Saturday, March 15, 2014

Job hunting!

Well, I’ve been so quiet the past six months or so on the blog that even my father recently asked me if I’d still be writing in it! I know I tend to give him less credit than he deserves for his internet-savvy-ness, recalling the time ten years ago when I found him in front of the computer on the Yahoo! homepage and I had to show him how to type an address in the URL bar. Now he emails me videos and sends me links to possible job opportunities! Still, considering that my parents talk to me regularly and therefore know more than most about what’s going on in my life, if even he’s missing my blog, it’s a sign that I’ve definitely been absent here.

I’ve thought about writing a post often, but simply can’t find the drive, or don’t feel like I have anything interesting to say. That’s difficult, because I’m “supposed” to be a writer, right? Simply choosing to do my Master’s in a field other than English and Creative Writing shouldn’t have sapped all of my creative juices, yet I feel that it has. I haven’t written anything creative other than blog posts in over a year, something that I find it quite embarrassing to admit (but less so knowing that some of my friends are in the same boat). Obviously I’ve accomplished other things in that time, but I don’t like the feeling that I’m disconnected with the creative part of myself. I still have lots of ideas and inspiration, but rarely the mood or motivation to bring them to fruition.

I know a lot of this is stress related. I started applying for jobs back in August and until January I had not received a single interview or even a positive response. I initially attributed this in large part to the limitation of my visa status, as prior to approval of my spouse visa, any potential employer would have needed to be willing to sponsor me, which is an expensive and complicated process. Despite knowing that this was probably the main factor in making my search difficult, by mid-January, having applied for nearly twenty jobs and not having received a single response, it was difficult to not let it get to me, and it did. I was getting extremely discouraged, and started experiencing a LOT of self-doubt about my skills and abilities and just generally letting it all affect my sense of self.

Then in mid-January I got invited to my first interview and I was thrilled! While I didn’t get the job, on my train ride home from that interview in Cardiff, I got the call telling me my spouse visa had been approved. This is a HUGE deal. On the phone with a very professional UKBA officer, who confirmed my contact details and very calmly told me my application had been approved, I nearly cried with joy. Not only does my visa have no work restrictions, which should make my job hunt a lot easier, but it means that I can finally stay here with Josh long-term without worrying about getting kicked out of the country. I’ll have to reapply in two and a half years, but when reapplying you’re almost guaranteed to get approved again. For the first time in our entire relationship, I feel like we’re NOT living on “borrowed time”, counting down the days/weeks/months until one of us will have to leave. That is such a huge weight off my chest.

Since then, I’ve also had another interview with an organisation that I’d applied for jobs for pre-visa and not heard back from, which confirms my suspicions of visa status affecting my job hunt. That interview went splendidly—in fact, I was told that I was only “a tiny bit away” from getting the job! 
Now, nearly getting a job is no accomplishment—it certainly doesn’t bring in paychecks—but it’s progress! The more interviews I have the more comfortable I’ll be with them, and I’ll be applying for more jobs with this organisation soon and have a better idea of what to expect if I do get the job!
I’m really feeling positive about the fact that I’m getting interviews now that my visa has been approved and I have no work restrictions, and I spent the morning working on applications for 4 jobs that have just come up, all with organisations I would love to work for! I also passed my driving test on Thursday, which means I will soon have my UK driver’s license, which will make me much more marketable as an employee. 

The other really positive result of getting my visa is that Josh and I could FINALLY plan a visit to the United States! We will be leaving in ten days to spend two weeks seeing family and friends I haven’t seen in over a year and a half! I could not be more excited, and we have been practicing by playing a heck of a lot of cribbage :D So there you have it, a long-overdue update on what's been going on with me. I would be lying to say nothing has happened in the past few months, but sometimes I forget the good things that have happened due to what feels like stagnancy in my job status. It takes time though, I suppose, and as you can see there has been progress!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The latest news

My last real "update-on-life" post was waaaay back in September after I finished my dissertation. Sorry about that! I know most (if not all) of you keep up with me outside the blog as well, but I still feel I owe a proper post about what's been going on in my life.

Photo credit goes to Josh
Back at the end of August, we took a trip to Aberglasney Gardens, a beautiful mansion house and gardens with pools and fountains and woodlands and all sorts of flowers. We had a lovely day out, it ended up being the last properly warm, summery (well, as summery as Wales can get) weekends that we had, and at the end of the trip I proposed to Josh. This was something I'd been planning for a while but waiting for the right time. I'd never managed to actually surprise him with anything up until that point, and I was so pleased that I pulled it off, because he was speechless, which anyone who's ever met him knows is a huge deal!

I got down on one knee and presented Josh with this little box to pop the question. He loved it (hence the excited grin).

So, after a flurry of planning and arranging things, we were married at the Carmarthen Register Office on December 14th, 2013. Our witnesses were my now sister-in-law Lucy, who gets all the credit for the photography, and our friend Karen. We also invited our friends Amber, Greg, Wodge, and Owen. Although our wedding would have been special no matter what, it was wonderful to be able to share it with people who know and care about us.

I don't want this post to be too photo-heavy, but I'm adding one more to show off my dress, which I made, and my book-page-paper-flower bouquet, which was a lovely addition and a sweet surprise from Abby and Katie, so that they could be with me in spirit on the day.

This past weekend I also took a whirlwind trip to London, my first trip there since I've been in the UK! Emily was in London for two weeks on a trip with her college, so we arranged to meet up for the day. We had a fantastic day just wandering around London, drinking coffee, and talking our heads off. I am so, so glad we were able to meet up. 

So, aside from being married now, everything else continues as usual. My job hunt continues, work at the cafe continues in the meantime, and I'll be attending my official graduation ceremony on January 24th, 2014. We are also waiting for me to officially receive my spouse visa and once I do, I'll be able to stay over here for two more years with no work restrictions! All in all, life is good.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holiday traditions

On my birthday, you may recall that I made a post on how grateful I am to have such amazing friends who do silly, wonderful things to make me feel loved. It is, of course, not just my friends but my family as well, and as we come into the holiday season, my second one away from my family, I've been thinking a lot about family and traditions. Last year many people asked me about what I'd do for Thanksgiving and if I would miss it. But I didn't feel the need to do anything special for Thanksgiving, and I didn't miss it much, because to be honest, it's not the turkey or the apple pie or watching the Macy's Day parade that's ever made the holiday special. It's always been a chance to spend time together as a family and for us to continue all our little traditions. We've always done a small Thanksgiving with just our immediate family, and even Christmas, with a few exceptions, has been similar. So the things I miss aren't the feasts or really even the day itself, but the people and traditions associated with them. Our holiday season traditions include watching The Santa Clause, making rum balls, and seeing the Parade of Lights in East Peoria, not because it's new and different every year, but because it's been almost entirely the same for as long as I can remember.

I remember when we were kids how eager Phillip and Eric and I would be to put Christmas decorations up. Come December 1st, we would start asking Mom and Dad when we were going to put up the tree. I think it used to bother me that they waited so long into December, when other people began putting theirs up as soon as Thanksgiving had passed, but I've now come to appreciate that. Back then, though, it seemed we waited forever until the day finally came, usually the Saturday or Sunday two weeks before Christmas, when we would finally hear my father begin bringing the boxes and boxes of ornaments and garlands down from the attic. My mom and I were always responsible for putting the garland on the tree, but I always stayed away from doing the lights. We'd argue about whether to do colored lights, like I and my brothers always wanted, or white lights, like my mom did. And when we finally decided, my parents and Phillip would then have to spend at least an hour untangling the strands of lights and figuring out which bulb had burnt and put the whole strand out. When I was in middle school, I was given a pair of sparkly reindeer antlers by one of my teachers because I loved them so much, and the new tradition that developed was for me to wear these antlers during the decorating of the tree. My mom in particular loved them and loved to see me wearing them. Even when we went to New Jersey to spend Christmas with Grandpa, the antlers came along for me to wear while we decorated his Christmas tree.

Traditions, of course, sometimes need to change, and with Phillip, and later myself, going away to college, we had to adapt our Christmas traditions. Suddenly it became okay for us to put the Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving, when we were all home for the week, because it was more important to us to have everyone there to join in then to wait until the "socially acceptable" time. Last week, my family celebrated Thanksgiving in my parents' new house--well, maybe not so new to them, but forever new to me until I get to visit--and put up their Christmas tree while they were all there together. Lo and behold, among the decorations, Phillip found my antlers, which my mom had been looking for, and then had the brilliant idea to send me a picture of each member of the family (dogs included) donning the antlers, to make me a part of the process.

This may seem like such a small gesture, but it was perfect. Well, when the first photo came in of Phillip, I smiled. Then was Eric, and I laughed. And as one by one the rest of the photos arrived, I was overjoyed and touched by the idea--both by the fact that the antlers live on, and that my family thought to include me in this way. So now I'm sharing them with you--the Reardon Family Christmas photo, the antler edition. They sent the pictures, I turned them into a Christmas tree :)

Friday, September 27, 2013 what?

Many of you may have already seen on Facebook that I have completed my dissertation! I submitted it this past Wednesday afternoon, a whole 5 days before the deadline. After submitting it I was shaking, though I'm not sure if that was due to excitement or to the excess of caffeine and lack of food I'd consumed that day. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved doing it. It was my first chance to do my own research and how much I enjoyed doing that has actually opened me up to the possibility of doing more research in the future. I've even applied for a few research-based jobs. But I am also thrilled and relieved to be done. As well as a little bit scared. Because for the past 18 years--pretty much as much of my life as I can remember--I have been a student. And now I'm not. For the first time in my life I have no readings, no essays, no assignments, no classes to attend or new semesters to prepare for. And I already feel a bit directionless with my newfound freedom. I'm still working at Caffi Glas, but I can't take on more hours even though I have more time now, as I'm already near my limit of 20 hours a week on my student visa. I'm taking driving lessons, and I am looking forward to continuing my volunteering with the British Red Cross, which I had to give up in the last few months of dissertation work. But that's pretty much the extent of any sense of structure in my life.

As an undergraduate, even when I was on breaks, I was nearly always either taking summer classes or still in Iowa City working two jobs. The last time I was really this "free" was the summer after my freshman year of college. I went back to Peoria without a job or any obligations really, and it was pretty miserable. I am someone who thrives on a sense of order and structure, and I felt guilty having so much free time and not contributing anything substantial to the world. Of course, I have plenty of hobbies, some of which have been a bit neglected over the past few years, and I can't wait to get back to them. I can't wait to have the time to scrapbook and make cards, continue learning to sew, and to read and write for pleasure. And of course I am job-hunting, scouring job postings every day and writing up cover letters and applications. But the thought that the only real obligation I have right now is my cafe job is a strange one. It'll definitely take some getting used to.

Other than that, as stated before, I've started applying for jobs. I don't want to go into too much detail about that here because it just stresses me out, but the short of it is that not being an EU/UK citizen makes the job hunt a lot more difficult and there are all sorts of requirements a position has to meet to even be eligible for a work visa (which I'd need). If you're curious for more details, just look up 'Tier 2 visa sponsorship'. Though I should note that the fact that once I graduate in January I will have completed a degree in the UK makes my chances marginally higher than if I were applying for jobs in the UK straight out of the States. So there's that. Anyways, it's way past my bedtime but I wanted to get this post up tonight. Goodnight!