There’s a lot I haven’t told you guys in the past few months.
You knew that I’d fallen in love with living in Auckland. You knew that I came back from visiting family in February and realised that this city I used to hate when I first arrived in June 2012 had slowly crawled into my heart and my head.
You knew that Auckland was the city I slowly picked up the pieces in after my 6 year relationship ended. You knew I’d made friends here, a life here. You read along as I wrote about my adventures in Wellington, Taupo, Rotorua, Tauranga, Raglan, Queenstown.
But there was something that I didn’t write about; my plan to make Auckland my home.
I spent two years in Australia on working holiday visa prior to coming to New Zealand on another year-long working holiday.
I realised that one year in New Zealand just wasn’t going to be enough.
Not only had I not explored every corner of this country like I wanted to but I also felt like I’d made a proper life for myself here; a full-time job, a city apartment with a view of the harbour, a group of like-minded friends who’d seen me at my best and my worst, a gym membership, a favourite café frequented on the weekends for long (and invariably hungover) brunches.
In my new-found single-life where I literally had to find out who I was again, from scratch, it was everything I wanted.
Everything I wanted until….I couldn’t have it anymore.
It started with a meeting with my supervisor at the company I’d been working at for the past 10 months. I sat in a cold conference room, information I’d researched online and from friends tumbling somewhat incoherently from my mouth.
I wanted to apply for an Essential Skills Visa so that when my Working Holiday Visa expired on June 18th I could stay in New Zealand.
I’d need the company to put together a new contract and job offer, they’d need to re-advertise my job and collect CVs to prove that a Kiwi couldn’t do my job and contact Work and Income NZ to see if there were New Zealanders on income support who could do the job better than me.
Forms would need to be filled in, passport photos would be taken and fees would need to be paid out of my own pocket to file the application.
My police check and medical came back clear so I started the arduous task of filling in my application.
I had friends who’d been through this process and gotten their work visas and, although it was daunting, I was confident that everything would go smoothly.
Before I knew it I was standing in the Immigration Office on Auckland’s Queen St stuffing my documents and my passport into a plastic wallet and posting them in the Work Visa Application box.
I thought that would be the end of it but a week later I got an email; my case worker wasn’t convinced that a Kiwi couldn’t be found for my role and wanted more proof that I was the right person for the job.
Back to HR I went, for supporting documents and a detailed letter.
Back at my desk, I couldn’t help but hit refresh every few minutes in the hope that an email would arrive congratulating me on my new Essentials Skills Work Visa and informing me that I could come and pick up my passport at the earliest convenience.
That email never came.
What did come was a letter telling me that, if I didn’t get an answer on my work visa before my Working Holiday Visa ran out on June 18th, I’d be put on an interim visa which I wouldn’t be able to work on.
When that day came, I tidied my desk and went home to wait anxiously beside my laptop.
I couldn’t sit in my apartment and not do anything though so I went down to the Immigration Office again.
And that’s kind of where everything fell apart.
It’s so strange thinking about it now; how I’d gotten ready that morning, throwing on a checked shirt and jeans and a beanie to keep out the cold of a fast-approaching winter. How I’d listened to Kate Nash on the walk down. How I’d been glad the sun was shining, taking it as a sign that the day was going to be a good one.
Except it didn’t turn out that way.
The guy at the counter was wearing a blue shirt and had his ASB bank statement tucked into the top pocket. That’s what I remember most. That, and the fact that when he told me that my visa had been declined his voice had been a slow, smug, emotionless drawl.
When I emerged from the building the sun had vanished along with all of my positivity.
But there was still hope. Or so I thought. I’d heard that there was an appeal process and was adamant that I’d be able to take some more information into the Immigration Office and it would all be okay.
Everything always works out, right?
Wrong. I could have appealed if I’d still been on my valid working holiday visa but as I was on an interim visa with only visitors rights that wouldn’t be possible.
It was a low point that saw me crying hysterically on the phone to my parents, drinking copious amounts of wine, holding back tears as I visited my co-workers and told them that I couldn’t come back to work, and having a panic attack on my kitchen floor.
Not necessarily in that order.
I let myself wallow because, honestly, I didn’t know what else to do. This wasn’t what I’d planned for and my plan B was non-existent.
I had 2 options if I really wanted to be in New Zealand;
1. Fight deportation in court, get a temporary valid visa and then start the appeal process which as well as being expensive could also be dragged out for months. Months of not working, of not earning any money. Months of putting my life on hold.
2. Go home to England and apply to BUNAC in January – this would mean I’d be able to come back to New Zealand for another 12 months but would not be able to extend at the end of it. I’d set up my life in Auckland again only to have to give it up a year later.
I didn’t want to do either of these things.
I realised that having my visa declined could be a blessing in disguise, a chance to start again properly.
So I decided to do just that: start again properly in a city that I’ve always wanted to live in.
I’ll miss my friends. I’ll miss my work colleagues who became my adopted Kiwi family. I’ll miss brunches and coffee on Lorne St.
I’ll miss summer evenings spent on my balcony watching the sunset turn the sky purple. I’ll miss last minute hire-car road trips to the beach. I’ll miss the Sky Tower looming high and bright over the city.
But at the same time, I won’t miss living in the same city as my former boyfriend. I won’t miss feeling so cut off from the rest of the world.
And I don’t want to stay here just because it’s the easy option.
I don’t want to work 40 hours a week in a job that, as much as I love, isn’t what I got my Marketing degree for. And I don’t want my best friend’s baby to not know who I am when he arrives in October.
So once I’ve celebrated my 28th birthday here in Auckland at the beginning of July, once I’ve downsized 3 years of expat life in Australia and New Zealand into a 23kg suitcase. Once I’ve found someone to rent my room and taken my clothes to the op shop and agonised over which flight to buy, I’ll be flying home to England.
I’m going to spend some time with my family and friends at home in Lincolnshire and apply my ass off for every single marketing or social media job that’s out there.
Then, I’m going to move to the city I’ve been dreaming about moving to since…well…since before I even went to Australia (which seems like a lifetime ago now!)
I’m listening to my heart, my gut, The Universe, whatever and they’re all telling me to move to London.