The Seven Signs of Ageing

In the last month or so I have really been scrutinising my appearance so closely. It feels to me like there is something going on in me. It’s like my body knows I am approaching 30. It is shutting down anything that made me young and turning on the rubbish that makes you look mid-aged.

So I am noticing I now have extra lines under my eyes when I smile. And the front of my face has distinctive lines at the side of my mouth. And I have a jowelly appearance, more so than ever. And the formation of a double chin. Which is mad because I couldn’t be much slimmer. Things are just starting to sag generally. It’s depressing.

In line with some of the posts I wrote in the past about my hair, and how I find this aspect of me frustrating I really don’t know how I will ever learn to accept what’s happening to me. I regret how long it has taken me to bother exploring my own feelings and I feel that the ravages of 10 years on my appearance is actually making it more difficult to do so. If I’d explored my feelings even 5 years ago I’d have certainly been a totally different person now, maybe more comfortable with who I am, and not lost the opportunity to interact with a whole range of other guys. Now I am finding my age and lack of youthful appearance is a barrier.

Another hang up. Another problem that I have added to my massive list of issues already. Just what I wanted. Maybe that’s why I didn’t bother for so many years.

In fact, when I reanalyse old thoughts, I am certain that was part of it. The fear of rejection has always been a massively strong presence. I never wanted to ask anyone out on a date, or anything like that, just because I was always worried about what I would feel if it went wrong. That is my life in general. Mr Unrisky.

So the age signs aren’t helping. The age is making me think I am more likely to fail. More likely to be rejected. And so I struggle on.

It’s an interesting distraction from work though. I have to be honest, I am somewhat enjoying the fact that I can often go home from work, or spend a Sunday, just seeing if my social life does actually exist. Cos sometimes it actually does. I speak to more people now than ever. That might be more of a positive note to end on than usual…

Retread

In a working life, the old adage is “Never go back”. The reasoning is obvious: if you’re having to go back, then it means you’re not going forward!

Unfortunately, it seems that, in desperation, it might well be something I will have to do. There are no prospects for employment right now, it seems. Seven applications, six outright rejections, one interview, followed by a rejection. I think someone’s trying to tell me something. From the interview I had, I’m certain it’s because everyone is wondering “Why is someone with a politics degree applying for this job?”.

In truth, it’s a damn good question, and the one I struggled to answer when it was put to me this time a week ago. It’s making me wonder what the point of doing a generic degree was. Everyone said “It’s better to do a degree that keeps your options open”. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, it’s bloody useless. If I apply for a political job, it will be useful. But for anything else, people are suspicious. They wonder whether they can trust that level of wayward judgement. And so I’m found wanting, time after time.

The delay in finding a job has now reached such a level that earlier on I visited somewhere I used to work and asked if they have any Christmas temporary jobs coming up. The answer was yes, and, assuming they have the hours to spare, they will probably offer me the job.

So the retread is very much on the cards. But for me, it seems the only option. The jobs section in the local paper is getting shorter and shorter as the economy contracts and wallets tighten. Getting this job would give me a couple of months to weather the storm, earn some money while I’m at it, get me out of the house and maybe make me feel a little better about myself. Because, in all honesty, I’m getting quite desperate now. Serious depression is round the corner, and I haven’t felt like that in a long time.

It seems like the obvious solution to me. It will buy me some time to give this whole situation a bit more thought. Because I bloody need it. If I don’t have a job, there’s no way I’ll be able to afford a nice Christmas with my family. I can’t even afford some new clothes right now. Having to make the old ones last a little longer.

All I can hope for is that this economic problem is temporary. There are jobs out there, of course there are. But, when you’ve got a degree, you really feel like you shouldn’t have to do them. 20 years of study and I could be a cleaner? I could have done that leaving school at 16. That’s what’s annoying about all this. You raise your expectations, you put in years of effort, you dare to dream about the future and what you might be able to achieve. And then you arrive at the promised land and find that really it just looks the same as it would have done anyway.

What I’m suffering is not unique. I know friends who are in the same position, doing jobs that they didn’t need a degree for, one they’ve studied hard for and got the debt to prove it. Now they’re cast aside and forced to set fire to all their hopes and dreams, stuck living in their parents houses until they can get out of the rut.

If the education system can’t deliver on its promises, then what is the point?

Clever Trevor No More

A long time ago back in school, I was a rather clever kid. In my primary school, there was absolutely no doubt about it – I was the most intelligent there. I got everything within seconds, and excelled in every subject, no matter what it was. I could apply my smarts to anything.

I moved on to secondary school – where the level was higher, and so was the competition. It took me a little while to adjust, but I soon got into my stride. However, I was no longer the best there. Now being one amongst 100, rather than one amongst 50, it was always likely there would be a challenge. And it came from all different angles. My enemies were from much wealthier families – which gave me a certain sense of “I may not beat them, but I’ve come a lot further than they have”. I was probably amongst the top 10 in terms of academic ability though. That showed when I came out with five A*’s and five A’s in my GCSEs.

I then moved on once more to a different school. Well, a college, to do my A-Levels. This time I was one amongst 1200, if not more. There was no way any more that I could make a fair comparison with my peers. I had a feeling I was pretty clever still, but it did seem to me that I was steadily being caught up. That those people who I’d left for dead in primary school were slowly coming back. I ended with three A’s. Still much better than most, but there were many other people who achieved the same (and even more today).

Hence to university – where, if statistics are to be believed – I achieved something that approximately 10% of other students did. But only just as I was on the edge of it. But to me, whilst I was there, I got the unmistakeable impression that of most of my peers, there was very little to choose between us. They were sharp and erudite too. Maybe I am just better at absorbing and retaining facts for later analysis? But essentially, we were all pretty damn good at that analysis.

The moral of this tale is fairly straightforward. It’s one that is not fully explored in society – though I was very pleased a few months ago when the C4 programme Child Genius looked like it was going to investigate it. Not that I’m trying to say I was a child prodigy, but I certainly was right up with the brightest of the bunch.

No – the purpose of this story (and what I expect Child Genius to eventually conclude) is to say that for most child prodigies, the promise of youth invariably ends in failure. Failure is relative, of course, because people set the bar extremely high. For some reason we expect our child prodigies to become consultant surgeons, research experts finding the cure for cancer, or, worse, the Prime Minister. But we should come to realise that there really are only an extremely small number of these people in the world. And there can ever only be one prime minister at a time! Leaving the rest of them to have a relative failure when they “only” become excellent administrators or creative designers/engineers, whatever.

This is sort of what I’m coming to terms with. What is success? What should I achieve? Where should I be relative to the extremely high expectations that have always been upon me? And if I don’t meet them, have I failed? In school and university, it was easy to measure success in terms of grades. In life, it is not that simple.

Unfortunately, there is a side of me that is saying maybe I am not succeeding. I haven’t exactly lost my intelligence… but what I have lost is the degree of advantage over others this used to give me, because everyone else has caught up – and also because there are many other ways to have a talent, not just through booksmarts. It’s my belief that childhood intelligence is mostly a product of earlier development, which one’s peers will catch up with eventually. And then those peers will probably end up with better “people skills” or something.

Then you really are up shit creek.

Music To My Ears

At the moment, the house is peaceful. My family, apart from one of my brothers but including the dog, have gone away to their static caravan in Wales for a few days.

It’s always good to get a break from them. They are too noisy and argue too much even at the best of times. Plus, the nice weather yesterday would have meant that there’d be a lot of grumpiness here. We tend to get like that if we overheat. But I’ve managed to avoid all that, which is excellent.

The other bonus is that without my family being here, I can spend a bit more time than I normally could practicing on the guitar and keyboard, because there are fewer people to annoy. When my brother goes out, I also get a chance to do some singing, something I don’t do enough of any more. Ever since I left for university four years ago, I’ve not been able to sing as much, making me feel like I’ve regressed a lot.

Generally, this is true of all my music playing. I first started playing guitar in 2001, but I feel like my standard of playing hasn’t changed over the last six years. I don’t seem to be adding songs to my repetoire any more, and no matter how hard I try I will never be able to play an electric guitar solo of any quality. Mistake after mistake. Maybe my brain is not cut out to play the guitar.

The only bright light is my keyboard/piano playing, which is so much better than it has ever been, and the more I practice the more it continues to improve. But that is far more frustrating because I still don’t think I play it properly, and if I had the money the first thing I’d do is get me some piano lessons.

The main reason for this post though is an observation I’ve made recently about the decline in my musical creativity. I can ad lib on the keyboard through major pentatonics and it sounds good. But it sounds the same all the time. There are only a limited number of chords. The same is true of my guitar playing. I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall. There seems to be no clear way ahead for me to keep improving.

But it gets worse. Between the ages of 16 and 18 I was a prolific song writer. The lyrics were nothing special, but there were a few tunes that I thought were really fantastic. I still have them all, and still have several recordings so I won’t forget them. But I really don’t know what’s happened to my musical creativity. All of a sudden I wrote my “last” song in 2003 (weirdly enough, I’ve just checked and it was exactly five years ago today), and since then I’ve written only two songs. During my creative spell, I notched up at least 40 different songs. About half were crap, but such is the creativity process. Trial and error.

I just don’t know what happened to me from that point onwards. I seemed to lose the ability to write lyrics, and my brain seemed to think “Why bother?”. Which is a good question. It’s not as if they were ever going to make me a career.

The sad explanation for me is that I was obviously inspired during that period of my life to be musical. I must have been living a life which filled me with ideas and determination to use my talents to make something good. But now I feel like I’ve lost all that. I feel like I just can’t be bothered making music any more. Even though I enjoy it. I still improvise, but I never say to myself “Note that down!” or “Write some words to it!”

It’s just all gone. Can I really have lost a talent? Or do I just need shake myself up?

Nah. Again, I get stuck in the usual question of “What’s the point?”. It may be fun, but half (if not more) of the fun of music making is in the performance. And they never will be performed. Maybe if there was an outlet I might feel the inspiration again. Perhaps my younger creativity days were full of a naivety that I could do something with the music and so pushed on regardless. Now… the jaded cynicism of age must have kicked in.

Sigh. Apathy rules, OK?