Friday, September 12th was supposed to be the big day. The day I arrived in London. The day I started my awesome adventure abroad. The day my mom and I began our big two-week trek throughout England, the Netherlands, and France before I started grad school. The day of my dreams!
It was none of those things.
Long story short, upon my arrival at Heathrow, the UK Immigration Officer explained to me that there were issues with my visa and that I would not be able to stay longterm. She explicitly stated and repeated that I needed to fly back to the US to sort everything out and that it couldn't be resolved while I was in England, even if I had already just flown 5,400 miles and paid $1,200 to find out this piece of news.
Now I know what you're thinking... How could you not know, Matt? How could this happen? I've had those same thoughts. And the week after this incident, I thoroughly beat myself up and replayed every step of my visa application process.
I could (and, to be honest, at times I have) put the blame on other parties and multiple moments of miscommunication rather than on me. But, at the end of the day, I take fault for my mistake and not mailing in my application to the UK Consulate.
But you know what? After cutting my travels with my mom short to sort everything out; after stressing out for the past two and a half weeks with very little to do or occupy my mind once my application was mailed in; and after hiding out at home and getting cabin fever because I was too ashamed to tell most of my family/friends/social networks that I was back and what had happened; I'm thoroughly glad this visa stuff is all over. That I have an approved student visa in tow and that my real big day has come today!
I'm also beyond grateful that I'm beginning my year abroad with an important lesson and reminder to a recovering perfectionist and failure-phobe.
Failure is not permanent.
No matter how big I feel I've screwed up or how much one mistake may make me feel that I myself am a failure -- life goes on. And, more often than not, there are ways to resolve the problems that arise. Granted, it may not be easy and it may take multiple phone calls to multiple offices and multiple operators to clarify ambiguous website information, cutting one's European travels short and flying back home alone to resolve matters, and paying for expedited shipping and mailing to make it back in time for your program's orientation. But there's rarely any situation in which failure is permanent and a problem is unsolvable. It just may require some extra work and/or time. (And maybe $$$.)
With that said... Would I want to relive all the stress and drama of my visa situation? Nope.
Am I thankful for what I've learned and the reminder that failure isn't the end of the world? That what's more important than failing is how I respond in the situation and learning from it?
What about you? Are you afraid of failure too? How are you choosing to learn from failure?
Special shout-out and thanks...
To all of the family and close friends who supported me throughout this ordeal. It wasn't easy and I couldn't have done it without you. I'm especially grateful for a mom who travels across the globe to get me settled in, only to travel through Europe (at times by herself) for a week because her son had to fly back early and sort out visa issues... All the while clearly wishing he wouldn't move a continent away & trying to keep a smile on. (Yep, I'm convinced being a mother is the hardest job ever.)