Opt out

But I’ll be back, in my own way, on my own terms.

Definition: to choose not to participate in or carry on with something.

But when foreign students in the US talk about opt (out), they mean something else.

According to USCISC (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services):
OPT (Optional Practical Training) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study.
[Translation: banking or waitressing is off limits if, say, you major in journalism.]

  • Eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion).
    [Translation: 12 months, 365 days, is all you have.]
  • All periods of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the available period of post-completion OPT.
    [Translation: What to do next? a) go back to where you come from; b) get someone to sponsor your work visa; c) become a genius/master/guru in whatever you do in 12 months.]
  • If you have earned a degree in certain science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, you may apply for a 24-month extension of your post-completion OPT employment authorization.
    [Translation: non-STEM art folks, you are not needed in the U.S.  Switch major before it’s too late.]
  • If you transfer to another school or begin studies at another educational level (for example, you completed a bachelor’s degree and are starting a master’s program), your authorization to engage in OPT employment will automatically terminate. SEVP will inform USCIS of the termination date, and USCIS will terminate your EAD accordingly.
    [Translation: there is no such species as a foreign student who works full-time at the same time to pay off her tuition. Work or study, pick one.  Save sufficient dinero, or be born Crazy Rich/Smart.]

 

With that in mind, let’s eavesdrop into a conversation:

“I just realized I can’t get another OPT just by doing UCLA Extension.” My friend from Egypt texted me. “Thought you should know too.”

“I just booked my one-way ticket back to China yesterday.”

“I think I may need to do the same thing!”

My friend and I will meet this Thursday for our opt-out gathering.

“The POTUS may stay for four more years because the people who would vote for him vote for the Party. It’s where their interest lies.” A friend quoted her political science professor when we dined at my writer friend’s for her farewell dinner yesterday.  I sure don’t need that to be the last straw to break my back.

I may have to opt out this time
but I won’t check out
I’ll close the door on my way out.

But I’ll be back, in my own way, on my own terms.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Next time

I’d be honored to work with you again some day.

I can’t remember the last time I snapped any photo of LA.

Maybe I had grown complacent…

Maybe I had gotten used to the expat experience…

Truth is, I just wanted to fit in, so desperately, that I never called myself one.

Now deadlocked with my inescapable fate, I had to reacquaint myself with this term I so vehemently rejected…

We had a beautiful dusk here yesterday. I snapped a photo with my eyes and stored it my memory drive.

I was strolling with my dear friend, who helped me move when I first got here, whom would be the first featured guest on my podcast, premiering next Tuesday, August 28.

 

I would be angry.

Was the first thing he said when he came up to my studio apartment.

“Why?”

“That you can’t stay here when you clearly wanted to.”

“Trust me, I was pretty frustrated last year. I couldn’t write.”

We talked about anything and everything. I asked him to record an answer for me, which has become the #RBYZ Trademarked question.

Then we talked some more as we walked the neighborhood.

He didn’t need to probe or ask how I was holding up.

I’ve become quite an expert in opening up. I’m rockin’ this podcast about those would-be shameful hours, and blogging makes me shame-free, almost.

“I remember thinking about taking a pill or something so I didn’t have to deal with the mess the next day. I’m just so freaking exhausted.”

He simply listened.

And that’s all I need.

I thought I was a warrior, but it dawned on me that I was picking the wrong battles for the last three years straight:

  • Moving four times within the first months I landed in LAX;
  • Filing a lawsuit against my former landlady, the quintessence of a cunt;
  • Vexed by my former ungrateful roommates who did nothing to contribute other than to complain. When I got our money back, I couldn’t recall a proper ‘thank you’ from the spoiled little brats;
  • Begging for just a five-minute meeting with my billionaire former boss when I didn’t get the work visa lottery…
  • If I knew my ex-boss would let me go a month later, I might not have paid 2.5 G to renew my student status awaiting him to grace me with his presence while not getting not a dime since June 1 because of my visa*;
  • *Thanks to the US immigration laws, foreign students aren’t allowed to work or get paid on paper. They can’t even land free internships…
  • By the way, do you know just how hard it is to get an artist visa as a writer fresh off film school?
  • But even if I did get to stay, what about dinero? How else would I survive the California Dreamin’?

God forbid I’m not a Crazy Rich Asian.

So when my current landlord decided to oust me for his little scheme last Thursday, I was bone-tired. I didn’t have an ounce of energy left. I was depleted.

My lawyer friend looked at the contract and got me a 60-day notice instead of the landlord’s original 30-days.

But I’d already decided to return to China, thanks to the wise words of my psychologist friend, Barbara Kiao.  And without the lovely Angels I’ve befriended in LA, maybe I might have ended up in the Cuckoo’s Nest already…

 

As I finished editing the pilot episode late last night, I texted my friend, thanking for dropping by.  At the time, he was at his friend’s birthday party.  Surprisingly, he texted back:

Don’t forget: you’re a funny, kind, and beautiful person. You have tons of adventures ahead of you and I’d be honored to work with you again some day.

The warmth coursed through my artery and pumped into my heart, my weary wrinkled heart.

“Not someday. Soon. I wish you said it in my face though.” I reprimanded.

He promised he would next time.

Until next time then.

 

Yours truly,
YZ