December 2022 in review
My monthly series
This is the fourth post in my Month in review series.
Theme of the month: paperwork.
I met my girlfriend in Montreal two years ago. She was a grad student at McGill University and it was clear that she wanted to pursue her career in the United States. After graduating, she got a post-doc job in New Mexico. Because I work remotely for a U.S. based company, I assumed it would be easy to be relocated to New Mexico with her.
In November, we were packing and preparing to fly out by the end of the month. We rented an AirBnB in Santa Fe. My girlfriend’s employer arranged for moving our belongings. We agreed on ending our lease with our landlords. We said goodbye to our friends and family.
Misadventure at the US border
I’ve been discussing about my relocation with my employer for about a year, and I researched the requirements for a TN status, which is a simplified way for Canadian citizens of getting authorization to work in the US. I began the process of preparing my TN application one month prior to our move date. I worked on it until the very last minute, assembling my file, printing documents and filling online forms. It was more complicated than I expected and that made me a bit anxious.
On November 30th at 6am, my girlfriend and I took an Uber to arrive very early at Trudeau International Airport. We left our apartment keys behind, this was the last day of our lease. All of our belongings, except for our suitcases, were already in New Mexico. Our flight from Montreal to Albuquerque (via Dallas) was at 2:20pm. This would give us enough time to react if anything was missing.
After clearing security, we got to US customs. My girlfriend already had a visa, she went through and waited for me at the gate. I went to the secondary inspection area and waited to be interviewed. A US Customs and Border Protection officer looked at my paperwork. But unfortunately, the paperwork I presented was not meeting the requirements for being admitted to the US with a TN status. An airline employee escorted me out of the secure area and my luggage was removed from the flight manifest.
While texting my girlfriend to tell her what was happening, I tried to think of alternatives, or corrections I could bring to my documentation. But the hard fact was that my preparation was insufficient and I wasn’t going to be able to make the flight that day.
My girlfriend departed by herself, with an empty seat next to her. I picked up my luggage near the baggage claim carousel. This was quite heartbreaking, traumatic and depressing. I was hungry, tired, and sad.
I called my mom to pick me up at the airport and host me for a few days while I recollected myself and restarted my application documentation with the help of a legal counsel.
I was comforted to know that my girlfriend made it safely to our AirBnB. I’m really glad that we planned for the best, but prepared for the worst case scenario.
After missing my flight, I lived at my mother’s house for a few weeks. There was a lot of work to do, and emotions to process.
There was a strange feeling of being a ghost, or a revenant, from the French verb revenir, meaning “to come back” (from the dead). I had been saying goodbye to friends and family members for weeks now. We had farewell parties and many “last time seeing you for a while” moments.
Then here I was, roaming around Montreal, thinking about people thinking about me in Santa Fe. Even texting me hoping I had a good flight and that I’m enjoying it there.
Suspended between two lives
This month has been an emotional anguish. The most painful part was setting an estimation for a new flight booking, only to be delayed some more. And then it happening again, and again. Heartbreaking both for me and my girlfriend.
After a few weeks, I was depersonalizing, refusing to feel any hope when I moved closer to my goal by fear of the crushing disappointment that would follow another required paper, another delay.
To maintain my sanity, I only allowed myself to feel the daily joys of walks and socializing, as long as the stimuli had nothing to do with my project. But the distractions only temporarily and partially relieved the inescapable anxiety of uncertainty.
Here is a post from my Mastodon timeline.
Steps to New Mexico
- I worked with an immigration attorney on my TN visa application.
- In the meantime, my girlfriend and I signed a 1 year lease on our AirBnB rental while my girlfriend was in Santa Fe and I was still in Montreal.
- Movers delivered our belongings to the new place.
- My girlfriend unpacked a few kitchen things.
As it turned out, I booked a flight on January 3rd, I applied for TN status with proper documentation, and I was approved. I am now in Santa Fe and happily reunited with my girlfriend ❤️.
- Listen to my girlfriend. She told me to start the process several months ahead of time and she knew what she was talking about.
- I did great accomplishments last month, but I let work stress spill over in my personal life while we were planning an international move; that’s crazy. I should have asked for more help with my project, and balanced my vacation time before and after the move date, instead of just after.
- Be more proactive instead of reactive. This is important for my partnership with my girlfriend.
- When it comes to my life goals and projects, it’s entirely my job to tell people what I need, and when I need it. People may want to help me succeed, but they don’t always understand what’s best for me. I need to think ahead, pursuit my requests more assertively, communicate more frequently. I was way too passive and relying on others to make things happen for me.
- As a white man with Canadian citizenship who grew up with privilege, I have never experienced the anxiety and stress of immigration and visa applications. I have a new level of empathy and respect for my girlfriend and my sister-in-law, and the millions of people who do not have a “strong passport”.
- I thought I could read online, fill some forms, and go through the process by myself. I’m usually good at that, and there is lots of documentation available online. I couldn’t be more deluded. There are lots of unwritten rules, strategies, and interpretations which only my lawyer could help me navigate.
If had to do this again,
I would do it differently.
And therefore, I learned.
I was on vacation this month.
- Learning about immigration processes.
- Watching Netflix remotely with my girlfriend before going to bed.
- Taking time to talk with my mom and get to know each other a bit more.
- Having dinner at my cousin’s home in Boucherville.
- Meeting my friend Enrique for coffee and a walk on Mont-Royal Avenue.
- Going to Randolphe gaming pub in quartier Dix30 with my brother and two of his friends.
- Taking a walk in Mont-Saint-Bruno national park, and finding a teahouse, art, and beautiful snow covered scenery.
- The Christmas party at Pole Fitness Montreal studio.
- The vogue hands performance workshop I went to with Max and Mei.
- Christmas dinner with family at my brother’s house.
- New Year’s Eve at my sister’s house.
- Going shopping in Montreal after completing all of my requirements for the TN application.
Goals and projects for January
- Install our fitness pole and practice regularly.
- Organize our apartment.
- Buy a car.
- Practice vogue.
- Make friends.
- Visit Albuquerque.
- Visit the Plaza in Santa Fe.
- Host a house warming party.