The NSA Dilemma

A few weeks ago I met a guy. As these “meet up” apps go, if you’re looking for “fun” it’s often known as No Strings Attached – NSA. It’s unfortunate that it’s the same as the National Security Agency, but there you go…

To be into NSA you have to be pretty unemotional. In my brief experiences in the Grindr “community” (hilarious) I have had a handful of so called NSA encounters. While I may also be looking to click with people, and find this aspect frustrating, at least NSA does generally live up to the promise of being “fun”. And it does give one a chance to actually meet a guy in some sort of context. I have to be honest, I am not one for dates in the first place. Especially as it would somewhat expose my cover in this very small world…

The trouble is, from time to time, you find someone who you would like to get to know better. I have only met a handful of guys, and most of them wouldn’t pass my general test as someone I’d want to spend more time with – except only for “fun” – but on this one occasion I have to admit I got a little infatuated.

I couldn’t actually believe that he’d agreed to meet me in the first place. I am 9 years older than him. He was extremely attractive, and I always have such a hang up about my own appearance – not helped by the fact that it usually makes people stop talking to me – so it really was a shock when the details were agreed.

In the flesh he was better still. And what really floored me was the fact that he was so into it. He was positive and involved. The first guy I’ve ever met who wanted to start with kissing, and we did a lot of it. Suffice it to say, I thought we both had a lot of fun.

When he left I stupidly didn’t ask for a phone number. But I felt like I shouldn’t. I felt totally lucky in the first place, and I just didn’t think it would ever happen again and I shouldn’t impose on him. He may have just been exploring.

We’re now 20 days later, and, apart from being online briefly the following day, he hasn’t been online since. He hasn’t blocked me, which is a reasonable sign, but I can only assume he’s deleted the app. It’s not that I thought we could have a relationship, but this area has such a paucity of talent, and so many guys are weird, that when you find one who’s nice you should do your best to keep them on side.

But there is a twist. Four days ago a profile appeared. Same age. Same height. Same distance. Same style. I am convinced it is him. I waited a day to pluck up the courage, and my heart was pounding as I typed in the words to try and tease out the info without looking like a total fool if I was wrong.

If it is him he denied that he has ever met me. He didn’t recognise my picture, allegedly, but he refused to send his back, so he didn’t give anything away. I am convinced it is him, and if it is I just cannot understand why someone would behave in such a horrible way. Why would you blank me for so much time? Why would you pretend to have liked me so much when we first met? What do you get out of lying to someone? I can handle the truth, and if he was just experimenting or genuinely only wanted to meet me once, then I could understand. I just want to know.

I walked away from the encounter sheepishly. The only saving grace I could cling onto was that the writing styles were different…

The following day the twist went worse. I bumped into him in the supermarket where he works. The funny thing is that I haven’t seen him at all in there during the missing period. It made me think he was on holiday, It gave me hope that the absence was genuine.

I plucked up the courage to say hello. He replied. He wasn’t talkative. He clearly remembered who I was.

Cos that’s the thing really. Guys on these apps like to act like they will never bump into anyone ever. So you can treat them as rudely and as ignorantly as you like. But actually, we are real. If you’re unlucky, you will meet them in an environment where you have to behave like a human. Suddenly the block button is no help.

I asked him how he was. He said he was OK, and he asked me back. I said I was OK too. I carried on walking. I could tell he was nervous and maybe wanted to be out of the situation.

I really wanted to ask him if he could just be honest with me and say if he would ever want to meet with me again. If he doesn’t I would have closure and could move on. If he does then I’d be happy, but I’d also be concerned that he was just saying it.

The funny thing is that this new profile, which may or may not be him (though I think it is), has now also not been online for two days. If that grows longer, it fits a pattern of a young guy going through phases. One who doesn’t know what he wants, and is terribly awkward at expressing himself.

That’s all OK. That’s all understandable. But it just makes me even more endeared to someone, because I love understanding people and learning who they are. If I like them. Which is not a good thing. I have to remind myself, it’s supposed to be NSA.

It’s just the unknown I hate. And we are now 23 days into the unknown.

NSAs need closure in my mind. They need to either end with a “don’t want to meet him again” – or they need to be a “would like to meet him again”. This one has an unresolved feel. It has been praying on me for too long. I thought I was starting to get over it until this mystery profile appeared a few days ago.

All this tells me is that I have a fragile personality. I need to be stronger.

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.

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.

Personality, Schmersonality

As a result of my self-imposed moratorium for not going on about my business, my posting rate collapsed. Well, it has collapsed anyway since the past year, mainly because nothing truly interesting seems to happen in my life these days. But here goes nothing…

Last week, at least I think it was last week, I spent some time watching the BBC’s Child of our Time series. It’s something I’ve never missed an episode of, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it over the last 10 years. The concept of following someone from birth to adulthood is extremely interesting to me, and it has taught me a lot. OK, I couldn’t list any of that right now, but I know it has!

In any event, the most recent season, if you can call two episodes a season, was based around the work of a huge personality test the BBC has been pushing over the last year. Here is what I got:

Basically, I’m turning into a right old misery.

Personality tests are, of course, a huge potential for bullshit obscured with scientific lingo. But I especially like this one, because it looked a bit like there was some rigour to it, but also because, as graphs go, it is me all over.

The test defined openness as a measure of creativity, and of lateral thinking. I actually thought I’d do poorly on this scale, as I always feel like I have no good ideas at all. But maybe I’m doing something right. In any case, the graph is relative to the population, so perhaps I’m more creative than most.

Low levels of extroversion didn’t surprise me at all. I am a bore, and very comfortable with my own company, or that of close friends, not craving the need for approval of the group. But I feel this changing a little. I’m pretty lonely these days, and desperate times may call for desperate measures.

Agreeableness… yep, that is me too. I’ve become more cynical as time goes by, and definitely more “hostile” to people in the sense that I’m becoming embarrassingly aloof. I’m too much of a nerd. I try to stop myself from looking down on others, but I can’t help it.

Conscientiousness… I can vouch for that. Look at the past 5.5 years of diaries for proof. Generally, I launch myself 100% into projects and don’t rest until I reach an extremely high standard. If I don’t hit it, I hate myself. I really do.

And that’s why my neuroticism levels are high. It’s something I’ve never really noticed in myself until I started this business, but I am probably too sensitive. I take everything personally. I feel everything deeply. I obsess over the tiniest details and worry, worry, worry whether I’m doing The Right Thing. Shit, I panic over a matter of pennies.

All in all, it’s probably why I’m still single.

Fuck.

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.