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…

Is Life Happening?

It has been some time since I wrote anything here, and I feel like I owe the place a normal post. So I’ll try and be normal.

Life is frantic at the moment, in spite of my best efforts. I feel like I have developed a work and not-work balance that is desperately against me as an individual, but as an individual that is involved in lots of other people’s lives and businesses, is relatively profitable. And yet, what amazes me is that I think I have actually reduced the amount of hours I’ve been working.

In line with my previous posts, I have been trying to do other things outside of work hours, more sociable. I would say in terms of doing things in real life that involve other people, that bit hasn’t actually happened at all. But it has, to some extent, involved people. People that I wouldn’t normally have been talking to, and one of whom has actually turned into something of a long distance friend. So broadly, despite its very tangible negatives to my mental health at times, it has brought something different into my life.

Work meanwhile continues. My IT business is now disgustingly busy, so much so that I am once again thinking about what I can do to tame it. Do I increase the prices and get rid of the customers I don’t want? Or do I have the guts to try again and employ someone? I have been thinking about recruiting an apprentice, but that means I must commit to my IT business for at least another year, something I wasn’t keen on doing. But it is so busy, and the prospects remain good, and I am still in need of earning this money, that I think I should do it…

The other business I am part of is going through something of a rut, but you wouldn’t think it. It is at the mercy of the political masters, and, unfortunately, they are in the midst of electoral rubbish at the moment. It is also the end of a financial year, and I think that inevitably has meant all of the money has already been spent.

But it’s still all systems go. We are in such an intriguing scenario at the moment, so keen are we to take advantage of new opportunities, that we are considering moving on to our property development ideas, and installing a manager into the company so that it can carry on moving along without our day-to-day to involvement. This has coincided with a friend and former colleague becoming available to work for us. It could all connect quite well. But it is a risk. We are ready to take it, and introducing this person to the office has already improved the office dynamic and made it feel a really professional place to work. I like feeling like I’m part of something bigger than me. It is a world apart from my one-man-band IT business…

So that is two risks. One risk for my business, and one risk for the business I am part of, and both of it coming from having to employ someone. Employing people is weird. Keeping them busy and occupied and earning you money is something I haven’t quite worked out yet.

Then there is the risk of the property business. Which is starting, hopefully soon, with the purchase of some land 80 miles south west of me. Land. Not a building. Because we are planning on building it ourselves. We must be mad. But we sense a longer term vision. I sense the opportunity to get properly on the housing ladder by building up a property portfolio. It all sounds very unlikely, and highly adventurous. And super risky.

2015 has become the year of the risk for me. Impending mid-life 30 crisis perhaps?

108 days until 30

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

The Glimpse

Today I am taking it easy. It’s Sunday after all. Sundays are meant for this. In the background plays a song by Sam Smith, very easy listening. It could be Lionel Richie. Easy like Sunday morning.

Except it’s the afternoon, and most of the day is over for me already.

Things are incredibly stressful in work at times. I have a lot of juggling to continue doing in the near future, but, broadly speaking, I think I am starting to see a better balance of life ahead of me. My new employee on my business, while taking up a lot of time, and 80% of the income that comes in, is starting to work. I think. This is freeing up my time during the day in the office to look after the things that can only be done during the day… reacting to my business customers, and also dealing with the other business I’m involved in.

So right now I’m getting a glimpse of what my life might become… where I might start to make advances in getting my free time back. Maybe within a few months I will be able to look forward to having Sundays entirely to myself every week. Instead of them being seen by me as a great opportunity to catch up on the work I haven’t completed during the week. Because then the work just never stops.

The irony is that I spent this morning doing exactly that. I still got up at 5:50am, which most people would think is a bit weird for a Sunday. But when I wake up, and I’ve had enough sleep, then I get up. Why waste any time when there’s so much to do? Plus when you get up at 5am during the week, why upset that rhythm too much?

In any event, I did well. So now I have an excuse for procrastinating a bit, which includes what I’m doing now.

But maybe in a few months time I’ll actually start to feel like I can do something sociable? Maybe I will also be more secure in my incomes than I am now. Maybe by then I’ll have had all of the money I’ve lent to my businesses and a colleague back. Who knows. Probably not, but I can dream.

A tantalising look at the future. To most people, what I describe is probably not even relateable. Most people are used to having every weekend off. Every evening off. To me, having spent the last couple of years with no weekends, no evenings, just the merest possibility of having some actual free time – and having something to do in it – is a real excitement.

What a life.

The Easter Working Weekend

It’s Easter Saturday. It’s currently 5:41am. I have been awake since 5am.

What is my life?

It’s a question that, when enunciated with an American accent, can sound incredibly irritating. Indeed, it’s not even a question I would dare to use in public, for fear of rather odd looks in return. But, at the same time, it is actually quite accurate.

My life, as I have known for the last few years, is basically split into the work and non-work sliver. In the non-work sliver I read political websites, playing increasingly less and less guitar, listen to Radio 1, and watch programmes I missed on catch up TV.

The Easter Weekend gives a brief window to change that. And, this year, I decided to give myself an extra reward. I told myself for several weeks in advance that I’d be having the Thursday before Good Friday off too. This would give me five consecutive days off. Wow, wow, wow. My brain said. I don’t get many of those with no consequences. OK, Christmas can be up to two weeks off, but Easter is at a nicer time of year. And the weather certainly has been good so far.

After two days of my five day weekend, how is that shaping up?

Well, on the Thursday I ensured I was “working from home”. The main reason was to sit around all day and await delivery of my new Virgin Media super hub (cost £6.99). In return, I really did sit around all day. Little did I know that the courier’s rule of “between 8 and 6pm” was almost literal. The delivery finally arrived at 4:30pm. This stressed me out incredibly.

Why? Because, after all that waiting, I had to go and do some work anyway. 4:30pm arrived, and I immediately rushed into the office to do a mail merge for my business. This involved a hefty queue in the post office, a ludicrously priced purchase of stamps, a run back to the office, printing, folding, sticking.

Then at 5:15pm my carriage awaited. To go off to my next job, which had been sitting, waiting, all day.

Back home at 8:30pm, I then proceeded, for the next two hours, to do some remote technical support for a new client I have won, which I had promised to do after 6pm (best time when the computers are not in use…). Along with the bits and bobs of work done during the day, I think I managed to still do a full day of work, even when I said I wouldn’t.

Good Friday. In the office at 8am. Having an informal discussion with someone we want to take on but don’t know if we can afford it. Then doing more work, general discussions, tidying, a small amount of fixing and minor catching up.

Home for 3:30pm. Back out again immediately because I had to do shopping. Back home to do more remote fixing for new client, who seemed to be working on Good Friday properly. This is not good.

Easter Saturday. The plan is to digest my company’s “Quality Management System” today, and do all the things I should have been doing over the last several months.

This is not a non-working weekend by any stretch of the imagination.

The problem is simple: work is my life. Work is my identity. Work is where I will – hopefully – continue to make a decent return on the time I am investing. Not that I have any time to spend what I’m earning…

In the meantime, some of my customers, both home and work, continue to send me e-mails. I do not reply to them. I cannot show to them that I do not use my holiday weekends as holidays. I cannot open the door. The problem, though, is that some of these e-mails are urgent, and leaving them till Tuesday will probably cost me business. That’s not fair on me at all, but it does seem comical that I try to maintain a strict outward show of protecting my holiday time jealously, while secretly working all the bloody time.

There is something wrong with modern life. We are entirely responsible for remoulding our work culture into an ethos of “(s)he who works longest, looks best”. We have had our evenings and our weekends invaded with e-mails and text messages and now WhatsApp and other conversations. We are all guilty of replying to them, let alone just reading them, and allowing our work to also take over our alleged free time.

Part of this influence is just the nature of capitalism – and how it slowly is engulfing our very identities – for the pursuit of more and more. It’s starting to twist to the point that now the people who say bold statements as “I do not answer the phone after 5pm” or “I do not read my e-mails at weekends” are looked at as a bit weird. We invest bizarre justifications such as “But why not deal with it, because if you don’t it will only make the morning 100 times more difficult!”

I also know people who set an out of office autoreply just for the weekend. Imagine that… we have degenerated so much as a work culture now that we have to have an actual system that reminds senders that their e-mail sent at 9pm on Friday might not get a response until Monday…

Maybe – just maybe – Easter Sunday will actually be a day off.

2013

New Year this year was slightly better than last year, but only just. We did manage to have a small family gathering, which was very nice, especially as my grandparents were able to make it, but the depression it fills you with for future years is not good.

On the first of the year, I like to set down some benchmarks as to the year ahead. Last year, I was spectacularly wrong. This year, I am going to be a bit more optimistic.

There is something in me that feels this will be a good year. I am not one for mysticism or other spiritual hocus-pocus, but my business head is telling me that, for a change, I should look upon what’s coming this year with a great deal of encouragement.

First of all, in the next couple of weeks, my household circumstances will change dramatically. My housemate is moving out soon, and when that happens I will finally feel like I have, at last, made it to my “own place”. Everyone wants a little bit of somewhere to call home. In my case, however, I am renting a portion of someone else’s property and calling it mine.

Semantics, maybe, but it doesn’t feel like mine, even though I’ve been there for 3.25 years. 3.25 years that have flown by, and yet it looks like I’ve only just moved in. The living room is full of boxes, and has no homely feel. The kitchen is full of work-related equipment. So is my bedroom. It’s like living in your office all day, every day.

Some of this has been because I have felt like it’s not good to spend money on someone else’s house. And also the fact that, while my housemate was there, it just didn’t feel like mine. The house is full of stuff that isn’t mine and constantly reminds me of that fact, or isn’t in the way I would like it. For instance, behind the front door is about eight pairs of shoes. None of them are mine. They all belong to my housemate. But I can’t be bothered any more arguing over things.

In a couple of weeks time, they will all be gone.

The house situation will ease a huge burden off me. But in the back of my mind I continue to worry that I should spend some time working out when, if ever, I will make an attempt to buy a place of my own. I really ought to. To some degree I think that this should be the year.

But business-wise, there are other considerations. On the 11th January I have a critically important business meeting. If it goes well, it will shape the rest of this year very strongly. It still may take some time to kick in, and in my head I am not really expecting much progress, even if the meeting goes well, but I am keen to feel that there is just a little bit of momentum building at the moment. Momentum that might, finally, make me feel like I have built something that will last.

So I am expecting a positive year from my business. A few decent deals in the bag will secure that. Sounds so simple, but it isn’t, and the work required will be immense. But I must remember not to neglect the customers that put me in this position. I do not want to throw away all the progress that I have made.

In my personal life, I have given up hoping on something good to happen. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but we’ll see. At the back end of the year I had a good conversation with someone, but it will probably go nowhere due to time.

And as far as the family is concerned, it’s yet another big year. Hopefully everyone will continue to progress well, with my brothers getting settled in work and university, and my sisters carrying on with their new family and college respectively. Hopefully my mum and dad will find great comfort from 2013, the year their mortgage ends. And my nephews all do well in their important growing-up phases. My biggest worry remains for my 13 year old nephew. I worry about what this society he’s growing up in is teaching him.

Last night I thought deeply about it. It is now 13 years since the celebrations for year 2000. That has flown by so quickly I can barely believe it.

But believe it I must. Life is so fast, and incredibly fleeting. I really must resolve to enjoy this year much more than I did the last.

Let’s see what happens…

The End of the Beginning

I can’t believe I haven’t written about this yet…

I am delighted to say that my housemate has finally got the message. We had a little “chat” and next thing I know he was looking for somewhere else to live. Within days he had done that, and a date was set.

January 9 is freedom day. It’s also the day from which my costs rise significantly. I will be able to cope with it, but I’m not looking forward to a sudden slow down in savings. It’s hard enough to raise a deposit as it is…

But in truth it is a fantastic development. I keep thinking about all the wonderful things I won’t have to put up with. No more random bottles of unfinished shower gel piling up in the bathroom. No more midnight snacking. No more radiators on overnight. No more of my housemate’s crap all over the house. No more having to think about not making too much noise because he’s gone to bed at 8pm. No more being woken up in the middle of the night by repeated visits to the toilet. No more nasty tobacco smell (a recent filthy habit). No more being woken up stupidly early (6am) on Saturday and Sunday because of his bizarre work habits. No more awkward conversations. No more angry thoughts about the situation as a whole. No more having to dodge conversations. No more awkward invitations to social events I have no interest in attending with him. No more moaning about not doing anything to help (cleaning the house, or in the garden especially). No more wasted space in the living room and utility room. No more irritating phone calls. No more irritating conversations about the contents of the DVD and bookshelves with visitors. It just goes on and on.

I keep thinking this is a major milestone in my life. It is the point at which I become the master of my own domain. I have no more excuses to try to move my own personal life forward. That bit does worry me a bit. But it might also mean I can feel a bit more confident about making this place look a bit nicer. It is far too functional. It lacks any kind of warmth or welcome. Not that I know exactly what I’d do about it, but hey…

It seems like this is the end of the beginning of life. Hey, that happened ages ago in reality, but in terms of feeling more grown up, and feeling like I’m completely on my own. Completely independent. That’s so scary.

But it could help things socially. I now have a spare bedroom. People could actually come to visit me without having to pay megabucks to stay in the local B&Bs and hotels. OK, not necessarily megabucks, but if you visit for more than a couple of days, it soon adds up!

It all feels like such a big turnaround. It was only two months ago I was depressed that he was now looking like staying for the immediate future. I was starting to panic that my life had truly entered the stuck rut phase. But in the end, it was just was so increasingly untenable that we both felt the time was right to discuss the future, and he has done the decent thing.

I am excited about it. I really am. It will start next year off really positively, and I need to carry that forward into 2013, as I think it could be the biggest year of my life.

Maybe more next time.

Where Did All The Music Go

On Saturday I did something pretty unusual (for me) and actually went out on my own for a little bit to a local acoustic music night. Being a big music fan, a guitar player, and in a decent venue I liked, I thought I couldn’t possibly miss the opportunity.

While the night overall was quite enjoyable, there were a few depressing conclusions I drew.

  1. I am old
  2. I used to be better than most of the people I saw
  3. I need to get out more

Most of the people at the venue were either clearly younger than me or were mostly younger than me. The only ones who were older were the parents of those singing! That was just an observation, but when you’re sitting on your own amidst a bunch of what were, effectively, kids, it didn’t make me feel all that comfortable.

The second point also grated a lot. Of all the acts there, I think I could say that, “in my prime” I was better than all of them.

In recent years, due to work, a crappy social life and a general lack of inclination, I have neglected my musical side. The guitar, the source of so much fun and enjoyment in my life – and the reason why I was able to do the US summer camp thing in the first place – has not occupied the place in my life that it used to. Certainly this year might be the least I’ve ever played it. So much so that I have lost a certain degree of my abilities. I’ve forgotten how to play things. My fingers aren’t as tough as they should be. Neither are my arm muscles. It’s all so feeble now.

My guitar abilities have never been all that good, but what I used to have was a decent voice, even if I do say so myself… the guitar was a means to an end. No one generally wants to hear an a capella vocalist. But people do like to listen to someone singing with an acoustic guitar accompaniment. I bash out a little rhythm guitar and sing. Honestly, I used to be reasonably good.

Now I am poor. Just like lack of guitar work, lack of singing has led to disaster. I’m sure I can’t sing anywhere near as well as I used to be able to. My voice has become weak and weedy.

It’s nothing a little practice wouldn’t fix. Maybe. But when you live with someone you hate, playing guitar and singing is not possible. Also, the walls are so paper-thin that if I practice vocalising at a normal volume, I don’t think I could ever look at my neighbours again.

What I need is a soundproof room to practice in. Ha, ha, ha.

Meanwhile, my third point is perhaps the most difficult of them all. I’ve always known I need to get out more, but I have singularly failed to do that, month after month, year after year. Something about not wanting to spend money because of how much I’m trying to save up to get out of here, but also the fact that a) going out on your own is usually rubbish, and a bit sad; and b) I don’t actually enjoy it all that much. I can’t help it.  I’ve always just been a bit hermit like. Sitting around in a room full of people I don’t know, most of whom are probably drunk, acting arrogant and boisterous, and all the while feeling pretty shy… it doesn’t hold any enjoyment for me at all. Being with friends can improve the situation, but I don’t have friends around here…

A little bit of music caused this train of thought. I shouldn’t have let it reach this stage. (is that a pun?)

The question is what can I do about it. Hmmm.