Sometimes a little positive thinking and a lot of luck is all you need to get what you want: in my case, Permanent Residency in the US.
I probably wouldn’t list “academia” as my strong suit. I love to learn, but required essays and three-hour exams don’t really get me off, something which quite became apparent midway through my undergrad Journalism degree in Australia, back in mid-2009.
I was a tad unmotivated: I rarely showed up to class (and when I did I spent my lectures texting or quietly laughing over various Harry Potter-themed chat rooms), I chose randomly what assessments I could be bothered to complete, and generally just didn’t care, which was reflected big-time when my results started rolling in. (Think ‘fail’.)
My parents soon decided something needed to be done. My best friend had just packed up and moved to New York City on a year-long work visa, and my parents suggested I join her.
Little did they know this 18-month hiatus from my studies would completely change my life.
I dropped out of uni and worked for six months to save what I would later discover was not nearly enough money, and hopped a plane to the Big Apple. I’d never actually visited before, but my mum assured me I’d love it.
As always, mum was right.
I settled in Williamsburg two weeks after my 21st birthday (strategically planned) surviving on a full-time gig packing shelves at Trader Joe’s before landing a second part-time job reporting for the New York Post. Naturally, money was in short supply and my parents had to hold my hand (and pay my rent) more than once, but despite the grime, the crazy prices and often crazy people, too-cold and too-hot weather, occasional bouts of starvation homesickness, and the general frantic pandemonium, I found myself utterly taken by this city.
I felt a connection to this nation and its people that I had never experienced back home in Australia; I was in love – this was home, and I never wanted to leave.
Here’s me hanging out in the West Village
I lived in constant dread of the day my J1 visa would expire. Immigrating didn’t seem an option - as a “writer” who didn’t even have an undergraduate degree, I figured I’d be pretty much down at the bottom of the barrel.
My only hope was “the Green Card Lottery.”
This is a real, legitimate thing, my friends. Every year the US Government runs the “DV Lottery”
– meaning Diversity Visa. It’s free. All you have to do is enter online, confirming you’ve either finished high school or had equivalent work experience.
Last year, almost 8 million people threw their names in the hat to win Permanent Residency in the US.
Out of the millions that enter, 100,000 names are chosen, and half of those eventually get a Green Card.
So in November 2010, I entered. And in May of 2011 I learned I’d missed out. Unsurprised, I carried on with life in NYC.
The year finished, my visa expired and I went “home” – though it no longer felt that way to me. I was sobbing so much when our plane hit the tarmac in Brisbane that the 15-year-old girl unfortunate enough to be seated beside me actually asked if I was okay.
I went back to uni. I had another 18 months to finish my degree. In the meantime, I tried to devise ways to get myself back to New York. The most likely option seemed to be graduate school which, looking back, was an utterly comical suggestion that would have cost my parents upwards of $50,000 a year. I even ordered the entire GRE study set, which I predictably never opened. It’s now gathering dust somewhere in my folks’ garage.
And again, I entered the Green Card Lottery.
I confided in a close friend how desperate I was.
“Use The Secret,” she suggested, referring to the ‘law of attraction’ theory espoused in Rhonda Byrne’s 2006 self-help book, plugged big-time by Oprah.
The ‘law of attraction’ dictates that whatever we project to the universe, the universe will give back to us - negative thoughts, attitudes and emotions produce downers in our lives, and vice versa. It may sound a little crazy, but some people have claimed The Secret helped them cure everything from a broken heart to terminal cancer.
Even so, I laughed off this suggestion.
“I don’t believe in that crap. I’m not superstitious.”
My buddy was insistent: “It’s worked for me before,” she assured me. “Anyway, what have you got to lose?”
Okay, that wasn’t a completely awful point. It’s not like I had a lot of options beating down my door. If I could somehow use the universe to doctor the results and hand me a Green Card, I could escape years’ more tedious study. Worth a shot.
So I read up everything I could on the law of attraction: I read testimonies, I researched how it was supposed to work and I began to integrate my findings into my life. I committed pretty hard, too.
First I made a sign: “I WILL WIN A GREEN CARD ON MAY 1, 2012” and stuck it on the wall directly opposite my bed. Every morning when I woke up it was the first thing I saw, and every night before I turned out the lights I stared at that sign.
This is a photo I took of the sign I made, uploaded to Facebook with the caption: “Surely this’ll work?"
A conversation I had with almost everybody I encountered: “Hey, I really want to move back to the States so I need to win this lottery. Can you just do me a favor and put out positive vibes to the universe? I know it sounds insane but if you could just believe I’m going to win, that’d be rad.”
True, I got some interesting looks from people, but I didn’t care – I had to believe it would happen.
When my mum asked why I wasn’t studying my GRE textbooks, I told her straight up - “I don't need to. I’m going to win the lottery.”
“What if you don’t?”
“Mum, I will.”
The lottery was due to be drawn on May 1st. So, in April I organized a massive party. I invited 150+ of my Facebook friends to an American themed costume party on May 5, to celebrate the inevitable news that I had won a Green Card.
I could tell by the reactions of some of my friends that they were considering institutionalizing me. They’d ask if I’d still have the party if I didn’t win and I’d humor them with a yes followed swiftly by, “But I’m going to win.”
Needless to say, my name was drawn and my party did happen, complete with a giant surprise cake decorated with the American flag.
I went as Uncle Sam. I don’t know what I’m doing here, please don’t judge me.
Now, age 24, I write this article from my bedroom in Williamsburg – funnily enough, actually in the same apartment (though a different room), another bizarre and serendipitous stroke of luck.
When I tell my story, the first question asked is always, “So do you believe in The Secret, now?”
Obviously, I can never know if the law of attraction played a part in my name being drawn. Maybe it was actually fate, divine intervention or – the most likely answer – pure dumb luck.
Whatever the answer, I’m exactly where I want to be right now. I’m in my favorite city in the world, my “home,” New York City. For a long time I feared it wouldn’t happen. But here I am, happier than I’ve ever been.
I’ll never prove that positive thinking – focusing on what I wanted and really, truly believing that I would have it – got me that Green Card, but I like to think it did. The whole experience has affected me in a wonderful way: now, instead of doubting myself, I put all my efforts into breeding positivity in my life.
Maybe it works and maybe it doesn’t, but the past two years have taught me to always maintain hope; that absolutely nothing is impossible and that - just maybe - positive human energy has the power to create miracles.