Monthly Archives: December 2014

Obligatory end-of-year post


A worry for 2015: what’s going to happen to “American Dad!” when BBC3 goes online-only?

Hello again, and happy 2015 if it’s come to pass by the time you read this dreck.  While I wish I could be ending 2014 on as positive a note as I did last year, the fact is, I’m still alive after a dreadful couple of months, and staying with my mother and grandmother has enabled me to feel, if not 100%, certainly better than those dark, anxious days.  I’m even finding it easier getting up in the mornings (partly thanks to a SAD light), and sleeping more or less comfortably, perhaps because I’m well-fed and don’t need to spend too much of my own money.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to me in 2015, and indeed I’m not really looking forward (for the first time ever!) to going back to London after the New Year.  I hope this is just the anxiety talking, and that once I’m back everything will fall into place, I’ll get interviewed for a half-decent IT job (and if necessary work in a temp admin job in the interim), begin earning money in a job with prospects that teaches me stuff I actually want to know, pass my remaining IT exams, seduce a veritable harem of college girls who will satisfy my every… er… sorry, got a bit caught up in things there, but you get the general idea.

I’ve definitely got to conquer my anxiety once and for all — I know, old Dave-ros is repeating himself yet again, blah blah cut it out like a tumour, grumble grumble stopping me climbing 12m walls, moan moan nothing good about my last job, and all that, but I can’t let the last couple of months be for nothing.  As I said before (in 2013, so it’s not something profound from this year), working in IT and finding a woman seem to be related concepts for me — and in both cases I have to know what I want and search for the right one, rather than jump into something convenient out of desperation.

(And I can study both on the Internet… what?  Oh, er, I meant visiting pick-up artist sites for tips and advice, not what you’re thinking!)

Rather than a bulleted list of things I aspire to do in the year ahead (since I only achieved around 50% of the last set, and sadly not no.1), I’m only going to say that in 2015 I fully intend to get control of my life and emotions, and stamp down on my anxiety like the festering cockroach it is.  I will become confident and self-assured, and from this all things will come: an IT career, a girlfriend (or six), a driving licence, a new life… and then we can work on getting a house in Surrey (or Hertfordshire), from which I can commute to my dream job, and where my mother can live with me until she finds a decent job that isn’t in Sussex and thus doesn’t completely suck, and find a place to rent (because she needs her own space, and I certainly don’t want her getting in the way if I really do amass a harem!).

And that’s the real endgame: I want to rescue my mother from the dreadful Worthing area, where she can only get jobs she hates with people who treat her badly (from what she’s told me, I was lucky to only have to put up with the annoying woman when I worked at Camden!).  Sadly, it may not be possible to do anything of the sort until my grandmother shuffles off this mortal coil, but this is an inevitability anyway.  She’s had a good innings and we’ve made the most of her over the past few years; I will be sad to see her go, but I would not be able to continue if my mother went first, so preserving Mumsy’s remaining sanity has become one of my goals.

However, it’s not just mental health I’m trying to sort out: in 2015 I will stay healthy physically, even if I can’t see my personal trainer until I’ve landed a new job and feel I can stably remain in London (at least for five weeks, since I pay him for five sessions).  If I only succeeded in one of my ten 2014 aims, it was to get buff — and while I’ve been putting on a bit of weight this past week, that’s only reversed the drastic weight loss I experienced during my bad job and post-bad job anxiety.  Call it controlled comfort eating, but I’d rather be slightly overweight and happy than my “ideal weight” and constantly nervous — and I’m not overweight, I’m still only around 12 stone!

Still, if the worst comes to the worst and London spits me out, at least my mother has taken me to a half-decent gym here in Worthing, where I’ve proven to myself that I’ve still “got it”.  I haven’t done much exercise during the Christmas break, but what I’ve done, I’ve done well and impressed people (though obviously anything my mother says is utterly biased).  Obviously I’d rather stay in London and continue going to the Castle, and indeed continue seeing the exact same personal trainer (is it the torture equivalent of Stockholm syndrome?), but it’s always good to have backup plans — if only to remove desperation, which would jeopardise my chances of achieving plan A anyway.

I’ve had such a nice time staying with my folks that it seems a shame to leave — but hey, as long as I’m back before Monday (when I have to go to the job centre in Finchley), it doesn’t matter when I go back, does it?  Here’s to a few more relaxing days of lying in without feeling guilty, having all my meals made for me, going for walks by the seafront and petting dogs, replaying the original Half-Life (hooray for Steam sales), drinking cider and taking hot baths instead of showers…

Dave-ros will live again in 2015, but for now he’s hibernating!

Awaiting the phoenix


Once I’m commuting again, I’ll have time to watch Science Ninja Team Gatchaman — or “Battle of the Planets”, as we called it in the 1980s

There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a bad time of my life, easily as bad as late 2011 to early 2012 when I was anxious about having to find a new place to live, and feeling like there was no point carrying on anyway because my life was going nowhere.  The rest of 2012, however, was very much a “phoenix” time, as living in a new house and a new area meant I could recover from depression (more or less), and thus make some real improvements to my life — climbing, working out and socialising (a real life-saver, something I’ll go into in another post).

Thus, even though I’ve hated the past couple of months and felt anxious, nauseous and (at times) hopeless, I now feel a certain optimism that, as soon as I find work in January, I’ll be on the mend.  I’m not too bad now, staying at home with my folks (I came home without issue on the 20th and thus won’t have to face what I went through last year, or the year before), though I do still feel anxiety at times — “the horror” as I used to call it — and wonder how much of it is situational and how much biochemical.

It’s not impossible that I’ve got an ulcer that’s been growing and shrinking over the years: in 2011 I certainly faced a lot of stress thanks to that awful “third housemate” we had at Caledonian Road, and finding one morning that my computer appeared to have died certainly ushered in a long period of stomach difficulties for me!  On the other hand, it could just as easily be SAD — not alone, but exacerbating my situational depression (if things were fine I’d probably only feel a little unhappy, or more likely put it down to “oh Gawd, gotta go to work before sunrise!”, like everyone else.

I’ve heard that one symptom of anxiety is to look back on times gone by through rose-tinted spectacles, and somehow believe that those times were much, much better than now.  I’ve certainly been experiencing that lately: I don’t doubt that if I’d known back in mid-2013 how I’d be feeling in late 2014, I’d have run screaming from any notion of changing careers!  However, while I was a lot more cheerful in my diary back then, it’s also clear that I wasn’t happy in my admin job at (ahem) Camden and that changing to IT was, and is, my best bet for a more satisfying work life, one in which I feel like I’m using my intelligence and not just going through the motions.

(The money was good, though… but what does that say about local government waste?)

I’m under no illusions: I don’t want to go back to 2013, except in the way a child would run home to mummy from a bully.  Possibly I’d go back in time to the start of this year to do one or two things a bit differently, like finding a way to do my internship during a career break earlier in the year rather than waiting for unemployment (since at the time I didn’t know my redundancy would be in July, and expected to make the “leap of faith” after March!).

There were bad aspects in 2013, such as the Fridge That Would Not Die, some stupid periods of girl-related depression, and my conviction that my drummer housemate was turning the hot water off (it was actually the Turkish girl in the back room, who still doesn’t understand the controls).  Even during the happiest time of my recent life, stretching from the summer of 2013 to the summer of this year (ooh, summers being happy times, what a concept!), I acknowledge that my life was, aside from my IT studies, pretty much at a standstill — I was doing what I enjoyed and living for “now”, and not facing up to the future except by passing some exams and making proclamations about what I’d do next.

Today I’ve got a better relationship with my drummer housemate (hence he hasn’t convinced the landlady to evict me as a liability), and a fully-working fridge-freezer in the London house.  I’ve also successfully arranged Jobseeker’s Allowance and housing benefit, and thus can keep the wolf from the door for a few months, as long as I apply for plenty of jobs (which obviously isn’t much of an option in the week before Christmas, and hopefully they’ll realise that).  Girls can wait until I’ve started my new career, as I don’t want to involve anyone I care about in my life as it is right now, only once it’s how I want it to be.

And, above all, now I’m in a better position to get IT work, thanks to my six weeks in Greenford (for which I’ve finally been paid my transport costs), and have a real understanding of what it is I want to do: troubleshoot IT users as part of a helpdesk team, both over the phone and face-to-face, during “normal working hours”.  And thanks to the job I had after that, I have — perhaps even more importantly — an idea of what I really don’t want to do: solo 24/7 shift work helping members of the public with bespoke apps, and learning nothing that could possibly help me get a different job.  And yes, that aspect is important: there was certainly nothing about that job in and of itself that I wanted to stay for, including the area.

(To think, I actually said during my interview there that if I liked the job enough, I might even buy a bike, for the commute — I don’t think I’d go back there if they paid for me to be chauffeur-driven!)

It’s very possible that my current malaise is a direct result of that shift job (or a word similar to “shift”) — I certainly felt a lot of anxiety working there, and it affected my day-to-day life, like that evening I couldn’t go climbing.  I wasn’t eating right either, and lost several pounds, which (judging from my recent performance in personal training) may have been at least partially muscle, the stuff I actually want to keep!  It’s certainly put me off commuting by bus ever again (much as January 2012 meant I got the heebie-jeebies when seeing certain houses on cold winter nights), and I must insist that all future work is commutable via Underground, so I can sit and read (or watch South Park).

Still, no sense fretting any more: that bad job’s over, and I’ve got my whole career in IT ahead of me — even if I have to work in admin on a temporary basis in January, the operative word there is temporary, and before too long I’ll be the newbie in an IT helpdesk team, getting all the lousy jobs (like changing printer cartridges and making the tea) until I’ve proven myself.

And thus from the ashes of 2014 will be born my new life, and this time the sky really will be the limit…

A ray of light?


Have I got the job? Do I want the job?

My current crisis — waiting for a job, and wondering how long I can hang on in London — is not without precedent; and I’m not talking about January 2012, I’m talking about August this year!

As you may recall, after accepting voluntary redundancy at my old employer, I had to wait for my IT agency (whose name could be expressed as the first and third words of Nike’s famous slogan) to find me an unpaid work experience placement, as I had to be available at a moment’s notice.  Although that finally happened in early September, I felt anxious throughout August, wondering when it was going to happen, and noting that I was living off of my savings and redundancy money (and we won’t go into the fight I had on my hands for the discretionary, which finally made its way into my bank account in October).

So, really, what’s so different now in December?  It’s likely that I’ll have an embarrassment of riches (in terms of job offers, not actual money) in January, once Christmas is over and companies are eager to take on trainees again — I certainly hope so, anyway.  However, in the meantime you’ll be pleased to hear that the Job Centre has accepted my application for Jobseeker’s Allowance, and thus, as long as I can persuade my landlady to lend me the tenancy agreement (since they don’t take copies), I should be able to get my housing benefit as well, and not lose a lot of money while I wait.  It’d be lovely if I only needed both for a very short time, and that by the end of January I’m in a decent 1st line helpdesk job based in central London…

(What’s wrong with me that I suddenly find myself wanting to travel on the Northern Line?  Was it the two-and-a-half weeks in November I had to wait in the cold for the damn no.82 bus for a long and awful journey, and then wait in the cold for the Overground at Finchley Road & Frognal station for a very short journey?  Would I have felt better about that shift job if I’d gone down to Euston and got another Overground branch across to Queen’s Park instead, and thus been able to sit down and read?)

The upshot is that I effectively have a job now, one that lets me work from home: applying like mad for jobs, which includes admin jobs as the Job Centre don’t care what you do as long as you do something you’re skilled in.  Truth be told, my coach has been very nice to me (and was astonished at the number of applications I’d made, though whether her stand-in will agree next Monday is anyone’s guess), and even said I can take a “holiday” for Christmas, with this only resulting in a delay in my payments rather than getting me booted off.  I’m wondering whether all the stories about JSA-related bullying and “setting people up to fail” were tabloid lies, or whether I’m just very lucky to live in an area with nice Job Centre staff… or whether they’re just not picking on me because they’ve got plenty of prey already!

I think the way I can overcome my current anxiety is to do what I did in August: re-establish a daily routine of getting up with Chris Evans and Frasier, making sure I eat breakfast every day, and being positive.  Admittedly it’s harder to stay at home in December thanks to the cold (I feel bad putting the heating on just for me), and last week, when I had that one day of work, I felt remarkably better about getting up (and slept better the night before), but I’ve got to fight through this stage of my life, and keep hoping things will be better in January (when we’re also hoping British Gas will be able to give us free loft insulation).

That’s all for now — maybe another time I’ll talk about my strategies for coping with anxiety (such as filling in puzzles in a book, much like I found an old Sudoku book back in January 2012), but for now, I want to sleep — and hopefully not have weird, restless dreams…

Colder and darker


At least the Northern Line isn’t getting closed for maintenance at weekends any more

I’m trying to keep my chin up, I’m trying to carry on in the hope that things will get better, but right now, I feel a lot of pessimism and regret — and, perhaps thanks to cold remedies, anxiety.

Here’s the situation: I’m still unemployed, though admittedly I am being called frequently by recruitment companies, and I’ve even been put forward (several times) for jobs that would be excellent for me — 1st line tech support with training prospects, based in central London.  However, I’ve got my first follow-up Jobseeker’s Allowance meeting tomorrow, and even though I’ve printed out about a thousand job application e-mails as evidence of my activity, somehow I feel like it won’t be enough and they’ll find a way to screw me out of my money — especially since reading that Mirror article (yes, I know, but still), which indicates they’re actually trying to make us fail so they can take us off their lists without having to actually do anything positive for us.  It’s certainly true that they gave me two completely different dates for my original interview, though if it was trickery, they screwed up and had me come a day early rather than a day late!

Perhaps I should stop worrying about tabloids and feel optimistic: I’ve applied for so many jobs, including admin ones (like one down in Hammersmith for as much as £30,000), just like they want me to, I’ve sent my CV to every agency I can find, and I’ve sorted out my e-mail and mobile phone issues, so I’m constantly contactable.  Maybe things will be all right — maybe they’ll have enough genuine deadbeats to bully and won’t trouble me, and thus I’ll get my JSA and housing benefit after all, and be able to hang on here until I find my “dream job”.

(And if not, I’ll quit the dole in a very public manner, expressing my disgust at their unethical behaviour, and maybe sell my story to a, er, tabloid…)

I actually had two good employment-related things on Friday: a job that might turn into a week’s work, and a phone interview for a job in Edgware.  This enabled me to sleep nicely on Thursday night (even though I was coming down with my mother’s cold, and had spent much of the day outside in cold drizzle), and I got up on Friday feeling like things were actually getting back to normal.  But no, couldn’t have something positive happen to me, could we?  It turned out the job was not what I had been told it would be (floorwalking to help people rather than installing Windows 7), and that it would definitely only be for one day instead of a week, and even if it was £100 for a day, I’ll be losing a lot of it as tax and that stupid “umbrella company” fee they charge contract workers.  The final straw?  The guy told me to get a hi-vis vest to wear, and it turned out they supplied their own!

Furthermore, the job in Edgware (a place whose existence I only tolerate because it contains the word “Gwar”) would have been another shift-based role — not as bad as the one from November, but clearly I was reluctant enough on the phone that they decided not to take my application any further, though they said I’d otherwise done well.  It would have concerned bespoke software as well, rather than troubleshooting Microsoft products for users inside the company, which is what I really want.  My mother told me not to feel obliged to take a job I didn’t like, but still, I wonder if I could have made a go of it.

(I could have gotten the Northern Line down to Camden Town and back up again — it would have cost more than getting the bus to Golders Green, but it’d have given me plenty of time to sit and read, and maybe watch South Park, which I intend to be my next purist watching-from-the-start thing!)

About the only things to keep me going these days are the things I’ve enjoyed in London, such as personal training and going to the cinema with “best mate”.  In the former case, my personal trainer said he was more impressed by my resolve to continue through this crisis period of my life than by my ability to lift weights (which had been affected by my cold), and pointed out that I’d realised what makes me happy and thus need to preserve; and in the latter case, we went to see Paddington and pig out, which was nice.  It’s things like this that I want to be able to continue — the past two years of my life were probably happier than any other time in my life since, at the latest, 2003-4 (when I first came to London and made new friends in Astrophysics, such as “female best friend”), and I want more of this before I move on with my life.

In any case, I have to stay in London somehow: once I have a proper job, my mother wants to move up to the Home Counties (the mortgage would have to be in my name, which was the plan anyway) and escape from Worthing forever.  However, if by some tragedy I have to go home again before this happens, I’m determined that it won’t end my life: I’ll keep applying for IT jobs in the Greater London area (perhaps Croydon?), stay in hotels during the week if I have to, and find a way to come back to London again and carry on doing the things I enjoy, such as climbing at the Castle and attending meetup groups.

I just need that first proper IT helpdesk job — not another “customer services” job regarding specialised stuff that can’t be transferred to another role, but proper tech support in a reasonably big company (or local government), where I help people with their computer issues over the phone and maybe going to them in person.  That’s what I want, that’s what I need, and that’s what I enjoyed in September to October during my unpaid placement.

If I can’t work in IT just yet, at least let me find a temporary admin job so I can get some money coming in and not have to worry (and indeed, not have to be on the dole, which has been stressful in and of itself).  I truly want to work, rather than sit around at home applying for jobs — I want to be useful and to use my intelligence and skills to help other people (in return for a living wage), even if it’s just data entry like I used to do in 2005!  Indeed, a generic admin job might be just what I need right now, some stability and the prospect of turning my brain off during the day, so I can still study (I really want to pass Windows Server 2008 some time before it goes obsolete) and do the things I enjoy, while I continue my “dream job” applications.

The problem is simply not knowing what’ll happen next — that’s what keeps stressing me out and making me anxious — but if I can endure Monday (we’ve also got a man coming to replace our electricity meter, but hopefully he’ll arrive before my appointment at the dole office), I think — no, I believe things will get better…

And hey, by the simple expedient of actually turning on the heating, this weekend hasn’t been too cold in my room — something to try during the week, perhaps!

Worst November ever

Comic Book GuyNo, not November 2011, the month I had my Facebook breakdown and all my friends flocked to my aid; I mean November 2014, the one that’s just finishing as I write these words.  I sincerely hope things will be better in December, and more so in January; for now, though, I’ve felt so bad that I’ve sought solace from two entities to which I never thought I’d have to turn again…

First things first: I’m unemployed.  Yes, the boss of the company where I was doing shift work found out I was applying for other jobs (thanks to an eavesdropper who doesn’t work at the weekend), and decided I should go with one week’s notice.  That was a horrible week, starting with a sleepless night, and I felt a great deal of anxiety — though admittedly the job itself had been giving me a lot of that just by twisting my normal work-life balance completely out of shape, and I’d felt physically ill and unable to digest food properly.  I would have been happy to work the following week as well (which would have involved three day shifts, so no big deal), but never mind — it’s over, and I somehow earned £900 net, which is more than enough for another month’s rent!

This week just finished was almost as bad, because I’ve felt a similar level of anxiety, combined with feeling cold due to having to stay in during the day applying for jobs (can’t really put the heating on with only one person in the house), and frustrated with IT communications — not only the failure of most recruiters to get in touch with me regarding my applications, but also in general.  My mobile provider has always been pretty bad in the Finchley area, but at the end of October (Halloween was the last good day, you might say — it was certainly warm!), signal strength went through the floor and I can now only make and receive calls if I put my phone by the window (so good job I have Bluetooth headphones).  It’s been consistently bad through November, and their massive mobile Internet downtime in London yesterday finally convinced me to switch to an alternate company; my number gets ported on Tuesday, so from that point on things should be all right…

Similarly, my e-mail provider is having problems at the moment (possibly due to their insistence on still using Server 2003) — since it only affects two of the mailboxes I set up with them (one I created at the weekend for my job applications, the other I upgraded), I can’t believe it’s a problem with my installation of Outlook.  The company in question has had a lot of issues over the past few years and is pretty much a byword for lousy e-mail and web hosting, so it looks like I’ll have to leave them as well —  the problem being the hassle this will involve, and I need to get it done before they charge me for another year.

(Maybe I should say “stuff it” and just go over to Gmail or similar entirely, and stop having this vanity e-mail domain?)

I have enough money (especially with my, ahem, windfall from my former job) to pay my rent for a few more months, especially if I have support from my folks, but I still felt compelled to go to the Job Centre to sign on for Jobseeker’s Allowance and housing benefit.  Oh, they couldn’t even text me the right date to come on, but never mind — my main concern now is getting them a copy of our tenancy agreement on Monday, and then applying for the sort of jobs they want me to apply for.  I wish it weren’t necessary and that I could find a new job, in either IT or admin (temporary, in order to pay the bills), at the drop of a hat; but no, I have to go through this process that makes me feel like some kind of chancer who needs to be put in line.  I’m already applying like crazy for 1st line IT jobs, but they want me to have “a” job, not my dream job…

The trouble I have is not enough experience in IT helpdesk to secure a proper job; however, I had an interview on Tuesday which might set me on the right course: an ongoing contract job up in Harrow that would suit me down to the ground (I’d even have plenty of time sitting on the Tube and Overground to read… assuming I got a seat).  The guy seemed to like me and want me on board, and I was supposed to hear on Friday… and when I heard nothing, not even a “no”, I actually found myself praying.  I’d already started telling myself things will get better during my last few evening shifts last week, but now I’d turned to the Christian God, who I’d stopped believing in a long time ago.  The last refuge of a scoundrel?

(Mind you, way back on that night, I prayed that I’d get a chance to kiss that girl, and the rest is history — ask and ye shall receive?)

This whole month has sapped my happiness and good cheer — it’s lucky I didn’t close this blog down when my life seemed to be going well, as it appears I need it now more than ever — and it’s been hard for me to enjoy things that normally make me happy, like Gwar (oh noes!) and video games.  Still, I’ve managed to wring some joy from this terrible time: I’ve gone climbing, I’ve had personal training (he taught me boxing and was impressed at how quickly I picked it up), I’ve gone bowling with “best mate”, and I’ve even helped with a yoga session while the normal guy was in Portugal (and thus got it free)!  Plus, they’re finally showing new episodes of American Dad! on BBC3, which I wouldn’t be able to watch if I had evening or night shifts, right?

I just want a job, and soon, so I don’t feel like I’m letting everyone down (or at risk of eviction for being more trouble than I’m worth).  Winter is the worst time of year to be unemployed, or to feel depressed, or to run short of money… oh, hell, winter is the worst time of year, full-stop.  Even Christmas isn’t making me happy this year, though chances are I’ll be able to spend all of it with my folks, unless I get a phone call tomorrow… and indeed I’m going to visit my folks this week, before they go to Rome for a holiday.  The Job Centre won’t like it, but they can go hang — I’ll still be applying for jobs (more so, since I’ll be able to use the home phone line instead of spending loads on my mobile bill), and I’ll rush back to the Smoke if I have an interview, or indeed an actual job!

If nothing else, I guess this chapter of my life is toughening me up and forcing me to confront my anxiety head-on — I’m going to arrange some therapy via my doctor, and hopefully force it out of my life once and for all, because it’s done nothing but hold me back: whether it be making me sick with worry, stopping me asking girls out or even just preventing me getting to the top of a 12-metre climbing wall, it serves me no purpose and I WILL be rid of it!  I’m determined that November 2014 will mark the beginning of the end of my anxiety problems, and that in 2015 I will, finally, sort everything out in my life and be able to do the things I want to do once again.  In short, once these cold, dark days are over and the nights begin to shorten…