Monthly Archives: January 2015

Making changes

beavbuttpcFirst of all, I’m still getting interviewed for IT jobs, and even if nothing works out, I’m being put forward for a temp admin job that’ll pay extremely well — but I’m most hopeful for a job that I won’t talk about too much here, lest I jinx it, save to say that it’d set me up extremely well for a career in IT (and particularly IT jobs in the legal sector).  I had a phone interview with a high-up in the organisation, which was really more of an introduction to the company, and he said I’d need to be prepared to change and adapt if I joined his crew…

Of course, you guys know I’ve changed over the past couple of years: getting healthy through climbing and personal training (and Wii Fit Plus!), socialising more, getting dates, and taking this “leap of faith” to work in IT.  I even started showering more often after having to go without during the early autumn of 2013, and I’m doing my best to fight my anxiety, which has been easier to face this time around than it was in 2011-2012.  And I’ve been decluttering, trying to switch to e-books and give away my paperbacks (and two whole bookcases), as well as getting a smaller computer desk and putting my games and DVDs (which I’ve ripped onto a hard drive) into boxes out of the way.

However, there are other changes afoot: for one thing, I’ve finally given away my 15-year archive of Private Eye magazines, which I’d been buying since late 1999.  I donated them, two whole plastic crates’ worth, to a local library that was closed by the council but reopened by determined volunteers; they were a bit taken aback, but seem to have accepted them.  Since I never really looked at them (indeed, I may not buy the magazine any more, it’s just so depressing to read about how corrupt our country is!), it made sense to get rid of them and not have to transport them through another house move — and I was lucky to find a taker, and not have to dump them in the recycling instead, where they’d be no use to anyone.

(Of course, the library might still decide to do that, but hey, not my damn problem any more!)

Another change is that I think I’m going to stop putting up posters.  Shock horror, Dave’s growing out of his student days, only about 15 years late!  Well, it’s clear to me that Blu-tac (ahem, other adhesives are available) pulls chunks out of the paint on the walls, and in any case my posters (which haven’t been refreshed in years) are all too old and battered to look good on the walls any more (especially my beloved “Briefcase Full of Blues” one, that’s been on my various walls for 18 years); thus, I think they’re going to the dump this week as well, thus closing a chapter of my life.  I don’t want bland walls, however, so I’m going to look into getting more interesting stuff to put up, ideally framed — particularly a nice cityscape.  I’ve also put one thing off for far too long: framing my certificates so I can hang them on my wall!

I may also get rid of some of my trinkets — not the ornaments my folks have bought me, like the mineral eggs (or the skeleton of a hippy who died at his computer, which I’ve had since 2001), but rather the sci-fi stuff I’ve bought over the years, including poseable video game characters.  I gave away a toy Transformer (yes, I know) to my American friend when I saw him last summer, and I may have to give away some of my Gundam models to charity.

(As for the cuddly toy Minion I won at the arcade in late 2013: from my cold, dead hands!)

Speaking of my room, I recently moved it around for the Nth time, undoing a change I’d made when I started working at that job in November which meant my bed was as far from the window as possible, but right next to the dividing wall with the toilet, and also meant I couldn’t watch TV while lying in!  It’s only a relatively small change, but it helps me to feel that things are changing again.  My PC is now in the same corner of the room as my TV (which has to be here because the satellite cable only reaches so far), and this means I don’t have a spare plug socket for Ethernet-over-powerlines; the Wi-Fi is appalling in here, but I’ve dealt with that by installing a simple Wi-Fi repeater.  I should have done it ages ago, but now I can get perfect reception not only with my computer, but with my Kindle and phone — and this seems to have helped the router itself, as it’s no longer straining to reach me and constantly falling over.

And speaking of my phone, I reverted another change from late 2014: since 3 Mobile got their act together here in Finchley, I’ve gone back to them and their wonderfully cheap service, as O2 proved to be a very poor choice.  Put it this way: I paid £10 for a bundle of minutes (which I used up quickly calling recruiters), texts (which I barely made inroads into) and mobile Internet, but I still had to put on another £10 of credit in order to access my voicemail!  They couldn’t give me a single reason at the O2 shop to stay, so I came back to 3, and can now get a signal in my room (though they still suck down in Worthing).

One thing I’m probably going to have to face up to in my interview is the fact that I’ve too often let things slide in my life, and have procrastinated rather than getting on with things.  This article has made me realise how essential it is to change: I still remember how I used to sit at home and do nothing other than play video games and watch TV every evening, as recently as mid-2013, and complaining that nothing good ever happened in my life!  The changes I’ve been making since 2012 (it really began with climbing) have gradually made me a better person, and I’m almost unrecogniseable now.

I can certainly change my behaviour when I need to: my personal trainer noted early on how I always try the exercises he gives me, rather than refusing or complaining (except jokingly, e.g. accusing him of torturing me!), and I’ve achieved massive improvements, such as losing flab and gaining muscle, in the time he’s been mentoring me.  Similarly, after years of introvercy, and following that holiday in May 2013, I managed to start socialising with real people and haven’t stopped since (which is why I’ve been better able to cope with this bout of anxiety than I was three years ago).  I just hope I can put this across in my final interview, and make it clear that I’m eager to learn and to improve my attitudes, without coming across as needy and desperate for a jerrrb.  If the interview happens via Skype, I’ll at least be able to feel relatively at ease being in my own room, rather than having to go across London in a monkey suit.

(Don’t worry, I won’t be on Skype in my dressing gown… or a Gwar T-shirt!)

One consolation is that they want me in post as soon as possible (if I am successful), and I have a feeling I’m not up against a huge amount of competition (since this was arranged by my IT agency); the boss also took two hours to introduce me to the organisation, which I doubt he did lightly.  Thus I’m going to face this interview with confidence, though this means I’m also going to write down notes so I can give answers to all the usual questions without stuttering.  That’s a change I really need to make in my approach to interviews — planning ahead, rehearsing, clarifying my thoughts, and not just coasting.

I still want to learn to drive and play the guitar, but there’s one change I despair of ever effecting in myself: dealing with cold weather — I’ve even been shivering at 20°C lately!  The big cheese I spoke to on Friday is from Chicago and faced the terrible winter of a year ago, and seems to deal with cold a lot better than me; I wish I had his strength.  It was my not being able to deal with adversity and discomfort that scuppered my job in November, as I was so desperate to escape that the boss thought it wasn’t worth training me (ironically just as I finished shadowing); hopefully in this new job I won’t need to sit at a cold bus stop for 20 minutes or deal with regular night shifts, but I’ll still face stress and anxiety, and I need to build up my resistance and not give them the excuse to turn me down.

After all, judging from what the man told me about the job, if I can get through 18 months of troubleshooting software for legal clients (for whom time is very much money), I can get through just about anything…

Fighting anxiety

lonely_shinjiI’m sure you believe me when I say I’ll be perfectly all right the exact moment I get a job (provided it’s not like the one I got in November) and can thus come off benefits, but right now, in January 2015, I’m still having a bad time with the search.  However, in contrast to January 2012, at least I have good days as well as bad days — and I think I’ve figured out at least part of the reason for my anxiety…

Of course, the best way to combat anxiety is to remove the life factor that’s causing it, hence my belief that I’ll be better once I’m working again (and my stipulation that it’s not like that last job, which really brought me down).  However, despite the latest employment statistics, I can’t just wave a magic wand and get myself my perfect job*, and I have to keep applying, attending interviews, and perhaps accepting a job that wouldn’t necessarily be great but would at least afford me some more experience, like one in Colindale I’m interviewing for next week.

(* I mean, for this stage of my life — obviously my perfect job would be judging bikini contests in Hawaii… but hey, wouldn’t that be everyone’s perfect job?  Even for women?)

I was wonderfully optimistic for the first couple of weeks of this month, and indeed had three (three!) interviews, but alas, all three have come to nought (though only two of them thus disappointed me, and one of those seemed too good to be true anyway).  This week, alas, the jobs may have begun to dry up — but fortunately I still have a couple of recruiters working on my behalf, and I haven’t given up hope of working in IT, or at least getting a temp admin job to tide me over (though my luck’s been even worse there!).

I know I’ve got to fight on through this dreadful month, and that as long as I find something before the end of February (when my housing benefit gets decreased), I’ll be all right and won’t have to go back to Worthing.  However, the days sitting at home applying for jobs, or banging my head against the brick wall of Windows Server 2008 (I want to hurry up and pass so I can forget it all again… ha ha, no?), have been getting to me lately.

I haven’t been as anxious as I was in December recently, but Monday, when I came back from spending the weekend in Worthing, was a bad day; however, I think I know some of the causes of short-term anxiety, and how to combat them:

  • The cold: this one’s a no-brainer — cold makes me feel helpless!  My housemates aren’t opposed to me having the heating on, and I just have to get through this week before the temperature outside gets to the right side of freezing, and I should be all right.  Just a pity that a screw-up means British Gas won’t be giving us new loft insulation any time soon (they thought I was the owner and so didn’t remind me to ask the landlady for a letter confirming they’d have permission to survey our loft).  However, this explains why my similar situation last August didn’t lead to a great deal of anxiety.
  • Dehydration: again, it seems obvious when you think about it — a lack of the water of life is indeed a known trigger for anxiety.  It was my fault on Monday, as I hadn’t drunk anything since breakfast, and taking pastilles to combat catarrh (which I seem to get seasonally) seems to exacerbate the problem.
  • Malnutrition: hey, I’m not saying I’m in a famine-stricken country, but I need to take better note of meal times, especially on Monday when I was so distracted by online tests that all I had was a bag of nuts, and then a banana before I went climbing in the evening.  Feeling hungry can lead to panicky hunter-gatherer feelings — it’s said that society is two meals and 24 hours away from collapse — but eating at regular times helps, especially for a possibly-autistic routine-loving person like me (hence another problem with my shift-based work in November).  The quack also recommended Gaviscon (other indigestion remedies are available) to settle my stomach if it gets upset, as that can also trigger anxiety.
  • Money worries: this is something that scares a lot of people in the world (but not the 1%, naturally) — but I need to bear in mind two things: I’m receiving enough in benefits (at least until March) to pay my rent and daily bills; and I’ve got a mother and grandmother to support me with the extras.

So, what am I doing on a daily basis?  Having a lie-in, which I’d gladly give up if I could work instead, but still listening to Chris Evans on the radio.  In between applying for jobs (including receiving calls from recruiters who have seen my CV online) and studying, I’ve been eating, watching the final series of 24 (and recognising places in London!), and playing (mostly) Batman: Arkham Origins, to complement the other two games I played before Christmas.  I wonder if finishing will trigger my final acceptance into a job…

I’m also still trying to do all the “after-work” things I used to do: going climbing at the Castle, seeing my personal trainer (thanks to a loan from my mother), going to meetup groups such as yoga, and hanging out with “best mate”, going to the cinema or bowling.  These are, after all, the things that make me want to stay in London, and while I could certainly go to my mother’s gym in Worthing, or indeed go climbing with her in Shoreham, the more social aspects of my life are very much London-based, and I doubt I could make new friends in Worthing, especially young people.

(Okay, admittedly the only way I stayed sane living with my folks in Worthing for three years before my post-grad days was by going to a local astronomy society, with a bunch of old men!)

All things considered, I think I’ll have to give up and move back to Worthing if I haven’t found even temp work by March; it’s not a happy prospect, but hopefully it’ll sharpen my resolve to find something soon, by any means necessary.  However, just as last October a voice in my head told me I’d have a job by the next Full Moon, which it came to pass (for better or worse), so it said again recently.  I’d been hoping it meant New Moon, which was today — but as long as I’m working again within the next two weeks, I can cope with what I’m going through right now.

However, if all else fails, I’ll just have to live in Worthing — but I won’t give up entirely: I’ll still keep fit, I’ll learn to drive, and I’ll apply for one of those programmes where you go to Japan to teach English.  That way I could use my intelligence, and my mother could live vicariously through me somehow — and I’d be out of this country, hopefully for good…

Still looking for a jerrrb

24/7 shift coverage for £18k pa?  You want the Moon on a stick!

24/7 shift coverage for £18k pa? You want the Moon on a stick!  (Just in case you thought I’d forgotten this one…)

As you would imagine from my lack of posting, I didn’t get the job — but I didn’t find out until Tuesday morning, and thus wasted four days feeling hopeful and not taking care of business like I should.

It didn’t help that an old, old friend of mine… yes, this is going to be a “serious business” reference to a Facebook post sending me into a despair spiral, I’m sure you’ve missed those!  Suffice to say this guy went from being a Bart Simpson-esque “bad boy” when I knew him at school, to a complete IT geek as an adult, and he’s been working in the industry longer than me and seems to think I’ll have no alternative but to accept another debilitating shift-based job for a year or two, if I want to break into IT.

However, on Tuesday evening I went to yoga and felt better, supporting the guy who runs the classes and meeting some old friends there, and was able to swallow my pride and ask my mother for a loan so I could pay my personal trainer for five more torture sessions.  In other words, I’ve taken the decision to be happy again and do the things I enjoy, rather than worrying all the time — after all, what’s the point of being in London if I can’t?

And I’m still getting interviews arranged for me, sometimes at very short notice (like the one I attended today, which genuinely seems too good to be true) — though something troubles me: with the exception of an interview at a school I had during my internship, literally everyone who’s interviewed me face-to-face for an IT job so far has been Middle Eastern or from the Indian subcontinent (though generally with an English accent) — no-one has been white, black, Far Eastern, American Indian or any other ethnicity!

I know England’s a melting pot, and London even more so — and don’t worry, there’s no chance of me voting BNP (or even, $DEITY help me, UKIP) in an effort to “send ’em back where they came from” — but it’s a weird coincidence, isn’t it?  Maybe I’m reading too much into things, and need to get on with that blog entry I’ve been planning where I analyse myself to see if I’m getting racist in my old age, but still, I am feeling just a little bit like my white British ethnicity could be holding me back in an age of positive discrimination.

Of course, it cuts both ways: I heard the tragic story at my IT agency of a Middle Eastern guy who was getting interview after interview but never succeeding, and was about to give up when finally someone accepted him… and then let him go because his English wasn’t good enough, leading him to give up on his dream of working in IT and go back to working for a betting shop.

That brings me to my main point: I’M NOT GIVING UP!  No, while I may have lost interest in geology or astrophysics after studying them (though I do regret not being involved with Rosetta — perhaps in another world I landed it like a pro thanks to all my video games experience?), just because I had a lousy shift-based job that wasn’t even a proper IT helpdesk role anyway, doesn’t mean I regret leaving admin and wish I could take it all back.  Despite not being paid, and having a 90-minute journey each way, I enjoyed working for the helpdesk at that London college in September and October, and that’s the kind of work I want to continue doing — on a weekday basis, though of course I’d be happy to help out after hours now and then.

(Did I ever tell you about my old university friend, who was studying Geology & Astrophysics, and went into IT as a career?  Am I also going to get an ulcer, just like him?!)

It’s possible that my lack of success so far has been due to me being a bit too formal at interview, and not loosening up enough; it’s been suggested to me that they may not care about my lack of practical experience in IT (well, practical in an actual employment situation), but would be willing to take me on and train me up if they felt I’d fit in nicely with the team.  Certainly, when I got that job in November (sorry, last time I’ll refer to it for now), I mentioned how I tend to bring in a box of Krispy Kremes on special occasions… perhaps the way to an employer’s heart is through their stomach!

I do hope I get a job soon — apart from the stigma of being “on benefits”, I feel like I can’t make plans or spend too much money (hence the loan from the maternal unit), and I really need to get a new PSU for my computer, as the one I have is nearly six years old and the fan’s going!  Still, at least I managed to stop the thing crashing when playing games (stopped overclocking and things immediately went back to normal), so my IT skills are unaffected by my troubles… how can anyone say I don’t have enough practical experience now?!

Here we go again…

sp_fp1You’ll be pleased to know that I’ve been feeling a lot better in 2015, at least since coming back to London; you wouldn’t have thought it from how upset I was on Saturday when I had to face up to leaving my mother and grandmother (I would have stayed until Sunday, but it would have involved getting a bus to Littlehampton), and indeed during the journey I felt dark and brooding, but almost as soon as I got off the Northern Line at Finchley Central and breathed fresh air again, I felt remarkably better!

I’m still unemployed, but — BUT — I’ve had phone interviews this week, and indeed a face-to-face interview in Aldgate today, so I’m hopeful that things are finally changing for the better in my life (though it was disconcerting to be called by an agency recruiter who wanted to put me forward for essentially the same job as the one I’d just been interviewed for, at the same company!).  Just gotta have faith that (a) I deserve to work in an IT helpdesk role, and (b) I’m actually capable of getting one.

Pessimistically I’ve been feeling that it’s all my fault for screwing up and not appreciating the job I had in November, and thus getting quasi-fired from a “decent” job.  Which is wrong, because I didn’t enjoy it, and I wasn’t doing anything wrong by continuing to apply for jobs — and just because “other people” can do 24/7 shift jobs, doesn’t mean I’m capable of doing them as well, or having a life!  Bear in mind I wasn’t even learning anything useful about IT at that job (and I mean in both the sense of “information technology” and “it”, because remember the adult nature of the business!).

It’s worth noting that back in 1997, during the summer between my first and second years at university, I worked for a supermarket (one which no longer exists and was taken over by the Co-op) — I had no pride issue with stacking shelves, as it meant money to supplement the meagre student grant that West Sussex County Council grudgingly let me have.  Unfortunately, having evening shifts on Thursday and Friday, and an all-day shift on Saturday, came to be a problem when classes started again in the autumn, and I had classes all day on Thursday and Friday (indeed, overlapping with my shifts) — which meant I essentially had no free time for three days of the week!  Not being able to relax on Saturday was bad, and not being able to relax on Friday night was worse, but not being able to go to the sci-fi club on Thursday evenings?  Ecch!

When they confirmed they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) change my shifts, I felt I had to quit — it was affecting my sanity — but at least there I liked the people I was working with (possibly except the chavvy bloke who stacked shelves with me, though even he turned out to be a closet Doctor Who fan!), and I was sad to leave.  Other than that, and the aforementioned horrible job I had in late 2004 (and the temp job I went into that from), I’ve never left a job of my own accord other than to go to university — which shows you how determined I am to stay on at a company, and how bad things have to be for me to leave… and thus how bad things were at that job in November, as I began trying to leave almost immediately!

(Do you want me to stop going on about it?  Okay, how about I talk about Gwar instead?  There, are you sorry now?  Good, now shut up and listen!)

If tomorrow I’m told I got the job I interviewed for today, things are gonna get better in my life.  Admittedly the first part of my journey will involve the Bank branch of the Northern Line (always packed in the mornings), and the second part will involve the Metropolitan / District / Circle / Hammersmith & City Line (which collectively have the most consistent delays of all London transport), but I’ll find a way to get a seat, or at least read e-books standing up.  I’ll be getting paid again and won’t have to spend all day sitting at home applying for jobs, and can thus get back to enjoying my life — and hopefully this time, enjoying work as well as play.

One other thing: although last year I ported my mobile number to O2 thanks to 3 having such appalling signal here in Finchley, today I completed the reverse process and took my number back to 3, who have gotten their act together at last.  Excellent signal strength now, but as long as I’ve got a usable signal at all, they’re way cheaper than the competition — especially when you consider that O2 won’t let you check your voicemail using bundle minutes, so I paid £10 for a bundle and then had to pay another £10 (minimum) as “normal” credit!  All in all, I regret the original move — if I’d held on for just another few, er, weeks…

So here’s hoping 2015 really is beginning well for your humble narrator.  If tomorrow I post something happy, you’ll know I was successful; if I don’t, well, either I failed on this occasion (and so on to the next one), or I was too busy going bowling with “best mate” to bother writing something for you guys!