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…

The Busy Start To The Year

It’s not unusual, in this phase of my life, for the above statement to be true, but it seems to be more so each year.

This year has started quite different though. There is something lurking in the background which could promise to be a life-changing event. If we get it right.

We are currently looking to see if we can raise significant sums of money to start up a new business. It is all a little secretive at this stage, even though no one reads these posts, but it is just sensible for me to play my cards close to my chest. We are really excited about how it might all happen, and, if it is successful, it will replace almost everything I am currently doing for the next five years.

But, once again, none of these things happen easily. There is risk, lots of it. I’m very excited about it though, possibly the only thing in my life to have really generated something that could take me into the stage of being comfortable about life. There’s lots of work to do, but I think I have the right attributes, and I have a few people around who are going to support me taking it forward.

And all of this while trying to enact a new year’s resolution which wasn’t actually a new year’s resolution. It just became one when I got back home, back down South. I decided to try as hard as I possibly could to not take work home with me. I’ve added a new distraction to try and help enact this, partially related to trying to create some sort of social life for me. A social life that travels via apps on a smartphone. Wow. I really worked hard on that one. Yet more screen staring. I do that all day in work, and I do it for the rest of the day, morning and evening, at home. Meh.

So it’s been a bit different and a bit exciting.

Meanwhile, the main thrust of my work continues unabated, driving me insane and slowly thinking about shutting the whole thing down. If I was confident about the income from the other business, I would do it. But at the moment it has huge amounts of costs and an uncertain cash flow position for the next month, which is pretty stressful. It always seems to be that way. Everyone else makes off with the money whilst I refuse it so the business can survive. I took no dividends in December so that everyone else could get paid, including my business partner. Not much of a partner. Hmm. Why am I doing this again?

That’s right – because I keep thinking there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Maybe there is. But it’s almost the last throw of the dice now on this big venture idea. I hope I’m right… because if I’m not I’m going to be pretty screwed.

It seems like I’ve been back here for months, but in reality it’s 11 complete days. It’s been a whirlwind as usual.

Christmas now seems a distant memory.

171 days until 30

Looking Back On 10 Years Ago

In December 2004, Matt wrote:

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

That’s me, by the way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I just don’t know what.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Two Weeks On

Another day off.

It’s another bank holiday weekend, the second of three that we get at this time of year. I have come to value them immensely. If there was one bank holiday weekend every month it would be so awesome. I now realise just how much I need catch up days, back to back. Two days gives me a day to do rubbish Adult Life Chores, and then a day to relax. I’m so used to only getting one day “off” per week that that day is spent savouring the freedom, rather than doing ALCs, or the incredibly tedious things I just keep putting off.

And off and off. One such example is the mountain of computer spare parts that I have had at home for maybe a year or more. Some of them I keep for legitimate reasons, cos I might need to use them in the future. But others I have had for such a long time because I kept saying that, one day, I would get a chance to get on eBay and get rid of the valuable bits.

Yesterday, I started at 8am and by 6pm had listed a mere 15 items. But that represents the sum total of the destruction of seven laptops… most of the bits are of such low value (£1/£2) that I don’t even want to spend the time wrapping and posting them. So in the bin they went. My living room now has much less of the computer workshop vibe.

In reality, if all those 15 items sell I will get a return of about £200 for my day. Three of them have gone so far, and all the higher value items. I had a feeling they would sell quickly, but hopefully the rest will too, as I could do with a little financial kickback.

Why? Because a few weeks ago I managed to screw up a client’s computer because I forgot to take the battery out of their laptop while changing the screen. Pretty pathetic, really, but I got lazy and complacent. 99% of the time I take the battery out before doing any work. But for some stupid reason I left it in while changing the screen. It must have caused a short, as by the time I’d finished it it would never work again.

We live and learn. I have been quite philosophical about it. In all the years I’ve been doing my job, nothing serious has ever gone wrong. A couple of minor things have happened, but I’ve always been able to recover the situation. This time, however, it was such a disaster I had no choice but to throw lots of my own money at it to set things right again.

Never mind.

But it’s been a quick couple of weeks. The work has been relentless, and my life has been generally rubbish. But I don’t really complain. I am more than aware of the fact that I am quite a loner. I do enjoy my own company. I enjoy relatively solitary leisure pursuits. It’s just been me all over, and it doesn’t even affect me any more.

Not quite sure that is a good thing in the bigger picture, but there you go.

Marching On

I am cheating here. I know I thought about posting many times during the month and didn’t. Now I’m going back in time a couple of days and posting in there…

There has been good reason though. I can genuinely say it must have been the busiest month of my life. I’ve never worked so hard for so long without a break, on all fronts of life.

Work is busy on both sides. My business is very busy and the other business that I’m a director of is also massively busy. This creates a tension as there are only so many hours in the day.

It also creates a tension as I have been essentially bankrolling the other business from my personal business since December. It was always with a hope that a day would come when I would get it all back, but in recent months, as my directors loan grew larger and larger, I was starting to really worry.

I am pleased to report that on Friday we received our largest ever remittance. I’ve never seen the like… Over 25k in one go. Happily, this was enough to make a dent in the company’s debt to me. And there is a similar amount still to come.

It’s a partial relief. We need another three months of this to turn the corner. So far we have it, but my business partner is again wanting us to spend money. He is right, as we must continue to build our infrastructure but it pains me that I’m getting nothing out of my business loans. Not yet anyway.

Meanwhile my personal life is approximately 0%. In the last few weeks I have been getting up early, getting complicated stuff done in the peace and quiet, then spending all day in the office, then going home to do even more work in the quiet of the evening. That is not a life.

The only good thing I did do was last Saturday night when I helped a friend put on a concert. This was great as I always enjoy helping out behind the scenes at events. I wish I had time to do more things like that. The concert itself was a triumph, and behind the scenes we did well. I’m forever impressed by people younger than me with their technical ability. Much respect to the couple of teenagers who did 75% of the setup for the staging, lighting and sound.

I’m sure I have more grey hairs now than ever before. My mum says I need to get married before it’s too late. Frankly, and this is quite sad, I don’t even have the time. Bizarrely for others, it just doesn’t actually bother me…