All day I’ve been thinking about this and, to be honest, I’m a little bit leery to put it into a blog post because it might all just be a dream, and it might evaporate if I actually tell people. But.
The long story made short: for a very, very long time I’ve wanted to relocate to the United Kingdom. Why? Part anglophilia, part whatever is the “anglophilia” equivalent when you like Scotland instead of England, part curiosity, part adventure. I want to see what it’s like to be somewhere else. I want to go places with cobbled roads and see only tiny cars parked weirdly (seriously, they park on sidewalks and stuff, it’s weird. I once got a parking ticket for parking on the left-hand side of a two-lane road (i.e., i had my nose pointed in the direction of oncoming traffic) in Chicago; that seems to be commonplace there). I want to see places where eggs are on the shelf instead of in the refrigerated case in the grocery store. I want to get confused when no one knows what I’m talking about when I ask where the shopping carts are, because I should have been asking for the trolleys. I want to live in a place where individual electrical outlets have on/off switches. I want to get all the jokes in Coupling the first time through without thinking to translate. I just want to do different things and see what it’s like to be a stranger in a strange land. I just want to see new things. I’ve wanted this for so long.
And I’ve put it off for so long and for so many reasons, chiefly money, and chiefly related to The Fucking House.
Two years ago, I decided that I was done waiting, and I was going to pull the trigger. I went to the UK Border Agency site and started seriously looking at the visa requirements. I counted up all my points. But with all the waiting and money drama, I’d gotten older, and they didn’t want old candidates with no qualifications, even if I am really a remarkably talented sysadmin and great at my work. But I determined that I could qualify for a visa if I had my bachelor’s, which I’d never been particularly motivated to finish. This, at last, was motivation. So I went back to school.
I started back in school, just turned 31, going to City Colleges of Chicago (i.e., community college) in January 2009. I figured that I’d go for a year or so at Harold Washington to finish my core requirements, then transfer to a four year university, and that would take me four years or so to finish at half-time. It was upsetting to think about a five year delay; for one thing — and I’m sorry for how this is going to sound, forty-plus-year-olds — I don’t want to be too old to enjoy the place once I get there. I want to still be young enough to go out dancing in a club if I want, and I want to still be whimsical and silly enough to do random things just because they make me happy. I don’t want to have bad knees so I can’t walk for long times, or be too worried about my retirement savings to decide randomly to take a £15 shitty RyanAir flight to the Continent for a bank holiday just because I can and because it takes me less time to get to France than it does now to get to Ohio. I know it sounds horrible, but I really want to go before I’m 35.
Those reasons are why it was such a massive, massive blow to me when in March of 2009, only two months after I’d finally gone back to school, determined to get my qualifications so I could apply for a visa, the regulations were changed to eliminate the points for a bachelor’s degree, and mandate a master’s at a minimum. I’m sure you can see the problem: with years to go before I’d even get the BA, adding on years to earn an MA — which I didn’t even want — was traumatic. An MA takes two years Stateside for a full time student. Working half time, it could easily take me four to five. Worse yet is the cost. If I were to complete a Master’s at DePaul, the price tag would be at least around $45k — on top of the $30k in student loans I’m taking on to finance the bachelor’s.
For something that started out as just wanting to go live in the UK for a year or two, to see what it was like, just to experience someplace different for a little while, this was turning into a monumental endeavor. At least four, maybe as long as nine or ten, years. Almost a hundred grand. For what? So I could spend fifteen grand relocating my entire life for a year or two? Ridiculous. Hopeless. Beyond stupid.
I was determined, and I am a goal-oriented person. So I just rewrote the plan to involve earning a master’s. I investigated master’s programs here and tried to figure out if I could make it work to quit working for two years to become a full-time grad student. (I really, really can’t. I can’t pay my own rent plus the mortgage on The Fucking House, plus eat, on a graduate stipend.) It finally occurred to me that I could hit two birds with one stone, if I went to grad school in the UK. So I started looking at schools, and costs. I figured that I could go overseas to school if I got financial aid to cover the £12k tuition, and had about another £15k in savings for the move and costs of living, etc. I looked at schools. I figured out the application details. I started saving up.
(That saving up is one of the reasons I still don’t have cable, incidentally. I gave it up years back so I could put that money towards getting out of credit card debt. These days, my condo building actually includes cable, but I’d have to pay for the box to hook it up. So I don’t have cable. It’s not like I’m missing much anyway — like I have time to watch television. Over-the-air gets me House and Fringe, and Netflix gets me anything else. So I’m cable-free. I occasionally feel like an out-of-touch weenie, when all my friends are talking about something that’s only on cable, or pestering me about if I watched the latest True Blood or Mad Men, but for the most part I get by.)
I sacrificed my cash savings, though, when I took summer vacation this year. It was a really hard decision to make. But I was so burnt out, and work was starting to melt down, so I decided that it was worth it. I blew it all. By the time my first paycheck from my new job hit, I was down to $73 in checking and savings combined. Ouch. Quite a comedown. It’s worth saying that I wouldn’t have blown it all if I still hadn’t been paying for THE FUCKING HOUSE while jobless, so thanks for that, Mom, but still, I knew what I was getting into when I quit.
And I was getting burned out by school. I’ve been back for two years, which means for two years I have had no evenings to myself, no weekends without thinking I need to be doing homework. Any time I’ve done something fun, like the annual Brainiversary weekend trip to Vegas with my dear friends, or going to my honorary nephew’s high school graduation party, or just sitting watching TV and knitting, I’ve done while feeling guilty that I should be doing schoolwork instead. Holidays are no holiday: I should be doing my independent study work. I have at least six papers to write for that, not including my capstone project which is a big long research project. I don’t honestly have free time. I have less guilty time, while doing schoolwork, and more guilty time, when I’m not. The idea of having five full weekday evenings to myself with no responsibility beyond watching Hell’s Kitchen is alien. Plus a weekend! Imagine a whole entire weekend with no responsibility other than doing the laundry! It’s mindboggling. Free time without strings or guilt has become a luxury I literally can no longer imagine.
This summer, with its two horrible classes — one actually a bad class, with bad subject material (i.e., no forethought, no academic rigor, no useful anything gained from it), and the other just a class totally foreign and alienating because it took me so far out of my comfort zone — really broke me. I couldn’t wait to register for autumn quarter and get into some better classes. And I’ve got them — this quarter I got two great classes! But I’m still burnt out. I can barely drag myself to do the work. I was planning to finish up in two more quarters, and graduate in June of 2011, originally… but lately, to save my sanity, I decided to take winter quarter off from school. And maybe spring as well. (I’m actually committed to one class in spring quarter, but The Plan was to take three. So taking just the one, which only comes up once a year and I had to register for in July of this year, is basically taking the quarter off, I think. Anyways, that keeps my student status alive so I could conceivably take winter, spring, and summer off and still retain my library privileges for my independent study, which was what had me concerned.) I have to maintain my 4.0 in order to get into grad school, because I’ll need an Upper Honors-equivalent to get into grad school in the UK, and Upper Honors-equivalent means a 4.0. And I don’t think I can pull off 4.0-quality work going forward, the way I feel right now. I’m so stressed out already I can’t even count on sleeping through the night, even after taking a summer to decompress. So I figured that taking some time off from school was the right decision, even if it set me back by a year on getting into grad school.
But this morning I was talking to some friends, and I realized it’d been a while since I’d gone back to the Border Agency web page to see if, by any chance, anything changed. So I went back. And everything has changed!
They’ve redone it again, since the 2009 re-do. The number of required points has gone up, but they’ve changed the age strata — now I can get points up to age 36 — and they’ve redone the salaries; previously capped at about £45k/pa, now you can get points for salaries up to about £150k/pa (ha ha ha I should be so lucky). But most importantly: bachelor’s degrees are worth 30 points again!
Ergo, with my current age, current salary, current English speaking ability, cash on hand, and with the bachelor’s degree I soon will have: I will have enough points to apply for a UK Tier 1 (General Migrant) visa.
As T. says: Basically, by eliminating the grad school requirement, Parliament has had me win a $100k lottery, in terms of what I won’t have to spend to get there.
So, at this point, all day I’ve been in a giddy sort of “oh my god you guys they changed it I don’t have to go to grad school after all oh my god you guys” haze. I only spent a couple minutes looking at the site this morning because I was at work, but as soon as I got home, I read the brief to confirm. And sure enough — 30 points for a bachelor’s. I can hardly believe it. All my fretting and worry and sturm und drang about a $45k MA I don’t even want … irrelevant! So long as I can stick it out and finish this bachelor’s, so long as they don’t change the rules on me again, I’m golden. I can finally try for this visa that I’ve wanted to get, so I can move overseas like I’ve wanted for so long. It is, literally, a dream come true, because I’ve been hoping since early 2009 that they’d undo the bachelor’s negation, so I had a chance in hell of getting overseas before I died. I can hardly believe it. Truthfully, and knowing that, especially if I take time off to recover from burnout, they might change the rules back, I still believe it could all fall through. But for today? Today, I’ll take this one slice of good news, the best thing that’s happened to me since the start of 2010.