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!
I am an actress currently based in New York City. I received my acting training at The Juilliard School. Take a look around!