Looking Back On 10 Years Ago

In December 2004, Matt wrote:

I worry about the future. I can’t help but wonder what I will be like in 10 years time.

That’s me, by the way.

I look back on this, as I do on all my old writings, and feel sad, but detached somewhat, almost as if I am reading about someone else. I feel sad thinking about how he must have been feeling 10 years ago. I feel sad for the situation he was in. I feel like I wish I could offer him some encouragement, or some comforting words of advice. It will be OK, Matt.

Then I remember that I am talking about a past self. I remember that Matt is me, and, worse, I might not even be sincere when I muster up those emotions. They are mere platitudes – the kind of thing you say to anyone who’s feeling down, even if you don’t know that what you’re saying is true.

Because, the fact is, when I look back 10 years, I don’t honestly think that, if I, 29 years old, could be magically placed into the room with my 19 year old self, to impart words of wisdom about the decade to come, I could say that everything will be OK. It won’t.

Number 1 reason why is because life is not like that. One bit. Some you win, some you lose. You hope you are going in roughly the right direction, and that your losses outnumber your wins. But there are big losses. There are missed opportunities. There are giant distractions. There is huge procrastination. There is hope, expectation, and then the smack of reality.

I don’t know why, but this is the kind of life lesson that I wasn’t really aware of back then. There is something wonderful about the naivety of youth. Though I was already jaded with cynicism about life and the society we live in, I still did believe that a great swathe of the world was still open to me. That I could still be anything I wanted to be, assuming I had some talent, of course.

10 years ago I reflected very heavily on the beginnings of my new life at university, living away from home. I believe that that was a very astute observation, and one that I believe was a major launching point for me and my life. 10 years ago it was clear that I was just going along with what seemed to be the sensible course, with the benefit of the largely dull but positively life-changing experience of working as a grunt in society. That also turned out to be prescient, and ultimately my view of the world of work still hasn’t changed and never will.

I knew I had to get out. I knew I was getting nowhere. Fortunately, I had already lined up a University place. It was my get out clause that I’d never really intended to use. I applied to Uni just to placate the parents. I really wanted to go out there and work. I was fed up of education. Hence the gap year. But it didn’t turn out that way.

10 years ago though, I hoped that my university experience, and growing up away from home would give me better chances in life. It did to some extent, but not because of the actual education I obtained from it. Just more because it shaped me into the person I am, enhanced by the independence I gained, and the friendships I formed. I worried about this 10 year ago, not knowing where it was taking me, but I think this bit turned out OK.

I then reflected strongly on the process of “adultification”, as I called it. Again, I am impressed with my 19 year old self. I could write all of these words again today.

Ask a random person on the street about their life, and one of the first things they will tell you is what they do for a living. Is that how our society judges people? Merely on what they’re doing in exchange for cash? What have you actually contributed today apart from the C02 emissions from the car you’re driving?

What pervades my earliest writings is my sense of depression and despondency. I worry about the decades that were stretching out ahead of me, and wondering just exactly what I could fill them with to make myself a worthwhile life, full of engagement with others, and how, exactly, I could make a mark on the world.

I still worry about this, and in some senses my worries are enhancing with each passing day, as that creeping feeling of mortality grows. But I don’t feel as depressed now. I feel like I at least have some concept as to what I want to do with my life. Back then I really had no clue what I was getting myself into, and no idea how to answer that question I posed above: what do I want to do in exchange for cash? I feel like I have answered this, so it no longer poses depression.

But the underlying question still does. The real point of the question was to explore what more things one can do in life to make it more worth living. As to this, I have no idea. Neither did I 10 years ago. It bugs me, but unlike 10 years ago I bury myself in my work to avoid thinking about it. I couldn’t do that then. It’s called distraction.

I can never get rid of the niggling thought at the back of my mind that I’m missing out on something. That I’m here to do something far more important than study Western Europe.

I just don’t know what.

In some ways, the end is the most confusing part of my post. I have spent some of my life rather grandiosely wondering if I had some major talent I was supposed to be sharing with society for the good of others. When I was young people wanted me to be a doctor, or some super clever scientist. In my more superior moments, I wonder whether I am better than other people. Sometimes, when speaking with others, I feel like I am more intelligent than them, and not on their level. I try not to think too much like this, as it’s extremely damaging for me, but this nagging thought does arise from times that I am better than most of the people I meet, on an intellectual and mental acuity level.

This is horribly patronising to others. I wonder whether this was what I meant in the above paragraph. Or was it simply just an ironic way of writing that my studies were dull, with no relevance to real life, and that I needed to think about what will happen when they are gone?

I think I have turned out the best I could in the 10 years since I sat, morosely opining on the imminent life disaster I thought I was leading into. I always wish I that I had a different personality, one that was more open to others, engaging, tolerant of others, empathetic, and charitable. But that was never likely to happen. I didn’t have that 10 years ago. I don’t have it now. Personality only changes marginally through the years. I feel like the 10 years have been relatively kind to me.

Except for the fact that I do look older. Physically I look worse. The hair is a disaster. I generally look a bit gaunt and washed out. Most people remark that. I try to increase my weight by eating more, but it doesn’t work. I should be grateful of that, really, but I do get tired of people saying I look tired. I don’t actually feel tired at all, but if I’m looking it it must mean that I am working myself too hard.

I reckon the Matt of 10 years ago could understand that. He was a hard worker as well… but at least he had actual youth to protect himself. I don’t.

Looking back is important. You learn what worked and what didn’t. You should learn and readjust from that. I think I have. I think I have changed and improved in many ways. I learned to be comfortable being me. I learned to be independent. I learned to have a drive to always ask for more. But in doing so I created an aloof and difficult personality that doesn’t get on well with anyone more than a superficial level. There are very few people I let into my inner confidence. I was like that 10 years ago. I am like that times 100 today.

I regret that I am not a more exciting person. I regret that my previous wishes to see the world and travel are unfulfilled, and almost extinguished. I am jealous of my 19-year-old self who went off to the USA on his own. I wish I could do it again now. But he was young and carefree with absolutely no commitments to anyone or anything. I am not. I have a life to maintain. I have businesses to run, and people who rely on that.

But regrets are not good for you. I have learned to bury my regrets firmly. I am better at that than 10 years ago. I still get angry when I fail, or slip up, but only because I hold myself in such high standards. That, arguably, is actually worse than 10 years ago…

Overall, like most things in life, it’s a mixture. A delicate balance of positives and negatives, some outweighing the others. I think I am in a better position than I was 10 years ago: a post-teenaged ball of angst, full of the woes of growing up emotionally into a proper adult. Now all of that is long gone, for good and for ill.

It’s the next 10 years that really worry me.

10 Years of Blogging

10 years ago today, I sat down for the first time at my computer and decided it was time to join the blogging community. Not that blogging was a community in any sense. But, at the time, blogs were big, and everyone who was everyone was writing about their lives in a long form.

Nowadays, hardly anyone does. In reality, no one ever had the patience to read endless, tedious discussions about random people’s lives. Hence the inevitable success of the short form, in Twitter and in other social media, though to a lesser extent.

However, to me, it was never about the audience. It was all about me. It was all about writing down the thoughts I have always had in my head but never really committed to. Now there is no getting away from it. There are over 560 posts and counting to testify that.

And it is incredible. I do occasionally click the “random post” button above. It’s the best way to explore what happened in the past. I really enjoy reading back on what I thought about events at the time. A great majority of them I don’t even remember… which goes to show how so many things are seen as really important at the time, but in the end don’t even stick around in the memory. But that is good, because it just goes to show how much things you forget…

I write now from the same place I’m sure I did last year, no more than a couple of metres from when the whole thing began 10 years ago. I arrived after having a sudden attack of illness this morning, which, I’m pleased to say, is clearly fading quick. Which is good. I had been on the decline since Monday morning, with some sort of cold/flu thing. It smacked me hard this morning… stopping me from even getting out of bed. Totally unlike me. I finally made it out around 10am. I can’t remember the last time I ever slept that long.

The past few days in work have been horrendously busy. Not what I wanted in the run up to Christmas. I’d probably say the whole month in general has been such hard work and unnecessarily stressful. I feel like I can relax now, hundreds of miles away from it, but it will be back with all its associated woes on the 29th.

What matters, though, is that I have, for now, four uninterrupted days, where I can just park up all that crap and think of nothing other than our family festivities. I write this now in the middle of the family, as we often do on Christmas Eve, talking nonsense, catching up, and watching Christmas songs on TV. Kind of ironically, but also because we do enjoy it. It’s something that I started about four years ago, because I thought we should have things like this to remember. Too often we spend all the time on our own, doing our own things. This event, while wholly optional, has kind of become our tradition. Usually because I come home on this day, so if I sit here most people will want to hang around as they haven’t seen me for a while.

I think I’ll write separately on what’s changed between now and 10 years ago. For now though, it’s just enough to say that I’m home safely, and the Christmas festivities are under way. Here’s to a good few days.

Merry Christmas.

Is It November Already?

Yes. Yes it is.

I have to get used to the fact that 2014 is fast drawing to a close. In a little over seven weeks time it will be 2015. The year in which I will complete my 30th year on the planet. To think of poor me, sitting alone writing furiously about a dull and depressing life, aged 19, is enough to bring a tear to my eye. I don’t like reading old posts from the past, but they are utterly precious.

There will be plenty of time for reflection this Christmas, particularly as it will be 10 years of blogging, which is a remarkable achievement. I’m so thrilled I have stuck with it.

And Christmas is almost all I think about at the moment. I have booked my tickets to go home, on exactly December 24, and I’m so incredibly looking forward to it. I love it, every single year, that I can feel like I’m 14, or 9, or 16, or 18, or 6, again, and be at home with the family, all together, all safe, all enjoying a successfully navigated year, all – hopefully – enjoying each other’s company, with no worries for two weeks (I like to drag it out…) about work, or school, or money, or depressingly mundane existences.

But that is then. This is now.

November is a sad month, primarily because it is the time by which my spirit and will is finally broken, and I must, at long last, switch the central heating on. I always try to make it into November, but this year was almost no challenge at all due to a remarkably good spell of weather in October. Indeed, I remember the very same a mere five years ago when I first moved here. It was great weather. It’s so much better than home, a mere 150 miles north.

The cold is everywhere. It feels more so at the moment as I am, as I have been for the last year “inbetween coats”. I have not owned a winter coat for about three years. I thought it was time I did so, and have spent a not unsubstantial amount of money trying to achieve it. I wait patiently for it to arrive. Maybe it will be here tomorrow? I hope so. It will be just in time, for the coldness is really setting in. Our first 0 degree night is upon us for the first time since early in the year.

This time of year also tends to lead to a lull. The main IT business carries on regardless, but the other one that I’m part of starts to wane. No one wants to start big projects in December, so the usual preceding weeks, in which projects are planned, are empty. It happened last year. It is happening this year. It worries me as our admin lady has almost nothing to do at the moment. All very disappointing, especially when only a couple of months ago things looked very promising. Suddenly the cupboard is bare.

I always, however, keep my eyes on the future. I have to make progress. The passing of a whole year without any change in my house situation is a strange one. But I may have a new sideline with my business partner. Plans are afoot for a property development fun and games. We shall see.

For now though, I have to plough onwards. I hope I can make it to the end of the year without too many more disappointments. We’ve had enough this year.

(This is post 555 on this blog, woo!)