Now that we're settled into our new life here in Chicago, I thought the worst was behind me, but it seems I've been lulled into a false sense of security. This week, another flurry of forms arrived and I've spent a good chunk of my time scanning in documents, riffling through files and tracking down endless pieces of paper that prove who I am, what I've done or where I've lived. Surely, there can't be much more, can there?
Everyday seems to bring yet another on-line form request pinging into my inbox. This week it's been verification documents for son #2's next year at school, applications for my academic history, a lengthy health survey from my medical insurance company and the worst... not just one, but TWO tax returns (US and UK). Each one involves signing into another portal, creating another account (that for some reason I can never seem to get back into) and scrolling through endless pages of questions. I'm disappearing into these endless on-line portals like Alice down the rabbit hole.
If one more website asks me what my first pet's name was, I swear I'll scream. (Actually, she was a rather lovely Persian cat called Goldie, in case you're interested). I'm sure it used to be just one security question we had to select, but today I had to select FOUR - each one more bizarre than the one before. What was your favourite toy when you were three? What was the name of your Aunty Jackie's brother's cousin's dog? How many fingers am I holding up? I'm being sarcastic, but you get the point.
The truth is, I'm a bit scared of official documents and paper work. It's completely irrational, I know, but I get this kind of sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and a creeping dread that I'll do it wrong and something bad will happen. I've had the same reaction for as long as I can remember - my palms still sweat when I recall filling in my UCAS (university application) - probably my first important official form - back in 1990.
My coping mechanism is to complete stuff as soon as I get the first request. This is for two reasons: firstly, if I don't act as soon as I see an email, it sinks into the abyss of my inbox (the worst decision I made was to start an new email account for my American life - I thought it would keep things separate and manageable, it didn't - it just created double the amount of junk). Secondly: I'm the queen of procrastination - so if I don't tackle those pesky forms there and then, I'll surely have to face the inevitable one-minute-to-submission-deadline meltdown.
One small saving grace is that I'm fastidious about filing. Barring the odd mishap, I can locate every official document, every certificate and every form from the last 46 years. It's all there - indexed and filed. Need to know when I had my rubella vaccination? No problem. Want to see the closing statement letter from my student loan company? Ta dah! Offer letter from my first teaching job? Boom!
But all this organisation is often scuppered by having to reset endless passwords, enter verification codes that get texted to your phone (I have a UK and a US phone, so that's a whole other ball game!), laptops that run out of battery just as you hit the 'submit' button and a scanner that refuses to recognise my computer despite the fact that I've tried everything to pair them short of a candlelit dinner for two. So it's not just the forms that I submit - it's me. I submit!
The point is, when you make a big move, there's going to be a huge amount of paperwork. But I don't think I could ever have imagined the true scale of this admin mountain. I'm hoping the summit is in sight, but no doubt the next form is stealthily winging its way through the ether towards one of my two in-boxes as I type this. Another day, another portal. But I try to be philosophical and tell myself that I'm not Alice and this isn't Wonderland; I'm not suddenly going to wake up and it's all a dream. My life here is real and, whilst I might hate the admin, with each paperwork milestone, my life here in Chicagoland becomes more settled, more established and more official.
By the way, Aunty Jackie's brother's cousin's dog was called Dave.