet, I still have far to go before I will feel like my old self again. There are still many obstacles to cross and many roadblocks that will have to be navigated, but I have to regain control over myself. I will never be able to get through this or be successful if I cannot manage to find my center of gravity and move forward.
So, today, I am taking a small step by picking up my laptop again and putting my thoughts in writing in order to reorganize them and make a plan of action. Today I am facing my harshest critic, myself, and saying “This is not how I want my story to be told.” Today I am assessing my situation and starting to write my next chapter. Today I am changing my own status.