How multiple failed visas taught me how to deal with change…

Note: This is an edited and updated version of my original blog post on this called “A Letter to Mind, From Heart” posted on my original 365daysofappreciation.com blog. I’ve since moved that blog post here as I try and tidy up my accounts. Also because I think my past experiences with visas and immigration below have become “current” once again because of Brexit and my recent move to Norway, and because in the last month or two I have seen two friends of mine go through similar heartache and frustrations, not just in the UK, but Norway also. I hope this gives you – and anyone that may chance upon this – a little bit of solace. It will all be okay! 🙂

In December 2013, I was forced to pack, uproot myself and move back to Hong Kong after building a life, a career and a business I had created  in London for the last 7 years. I was leaving behind close friends, business partners, family, old flames and a city which I loved and which had become a second home to me – all in the span of 72 hours. I was deeply upset, nostalgic but most of all shaken up and stirred by the hastiness of it all, especially as this was not the first time my hopes of settling down in my father’s country had been smashed to pieces due to poor timing and subjective interpretations of the law… 

computer says no

Strike 1: Getting my British Passport

Back in May 2005, when I found out that I had been accepted into Goldsmith’s College, University of London, my Dad and I made our way to the British Consulate in Hong Kong to apply for my British passport for the first time. I had, up until that point, always held an American passport (where I was born) as well as a slip of paper stating my dual citizenship with the Philippines (where my mother is from). We were refused. Why? Because I had already turned 18. I turned 18 and became “legally adult” on the 24th of April just a few weeks before. And with that, went my first set of dreams about moving to the UK long-term, and undisturbed. To this day, I know that it is still one of my father’s biggest regrets: that they did not think to apply for my passport when I was a child, sooner rather than later. “We didn’t think you’d need it,” he always says with regret. “You travelled around the world just fine with your American one.”

british consulate hong kong
Our many trips to the British Consulate in Hong Kong…

Strike 2: Going the Ancestry Way

In the Summer of 2009, I graduated from University with a 1st Class (Hons) Bachelor of Arts Degree in Media & Communications. I remember hearing the tears of joy coming from my Dad as he told me over and over again over the phone how proud he was of me. That, despite his separation from my mother and the financial difficulties they had faced over the last few years, my outstanding results had made it worth it. I had just started my first internship at a creative agency in London, a bright future and endless opportunities. Better yet, I had done what I set out to do in that time: travel around Europe and spend quality time with my Scottish family (2 grandparents, 7 aunts, 1 uncle and 2 cousins) whenever I could – school breaks, weddings, funerals… They were my family. And the UK had become my second home.

Me with my Dad and (not so) little sister, Alex.
Me with my Dad and (not so) little sister, Alex.

But my post-graduate visa only lasted 2 years. After that, I would be subject to another set of visa applications. We had to try again. Somehow, we heard about the UK Ancestry Visa. Via this route, anyone who could prove they had at least one grandparent who was born in the United Kingdom was given residency status and “indefinite leave to remain”. In November 2009, after checking the requirements over and over again, we decided to apply. We even had a copy of my grandparent’s birth certificate mailed to us for extra good measure! We seemed to tick all the boxes, until we were advised by an Immigration representative to withdraw my application. “Withdraw? Why should I withdraw?” Because, he said, your application will not be approved. Why? Not because I was adopted (my father legally adopted me after marrying my mother), that was fine. Not because I was over 18. But this time, it was because I did not have a Commonwealth passport. I had an American one. Had I a Canadian passport, no problem. Australian? Indian? Singaporean? Fijian? South African? No problem. But American? No way. Oh man, I cried. I had to verbally state over the phone, “I, Kristina Curran, wish to withdraw my ancestry visa application (NO, I DON’T!)” , and I could barely get the words out. We were on a 3-way conference call and my Dad was listening, heartbroken and helpless again on the other end of the line. Strike 2. A harsh reminder of their carelessness the first time around.

Blurry photo, but I believe this is the last photograph I have with both of my grandparents together. My grandmother passed away in 2014.
Here I am having a pub lunch with from Left: Uncle Alan, Granddad, Uncle Callum, Granny, Aunty Lorna, Me, Aunty Pauline. Blurry photo, but I believe this is the last photograph I have with both of my grandparents together. My grandmother passed away in 2013.

Strike 3: The “Cooling Off” Period

So now we go back to my original story and why it was all the more heartbreaking. It is December 2013. My Tier 2 Skilled Work Visa was both expiring and ‘curtailed’ at the same time due to the fact the agency I worked for had gone into liquidation (my boss had an unfortunate mental breakdown). Ironically, it was I who notified the authorities about my situation to find out what my legal status was. They said I had to leave, or find another job willing to sponsor me. Fine. I’ve been here before, I will do it again! I went for an interview and was offered a job at TH_NK, one of the best digital agencies in the country. I was so far along the process, we had in fact: already signed my employment contract, already had my sponsorship visa under way, and I was “simply” going to fly back to Hong Kong for the Christmas holidays to renew my visa from there. I was due to start work In March. Right? Wrong! I found out 3 days before my flight that the immigration rules had changed and I would not be able to return for at least another year. “One whole year???”. This was a mandatory “cooling off” period apparently. I was applying for another Skilled Worker Visa “too soon” after my last one expired. There were no exemptions… Strike 3. I was out.

The work lunches at TH_NK I would never get to experience...
The work lunches at TH_NK I would never get to experience…

So there I was, so distressed and downbeaten from panic and the futility of it all that I couldn’t even cry. Instead, I did the only thing I knew would help at the time: I partied. HARD. I found out on Friday. I danced my heart out on Saturday. And on Sunday, I came back home, fell onto the bed, and finally burst out crying. I cannot, I told myself, do this again. I’m done. They win. It was really hard, really disheartening, and really frustrating to know that despite both mine and my dad’s best efforts, the support of my family in Scotland and England, we just couldn’t do it. We couldn’t beat the system. And with the latest news and sentiments coming out of Brexit, I can finally understand why. We had no chance.

A blessing in disguise…

But you know what? This turn of events was a giant blessing in disguise. Sure it was ugly. But it was exactly what I needed. Had my luck not panned out this way, I probably would be living back now in the UK, working for TH_NK or some other agency, (freaking out about Brexit!) and doing god knows what with my life, and with whom. But this is what happened. I ended up back in Hong Kong. I set up 2 businesses. I became financially stable for the first time in my life, and finally, finally had savings. I grew in my yoga practice, and in my teaching. I got to spend more time with my family. I travelled some more… I met the love of my life. Now, we are married, and he is the other half of this blog, 8a Namaste.

1st January 2015, New Year’s Day <3

See I don’t believe it’s really “change” that rattles people, but the unexpectedness of it; the lack of preparation and being able to mentally psyche ourselves up for it. Change, when you know it’s coming, can be very exciting. But change, when it is forced upon you and you’re not ready – that’s a bitch. Or at least it can be for some, for a while. But if we just trust, if we just have faith in the higher purpose, the greater plan, the strength of ourselves to succeed and overcome whatever happens, we find ourselves looking back with a smile on our face, wishing we weren’t so hard on ourselves.

Anyway, below is the letter I wrote to myself on that Monday, sitting on the plane, trying to turn it all around. I cried the rest of that whole weekend, the morning of my flight, on the train to the airport sending teary-eyed goodbye’s through my phone. My eyes were swollen sitting at the departure gate, and my face sunken looking out my little porthole window. But once that plane took off and the wheels left the ground, I knew there was no turning back. I was going to have to turn this around. And here’s how I did it. Suffice to say, there were no more tears after this. And life in Hong Kong was nothing short of amazing. Seriously. It was friggin’ awesome!! ? So here we go… a letter to Mind, from Heart:

Dear Mind,

Whatever you’re thinking, whatever you’re feeling, please know and trust that it will be okay. I am here, I’m still strong, and you will be okay. Promise.

Time and time again, life has tried to teach you this lesson, and while the intensity of your reaction may not be any less (you are, after all, a passionate being who invites all emotions to flood your system 100%), I’d like to think the turnaround time gets better each time… What lesson is that? It’s remembering that attachment is perhaps one of the greatest causes for disappointment. And the reason it hurts, is because – like ripping off a band-aid – every time you latch onto something and stick, that’s one more rip you need to grin and bear.

I’m not saying do not feel. I’m not saying do not embrace and give every moment your all. You should absolutely 100% give every moment the credit, gratitude and reverence it deserves, as and when they come. But/Just don’t forget that you and I were here first. And before the play, before all of this, everything was already complete. You never really “had” anything. You simply lived through a constant stream of moments as they came through, under, above and beyond you. This is just another one of those moments. Another will come, and then another… and then another.

It’s all just fun really. Sometimes you play with a strong forearm. Sometimes with a weaker backhand. But all the while you’re just skipping, hopping and dancing through it. Keep rising on the upbeat. Break it down on the drop. Transform yourself with every rhythm. After all, the disco’s no fun with an empty or immobile dance floor. The best players, remember, are the ones who can move to every tempo, and play with the song as much as it plays them.

The future you had mapped out in your head was nice. But it was one possibility. You’ve pretty much lived that one out in your head so why not let’s try something new just to shake things up a bit?

No resistance, remember? As long as you’re happy doing what you want to today, eventually you will end up where you’ve been wanting to go all along. No moment is wasted if you gave it your all. No future is different because it never really happened in the first place. The world and all the many facts and narratives contained within it never changed. It’s your own processes, calculations, deductions and conclusions that shaped and continue to shape your reality.

Chitta vritti nirodha.

Clear yourself of the “mind stuff” and things will appear with the singularity and clarity called the present.

London is yours if you really want it. So is the rest of the world. You did not leave a life behind – that life was there, those moments happened, those people appeared because YOU made it happen. By the gravity of your existence.

Your happiness is, and forever will be, right here. I have infinite supply. So whenever you are ready, you know where to find me.

I love you, you crazy psycho!

Your friend,

Heart <3

  1. Krissa!!! That letter in the end truly tugged on my heartstrings. Thank you for sharing! If you’re ever back in London, let us please grab some coffee together. Happy for you and smiling with you. 🙂

    x
    Abbi

    • Thank you for also being an inspiration. I do follow your posts from time to time and I’m glad things are working out for you also over there. MASSIVE CONGRATS on the wedding btw! 🙂 Definitely will let you know when I’m next in town. Would love to grab coffee! Until then, big hugs from Norway! – K x

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