Another Year In Review

It’s stunning just how quickly it comes round, and each one comes round quicker than the last. But all we can do is live it. And so it’s time to assess what happened.

I was talking to my brother earlier. He was saying all the stuff I used to say about the pointless of New Year. It is, after all, just another day. But in recent years I’ve refined my view. Though I’m always contemplating, and reflecting, the end of year point just seems to provide the right framework and mindset to wrap up what’s gone on in the last year.

Of course, there is a formal rating to do first. What kind of year was 2010?

On balance, I have to say, it was a Very Good year. I can’t believe I’m saying that, but it’s only by looking back through this journal that I realise just how depressed, and just how much of a rut I was in at the start of this year. After all, look at this post to see just how much I was filled with dread for the year to come.

What makes me think that this was such a good year though is the fact that I set myself just one goal for 2010: and that was sort my direction out in some way. While I don’t think I’m 100% of the way there on that score, significant progress has still been made. I now have, genuinely, a sustainable and moderately successful business venture. Much to my shock and surprise. It’s been a lot of hard work, and I see only more to come, but broadly speaking the direction of travel has been undeniable.

That’s business. Business and work makes me feel like I’m doing something. We all have our ways of self-identification, but work is foremost amongst it. It’s hard to be anything other, when work is, broadly speaking, what occupies the days of most of us, most of the time. So when work goes well, I feel well. And when my work is pretty much in tune with what I’d like to do, and earning me a reasonable living at the moment, I feel glad.

As for the rest of my self-worth, it wasn’t quite so good. Friendships and relationships are not in a great state. That’s my own fault for allowing work to dominate, but most self-employed people will tell you that there’s almost no other way to live. After all, the lack of paid holidays, sick leave and all the other perks of being employed, rather than self-employed, make your life very different to operate.

Looking wider, my family didn’t have quite so good years. My mum and dad have had very bad years, through combinations of family circumstances and their own work problems. Both of them could potentially be made redundant by the end of this year. I don’t think it will happen, but you can’t rule it out.

My elder younger brother, if that makes sense, is ending the year on a high, having swanned off to Australia, but his problems remain. He had a terrible year of destructive, self-worth sapping woes. Meanwhile, my younger younger brother is still plugging away in education, having now started college. Hopefully he can stick with it, but I don’t see him going to university. And as for my younger sister, she’s doing OK. I still get on well with her, which I hope continues.

Then there’s my elder sister, who has, like me, had a good year. I said at the start of the year that I hoped one of us had a lucky break for a change. It just so happened that it was her, after so many years of suffering. Though her work-life isn’t great, she has found a new boyfriend, one we all like, and one who actually respects her. They are engaged to be married some time this year. I’m really pleased for her. She deserves it. In some ways, it has meant she’s grown more distant from the rest of us, but such is life. We all move on in the end.

Then there’s my nephew, who has evolved into a minor troublemaker. He thinks he’s the big man, despite being aged 11. He’s nothing like the rest of us ever were at that age. I just hope the new stability in his life can help him develop into a more stable individual.

The wider family is also getting on with things. I have my worries, as there’s been a noticeable decline in my granddad over the last year, and it’s only going to get worse. He now barely recognises anyone. Dementia is a truly cruel condition.

Anyway, the year is ending very differently to how it started. No party. No shindig. No singing. No serious ale quaffing. Sums up the way most of the rest of my family are feeling, it seems.

But for me, at least, it’s time to crack open a celebratory drink.

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Six Years Of Blogging

I’m actually impressed that I’m still here six years later. I often wondered whether it would just be a passing fad when I first started this up, but here I am, still plugging away at it…

OK, I know my posting frequency is in the doldrums compared to when I first started up, but better one than none. That’s mainly because, as I’ve observed before, I can be so busy during the day now that I feel guilty spending some time out doing personal writing. It was why I pulled the plug on the political blog I maintained for a year. I was amazed it lasted that long.

But there’s only so much of toiling in obscurity one can take. Back in the day, striking up a blog seemed like a great way to get noticed. It seemed like a marvellous way to bring your ranting to the attention of hundreds of millions, and maybe even get picked up by the mainstream media. I can’t say I ever imagined in a million years this would happen to boring old me, but I did hope that maybe, just maybe, someone somewhere would find some tiny level of curiosity in my writing.

Of course, that was when I didn’t realise just how difficult it is to capture people’s attention. It’s why I am filled with such admiration for the writers, creators, directors and producers of cultural fayre, from musicals to mass audience, mainstream TV. They keep us all entertained and diverted from our dull lives, and for that we salute them. They produce the prolefeed that keeps us from worrying too much about the true disaster that is Planet Earth, and what we’re doing to it, and what we’re allowing our politicians to get away with.

But I’m ranting.

I always feel better when I rant, though. Yet I don’t get the opportunity these days. My lack of friends and genuine social interaction these days means I don’t get the chance to hone, sharpen my ascerbic, cynical wit. It used to work so well with my true friends, the ones I picked up in university. And the ones I knew in Sixth Form weren’t too shabby either. I just wish it were possible to pick up where I left off with them. It never is. Friendships untended to wither and die. The inevitable reunions are just a string of “Remember whens”. People don’t keep in touch.

Blogging is an innately melancholy medium. That was one of the things I wrote in my dissertation. By that, I meant its very nature was to encourage people to write up, and then reflect on things that had happened, or that we hoped would happen. That attracts a certain type of person, people who are pretty insecure, seeking approval from others and rather neurotic in the first place. Maybe I could be accused of being biased, but I don’t think I’m too far off the mark.

Perhaps, then, my lack of blogging in the last few months has been more reflective of the change in me. Because I do feel less bothered about the mere existence of life now. It passes by, unremarkable, unceremoniously. Relentlessly. Whether I like it or not, it passes by. Whether I comment on it or not, it passes by. It all adds to my general despondency at the pointlessness of it all. So why bother chronicling it?

So much for the season of goodwill. It is, after all, Christmas Day. And I have had a pretty good one, with family. OK, a few minor setbacks, but – as with everything – they’ll be forgotten by tomorrow and no one will care. It’s like there’s a big reset button being hit every day.

But when you sit in the back room, tapping away on a laptop, while the family are watching the accursed EastEnders Christmas special, thoughts will always turn to depression…

Merry Christmas to all. And to my future self, when you read this in six years time (you’re the only one who does these days!), as you did six years ago when you re-read the post that started it all: chin up, mate! It’s not all bad.

Training Home for Christmas

One of my favourite Christmas songs, apart from Stop the Cavalry, and Fairytale of New York, is Driving Home for Christmas by Chris Rea. Though I’ve never actually driven home for Christmas – after all, I have zero driving skills – at the same time the sentiment is wonderful. Everyone around, just the same, heading back to see their families and loved ones.

So it is at this point I should sit back and reflect. I do plenty of that already, but these days I get so few of it down in writing. That’s due to a combination of having too much to do, and very little inclination to do any writing. What used to be my usual “writing” time in the morning has steadily been eroded, and now if I’m sitting around doing stuff that isn’t going to earn me a crust, I tend to get guilty.

It’s a very bad habit I have. I can’t relax. I can’t unwind. The only way I can is if the circumstances are right and I’m forced to.

So, to get away from my residence down South, and, in fact, travel several hundred miles in the other direction, will do the job perfectly. I am presently writing this on a train to Birmingham New Street, all on course to make my next connection. Amazingly, the weather hasn’t disrupted this journey at all, and I’m rather surprised. After weeks of terrible snow, stuck on the ground and turned to sheets of ice, and the worst winter so far that I can remember, despite it really only being 22 days old, the country seems to be moving again.

And getting home is my target. I haven’t seen my family in about a month, and though, when I was away at uni I used to be away from them for 12 week periods, if not longer, it still seems like ages. At the moment, with business going so well, and my time being eaten away effectively, there is a rather odd effect going on. It doesn’t seem like that long ago when I was last home. And, at a month, it really wasn’t. Yet, because of all the many different bits and pieces of work I’ve done, it seems like an age.

The irritating thing is that my best plans of Christmas presents have gone wrong. One of them hasn’t turned up, and is missing in the postal system somewhere. The other hasn’t even been dispatched. All because of the snow. I now don’t know whether to rush out and buy more stuff, or sit tight and just say to the intended recipients, “Well, I did order them three weeks ago…”

What I’m most looking forward to after the Christmas and New Year family fun is over, though, is going to see some friends in Edinburgh. I’ve never been there before, and who knows when I might go again. But I’m assured it’s lovely, and I know being in completely a different place will make me switch off from work altogether. It will only be for a few days, but it will make all the difference. It will be peace and quiet.¬†Assuming I can get there.

Hope the snow is kind…That’s quite enough for now. It’s nearly 9pm, and I still have almost three hours of this slog to go. I’ve never done this journey at this time before, but given how quiet and relaxing the journey is, I would be tempted to do it again. Except for the fact that someone is sitting next to me, despite there being rows of empty seats ahead…

Adapting

It’s hard to know what to expect from life any more. The situation for me is now such that a reasonable equilibrium has been reached. I’m content with what I’m doing, and can exist quite well of it by my own standards.

But it is not set to last. As is life, things change, and we must adapt. Hmm. Too much Borg.

My housemate is looking to find a way out of his current job. If he does so, he will likely become of no use to me at all business-wise. This will make my business rather difficult to sustain, unless I can reinvent it. Somehow. With no money. Cos I’m so frugal I’ll never risk it.

In the past few weeks I’ve talked to friends and sounded out a couple of them who once upon a time expressed a vague interest in joining me in business. No one bit. Why would they? They’re in comfortable jobs with no real desire to upset the applecart. Why sacrifice someone gladly handing over thousands of pounds to you in exchange for not-very-demanding work, and giving you paid holidays, sick leave and other perks into the bargain?

No, it is actually quite difficult to sell self-employment to those living the cushy employee lifestyle. It genuinely has to be something from the heart.

And so prospects start to look bleak. I’m almost now in the position where I could risk thinking about what I could do to grow the business further. Take on a new challenge. There is the opportunity to do it, but do I have the bottle?

I don’t think I do. But at the same time, I might have no choice. If my partially useless and increasingly irritating house mate eventually fucks off, as I know he will soon, then I have to make the decision. The business would survive without him, but it would have its scope severely narrowed. Away would go any prospects for web enterprises and other design jobs. Or any of the other doors that his talents and contacts open.

All of this – the constant thoughts of business – makes me wonder. Do I have any life any more? In the last month, I have engaged in the grand total of two social events with friends. And that is extremely unusual. One of them travelled 100 miles to see me. The other I went well out of my way to catch up with on a recent trip back home.

Not good. Not good at all. I wasn’t much of a social animal to begin with, but to have completely exchanged my life for that of work is not something I expected would ever become of me. I tolerate it for now, for I know nothing else. But it can’t stay forever. Surely I need to have some life? I might live to regret not using these relatively youthful years…

Oh well. I’ll adapt.