It is 3:42 am on a Friday, and amidst the sound of birds chirping, my heart thumps loudly as I sit on my springy bed in my white cubicle-like room in Salford. There is a medium glass of white wine in my hand as I stare at the blank page in front of me. Do not judge me so harshly for the wine. I am simply looking for rest so I may fill these pages with the words of my novel. It will be my first novel. It will be set in the early 2000s and will tell the story of Adaku, a stubborn 16-year-old girl who gets lost during an interstate trip in Nigeria and must find her way back home. It annoys me that despite having a clear direction on the theme, characterisation, setting, and plot for this novel, I have yet to write a single word. Nothing usually stops me from writing unless I allow it. I’ve written short stories during a waitressing shift, while cooking noodles, and once while showering. But I have found that for longer pieces like this novel, I prefer to write them when I am at rest. And that is a shame because I have not been at rest for nearly two years.

This unrest started in February 2022 when I began my journey here. I remember applying to schools and refreshing my mail every other day, hoping for an acceptance. You would think I’d be more at rest, seeing as I finished as the best graduating student in my undergraduate department. But every application always has a chance of rejection no matter how perfect the candidate appears to be, and for me, that is always enough to cause unrest. It is enough for Adaku’s story to remain untold. Not for long though, I tell myself. I promise to begin her story when I receive my admission. The admission comes, but not with the rest I desire. Now, I have to worry about paying my tuition deposit when the exchange rate has become a national prayer point. With every passing day, the Naira seems to fall and I need more money than I did yesterday. It’s kind of hard to begin Adaku’s journey now when my finances rise and fall as the Naira does. Luckily, I made all the necessary payments and began my journey towards receiving my CAS.

I do not even bother with Adaku at this stage because I know the CAS journey will leave no room for rest for me. I have submitted all the necessary documents and I have read stories of people in my school receiving theirs, as well as people who were rejected for various reasons. Some say they still can’t pinpoint why they were rejected and that bothers me. I have also read of those who had to do an interview. I have no idea how people are selected for pre-CAS interviews, and based on other people’s encounters, it seems to be completely random. I do not care much for Adaku because my heart thumps whenever I think of being selected for a pre-CAS interview. I am a legitimate student and have met all the requirements. But I have to convince my interviewer(s) of this if I am selected and it causes me unrest. I prepared for the interview but luckily, I received my CAS without ever needing one. Now, it’s time to apply for a visa. There is no space in my mind for Adaku because of the many unrests that come with this process.

From doing a TB test and waiting hours in Ikeja for the results to worrying about getting an early enough date for biometrics. It’s funny, I have never worried about having tuberculosis, but sitting in that crowded space had me Googling things like “Is it possible to have dormant tuberculosis?” You don’t want to know what Google has to say when you ask medical questions because the answers seldom bring rest. I receive my TB certificate and book my visa application appointment. Adaku almost no longer exists at this point because the unrest that comes with a visa application is on a whole other level. I sought a priority application just to reduce the days of worry from three weeks to five working days. Luckily, I receive a positive decision in three days. But those were three days I nearly broke off my thumb from constantly refreshing my mail. Days feel nothing like 24 hours when you are awaiting a decision on a visa.

I should rest and fill Adaku’s story with words now that I have gotten my student visa, right? I want to. I even imagine myself writing the first chapter of the story on my long flight here. But I am surrounded by stories of people’s bad experiences with immigration control upon arrival. “Pray that your immigration officer is nice o,” these stories often end with. Of course, there are far more stories of people with good experiences. But I am still unrest. The negative stories make it seem like if your immigration officer is in a bad mood or simply not satisfied with the way you are answering their questions, you could be sent back. Can you imagine that? Making it this far, spending millions of Naira, only to be sent back right at the entrance? I certainly did imagine it and it did not bring me rest. I envy the people around me who shrug off other people’s stories of bad experiences. Some are confident that God will spare them when it is their turn and I envy that confidence. They approach things with an “it can never be me” attitude. Call me a pessimist, an overthinker, or a glass-half-empty girl because I always think “That could be me.” Perhaps I would have written this novel two years ago if I was more like them.

My immigration officer is nice and even makes a few jokes to help me feel more at ease. Finally, I am at my new home in Manchester. I have a nice landlord and very friendly and kind flatmates. I have a part-time job as a waitress that took me only two weeks to find and I don’t have to worry about the rest of my school fees because I received a full scholarship from my school. Okay, right now, it is ridiculous that Adaku’s story remains unwritten. I have written a few things though. Some short stories here and there that never go beyond the few family and friends I send them to. But when I try to begin Adaku’s journey, I am haunted by the rumours that the Government is going to make changes to the Student Visa, the Graduate Visa, and the Skilled Worker Visa. All three visas affect me and now, I am so uncertain that I cannot even confidently say I will be here next year. I mean, I do not know yet what these changes are and if for example, they scrapped the Graduate Visa, it would change a lot. Once again, the pages in Adaku’s story remain blank.

The changes are announced a few weeks later. The IHS fee will be increased from £624 per year to £1035 and the baseline minimum salary for the Skilled Worker Visa will also be increased from £26,200 to £38,700. So, not only do I need about £1000 more than initially anticipated to apply for the Graduate, but afterwards, I have to find a job that pays me £38,7000 in two years to keep staying here. One step at a time. I have applied now applied for my Graduate visa. On paper, it could take up to two months to receive a decision, but most people I know get it in 2 to 3 weeks. I know it varies, but it has been a month since I applied. Everyone tells me to be calm, that immigration is probably going through a backlog, that’s why it’s taking a while. I understand that. But does it stop me from being anxious? I have now had to stop working while awaiting my decision as my previous visa has expired. Every day, my loved ones ask for updates and I have the same response. “Nothing yet.” I have aged in this past month as it feels like a year has passed. I should be at rest and use this “time off” to put words onto those blank pages. After all, I read somewhere that this visa has a 98% acceptance so I don’t think most people lose sleep over it. But I am not like most people, and not in a good way.

My loved ones would describe me as a very anxious person. I think you would too based on the little you have read so far. You would all be right. I eliminate the worst before assuming the best. If I called a loved one and they did not pick up, I would assume something terrible had happened before assuming they were simply away from their phones. I envy people who would assume the latter first. I too would like to be like that. It would certainly give me the much-needed rest to tell Adaku’s story. But too much uncertainty looms around being an (anxious) immigrant, and I wonder if I would ever really truly get that rest. Say I received my Graduate Visa now, and by some luck, a job with a sponsorship tomorrow, would I rest then? Or would I worry about any new immigration rule changing all of that? Perhaps if I had a permanent residency, I would, but I doubt that. There is a certain type of rest that comes from not worrying about your visa getting denied, your sponsorships getting revoked, or living one immigration rule change away from having your life uprooted. It is the type of rest I desire to write this novel.

It would make sense to simply go back home and find that rest, would it not? That is not what I want. I worked too hard to here, and I have a plan for my future. That plan does not involve living in a place where there are long fuel queues every other day, where we are still battling cholera in 2024, where I would be worrying about unreliable electricity every day, and where the price of everything has tripled since I left, and where kidnapping seems to be the order of the day. I immigrated here with a goal in my mind and I am determined to work even harder towards reaching that goal. I know what wisdom, knowledge, and opportunities I can receive for my writing here. I know what publishing houses I want to work with, what agents I want to query, and what path I want to take towards publishing Adaku’s story. I hate that this rest I have so desperately sought for the past two years is holding me back from taking the very first step towards achieving that goal. Perhaps the way to find rest here and write this novel is to find my way into politics and immigration and be the one making policies I would have cried about as a new immigrant, or maybe I will always be an (anxious) immigrant, so the best time to have begun Adaku’s story was yesterday.

It is now 6 am and the glass of wine sits on the wooden floor by my side, all its contents intact. Soon, my loved ones will wake and I expect a few messages asking me for updates about my visa. I still have none, and my heart still thumps when I think about it. But I think it will probably always thump for one reason or another, as long as I am an (anxious) immigrant. But there is a smile on my face amidst the thumping, because the once-blank screen in front of me is now filled with words spanning two pages. I intend to keep filling them with words bit by bit, till I reach that final chapter. There may never be rest for this (anxious) immigrant, but I will no longer let that stop me from introducing Adaku to the world.











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