Under Pressure

When this whole business first started about going to Scotland for school, I felt an odd mixture of giddy excitement, mixed with a sense that it couldn’t possibly work out. I felt very similar about going to Germany. Attending college at the University of Edinburgh was so exactly what I wanted, it didn’t seem possible that it could work out so nicely. Ever since December, when my acceptance letter came in the mail, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Eight months is a long time to go on feeling like this.

Every step of the way, whenever something new came up, I thought “here it is, this is the deal breaker.” When I gathered together the qualifications I needed to send to verify the educational information I had provided for my application, I thought “surely, they misunderstood what I told them I had studied. Now they’re going to see that I don’t have the qualifications they thought I had, and they’re going to think I lied, and they’ll tell me I can’t come.” When I had to apply for student aid money, I thought maybe it was too much, maybe I really couldn’t do this after all. When I applied for housing, I thought “what if they don’t have any left?” which was silly, because I was guaranteed a place. Then, once I had accepted a place, all I could think of was “what if my room doesn’t have a window?” I am sure it has a window. Who would design a dormitory with closets for bedrooms? Still, against all reason, I worry.

Now, here I am at the final hurdle, getting my student visa, and again, I feel as if everything is tumbling down around me. Only this time, my concerns might be valid. I tried my best to be on top of all my paper work, but I couldn’t apply for my visa until I had proof of funding. I didn’t have proof of funding until my student loan was confirmed, and it couldn’t be confirmed until just a couple weeks ago because Obama had changed the entire student loan system, and Edinburgh needed to re-train its student aid staff. I looked up on the UK border agency website to see what the procedure was for obtaining a visa, and found that I had to apply online. I tried to find out how long it would take, and found that most applicants from July were approved within 15 days, that some were approved within 5 days, and that all had been approved by 30 days.

A week ago I stumbled across a website that offered free visa assessments, and because I was nervous, I went ahead and applied. They assured me that I should be approved, but I lost a week playing telephone tag with them. I only got in contact with them yesterday afternoon, and so yesterday evening, fully assured that I shouldn’t have any difficulties, I sat down to fill out my online application.

And that’s when they started telling me to print out paper forms to mail in. That’s when I found out that the appointment I needed to make to collect my biometric data (photo and fingerprints) wasn’t something I could walk in to, but was something I needed to schedule, and something I couldn’t schedule until a week from today. And that’s when I found out that once I had my biometric data in hand, I had to mail it, along with a number of forms, including a print-out of my online application, and my passport, and mail it all to Chicago. So, three weeks to the day before I am supposed to be boarding a plane to leave the country, I will be dropping my passport in the mail to go all the way to Chicago.

I dearly hope that their time estimate begins from when I submitted my online application, and not from the time when they receive it in the mail. If so, then the other shoe may have just dropped.

What frustrates me, is that I would have done all this back in May, only I couldn’t. So now here I am, such a roiling ball of anxiety that I have lost all my appetite and lie awake at nights wishing the whole mess would all be over. Not every night, but enough of them. I try to tell myself that I’m worried over nothing, that even under the worst-case scenario (they don’t start processing my application until they receive it in the mail,) I still have a %76 chance of having my visa processed in five days, and a %97 of having it processed in ten. (What if ten isn’t enough? What if they don’t include weekends in their time estimate? Oh shit, they don’t. And yeah, they don’t start processing anything until they receive my application in Chicago. What was the point of having me apply online? I don’t understand. So what if they have it processed in ten days, but it doesn’t arrive in the mail until after I’ve missed my plane? Oh –!)

Those percentiles would make me feel more comfortable, only I’ve played too much Fire Emblem. I’ve spent too much time basing strategies and attacks around a %76 chance of landing a blow for X damage, only for it to miss and for my opponent to land his fatal %23 blow. %76 might be what it IS, but it sure feels like %50. Sometimes less.

I used to think I would be so embarrassed if I had to tell people that I wasn’t going to Edinburgh after all. I don’t care anymore. I just want to be done with everything. I want to know one way or the other how it’s going to work. I don’t want to be waiting for the mail on Thursday three weeks from today, wondering if my visa will arrive. I don’t want to be waiting for the mail to arrive to know if I should start packing or not. I don’t want to have to sit through Friday, knowing that it didn’t come in time for my plane, but that it might still come that afternoon, or Saturday, or maybe by Monday. I don’t want to have to work out what the latest possible day will be for when it could come, and I could still get to Edinburgh on time to register for classes. I don’t want to do this anymore, but I can’t back out without a whole lot more paper work, and telephone calls, and looking up numbers, and explanations.

It is so hard to keep acting like you are going to do something if every minute you are certain it won’t happen. It’s hard to get together with friends “once more before I leave the country.” It’s hard to fill out the forms if you think they’ll do no good. I’ll have lost a lot of money from various expenses I’ve paid if it doesn’t go through, but I don’t care about the money right now. I care about certainty.

My mom put a quote up as her facebook status yesterday. It’s from Payton Manning: ‎”Pressure is something you feel when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.” I know why they call it “pressure,” too. I don’t feel like I can breath.

6 thoughts on “Under Pressure

  1. Lo – from one international student to another – breathe. You may get there late, but you're going to Scotland. Have you talked to the international students office about your visa issues and concerns about registering? These sorts of things happen all the time!


  2. 1. Thanks for the flashbacks to my end of semester programming projects.

    2. You really should play Final Fantasy Tactics. It seems like once your estimate drops below 40% in that game, you will never score a hit.


  3. Suggestion: When you have stuff ready to send to Chicago, take it there yourself. This has two benefits:

    1. It gets there in a matter of hours, rather than days.

    2. You get to feel like you're doing something, rather than waiting. It's an adventure, rather than calmly awaiting the hand of fate.


  4. Yeah, but I'm not sure a 76% ever hit in Fire Emblem, dude. It's pretty bad in both games. (Which isn't to say that Tactics doesn't have many more merits.)


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