Spouse of a H1B

Someone I know recently wrote this article and I couldn't help adding my voice to the dialogue. It is a great article that echoes some of my thoughts for the past few years. I was on a H4 during some of the worst recession years and I can relate to the feeling of "not having a purpose". Breaking down, questioning my worth, ups and downs of hope and dejection and feeling like I didn't really belong here were part of my daily routine.

A little background about the H4 first. The H4 visa is one of the most restrictive visas present in the US immigration system. It is granted to dependents of the H1-B visa, which is one of the work visas granted in the US to highly skilled tech and non-tech workers. H4 visa holders cannot work. Period. They cannot start companies, gain financially by free-lancing their work or work part-time to keep up their skills. They can volunteer though, which is a small respite. Essentially, you have a set of highly educated, skilled tech/non-tech workers sitting idle because their visa restricts them from legally doing anything in the country. At any given time, there are at least 100,000* (mostly) women/men in this situation. While a percentage of the people on the H4 accept their fate and just go on with life without the hope of ever doing anything meaningful, a larger percentage is really lost and finds itself without purpose. There have been several cases of depression, suicide and general discontent among this group. And it is a growing problem.

When I graduated in December 2010, I had an OPT and was looking for work in the worst recession to ever hit the US. I had to move to a H4 in 3 months because I couldn't find work in that short period of time that was allowed to me on my OPT **. I also had several extenuating circumstances that forced me to travel to India during this period.

During the first few months of my H4, I was optimistic; always looking at the bright side of things, applying to jobs that matched my very qualified profile, answering the question "What do you do for a living?" with a confident, "Oh, I just graduated. I'm looking for full-time work. Do you have any leads?". When year 2 rolled in, things got a little less rosy. While I was still hopeful, I was also a little wary. I lowered my expectations of where I would or would not work and in what roles. "What do you do for a living?" got answered with a "Nothing". My confidence was replaced with a nagging sense of doubt. Why can't I get a job? Maybe I'm not good enough?

By year 3, I had but given up, except I was lucky to finally find a H1 sponsor *phew*. But I'm not happy about how the factor of immigration has played out in my life. It has single handedly ruined my best laid plans and I'm a planner. Ask anyone. I plan everything. And this H4 mess totally threw a wrench into everything I had planned for. More than anything, it's the unpredictability of what will happen during the next H1 application round that totally messed with me. 

Anyway, my reason for talking a bit about my story is that I feel there is not enough dialogue wrt this issue among the H4 community. And I have always felt that WE, as a group, can take the frustration that comes out of being in this situation and channel it into something more constructive. There has to be a way to support each other, mentor, pass job leads, celebrate each others successes, even if they are very small. There have to be alternative ways to make things better, because immigration reform impacting H4s is not happening anytime soon (sorry to burst your bubble!)

 

Not sure if this number is correct, I'll have to research into this a bit more.

** I know there are ways of getting around this problem, but I chose to go about it the lawful way. And I'm sorry to say that it totally backfired on me. 

Who are the 5 people you spend the most time with?

You must constantly ask yourself these questions: Who am I around? What are they doing to me? What have they got me reading? What have they got me saying? Where do they have me going? What do they have me thinking? And most important, what do they have me becoming? Then ask yourself the big question: Is that okay? Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.

I chanced upon this quote recently and it really spoke to me. Often, the husband and I start discussing something else but end up on the topic of who we choose to surround ourselves with. We are very picky about the people we spend our time with and I think it isn't without reason. 

In the past (when we were younger, single + also as a couple), we spent oodles of time trying to fit in, succumbing to peer pressure and doing stuff that added no value to our lives, except for giving us the momentary, fleeting pleasure of being included. I've walked away from these gatherings maybe with a small hangover, but never feeling enlightened or even remotely intellectually stimulated. At this stage in my life, I think I'm a little more self-aware (thankfully) and I try not to repeat the mistakes of my youth. So, it is important to me that I spend my time with people who improve me, make me want to be better, not lull me into a sense of "I'm comfortable the way I am, so I'm going to be THIS person and not do anything to improve myself further." If I can't meet a person who evokes this feeling in me, I read what such a person writes. For e.g - I read something by Seth Godin everyday because what he says/writes is meaningful to me and it makes me want to change some of my wasteful habits.

I personally feel that the quality of our daily conversations, whether IRL or virtual, play a big role in shaping  our intellect. The more we surround ourselves with people who have something worthwhile to say about a particular subject matter, the more we are feeding our mind with information that can be useful to us in the future. After all, we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with (Jim Rohn). 

Who are the 5 people you spend the most time with?

Finding What You Love

โ€‹I'm in that unique position in my life where I can sit back, relax and muse about who I really want to  be when I grow up. Well, maybe it's too late for that. But it doesn't change the fact that I'm still trying to figure out what I really love. Meaningful work is important to me, it has always been; but I've never given it as much thought as I have over the last couple of years (two, to be precise). 

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Seth Godin on Blogging & Creativity

Over the last few months, I've made it a habit to read one life changing/extremely relatable article per day. Most days, I read more than one interesting article and tweet the link or post it to Facebook. Each of these articles teaches me something new, exposing me to schools of thought that I was previously unaware of. But as I read and assimilate new knowledge, older learnings fade away (I'm getting old & not liking it). And I feel there is a need to capture my learnings and thoughts and save them for the future :)

I've been reading Seth Godin's blog for a while now (thanks to the husband). While his daily posts are short and simple, they do have much knowledge enclosed in them and always make for very pleasant reading. I've always wondered how a busy man like him could find the time to blog (meaningfully) everyday, write so many books, speak at so many events. His recent interview posted at Pro Blogger answered some of my questions and also gave me a glimpse into his lifestyle and motivations. I love such articles in which life lessons are intertwined with business lessons and I do have quite a few take-aways from this one that I'd like to jot down.

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Why I think Chetan Bhagat is right & also wrong.

โ€‹Barely a day goes by without our dear CB getting into trouble on Twitter. Being on PST means that I get all the news at least 12 hours later. Some days, I piece together the story based on the many angry tweets floating on my timeline and I think - "Uh oh, what did he say now?". But most times, I just ignore the hullabaloo and carry on with my regular, daily routine of being a homemaker (we will come back to my usage of this word later!). 

Like always, I would've ignored his latest article "Home truths on career wives" published in The Times of India. But...

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