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.

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.

Bore

I don’t know when I became such a bore. Or maybe I don’t know because there never was a moment.

Of course, that’s it.

There never was a moment because I’ve always been a bore.

As one of life’s introverts, going out and doing stupid stuff, or saying stupid stuff to people, or just generally being an up-front arse as has never appealed to me. I look at extroverts, whenever I actually venture out the house, and laugh. How pathetic they are, I sneer, as they desperately try to notch up more love from their social circle. I, on the other hand, do not need such approval.

Sort of.

In recent days, my brain has been getting totally fed up with who I am. Again. I go through this identity crisis on a semi-regular basis, and I just wish it would stop. I am who I am already, and nothing I have ever done, or could ever do, has been or will be able to change that. Sadly.

But that argument just never sinks in. It can’t. I am so desperately unhappy with myself that it drives me to tears. I’ve just spent the weekend with precisely zero social interaction, caused by a combination of useless friends, no opportunities to make new ones, and family being unable to speak to me, despite it being Father’s Day.

I wish I knew what I could do to change this situation. I spend my whole life these days worrying about something or other. If it’s not worrying about business, it’s worrying about my social life. And if it’s not that, it’s my utter lack of any kind of confidence that any of it will change. Or worrying about my family, and ageing, and a whole shedload more.

In summary, I am a huge ball of anxieties.

I can see the grey hairs on my head. I’m age 24. I suppose I should count my chickens, as a couple of former friends (former because they have ignored me now for several months) already have the beginnings of an egg in the nest. Not quite so bad here, but receding hairline is indeed obvious, and the grey hairs are increasing in number.

I stress myself out about my life, and about everything. I wish I could relax and enjoy some free time, but I can’t. I feel like I should be doing something, all the time. And when I’m not, I feel guilty.

None of this is any good, and it has to stop. But it won’t, because I can’t make it. I can’t change myself. It’s too late for that. Personality is a stubborn thing, and mine has been stubborn since I first realised I was such a loner, such a withdrawn and insecure individual in Year 7 of secondary school.

And yet people always say how nice I am.

There’s something really wrong with me.

Perhaps the only thing wrong with me is me.

I don’t know if any of this made any sense. I guess it wasn’t meant to.

The Call From Home

Invariably one of the things I hate is the call from home. Now, I don’t hate it because I hate hearing from and about my family, but I hate it for a few reasons.

First, I hate phones generally. I have come to tolerate them for business purposes, but I don’t like their urgency, their crying whine demanding your immediate attention, when in the most part the call is never actually urgent.

Secondly, there is just something about the call from home that drains me. In person, I enjoy speaking to my mum and dad. On the phone, I feel utterly at a loss. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to react. I hate having to over-react in order that the person on the other end gets an audio sound of my emotions. I think I miss the visual cues most of all: body language is so important, and I miss it desperately over the phone.

This makes the call very difficult. I mumble and stumble over words. My mum just talks and talks, and I sit there going “Mmm”, “yeah” and laughing or tutting where appropriate (since a shake of the head doesn’t work down the phone line). I don’t get much chance to say anything. I just get an ear-bashing.

But what makes it even more awful is that it is usually a long list of bad news. I very rarely get a call to deliver something interesting and exciting. It’s usually bad things happening to my sister, to my dad, to my mum, to other family members, or in their neighbourhood. Then when my mum has ran out of things to say, she’ll ask me how I am, I’ll say I’m OK (regardless of whether I am or not) and the call will fizzle out, unless my mum thinks of something else…

I write this post fresh from the ending of one such call. It involved my mum recounting the tale of the few days they’ve been away on holiday this week. They had an OK time, and I heard a couple of slightly entertaining things, but they were far overshadowed by the horrible news at the start of the call regarding my grandad, who is now a good long way through the stages of dementia.

They had actually taken him, and my nan, on holiday with them. They thought they’d enjoy the break. They probably did, but the big problem is that my grandad is a real handful now. He depends on my nan to do almost everything for him, and now he can’t hold a conversation without losing it and getting annoyed with himself. The stress this puts on my poor nan is unbelievable, and my mum finally witnessed this at first hand.

The double whammy of the cruel, gradual demise of my grandad, because of this fucking awful condition, along with the strain this puts my nan under are turned into a triple-play, because, when it gets worse, my nan won’t be able to cope. And I know it will mostly fall to my mum to deal with it, despite her having three brothers and a sister.

There are some truly horrendous times coming for my family in the next few years. I’ve been dreading it for years, but I get the strong feeling the worst is now very close indeed.

And all relayed to me via a phone. Thus reinforcing my hatred of the device.

Where Did It Go?

Looking back at my start of year expectations setter, I appear to have been a miserable failure. I knew that anyway, but since this is the first time I’ve considered what I wrote in January of this year, it’s actually quite a shock to me.

First of all though, the formal business. Each year I label the previous year with a verdict on how it went. 2008 was a Neutral Year. 2009 is most definitely a Bad Year.

That’s a major disappointment to me. I had said I wanted to sort my life out by the end of February. Didn’t happen. Still hasn’t happened. I’m still fucking about trying to see where it goes.

The big event of the year on a personal level, possibly the only one, was that I moved out. Sort of. It’s the most ridiculous moving out in history. So far it’s cost me nearly two grand, and it has been an outstanding disaster. I’m currently sitting in my parents house, and will be for another 12 days, having already spent the past two weeks here. I should never have let myself be convinced by my stupid housemate that moving out would bring the successful growth of my business that I thought.

I really don’t know why I fell for it either, because he has said many things in the past that have never come to pass, usually involving job offers, business leads and so-called joint ventures. Argh. What an idiot I am.

I made a prediction at the start of the year that something big would happen. That sort of happened. But I said it in a good way, like it would finally be the clicking into place of my life.

And as I know all too well, it hasn’t, and I don’t see any prospects for it in future. But that’s for tomorrow.

So my life has been a travesty this year. Some money earned, though not enough. Lots of time wasted. No life’s ambitions achieved. No progress. At all. Fuck.

Meanwhile, my family are getting on OK. One of my brothers is in uni, messing around. I don’t know if he’ll make it to the end, but good luck to him anyway. My other brother is in his last year of school, suffering the GCSE curse, and not really doing enough revision. I offer my help, but no one wants it. I get on a bit better with both of them than I did at the start of the year, which was one of my hopes for the year. At least something has gone right.

My younger sister is funny, and we get on very well. That’s very nice. My elder sister is doing OK, but she’s in a constant battle with the father of my nephew regarding access to him. Even though my nephew now wants nothing to do with his useless father. Court involvement will continue. Either way, it’s not been good for my nephew, who is now very different to what he was even three years ago.

As for my parents, they still seem fine, and we all get on well. I just wish my poor dad would get a lucky break and find a new job. He hates his current one, and has been applying for promotion for years in all manner of departments. Gets nowhere. I feel really sorry for him.

My mum continues to enjoy her job working as a teaching assistant, and has no ambitions to do any more. Though she isn’t that content about her life. Maybe no one ever is.

Goodbye 2009. It hasn’t been nice knowing you.

Where Did It Go Wrong?

I spent yesterday travelling North, as I’m going to stay home for Christmas now. And beyond into the New Year.

During the trip, I had a little chat with my housemate. One in which I disclosed a number of the depressing issues I’ve been battling with over the past few weeks.

Key amongst them is my brain is plagued with regret. It’s all rubbish, of course, and my rational brain knows it. For all I know, I could have taken a different course and still been miserable. Still been wishing I had done something else.

I like to look back and think that maybe I should have done something musical as a career. I enjoy performance, and I like being involved in group efforts. Perhaps I should have stuck to one of my very first plans, which was to do TV, music, film, theatre, whatever production. In my school career I did a lot of backstage work on a number of plays, and I loved them all. I did it again earlier this year, and loved it.

But I still don’t know whether it would have satisfied me. I would no doubt have been still thinking about the political side of me, and thinking I should have done that as a career, since, I wouldn’t have had the joy of the hindsight I currently experience, that there is no way I could do or even survive politics for very long. I find it interesting, but more as a hobby than as a way of life, which is what you need to be in public affairs.

What else could I have done? Science, yes. I abandoned that aspect of me at the end of GCSEs, for no good reason really. I enjoyed the sciences. But I wanted to pursue something else.

Mathematics? That might have been more me. I did do a Maths A-Level, though I found it difficult and feared I wouldn’t make the grade in university. i probably would have, as I normally succeed academically once I put my mind to it. Who knows. It’s all academic now.

That’s what depresses me, though. I look back at all these choices I made, and I made every single one without any real consideration of where I was going. Big mistake. Back then life seemed so full of promise in every angle, and to me my mind was simply saying, “no matter what you pick you will make it work”. I used to be filled with optimism, endless glowing teacher reports, so much confidence that I really did have the raw talent to succeed no matter what I turned to. I wrote something about this last year.

Totally wrong. And none of these decisions can be revisited now. My friend suggested maybe doing music qualifications to see. But it’s just not worth it. I’d only be doing them because I wanted to prove I could. It wouldn’t go anywhere. I wouldn’t suddenly emerge in a new career. Life isn’t like that.

The problem is that I thought it was. Maybe I grew up in an innocent age where it seemed like everything was succeeding and I would be immediately spotted and plucked out to rise to greatness. Now, with the disastrous economy and closing of opportunities, everything seems so much darker and unachievable.

I like to think that maybe if I had grown up in a middle class family, with the right contacts and connections, and the money, I would have got the breaks I needed.

But that just sounds so awful. I have nothing but love for my family. They did their very best with me. The rest I have to do myself.

I just don’t feel like I can do it any more. Confidence, zapped.

Happy Christmas.

That Was The Year That Was

It’s customary around these parts to review the year when I finally reach the fag-end of it. And sure enough, today seems the most opportune moment to do so. 

The beauty of this exercise is that I am aided in my assessment by looking back to the post I made on January 1st in which I set down what I expected to happen this year.

This year started coldly, in the same way as it’s finishing coldly. The weather made me dread going back to Hull after Christmas, and it was even worse this year because I had exams awaiting me there. But back I went, nailing the buggers, and getting on with the rest of university life. 

The months ticked by, not a lot happened with me other than ploughing on with my university work. After all, it was my final year and I had a dissertation to write, an absolute monster spanning 15,000 words. But I did it…

Winter gave way to Spring, and yet more exams appeared over the horizon. But all of a sudden I had a new goal. Away had went my previous expectations of being able to get a 2:1. All of a sudden I’d done so well in my previous exams, essays and the dissertation to know that I could, if I pushed myself, get a First. 

The exam revision was hellish. It would be another two months before I finally got the answer I was hoping for.

In the meantime, I moved back home and began preparing for life doing a PGCE. My plan was to become a primary school teacher, as it was something I had found interesting when I did lots of work experience for them. But as the months went by, I found myself backtracking from this commitment. Somehow, it just didn’t seem right any more. Each day another seed of doubt was sewn. I felt like I was just doing it because I didn’t have any other plans.

Days later there was the joy of the graduation result, a First, and the day itself, which was a very happy moment. Then my brain began to think up alternatives. If not teaching, what else? 

Unfortunately, to this day there is no answer to that question, made worse by the fact that the recession seems to be seriously damaging my prospects. I tried and tried, but ratcheted up just two interviews, one of which was a disaster not worth repeating, and the other was a long journey to London which ended with the same result. In any event, I soon learned that a First in politics is not really that useful. 

And so the remaining months of the year have been spent here, where I’ve lived out a rather odd existence as a houseson, spending my time looking after the house while my parents aren’t here, helping my brother and sister with their homework, and generally mooching around watching DVDs or reading books. 

Not good, basically. 

Because of all this, I am, for the first time in a while, not going to label this as a Good Year. Though it started well, and the middle bit was pretty sweet, the end has been a disaster. So this is a Neutral Year. 

For the rest of my family, I have been fortune that the sadness I feared was going to happen with my grandparents has not yet arrived. In fact, things are pretty much as they were at the start of the year. So that is some comfort. But I am still worried about what might happen in the near future. 

Meanwhile, my younger but elder of my brothers has gone to university, and seems to be enjoying it. The other brother has begun his GCSEs and is turning into a right scally. But he’s still my brother, and as amusing as ever. And my sister has gone all girly-girly, but has turned into a massive couch potato, watching soaps, reality TV and endless Nickelodeon shows. Not good at all.

My elder sister didn’t keep up with her nurse training, but now has a job for the first time in a long time. Her son, my nephew, has, unfortunately, become very naughty and very thick, a change which has upset me a lot. I suspect it’s related to the beginnings of a long and tedious legal battle that will kick off in 2009 as his useless father tries to score some points over my sister. 

As for my parents, well, I can’t help but feel that living here has changed the dynamic of their relationship. Some times I feel like I’m the referee of their silly conflicts, like they appeal to me for a judgement on who is to blame for things. I don’t like it, and hope I don’t have to put up with it for much longer. 

So, sorry 2008, but I’ll be glad to see the back of you. Things just haven’t gone anywhere near the way I thought they would. A shame, but we move on…

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.