This might be what retirement looks like...
I've been on a staycation since the beginning of June because my OPT/EAD Work Card was only approved on Friday, June 14 and I can't do any kind of work in the US without it. In a way, despite all the anxiety it caused, it did allow the space for me to rest. I had some money saved up. Knowing myself, if the approval notice and the physical work card came sooner, I would've started to work right away. I do truly, deeply, need a break and I'm glad I've taken advantage of it.
The Optional Practical Training (OPT) Program Approval delays are real:
Read: "Visa Delays at Backlogged Immigration Service Strand International Students" - The New York Times.
This phenomenon has affected me and my other colleagues who were on similar VISA statuses. On the one hand, I was comforted at the fact that I wasn't alone. The constant refreshing of my Case Status online to see if anything has changed, the calls back and forth between my prospective employer and the Juilliard Office of International Advisement, checking in on other colleagues to see if they had heard anything from their end. Realising that this was a phenomenon across many educational institutions in the US this year, not just Juilliard, and not just me - validated my concerns. Apparently, I wasn't just some crazy paranoid person waiting for my work card to arrive.
On the other hand, I am furious. It astounds me that a group of people who had this much power to affect the lives of thousands of people can take their jobs this lightly. Don't they understand that their processing times affect the financial positions of graduating international students who rely on jobs and internships right after graduation to pay rent, buy food, and basically, live? Many graduating international students from different schools have either lost their jobs or their apartments because they couldn't do any kind of work in the US without their OPT/EAD work card.
In other matters:
Read: This is a comforting interview with Claire Foy about dealing with her anxiety.
Claire Foy, "My anxiety was a tool to survive."
I could definitely relate to this deep-seated anxiety. The inward spirals of "What if's" (What if things go wrong, what if my OPT card doesn't arrive in time, etc.), the constant monitoring of my body for bites or rashes (New York City can be a filthy place to live - I'm sorry to say), the constant monitoring of my apartment for weird insects, the frenzied attempts to keep things together - have all been survival tools to compensate for my feelings of fragility and at times, isolation. These are probably after-effects from a traumatic time when I felt that many things were falling apart all at once and I have felt deeply and miserably, alone.
I have been in therapy for the past four years and this has helped a lot. I've also let go of many toxic relationships and leaned towards healthier ones. I'm at a point in my life wherein I can feel a growing desire towards LIBERATION, to unburden myself from old stories, old narratives, and make space for new things.
And then, indeed, to new things:
The terrific news is, my OPT/EAD work card finally did come through this week and so I'm off to do a play somewhere out of town beginning July 1st. I am not yet allowed to make any online announcements, but I'll be sure to let you all know once I get the go signal!
MFA Training COMPLETED
Can you believe it? I graduated from Juilliard. I can't even believe I can put those words together. I. GRADUATED. FROM. JUILLIARD. I mean, a little over five years ago those words did not even cross my mind. It feels unreal and yet, it is.
I wrote something the morning after the commencement. I meant to post it on my blog but after reading it I realised that I'm not ready to post it.
So this is going to be a lot shorter than what I initially meant it to be. I'll simply post more pictures instead.
All photos by Melissa Crucillo
There are a couple of logistical things that I've been waiting on for a couple of weeks now. While it is true that it is giving me anxiety, it is also giving me permission to take a vacation. It's been so great to be out of school after four years. I've been taking care of my mind, body and spirit and allowing myself to do things that bring me joy, pleasure and tranquility. Finally I have time to listen to podcasts, read books, go thrift store shopping, visit The Met again, or stare into space with my roommate's cat.
Here are some (new) places I've been and stuff I've been listening to or reading. I put an asterisk on my favourites!
Also, I highly recommend Kelly Diel's article, "The Wealthy Feminist." I've been curious to reinvestigate my relationship with money and to heal the guilt of having money (I got a fellowship) when I've been conditioned to believe in the idea of the "struggling artist," or the belief that "I am an actor and therefore I should suffer." As I move towards expansion, I would also like to grow financially and to finally be able to support myself and account for my own needs and expenses.
It's going to be interesting to see how this blog evolves within the coming weeks. I started this blog for the donors of the #GoFundRegina campaign to honor my promise of completing this journey. Now that I've completed it, I'm not quite sure what this blog would be for. I don't know if I'm going to continue writing, or if I'm going to shift the framework of the content. Regardless, I would like to write more and I am hoping that I will be able to share some pretty meaningful content in the coming weeks.
I am an actress currently based in New York City. I received my acting training at The Juilliard School. Take a look around!