Out The Other Side

I am pleased to say that after almost three weeks of non-stop work on the project I talked about two posts ago, we are coming towards the end of it.

It has been a difficult life for some time anyway, but I do now feel like we can look forward to better times…

Being on the other side of such a project is often an interesting feeling. You think that you’ve worked incredibly hard, and you’re proud of your efforts (usually) and the coming financial reward for it also makes you feel like it was worth it.

But, if you’re anything like me, with no real job security and no possible alternative, your joy is short-lived. The immediate question, the one posed by Jed Bartlett so often in The West Wing: what’s next? – springs straight into your consciousness.

I wish my brain activity towards things like this – a near-permanent state of activity – was matched in the physical realm, which is, these days, an increasingly longer and longer time spent in front of the computer screen. I didn’t think that was possible, but it is. I could now be in front of a screen for 15 hours a day, on and off. That can’t be healthy.

Something else which isn’t healthy is my diet, which I’ll probably come back to in a different post.

Emerging from this tunnel-like gloom, which was deepened by the Hair Crisis of September 2014, one immediately begins to see another tunnel. What we’re currently in is the brief glimpse of light prior to going back in again.

I write this post, freezing cold, in my home. I haven’t written a post at home for ages… mostly instead writing them in sheer repetitive strain agony on the train. This is much easier, except for the cold. Did I mention it’s cold? I’m not sure how we instantly went from summer to winter, but it was around about this time last week. There, too, we are out on the other side. I buried my head in the sand for the last month, basking in September’s warmth, with the continued t-shirt wearage. It came to a crashing halt last week, and it’s not coming back.

But I must resist the lure of the central heating. The energy companies, too, want me on the other side, but it is too soon. Last year I survived until November before first use. I must do the same this year. It costs too much to heat such a small space. The difference for them is that we are currently out in the sunny outdoors, but know we are hurtling straight long into a six month long tunnel of frigid gloom. Are we allowed to use that word any more in that context?

Who knows. Who cares. Language is fun.

Alas, it is early morning on a Sunday, and I’m wide awake. I also have to go into work in a few hours so that we can stay on top of things. Rubbish.

I don’t care much for what I’ve found on the other side after all.

Still, only 73 days until Christmas

The Bank Holiday Caller

Throughout my life responding to the whims of my consuming public, there have always been a certain number of Unreasonable People who have rather curious expectations of what I should be providing to them.

This was illustrated to no bigger extent today – a bank holiday – when the phone rang at 6:30pm. Until that point, as far as I had been aware (as I’m not always there to hear the landline ringing) – it had been a quiet weekend. Exactly what you might expect on a bank holiday weekend. No calls. Good.

But someone did ring at 6:30pm. A few points.

It was a bank holiday.

Even if it wasn’t a bank holiday, it was out of hours anyway.

They didn’t leave a message.

Because I am such a neurotic individual, shortly afterwards I did 1471 to find out the number, and perhaps cross-reference it against my phonebook to see if I could track down the anti-social individual. Tragically, there was no match.

But then my brain was getting really annoyed with this person. I decided I would try to hold back on my anger. They may have forgotten what type of day it was. They may have forgotten the time. It happens. I have quite a few retired customers to whom the weekends are just another day. Every day is a weekend.

So if that was the case, they would call back tomorrow.

They didn’t. They didn’t even call back the next day. Or the next. Or the next.

So what is the mentality of this person? It is an exercise in futility to get angry over things like this, but I do. I can’t help it. I have tried to stop my brain being so obsessed with social norms and customs like this, but at times I feel more like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm. It just happens…

What kind of person gives ONE opportunity to take their custom, and offers it at such an incredibly inconvenient and thoughtless time? One single call, leaving no message, on the evening of a bank holiday day?

If they’d left a message, it would have eased my entire worries. Leaving a message is a tacit admission of “I will wait for when it is a more convenient moment for you” – that is OK. It recognises that you are not the centre of the universe, and that just because it is convenient for you right at this moment, it might not be convenient for the object of your call.

Over time my brain has come to accept that these things are inevitable. There are some massively rude people out there. They could even be the type of people where, should the boot me on the other foot, and I call them at 10pm at night, they would be greatly offended. Rude, rude, rude. They are out there. I know all too well from my brothers who have worked in call centres.

I also wonder, if I had answered the call, would they have said something like, “Oh I wasn’t expecting you to answer!” – I have heard that before when I’ve answered calls at slightly odd times, which I used to do a lot more than I do now. In fact, I try to be very strict with the cut off times now.

I honestly never thought I’d be able to exercise my social observation powers so much through business. An unfortunate, and unwanted, side-effect.

Then again, I guess not everyone’s like me.

And the customer is not always right.

 

Half Way Through June, Nearly Half Way Through The Year

Last night I went out for a meal with some neighbours. This was really enjoyable, particularly because they owed me for it, after I helped them shift a load of stuff on eBay. Their company is pretty good as well, which is more than can be said for life around here at the moment.

Yes, it’s back to the usual moaning, sadly. The past week me and my housemate have barely exchanged a word. Yes, there’s the usual pleasantries, but the way things are now you wouldn’t have thought we’ve known each other for over 10 years.

It’s all gone wrong, unfortunately. The worst of it is when he tells me things like he’s applying for a job that will only need him to go in two days a week, working from home the other three. That would be an utter disaster as far as I’m concerned, and if that came to fruition I would be out of here as soon as possible.

It’s the little things in life that give me so much annoyance though. For example, it doesn’t appear that he has any knowledge of the mess he creates when he has a bowl of rice Krispies. I guarantee that each time I will find at least 10 of the damn things all over the kitchen floor. And don’t get me started on the state of the microwave after curry has been in it.

I just live with it now though. It is easier than cause trouble by complaining. And I’m sure I have my own irritations too…

I just want to be out of here so that all of this becomes academic, but it’s not happening. It’s not happening because, when I look at the financial reality, it’s not really possible. I may well have been busy lately, but profits are definitely down compared to this time last year. If I could see they were stable, I would definitely be able to afford my own place. Right now, I don’t have the security.

Therein lies the perennial problem of self-employment. Or at least, the situation when it comes to me anyway. Years on, and still nothing I can say with categorical certainty will keep coming in every month.

The year wasn’t supposed to be like this. I’m afraid to say it, but this year is already nearly half over and nothing is any different. None of the early promise has come through, and it has no prospect of doing so. Yes, six months isn’t that long really, but life is actually pretty short. Productive life even less so, and the part of the life you can be truly active in is even shorter still.

Last night I had kind of made up my mind. One more month before I take the plunge on something. I cannot wait much longer. It will either be moving house or moving business premises. Somewhere. Anywhere. I just can’t accept this stagnation any more. It’s not working, it’s getting me down, and I need to feel like I am in control and doing something about it. That has always been my preferred form of operation…

Got a meeting tomorrow, on Sunday of all days, to discuss with my so-called business partner in waiting. Not holding my breath.

And this is my 500th post. Hmm. Well done, me. I reckon they’re all the same these days now though!

Talking About Nothing

In the coming months, a lot of things will need to be settled.

Right now, all is progressing very well. I have problems, of course I do, but mostly they’re business ones caused by the quirky and irritating nature of computers. The worst faults, as anyone in IT knows, are the intermittent ones that can come and go with no adequate explanation. They lead to a bout of headscratching, and then all of a sudden a new problem emerges elsewhere, and you forget about it.

It sounds like a metaphor for life in general. Some problems crop up, and demand masses of your time thinking of ways to get around them. But sometimes, the answer is not to go around, but to go through. Live with the consequences, and just get on with it; as in good time, your attentions will soon be drawn elsewhere.

It happens with me on a regular basis these days. My “problem” to a certain extent is that I am working quite hard these days. At times, when the workload gets me down, I worry and think I can’t go on like this. I have to find some solution to it, either by trying to find someone to help me, or do something about my pitiful inability to drive a car.

But then I work through it. The answer never comes, but I just do all the work I have anyway. After all, I can’t afford to refuse work. I just have to do it.

And then I emerge from the other side. Less inundated, less stressed, and in a financially better situation. Until I then start worrying that I don’t have enough work, and it’s just as well I don’t have someone else working for me.

It’s a perpetual cycle that, these days, I’m more than used to.

Like today. In theory, I have no work today. I have a few things I can do: some laptops to break up and sell on eBay, for instance. But I can do that anytime. If the quietness continues, then maybe I’ll do it tomorrow. But it most probably won’t. It seems presumptuous of me, but I am now in a reasonable position where I can simply expect the phone to ring without me doing all that much to encourage it, with leafleting and adverts, etc. It’s a nice position to be in, and, naturally, one that can lead to a little complacency.

But it’s good. It shows what I’m doing is valued. It shows I have lots of good and loyal customers, and that I’m doing such a good job that people recommend me to others. I am very pleased with that.

Like I said though, in the coming months, I have a lot of life decisions to make. I had intended to write about them, but they depress me so much that, after already writing nearly 500 words without going anywhere near them, I guess my subconscious is telling me something.

Maybe next time. If I remember.

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.

Adapting

It’s hard to know what to expect from life any more. The situation for me is now such that a reasonable equilibrium has been reached. I’m content with what I’m doing, and can exist quite well of it by my own standards.

But it is not set to last. As is life, things change, and we must adapt. Hmm. Too much Borg.

My housemate is looking to find a way out of his current job. If he does so, he will likely become of no use to me at all business-wise. This will make my business rather difficult to sustain, unless I can reinvent it. Somehow. With no money. Cos I’m so frugal I’ll never risk it.

In the past few weeks I’ve talked to friends and sounded out a couple of them who once upon a time expressed a vague interest in joining me in business. No one bit. Why would they? They’re in comfortable jobs with no real desire to upset the applecart. Why sacrifice someone gladly handing over thousands of pounds to you in exchange for not-very-demanding work, and giving you paid holidays, sick leave and other perks into the bargain?

No, it is actually quite difficult to sell self-employment to those living the cushy employee lifestyle. It genuinely has to be something from the heart.

And so prospects start to look bleak. I’m almost now in the position where I could risk thinking about what I could do to grow the business further. Take on a new challenge. There is the opportunity to do it, but do I have the bottle?

I don’t think I do. But at the same time, I might have no choice. If my partially useless and increasingly irritating house mate eventually fucks off, as I know he will soon, then I have to make the decision. The business would survive without him, but it would have its scope severely narrowed. Away would go any prospects for web enterprises and other design jobs. Or any of the other doors that his talents and contacts open.

All of this – the constant thoughts of business – makes me wonder. Do I have any life any more? In the last month, I have engaged in the grand total of two social events with friends. And that is extremely unusual. One of them travelled 100 miles to see me. The other I went well out of my way to catch up with on a recent trip back home.

Not good. Not good at all. I wasn’t much of a social animal to begin with, but to have completely exchanged my life for that of work is not something I expected would ever become of me. I tolerate it for now, for I know nothing else. But it can’t stay forever. Surely I need to have some life? I might live to regret not using these relatively youthful years…

Oh well. I’ll adapt.

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…

Writing The Same Thing, Over And Over

Probably one of the things that discourages me from writing on here these days is that I feel like my life is one big ball of sameyness. Every time I arrive I tend to write about what I did since last time, which is invariably do some work, earn some money, and hope for more of the same.

It is some progress, of course. I can’t really complain because, when I look back and see that the entries before my business started to take steps towards a brighter future were full of despair and woe, I have to admit that my life has got better.

But just as Maslowe’s Hierarchy of Needs taught me, you begin to conquer one rung, and the ones above then enter into your mind.

The driving forces that pushed me out from life back at the parental home were huge. Annoyance with the family. Disbelief that they had no faith in my business idea. Fed up with their constant bickering and irritating nature. I’m sure I pissed them off too. It was time for me to go, properly. I get this feeling every time I stay at home for more than a couple of days.

The forces that were attracting me here, an improved business chance, and the need for positive change, are still there.

While the general direction of travel is good, I feel like there’s nothing more that needs to be said. I’m entering into a period now where success will continue to breed success. As long as I don’t make any mistakes, my reputation will keep improving, and the recommendations will keep coming.

That’s a very nice feeling to have. I know, and I experienced it again tonight, that my customers are extremely grateful for the high quality of service and the very respectable prices they pay. It is a good motivator to see such direct results. It’s not something you get in an ordinary job.

OK, there are plenty of stresses and negatives. But, on balance, I want to keep plugging at it.

I’ll try to reduce the amount of times I write about the general work situation now. Unless something major happens, things are generally going well, and long may that continue.

So now I’m free to moan about other stuff. Yay!

I’ll save that for next time though.