One Month Later

It’s been one month since I made my last post, which was full of despondency. Understandable. I still feel much of the anguish of that post.

But I am fortunate in that during the last few weeks I have been kept exceptionally busy. Through a combination of a major project, which lasted nearly two weeks, to plenty of small and big jobs for customers, business has been ticking over nicely. Keeping my mind busy with work stops me from sliding into depression, and gives me a real sense of momentum that things are moving in the right direction.

Now upon me is another big decision. In just a few weeks time it will have been a year since I left home. It has been a turbulent year, difficult at first, but steadily improving, yet with much problems still to face up to.

Obviously, living here simply must continue. I would be foolish to pull the plug on this business given that I have no alternatives. At the moment it’s not making me a small fortune, but I’m able to live OK. Ideally I need my income from it to double, but that isn’t going to happen any time soon unless I get projects like the network one I’ve just finished on a regular basis.

The other option would be if somehow I came across a circumstance in which a full-time job was offered to me based on the strength of the work I’ve done. I doubt this would ever happen, but you never know. If something like that came up I’d seriously consider it, despite the obvious benefits of self-employment. There are many down-sides too, such as being unable to “switch off” that would influence such a decision. Not that it’s relevant right now anyway.

But it does come up, as my brain is always looking for what other options my life could take. Plus I keep watching The West Wing and thinking “that’s what I should be doing!” – forgetting, of course, that real life isn’t like that. But still, the temptation of a proper political career is still what I’d secretly like to do. In the back my mind. Not that that will ever happen either…

The decision, having accepted the reality that life is dull, then,  is whether to sign up for another 12 months, or 6. Of course, that can always be extended. But the risk of 12 months is that during that time I will snap and decide I’ve had enough. That was unlikely during the previous 12 months, as I had already accepted that I would give this business a proper 12 month go of it and then if it’s failed then that’s the end of it.

But it hasn’t failed – which is good – so now I must decide whether to commit to a longer period to it. Hmm.

Inertia is easy. It will make me stay here. But in the back of my mind is always those little niggling doubts. Only a few more years left before I won’t be eligible for Australian and New Zealand working holiday visas…

The Low

I’ve had a mixed few days.

On Wednesday night, my parents finally found some time to come and visit me. They arrived at 11pm, and stayed here until earlier today. During those past few days I had calls galore, and they’ve seen how much work I’m doing these days. In truth, they’ve seen me during an unusually busy week. And that’s been a bit annoying for me. I wanted to go out and do a lot more with them.

Not only that, but we had been somewhat thwarted by the weather anyway. The early summer of sunshine has long since given way to day after day of changeable conditions, from wind and rain to some sun, then back to wind and rain again. It meant we didn’t quite do as much as we’d hoped, but we did, at least, sort out my garden. A garden which is a true disaster, and is always left for me to look after.

It was nice to see them, and it was unusual as well. Having them here with no brothers and sisters to distract, or other family involvement, it was rather special to get their undivided attention. Though we didn’t really talk about anything major, like the ongoing situation with my poor younger brother, it was still great to have them around helping me out for a few days. I couldn’t have done the garden without their help, and even a simple thing like Thursday night, when I was working on two laptops at once and had no time to make food, with my mum stepping into the breach to make it, was wonderful.

And now they’ve gone again. Meanwhile, my housemate has returned.

It’s a drastic change. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have them here in the first place. I’m now missing them badly, and have swooped into a severe depressional low. This morning I was close to cracking several times as I thought about saying goodbye, again, and thinking about my housemate returning.

It’s not that I don’t get on with him at times, I just don’t think this arrangement is working out very well. Me trying to run a business, which is wholly dependent on me living here with him, relying on the use of his services for the odd remote collection and delivery. I know too that he wants another job. I know too that there has to be a fair prospect he will be made redundant in the next year. I know too that he never has any intention of joining me full-time in this business, which was the medium-term goal.

In which case, I have to start looking at the options. But there are none. I can’t live on my own. I can’t afford it. I can’t start a random house-share, or become a lodger, because it is not viable as a business to use someone else’s house as my business premises. Even being able to drive is not the magic bullet, because the costs of that would make the prospect of living in my own house even more remote.

Earlier today, the sudden culmination of all these facts made me collapse in despair. I have made such progress with this business, and it feels like it can only keep going from strength to strength. But the tensions between how I square my personal life, my social life, and my economic interests, as a result of the circumstances I have, are just bewildering right now.

Ideally, the best solution from a business perspective would be to have a business partner who could engage completely in the business with me. Someone with whom I can plan together strategically, knowing we want the exact same thing. But that will not happen.

The best solution from a social perspective is for me to either make some new friends, somehow, and/or develop a significant other relationship with someone. And I just can’t see that happening either. Even that is bad, because it almost feels like I need an emotional crutch. Not too many girlfriends would be happy with that…

I could go on, but there are so many other problems this post could go on for at least 1,000 more words. What am I supposed to do?

Treading The Boards

It’s not been a particularly good week for me. In light of recent events, I’ve spent most of my time wondering what I can do, what I should do, what I must do, and what might be a good idea to do. This has meant a lot of agonising and wondering what right I have to intervene. And how to do it without it being completely obvious that I’ve been spying…

In the event, I’ve done absolutely nothing. Yet. I’m keeping an eye on proceedings, and if it looks like the danger level is rising then I will take action. But there is still the small matter of the phone contents that needs to be resolved. Perhaps I’ll have to engineer a situation where I “accidentally” stumble upon it while I’m in the same room as him. 

So the wood laminate floors in here have been taking a beating as I pace up and down them thinking about things. My brain is churning up lots of things at the moment, moving from one item to another, seemingly in a state of endless excitement. It’s almost like I sense something is afoot. Something is round the corner. Something I keep denying myself. It’s putting me on edge, for sure. 

Maybe I’m just denying myself a life, something I’m now very conscious of the fact that I don’t seem to have one. I tried to do something about that this week when I decided that I really must take the plunge and give my business idea a go. So, early next week, I will take delivery of a contract mobile phone, which will allow me to run my business affairs separately. Got a pretty good deal too. The website is ready, the flyers have been designed, and I’ll stick an advert up in the local shop window. Then, it’s up to the good people of my town to suffer from a broken computer…

But I seem to have more energy than usual at the moment. I’m getting the urge to burn it all off. Since last year I’ve been doing at least some form of mild exercise each day, some press ups, sit ups, pull ups, a few weights, that sort of thing. Now, however, it doesn’t seem to be enough. I think I’m going to start going for a run every couple of days. Now that’s definitely a hostage to fortune.

There’s one other thing too that I’ve signed up for this week. Today, and Monday to Wednesday next week, I’m going to help out at my local school. They need extra support for putting on the school play, and, in my current inactive state, I was only too happy to oblige. I like doing that kind of thing anyway. Though it’s not quite treading the boards, it is scampering across them, moving scenery into place and making sure everything goes smoothly. I like logistical stuff like that.

Gotta be better than sitting here, anyway.

The Predicament

In the past couple of days, I’ve been dealing with something of a rather difficult situation in my head revolving around the youngest of my two brothers, currently aged 14, and what he gets up to. He’s at that awkward age where he thinks he’s not a kid, but really he is, taking stupid decisions and needless risks, because he’s invincible. Fair enough, we all felt like that, and it’ll never change as part of humanity.

But my brother is causing me a bit of concern. He is something of a Jekyll and Hyde character. He has a load of friends who are all quiet, hard workers and don’t really go out much, meanwhile he has a bunch of friends who are much more “street”, and come with everything you’d expect them to in terms of attitude and appearance. 

My brother can’t choose between them. He alternates between groupings whenever he feels like it, but lately he has become more attached to the latter group because he now has a girlfriend. Some nights he goes out and returns after 10pm, smelling of smoke and girl’s perfume. I don’t think he smokes, but someone in the group is, and it wouldn’t surprise me if alcohol will soon follow in the years ahead. 

He’s growing up, I know that, and I accept it. He’s exploring who he is. He’s not doing it quite as I expected him to, but kids are like that. As his older brother I feel like I have a bit of a duty to look out for him though, and try to offer him advice on subjects that might be just too embarrassing to speak to our dad over. 

But, of course, that’s just the theory. As brothers, we have never been all that close. We don’t really have common interests (I’m determined to find something though, as per my previous post), we don’t share life experiences with each other, and we certainly don’t talk about emotions. That’s unthinkable. 

So in reality, there’s very little I can do to talk with my brother over the things he gets up to and try to make sure that while he can have his fun, there are some risks that are just unacceptable, and he must know the boundaries that simply can’t be crossed.

But therein lies a further complexity. The modern world, with its commercialist pressures and the freedom the internet provides adds a bit of a problem. Boys will be boys, and now they can be even more so by free access to a huge range of pornography, widely distributing it to each other on mobiles and computers, and in some cases even making it themselves, despite all the legal problems that may cause if it falls in the wrong hands. Like I said, they take stupid risks and don’t understand the consequences.

So the other morning, I was a little surprised to see some unexpected items in my Google search history. I’m not sure how they got there, as my search history is linked to my Google account, and there’s no way my brother could have logged in as me, but there the search terms were, and at times when I knew that there could have been no one else responsible.

I did a little digging, and sure enough, while the history had been erased, the relevant files were all still in the cache. 

It left me in a dilemma. He’s a teenage boy. What he was looking at came as no surprise. In fact, I’d be more surprised if he wasn’t looking at it. In truth, when I was his age I did the same. I also know my other brother did it. No – the actual porn itself is not an issue. While I don’t look at it any more, and haven’t for several years, it’s perfectly understandable that my hormonal brother would be looking at it.

The thing was, this time I didn’t really want to leave it be. The sites he’d visited had left a number of presents on the computer (viruses, adware, etc) – and so, at the very least, I had to give him a bit of warning to be a bit more careful about the links he clicks on. Of course, this would be a very embarrassing conversation not just for him but for me. But I figured it would be better him hearing it from me than from my parents, as I’ve no doubt my dad would have done his usual spyware sweep of the computer in good time and uncovered all the stuff himself.

But there was another reason for me doing it. I wanted to show my brother that a) he’s not invincible after all, he will slip up; b) that I care about him and want him to be careful and c) that he has another person he can confide in if he needs support or guidance. 

I think I did that and handled it sensitively. There’s no need for me to go to my parents with any of this info, as long as my brother starts to appreciate his situation properly and have more respect for himself and others. 

Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. Yesterday I stumbled across some rather unsettling material on his phone, and with that as justification I’ve had a look at his MSN conversation archives. Suffice it to say, they’re not good. Full of masculine bravado and massive exaggeration no doubt, but behind them is an obvious veneer of truth that my brother is in with the wrong crowd.

This isn’t the brother I grew up with. He has changed almost beyond recognition in the last year. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed amongst his former friends, as I read in his MSN archives. 

He’s gone astray, and I’m now incredibly worried about where he’s heading. The difficulty I now have is that all the information I’ve got which I could use to have a talk with him has not been obtained legitimately. I can’t raise any of this without making it obvious that I’ve been forced to spy on him to try to get to the truth. And that’s a massive breach of trust.

But at the same time I’ve got all of this running around my head constantly and it won’t go away. 

I just can’t believe how early kids lose their youthful innocence these days. It seems only five minutes ago when I was talking about the good day I had with this very same brother eating the Pizza Hut buffet lunch

I need advice, badly.

Nothing Ever Happens

… sang Del Amitri many years ago. It is a wonderful song, one of my favourites, but it also is very apt right now, since nothing really is happening at all. The US election is over, and while I am still following events there very closely, it seems anything remotely interesting in my life right now has been drained away.

The only event of note recently was on Sunday when my football team, the one my brother plays for, ground out a very dodgy draw. It was probably one of the most tense and nerve-wracking games of football I’ve ever been to watch, as we took a one goal lead at half-time and managed to weather a huge storm in the second half – both metaphorically and literally as the heavens opened and gale force winds blew against us – to only concede once after the opposition had a huge array of opportunities to win and win handsomely.

Literally, that has been the only thing lately worth writing about. I spend most of my time mulling around here, looking at job sections, occasionally applying but knowing there’s really no point right now. I’m waiting for a Eureka moment, one in which I will finally decide what to do with my useless existence.

It’s not like I’m not trying to think up a way out of this hole. I have called in as many friends as I can, but I’m beginning to discover who my real friends are in this situation. It’s amazing how I can live with or know people for so long and think they’re a good friend, but when times get hard it can be incredibly difficult even to get a reply out of people.

And in other circumstances, the opportunity for action has passed. I thought I might genuinely have a chance to get a business started up with a friend… so I e-mailed him to see if he would be interested. He said yes, but he had to delay the decision until he had pending job interview. The interview arrives, he e-mails me and tells me it was a disaster. So we start to plan.

Next day, he’s got the job, and all bets are off. Talk about bad timing. If only I’d considered this a few weeks earlier he might not have applied, and things could be very different.

The daft thing is that right now, with my terrible job prospects, I am seriously considering if I could go to the USA next year and do the camp counselling thing again. But that really would be a desperate situation, because it would pretty much mean that I could start a full time job in the meantime, because I would have to quit come next summer.

So I’m delaying that one for a little while, though the window of opportunity is only open until mid-December. That’s not good, not with the way the days seem to just fly by and I take so long to make up my mind anyway.

My head is wracked with worry right now. I just haven’t got a clue what to do. There are lots of options, but each one I take probably closes almost all the other doors. For instance, if I went to the USA, it effectively means that I won’t have a proper job until next September. That’s too long.

And it’s getting so bad that the first seeds of doubt about dropping out of teacher training are starting to appear. That’s not good at all.

Hmm. Considering nothing has happened, I still managed to write an awful lot about it…

Whither Degree?

In the past few days I’ve been thinking of things I can do with my life. The problem with every single one of them is that invariably my first doubt is, “Well, what was the point of the degree then?”

This is the question that, to me, killed off the prospects of the job I had an interview for. It was the question that said to my prospective employer that here is someone who doesn’t know what they want, has no focus and is indecisive.

But every time I think of the things I might want to do to get me out of this rut, my brain is very concerned about the wasted last four years. Because what was the point of my degree otherwise? Herein lies the warning to all future students: be wary of generic degrees if you’re only doing them because you don’t know what you want to do in life. The only purpose is certainly to delay taking a decision, and get away from parents, but at the end of it, when you’re trying to convince employers that your degree is relevant to them, you’ll regret the choice. And worse, when you finally get the job, you’ll probably think that you could have got the same job several years earlier, and be both without debt and several thousand pounds better off.

The only people who say, “We’ll take any degree” are the often suspiciously dodgy graduate programmes that some companies and the civil service run. I have friends and relatives in the civil service who say that the whole thing is shambolic at best, an exercise in avoiding responsibility by taking no decisions, usually because the senior managers are hopeless. And where do most of the senior managers come from? The graduate fast track programme, people with little to no experience of the real world.

But all of this feeling sorry for myself really has to come to an end soon. I’m trying, I really am, but it’s hard when you pick up the jobs section of the local paper every week, dismiss virtually all of them as being irrelevant (no experience, no qualification, no interest, poor pay, not enough hours), and in the final few that I could do I say, “Well, you could have done that job straight after A-Levels!”. I apply for them and get rejected… perhaps because of overqualification. And even if I managed to get one, they aren’t jobs with logical career progressions. I really don’t know anymore. Why take a job that I’ll want to leave within a few years, one that doesn’t lead me anywhere?

So there are two choices here:

1) Resume applying for jobs that are relevant to the politics degree
2) Give very, very serious consideration to the self-employment options available to me. I would love working for myself…

One day I’ll be able to report good news on here, that the cycle has finally been broken. But on the day the economy took its first step towards official recession, I don’t think it’s likely to be any time soon.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Just for a brief moment (!) I am going to indulge in a little melancholy. It used to be the order of the day around here, but in recent years I’ve got a little better at managing my emotions. However, due to the current situation of my life, I feel the time is right for a bit more analysis.

In life, there are people who do things. They achieve a lot by being the people who put the practical steps into action.

Unfortunately, I am not a Do-er.

There is another group of people: Thinkers. A Thinker is useful in other respects. Do-ers often need Thinkers in order for them to have something to do in the first place. There are very few people who are skilled in both disciplines. Such incredible people deserve a lot of respect.

The problem is, however, that Thinkers get very little credit in life. Yes, the brainboxes like to trade Plato quotes, or out Marx each other, but in the end, Average Man or Woman on the Street tends to be a little less cerebral than that. He or She likes to know the answer to the question: “What difference will it make?”.

Thinkers like to pretend that they know what difference their ideas will make. They spend all their time analysing situations, producing hypothetical scenarios and urging action. But Thinkers aren’t infallible. And when they make a mistake with their projections, we get the usual response from Average Man or Woman on the Street: “You don’t know the first thing about real life”.

We denigrate Thinkers. We see them as lazy people who couldn’t be arsed getting off their own backsides and putting in the hours at the coalface; instead they get other people to do the work for them. Consequently, we love the hard workers, toiling day and night for little reward to deliver the undeliverable. It is never a problem of implementation. It is always the idea that’s wrong.

I’m not sure if I’m a Thinker. Not yet. I can be if I put my mind to it, but no one is going to hire a Thinker from university. You have to earn your thinking stripes, for what that’s worth in the light of the above.

There are other people too. There are Actors (who neither think, nor do, but manage to convince people that they do do)… there are Connectors (who bring together the Thinkers and the Do-ers, who grease the wheels of social interaction). And, of course, the Apathetic and Fatalistic – who either don’t care, or are happy with accepting that “it wasn’t meant to be”.

And then there are Regulators. These are people who neither think nor do (in a meaningful sense), but instead try to make sure the Do-ers come into line with the Thinkers. They also, generally speaking, like to make sure there is a level playing field for all concerned. They are interested in fair play, and the rules of the game.

Nobody likes Regulators. The Thinkers find them as lightweights. The Do-ers find them as repressors. They stunt intellectual curiosity. They limit free thought. They stop people just getting on with the job.

Nobody dares to recognise their important role. If there are no rules, and nobody enforcing them, then we have anarchy. Yeah yeah – we all love anarchy, of course. Until we suffer it. Until we see the impact unfair practice has. Then we all call for rules and regulation quicker than you can say “class action lawsuit”.

But still the Regulator’s role is a thankless one. If all is going well, no one cares for rules as they are not needed. If all is going wrong, no one cares for rules because they stop creative solutions.

My worry is that, in my life, I am falling into this job. Much as it’s an important one, it’s not going to allow me to leave a mark on history. It’s not going to give me a chance of inspiring future generations. Nobody remembers a tax inspector. Everyone remembers a doctor, nurse, teacher, sports person…

Somehow, I have to change this. I have to, at the very least, move beyond being a mere Regulator. I have to become a Do-er. I have to contribute something. What that is, I don’t know. And why going out there and doing stuff makes me nervous I don’t know. I wish it didn’t.

Where next in life? I haven’t the foggiest idea.

Awaiting The Perfect Offer

At this moment in time, I suspect I’ve got it all wrong.

I am thinking carefully about the future. A future that should be bright and full of promise. But my problem is that I want to do everything. I want to keep my fingers in all the pies so I can keep every aspect of my personality going.

That’s just never going to happen. There are so many different fields which I could turn my administrative capabilities to. I don’t have to go into politics in order to be political. I could be political in any organisation in the world if I get the right job.

For instance, from left field is the idea that a) I love cricket; so b) why shouldn’t I look for a job in this area? Administering cricket teams, then onwards and upwards into the ECB. But that’s just crazy. I’m not remotely involved in cricket and so don’t know where to start. I wish I was playing it though. But now it’s far too late for me to be any use in that.

See – this is what I’m up against. A scattergun approach to my future. I don’t know where I’m going. But I could quite legitimately bring up any angle of the things I like and see what the possibilities are.

I struggle to let go – that’s the major problem. I want to do everything, yet I can’t. There is no job in the world that incorporates politics, music, cricket, football, other sports, drama, thinking strategically, thinking analytically and is mostly based away from a computer. There is no perfect offer on the cards. Ever. I think that’s probably why I got interested in teaching in the first place, because it does keep almost every door open for the things I like. But at the same time, it would be extremely superficial. A couple of hours playing cricket a year with the children. Not exactly much to write home about.

What I need to do is just pick one thing. Because, as I know full well, when I get down to work, and concentrate on using my time properly, I will enjoy it and forget everything else. It happened yesterday. I was exceptionally bored, doing nothing all day except musing about the future. But in the evening I was going to be involved in the football training of my football club, which is finally starting up again as the new season approaches.

It gave me something to do. It gave me a purpose. A purpose doing something I actually wanted to do. The time flew by, and I didn’t consider what might have been and what I was missing out on when I could have been playing badminton, playing cricket, running a cricket team, going swimming, going for a run, playing the guitar, writing music and all the multitude of other guilt trips that I put my brain through on a regular basis.

The day is fast approaching when I will learn to accept that I have to just get on with it. Decide and progress with life. That doesn’t preclude continued reflection, and I can always change. It still won’t be too late. There’s nothing particularly final about any choice I make right now. Just as long as I make a choice – and that will finally give me some experiences that I can use to fully inform my life.

I have an idea where I want to go, but it’s not solid enough because I don’t have enough experience. I have to resolve that situation very soon.