Alien Status: Extraordinary Again
A few months ago I wrote a bit of an emotional article about my visa status, and how I was in a bit of a pickle. A few people since have wanted an update, so here it is.
I had lost my job when the startup I worked for imploded shortly after entering the States, which in turn invalidated my work visa. A conference in Spain had me booked to speak the week after, and I never cancel on things like that. Unfortunately it meant I had to return to the US "on holiday" to live in the apartment I could not afford.
The plan was to get rid of the apartment and get out of the country. I ended up having to wait an extra month and a half for the lease to run out, because my landlords were w***ers. Being in the USA on holiday made it illegal for me to work, so with no income other than the book royalties, I struggled to cover rent.
I was broke, and the PHP community supported me. Close friends sent me about $1,000 in "surprise loans", but I also got about $2,000 in random donations and book over-payments. Some also payed for consulting time which they still haven't used. One person sent me $500, and I started crying in public. Being British I usually only understand emotions in the "mild annoyance" to "frustration" range. That was a pretty weird experience for me.
Well, it brings me great pleasure to say... everything is fixed!
I am working for an amazing company called Ride. The product is genius, the team are smart as hell and the culture is perfect.
We popped down to Colombia for an on-boarding process as some of the team live down that way. We got to planning roadmaps for v1.0 and onwards, and split ourselves up into teams for various services. I taught myself Go one afternoon looking out at the mountains in Bogota; which is not a sentence I would have expected to ever say.
Better still, a few of the NYC team are cyclists and runners. One of them was even my partner for the Bike to the Beach 2013 ride. Finally I can focus on shedding the extra 20lb (1 & 1/2 stone for the Brits) that has jumped onto my face and belly over the last few months.
I spent the weekend in London to get my new visa approved, and it's all golden. They will have it back to me in 10-14 days or so, meaning I should be back in the USA by early December.
I sold everything I own - other than my bike - and got rid of the apartment. Side-note: In the last hour of moving out the "next guy" wandered in with his stuff and used my bathroom without even asking. Who does that?!
All my furniture is gone and the landlords owe me a massive security deposit cheque. It was huge because a Brit without any credit history moving to the USA needs to pay about 3 months rent as security. That shit aint cheap.
When I get back to NYC I'll start hunting for somewhere a little less expensive. Hopefully that can still be in Williamsburg, but maybe a little further into Brooklyn.
I am now out of debt and with a nice chunk of money in my account, for the first time since May, which means I need to make things even.
The people who supported my visa application went through hell to "make my immigration lawyers happy." I bribed those people with various rewards, and they've started to go out.
Thank you @philsturgeon happy to have you in the USA. You're a great guy, no matter what everyone on Twitter says. pic.twitter.com/YNWm2MjvvG— Zachary Ian Blank (@zachianblank) October 31, 2014
The $1,000 loaned to me by friends is back with them. That was nice and easy.
The trickier part to resolve was the matter of the "charity money" I received.
It was all sent in good will by people who wanted to help me out. Many said it was repayment for the time or money my articles, released code, contributions or whatever have saved them over the years.
I told some people not to be silly and I would be fine, but to be honest I was fucked and when people were insistent I caved and sent them my payment information. It was tough to accept that, but at the time I didn't have any choice.
I never release stuff as an investment hoping to get gold someday. I release code because it solves a problem for me and I hope it solves a problem for others. In the case of PyroCMS we started charging for it only because it was turning into a full-time job. We wanted to focus on the job instead of squeezing work between other paying work. Nothing wrong with having a business model in that case, but that is different to trying to squeeze money out of other projects.
I have used a shitload of open-source stuff in my career and without it I would still be working in a shitty cinema in Bristol waiting to die. As developers we use, we improve, we share and we make our money from the products and services we build, not each little component.
Anyway, these kind souls don't want the money back, and I can't in good conscience keep it.
The PHP community supported me, so that of course means I have to give it back to the PHP community. PHPWomen do some great work in the community, and I love how they bring people to conferences who otherwise could not make it to speak or attend.
Well I spoke to Davey Shafik at PHPWomen and they are happy to take the money. They've had their first $500 from me, and they will get another three equal payments to put towards whatever they need. I will post up on here what they do with that money, so those not familiar with their good work will start to understand a bit better.
Good to be Back
I'm f**king excited. I feel like I have not done much this year. Things started going pear shaped in April, and between then and October I barely wrote any code. I was basically waiting for life to sort itself out, and when you are legally not allowed to work, and are friends with a lot of bartenders... you end up having a few.
This new job has me doing some awesome things, and is definitely challenging me in a good way. Whilst I have experience with Ruby and Python and a whole bunch of frameworks, I have done far too much PHP for the last 10 years. I cannot wait to grow more as a developer and play around with a whole shitload of new languages and technologies.
Expect me to post more about APIs, Go, Rails (shut up), and whatever Ride has me learning. We are building some exciting services with a wide range of languages, and the tools we use will change over time as our system and requirements grow too.