29

OK – so I cheated a little bit and got out the Tardis, but with good reason.

My birthday was on this day. The day I have rearranged my post to… it’s always this day. That’s what birthdays are.

As the birthdays go – this is actually my 30th. My actual birth day – in 1985, was my 0th birthday. OK, that doesn’t make much sense, but it was still the day of my birth. Therefore my 1st birthday, in 1986, was the 1st anniversary of the day of my birth. My 2nd birthday. Except I wasn’t birthed at all on the 1st anniversary, nor any other anniversary after that point.

But what I’m saying is that there are now 30 days across the years 1985 to 2014 which contained the date July 9. On each of those days, a celebration of sorts occurred, a celebration which diminished markedly beyond the age of 18… in my case anyway.

If I had to rank those 30 days in order, from best to worst, I am almost certain that this 30th occurrence would be the worst. It truly was utterly, totally, massively dire. I am not exaggerating.

From the moment I got up, when I went “oh yeah, it’s your birthday today” to the moment I went to bed, not a single person in Real Life said to me “Happy Birthday”. This in spite of – this year – actually letting a few people know when my birthday is some time in advance. In fact, it even went up on the calendar in the office, as I made great pains to point out that I would really like to have the day off so I could actually relax for a change.

It didn’t happen. Instead I was dragged from pillar to post, my brain being fried, nearly every hour of the day. I interacted with many people, including colleagues, who forgot, and did absolutely nothing for me.

I left the office about 7:15pm, in disbelief somewhat that the day could have got much worse. In fact, all I did then was go home, eat, then go to bed. I just wanted the day over with.

My neighbour would normally have been around to wish me happy birthday on the actual day – but she was away. I had received a couple of cards, and I did get some well wishes from the family through text – but other than that, nothing actually Real.

One side of me thinks this is just normal. Birthdays are crap. They don’t do anything interesting. Nothing is biologically different in any good way whatsoever. Every part of the body is decaying, and every year just makes that process worse. Fellow humans are also going the same way. That’s drastically bad.

But another side of me thinks that there are only a handful of times a year where you can feel a bit pampered without feeling guilty about it. Christmas and birthdays. I have failed miserably on the latter front.

On the actual life front – life continues. Social life doesn’t exist. Work life is insane. Maybe this time next year it won’t be so bad – but because I have taken action and changed my direction of life altogether by getting employees in, delegating more, strategising more but doing less.

What depresses me most is that I said all of this three years ago. Nothing has changed since then, except life has got even more crammed full with work.

Is there a way out? Not without a personality transplant, I don’t think.

27

These days birthdays come and go without great incident, fanfare or even comment. This week was yet another example of that.

Monday was my birthday, and, unlike last year, I was actually at home for it. The benefit of this is fairly obvious – you can have a proper celebration with family and at least get a little attention…

The problem was that, unfortunately, work has other ideas. Lately the amount of working I’ve been dealing with has been astronomical. There also seems to be a drop off in my productivity, probably corresponding to a) lack of sleep, and b) decline in motivation due to being totally depressed.

The birthday itself was mostly rubbish. I spent all of the day doing work, finally getting a chance to stop at around 9pm to have a takeaway. We were supposed to have been going out for something to eat, as has become family tradition, but no such luck. The joke of it all is that even my meal was interrupted, because I’d done something which broke a website just before I stopped – deliberately I might add so that the client could see what was wrong – and then was ordered that I had to put it back the way it was. Madness.

In any event, I’m now back in the usual place of work. I am increasingly seeing it like that, because all around me is work, not a home. The living room has a laptop setup, which is currently installing 400,000 Windows Updates. There are two PCs in the kitchen, one of which is complete, and the other is in progress. Then my desk next to me, in my bedroom, is covered in paper relating to a couple of ongoing projects. There is no escape.

I look back at my post from last year, aged 26, when I was moaning about stagnation and nothing much changing. Nothing much has changed a year on. A year is actually a very long time. You can get an awful lot done in a year. I’m just not in a position to do so thanks to one thing, and one thing alone. MONEY.

Money rules everything. I’ve known that all my life, and that’s probably why I’ve ended up so obsessed about it. Money money money. I make a good businessman, that’s for sure. Except not good enough that I’m making enough money to have a positive impact on my life. Who cares about whether you can spend £1 and buy some scones. That might make me feel briefly happy, but it doesn’t change my life.

So the days and weeks tick by. Here’s to another year of stagnation.

26

It’s that time of year again. The time when I consider why it is I even carry on existing.

Today I am 26 years old. In what might possibly be one of the most uneventful birthdays I’ve ever had, today has come and gone without me doing anything of any note. I’ve had to do work. I’ve had to do housework. The sun didn’t shine until late in the day. And I didn’t go anywhere, apart from to a neighbour’s house to help them with – what else – their computer.

Most of this is my fault. Most of it is a direct consequence of me being a total bore, living in an area in which I don’t have any real friends. Certainly no one around my age. I have older adult friends, including some of my neighbours and a couple of customers who have become friends, who I now get on with well.

But the problem is simple: they all have their own lives. They all have their own friendship and social circles. I’m very much a peripheral character.

Not working in a workplace, the chances of this ever changing are absolutely remote. The only way it could change is if I took up some form of social “activity”. Something, or anything, that might just get me involved with other people. That might happen, as I’m being nagged by a client to join the governing body of the local school. I’d probably be a good school governor, because I’m boring enough to study the associated forest of paperwork. Yawn.

It’s hardly going to set my social life on fire though.

Meanwhile, the rest of my life is… OK. Business is decent, and that keeps me somewhat sane. My family life is reasonably good. Finances are also steadily improving month by month.

What isn’t is the relationship with my housemate. I desperately need to get out of here sooner rather than later. We don’t really talk any more about anything other than work. Somehow any semblance of having common interests has vanished. In fact, the more I analyse it the more I realise we don’t actually have anything to talk about. That’s probably why we avoid each other. We don’t socialise like normal friends would, mainly because of the awkward silences.

I’d love to be able to afford my own place. But being self-employed, I can’t see it ever happening any time soon. I need to have a good few years of books behind me, showing continual improvement and a very solid income, especially if I was to try and buy a house on my own. Then again, I’m not even convinced I’d be brave enough to plough all my savings into a house. It’s portrayed as a risk-free investment, but I don’t think it is any more.

What I need is for house prices to come down around 20%. That’s not gonna happen Down South. So I will continue renting. But maybe I can try and rent on my own.

In any event, 26 really is time I sorted my life out, one way or another. At current rates, this next year will be no better than the last. And that is a worry. I always like to think there has been some progress as the years go by. But now there is a very real danger of stagnating.

If I’m still in this position this time next year, then I will have to force myself to reassess.

Until then, maybe I’ll have a much more enjoyable “official” birthday when I next go home to see my family.

Dull.

25

Travelling once again across the country, my mind as usual is in reflective mode.

And even more so today, for it is my birthday.

A quarter century today. That’s pretty scary. Years and years of my life just rolling by. I honestly can’t believe that another one has gone.

But enough of the platitudes. Is there anything worth celebrating? Has there been anything worth celebrating over the last year?

Right now, the answer to both is a qualified yes. A few months ago, I’d have said the answer was a no. That’s quite the turnaround, I reckon. Especially as a year ago today I was working in a petrol station to try to make ends meet.

The last year has been something of a rollercoaster when I look back. The stresses of wondering whether I’m doing the right thing with my life are never far from my mind. There’s almost not a day that goes by when I worry about if what I’m doing, trying to run my own business, is sustainable, or whether it’s going in the right direction, or indeed if it’ll keep earning enough money to pay the bills.

That, I think, is the reason why in the last nine months I seem to have developed more gray hairs than I did have.

The last year of my life has been totally dominated by this choice of what to do with life. In all honesty, the amount of interesting diversions and noteworthy events has been absolutely minimal. Part of this is because it’s who I am. I’m not a very interesting person generally. The rest is because I’m terrified of spending money because I don’t have much of it to burn. And then there’s the fact that if I want to do something, I’ve either got no one to do it with, or no means of physically getting there.

That’s pretty shit, and a damning indictment of my current situation.

I’m making major sacrifices with my life during the time when I’m, I think, in my prime. Never again will I feel this young. Never again will I be able to not have to worry if I can cope with doing risky or slightly unacceptable things, either physically or mentally. I don’t really have aches, pains, creaks, and I’m certainly in a reasonable physical condition. These are all advantages which I won’t have in 15 years time.

And right now, I’m not taking advantage of any of them.

That’s just another worry added to my list.

So I am celebrating another year successfully navigated. And I am, quantitatively and qualitatively, in a better position now than I was this time last year, when I had no hope and no prospects.

For that I can thank my move away from home. The gamble has at least paid off for now. Moving away was probably the event of the last year. It was difficult, it was traumatic, but it had to be done.

Where it goes from here is the biggest unknown. I can’t keep renting forever. And I don’t really want to share with my housemate for any longer than is necessary. Yet I can’t see the end to it right now. Business is certainly not good enough for me to live on my own. And, in any event, I am wholly reliant on his transport!

It’s been a transformative year. I’m hoping the next one is exactly the same but in other directions.

Before I’m too old to have a nice young girlfriend!!

24

It appears that today is, again, my birthday.

Only this one is going to be one of the most non-eventful I’ve ever had the so-called privilege to experience.

The problem this time is that not only am I older, I have not achieved anything in the last year. At least while I’ve been in school or university, I’ve been able to say that – well, I’ve completed another year of studies. But this past year has been one notable failure after another. All of which has been tediously chronicled on this blog so much that I’m bored of writing about another week not doing anything.

But something else makes this birthday even crapper than normal. The fact that I’m still awake, and will be for another two hours at least, and will be then sleeping until approximately 11am. Only then to get up, have breakfast, do some housework, and then work from 3pm until 10pm in one of the scummiest areas of my home city. I will then come home by about 11pm, with approximately one hour left of my birthday in which to “celebrate” with my family.

Pretty rubbish. And it gets worse, because I’m then working nights the next three days, so there is no chance of us being able to go out for a meal in the evening – which is usually what we like to do for birthdays here. A little break from the norm of having to cook food.

On the brighter side, my patience with living here has finally snapped, due to a combination of family members, family circumstances and terribly behaved dogs which I really don’t like. But now with my new, old job, there is a definite prospect opening up that I could well be able to afford to move out.

There are some new apartments that have been built a couple of miles from here. They are perfectly located, with an ASDA next door, the train station a stone’s throw away, a major retail site nearby, and bus links that go all over the city. The apartment in question just about has enough room to swing a cat and costs a shocking £395/month.

But I think I can do it. In fact, for the sake of my sanity, I must do it.

So I’ve begun to make enquiries. The ball is well and truly rolling on this.

I feel like the only way I’ll get on in life is if I get out. Get out and resume the life I lived for four years. I liked my independence and freedom. I hate being answerable to parents, I’m fed up of living with family members who don’t even talk to me any more and with whom I don’t seem to have any relationship. And I’m sick of all the work I do in this house being taken for granted. They sure will be in for a shock.

So in truth, the best birthday present I could get this year would be a free pass out of here. That’s not to say I don’t like my family, but familiarity certainly does breed contempt. If I get out of here, that crucial distance may be what I need for re-evaluating my relationship with each one of them. Then I’ll be less of a “parent” figure and more of a sibling again.

Anyway. Time for a celebratory episode of Prison Break. Now coming to the end of the third series…

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It’s a truism of my life that I can sit at home for days, enjoying the nice weather, but then when I’m actually required to do something, actually go somewhere, the weather will turn.

And so it has came to pass again this morning. The rain is pounding away on the roof above me, and I’m sitting here desperately hoping that it will stop by 11am – the time I need to be heading out of here.

It’s been a desperate few days. Not only have we been dealing with my brother’s broken nose, and the nightmare of trying to get the police interested (even though we have a photo of the perpetrator, his name, contact details and CCTV footage!), but in my own life there have been the usual turns for the worse.

Number 1 – I have wasted a significant degree of time chasing after people and applying for jobs that either a) don’t exist; or b) were already sewn up. I’ve tried to secure some part-time work recently, including applying for an old job I once did. Now my calls aren’t returned, and in any case it was their turn to reply after I’d jumped through all the hoops. If they’re not bothered, then fuck them. I’ve had enough of being pleasant to people only to get it thrown back in my face. It is any wonder why I want to be self-employed properly? I hate sucking up to bosses – “Oh yes, I really want this job because it will be a wonderful challenge for me and I want to work for such an outstanding company that will help me develop as an individual!”. Bullshit. You want the job because you need the cash and you’re sick and tired of watching Flog It! and Jeremy Kyle.

Number 2 – the football club seems to be heading into ruin because of the incident, and ongoing traumas which were enhanced still further on Saturday. Not only is it a logistical nightmare, but the so-called “kids” were playing against (many of them are overage) are thugs and have no class. Same goes for the managers. Then there is the problem of leagues threatening to go renegade and quit the local FA structures. Total nightmare, and all because of a few egos and the low level of intelligence that most people running football clubs and leagues have.

Number 3 – due to my brother’s broken nose, I have assumed all his responsibilities for delivering his newspaper round. Yes, that does mean I take his pay, but for £20 it’s a lot of pissing around. For instance, today I’m going to a job, then coming home to do the paper round, then going back out to do another job. Lunacy. But it has to be done, and no one else can do it.

Number 4 – my elder sister is a constant source of agony and woe to us all, but particularly my mum, who feels like she has to help her do everything, from pay her bills, to finding her a new place to live.

And in the midst of all this, there are birthdays and Father’s Day. They’re meant to be happy, joyous occasions. But no one feels like celebrating anything because of the continuous compounding of misery we’ve suffered the past two weeks or so.

I despair. I really do. I wish I had good news to report, but there just never seems to be any. The only good news is that at least I’m fit and healthy. Not everyone can say that.

23

And so, another year, another birthday. At the ripe old age of 23 now, I am beginning to feel just a little concerned that I am ageing and noticeably so. I look back at old photos of me, even from a couple of years ago, and it is clear that there’s just a certain something different in the way I look now. I can’t quite put my finger on it… is it the eyes? Not so bright now. Has my hairline receded? If it has, it may be a millimetre, no more.

There appears to be more lines on my cheeks when I smile. And my face seems to have a bit more of a drawn-in look. Maybe it’s because I’m comparing myself to a time when I had four kilograms of extra weight. Maybe if I put that back on it would go onto my face and I would look a little healthier again.

But in any event, I am undoubtedly older. The problem I have is that I don’t want to be reminded of this fact any more. So my birthday is now a very, very low-key affair. Yesterday was little more than a mere handful of useful presents (socks, razor blades) and a couple of nice things, like a DVD or two and a book. And then we went out for a pub meal. Nice but dull. And that’s how it’s going to stay.

This is a good moment to reflect on the year gone by. And what is impressive is that I even have my own benchmark to compare against. This time last year I wrote this post which said that I wanted to achieve the following six things during my 22nd year of life:

a) Graduate successfully
b) Apply and get accepted for PGCE
c) Investigate Student Associates. Again
d) Referee course?
e) Plan something for next summer
f) Have fun

A was a roaring success, moreso than I thought it would be. B was also a success. C was a failure, but not one I’m not overly disappointed about. D was also a success. E was a failure, because this summer is a disaster. F? Hmm. I would say on balance that I didn’t succeed in that, partly because of the unforeseen results of poor housemate choice. But there was enough fun to make it liveable.

So with three successes, one of them a massive one, two failures, one of which I’m not bothered about and a separate so-so, I would say that I’ve had a Very Good Year. This is in contrast to last year’s Good Year (though I didn’t have any benchmarks to compare against). Does this mean things are on the up?

It’s very hard to be sure. In the past few days I have become extremely concerned that I’m doing the wrong thing. I absolutely love working with children, but I am wondering if being a teacher is the right way to express it. Could there be another avenue to do it in? I have always preferred being a friend and mentor to children, something which is not particularly compatible with being a teacher.

All of this is very inconvenient considering that I’m about to start a PGCE course. So it is with this current state of flux in mind that I am not giving myself an ambitious target regarding this…

Here is what I would like to achieve this year

(1) a) Complete the PGCE course successfully
OR b) Begin an alternative worthwhile career that will allow me to work with children
OR c) Begin an alternative career with enough free time to work with children as a hobby
OR d) Begin some other form of professional qualification
(2) Get fitter, either through refereeing or taking up a sport
(3) Try to do more with my nephew
(4) Make a serious assessment of life plans, especially considering options to emigrate if it makes sense
(5) Take up a new hobby OR enhance a current hobby (e.g. piano lessons)
(6) Earn some money, somehow!
(7) As always, have fun

In other words, this is quite a serious year on the cards. It’s make your mind up time, dude.

Off we go…

22

Another year passes by, as I reach another birthday that is largely irrelevant. Today was my 22nd birthday, and though it was great to receive a few presents and well wishes from people, it was really not worth celebrating. My life is flashing by… and the only purpose a birthday seems to serve is to constantly remind me of that fact.

The only benefit they do have is to draw a line under the previous year of my life. It is an arbitrary line, of course, but it’s as good a place to draw one as anywhere. It means that everything that has gone is now best forgotten. What matters is what is ahead. By breaking life down into year-by-year plans into the future, I keep focussed on what I can achieve right now.

It has been, on balance, a Good Year. It was mostly dominated by the drudgery of working for an MP in London, but, at the very least, it is something very few other people have done while they’re still studying for a degree. Plus, living and working in London was something brand new anyway, which is always appreciated. I like the challenge of taking on new things. And succeeding. Which I believe I did.

But, like I said, what matters now is the next year. Every day is another one worth being grateful for, I know that, but sometimes I fail to appreciate it. This year I have to change that mentality. Because every day is going to be pretty busy over the next year, as I finally get to finish my degree. This time next year, I will be a graduate, at long last. But this year I also must get my plans into place for what I will do the following year. Eyes on the prize.

Perhaps this is why I have been so relentless in my thoughts about the future and what it might bring in the past few weeks. A number of my recent posts have been all about what I want to do with myself… maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something. It is a bit unusual that I have been doing so much thinking lately. My brain is beginning to hurt. I could do with a break. Yet I really have no time for it.

The targets for the coming year:

a) Graduate successfully
b) Apply and get accepted for PGCE
c) Investigate Student Associates. Again
d) Referee course?
e) Plan something for next summer
f) Have fun

Ideally, I need to get all six of those. Though (f) may be sacrificed in order to achieve (a).

Off we go…