Monthly Archives: February 2015

Am I getting racist?

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Don’t worry, I’d never vote UKIP — not as long as there’s a Monster Raving Loony candidate in my constituency…

I may be employed again, but I certainly still need work — on my mind and my personality.  I’m worried, as should any decent member of society, that I’m starting to become racially intolerant — not of everyone, but certainly of large swathes of society…

I still recall how delighted I was to see how ethnically diverse London was back in 1995, when I came up for university interviews; it was such a disappointment to return to bland old Worthing (at the time about 99.99% lower-middle-class white) at the end of the day.  When I became a post-grad in east London in 2003, I was again pleased to see first-generation immigrants walking proudly in their national garb… and annoyed to see their teenage offspring dressed in trackies, just like the white chavs (once I learned the word “chav”, of course).  Britain is like a jelly mould, I decided, and those born here conform to our ways, sadly including the bad ones.

So why is it that nowadays I’m feeling so oddly intolerant towards Middle Easterners (including those from the Indian subcontinent) and East Europeans?  It’s something I can’t explain — nothing to do with terrorism (though I did get a little worried one time when the old man next to me was reading from a prayer book on the Tube, probably during Ramadan), but purely irrational.  It’s particularly weird, because I feel no animosity towards Far Eastern people (perhaps because I speak Japanese), or indeed black (of the African variety) people, who are usually the first people that white racists tell to “get back to yer own country!”  Nor do I have anything against white Europeans, unless they’re being particularly loud, as tourists in London often are (sadly).

I’m particularly fed up with the kind of blokes who, apparently for cultural reasons, wear too much aftershave and/or deodorant, to the degree that they’re pungent at ten paces (even on the street).  There’s also the generic shopkeeper in a small shop, who spends all day yammering into a mobile phone, or to his colleague a few feet away, in a language I don’t understand (Polish?), but speaks more quietly to me when telling me how much I owe for my shopping, before resuming his overly-loud conversation without even a pause for breath — thereby showing he was talking quietly to me not for my benefit, but so the other person wouldn’t think he was talking to them, since clearly they’re more important than a damn customer.

(How many cashiers complain on the Internet about customers who talk rudely on their mobile?  Sauce for the goose, and all that…)

Then there’s that special kind of first-generation immigrant working as a shop assistant who, when I’ve finally managed to explain to him what I’m looking for, says with a condescending smile: “No, we don’t have!” — as though I’m some kind of naive child to think a supermarket might sell drying cloths.  And don’t get me started on the two East European blokes who came to our door when our bathrooms were being stripped down and redecorated, and politely asked if they could take away the old radiator left on our front lawn so they could sell it for scrap metal (with no indication that we’d get a cut of the dosh)… and really don’t get me started on whoever keeps putting business leaflets through our door, even after my drummer housemate put a sign up telling them we don’t want any leaflets, circulars or other junk mail!

I think the worst recent incident was a balding, dark-skinned Asian guy on the Tube, with a strong accent, who, after talking to a woman about the dog she’d brought on and that I’d briefly petted, turned to me with what I imagine he thought was a friendly grin toward a fellow dog-lover — it made me very nervous, and if anything reminded me of this creepy fellow (yes, I know he’s from the Philippines, but still).  I knew intellectually he was harmless and just being nice, so why did I feel such instinctive loathing, even for just a brief moment?

The truly scary part is how I’ve been thinking these days, unable to stop myself: regarding someone on the Tube as “yet another generic Muslim guy” (and no, not someone dressed like a dignified desert nomad, but a young bloke in a suit), mentally labelling the noisy East European workmen doing up a house across the road as “Dothraki” (yes, I’ve been watching Game of Thrones), and blanching at having to interact with a strongly-accented Asian guy at my new job (not to mention annoyance that 1st line IT has been outsourced to Bangalore).

(I’d probably feel something instinctive against my downstairs housemate — the guy who cut us off the Internet in 2013 — because he’s Indian and has a strong accent… but he’s so seldom home, I can’t seem to work up any antagonism!)

This situation can’t and shouldn’t continue: I don’t want to feel loathing for people who have done me no harm, who have committed no greater sin than “looking different from me”, and I have to hope it’s just the tail end of my unemployment-related anxiety working its way out of my system that’s giving me these heebie-jeebies, much as my house search in January 2012 made me afraid of being outside old houses on cold, dark nights.  Hopefully once I actually speak to people again, I’ll be just fine, and can look back at my current self with pity, instead of finding myself agreeing with the dreadful Nigel Farage about feeling like a foreigner in my own town.

All that said, it’s interesting to note that foreign women don’t bother me at all (perhaps because I no longer have to put up with a certain annoying woman?) — not even Muslim women wearing the hijab, who just seem like ordinary people to me.  It’s not a sexual thing: I just somehow feel safer around women, perhaps because I know they’re far less likely to lunge towards me with arm outstretched, thinking it’s their duty to shake my hand (something I’ve been finding increasingly threatening these days, as per my last post).  This isn’t particularly new: evan back at university I much preferred being around female students to guys, as they wouldn’t drone on about (a) football and (b) their sexual conquests.

Conversely, there are plenty of white guys I can’t stand to look at (especially fat bald middle-aged blokes — I dread having to partner with them at yoga!), and indeed I gave up a double seat on a crowded bus recently rather than have a creepy-looking old man sit next to me, since I assumed he reeked of tobacco and/or beer (he thought I was “stupid” for doing so, apparently not realising it was him personally I wanted to get away from, not just any neighbour).

Perhaps I’m not racist… but sexist, against my own gender?  Ah, but I said that already — it takes a really amazing guy to break through my barriers and demonstrate his value to me, and until then most blokes are, at best, in my way.  Maybe I’m predisposed to feel antagonism towards blokes, and pick on any “flaw” I see in them instinctively — even things which shouldn’t count as flaws, like (ahem) “being foreign”.

But as to why it’s dark-skinned Middle Eastern or Indian subcontinent blokes I’m most resentful towards these days, well… could it be because my supervisor at the bad job in November was Indian?  Did that job freak me out more than I thought?  I got on with the guy fine at the time, but perhaps the fact that, as I noted recently, almost everyone in IT departments these days appears to be Middle Eastern makes me subconsciously resentful, since I wonder how many times during my soul-destroying job search I was the victim of a kind of positive discrimination…

What a stupid mess I’m in, eh?  Still, here’s to recovery — before you know it, I’ll be a nice guy who isn’t intimidated by inoffensive people, and uniting all the races of the world in an era of peace and harmony.  Well, as soon as they all stop being racist, that is…

———

As a postscript, let’s ponder why I never really get intimidated by black guys (leaving aside the chavvy student-age kind I encountered while working in the IT department at that college last autumn), unlike “normal” white racists.  Indeed, my latest male friend is of the Africanised persuasion — and also a plus-size gentleman, proving that I don’t automatically hate fat guys.

However, this may itself be a form of racism: I always seem to expect black dudes to be “cool” and interesting!  If so, I had a wake-up call in my final undergrad year, 1999-2000, when my neighbour, who was black, turned out to be completely devoid of anything other than sneering, superior ultra-capitalist tendencies (I belive his personal credo was “take, take, take”) and humourless chauvinism (of the straight-faced “women are sex objects” variety).

Then again, he was studying Economics and wanted to become a businessman, so he’d probably been brainwashed or something — so it was nurture, not nature, that led to him being such a miseryguts, and it’s possible that black guys really are born awesome!  Fo’ shizzle, my ni… er, brizzle!

Back the way things were?

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If this is your image and you want me to take it down, let me know and I’ll steal a different one from Google instead

I’ve started working again, and joy of joys, it’s a 9-to-5 job in a (fairly) central London location.  So why am I uneasy about the future?  Perhaps because it feels like I’m almost exactly where I would have been if the past six months hadn’t happened at all — and while I may have longed for my life to return to how it was in 2013, I know in my heart that things have to change one day…

Consider this: if I hadn’t accepted redundancy at Camden and had fought to keep my job, I would now be working on one of the upper floors of a modern building in the King’s Cross area.  I’d be commuting to work every day on the Bank branch of the Northern Line (so I’d be lucky to get a seat), sitting at a hot desk with a laptop instead of a desktop, doing various tasks with Excel and Visio, and (since everyone I liked left around the same time as me) working with strangers, with whom I’d have to forge completely new relationships.  I’d then go after work to my usual evening events — climbing, personal training, yoga, Japanese meetup — or else go home and study or play video games.

On the other hand, now I seem to have this exact life anyway, after having been either unemployed, unpaid or unable to face a bad job since the end of last July!  Believe me, I’m grateful to be working again after so long in the wilderness (being on benefits is a real drain on self-esteem, not to mention bank balance), and I made it through by continuing to do the things I enjoy, but I wonder if I’ve only delayed the inevitable.  Indeed, it might have been better to have stayed at Camden, as I’d be earning more on a permanent basis (this is only a contract position), and also feeling like I was making a positive difference, as I was for five years.

But maybe I’m worrying too much.  Yeah, I know, what a concept, but hear me out: this position may only be short-term to begin with, but there will be opportunity to go permanent, and even if it seems a hell of a lot like an admin position to start with, and even if I don’t get to do much beyond supporting bespoke packages in IT helpdesk terms, at least (a) I’ll have more demonstrable experience logging tickets, and (b) I’ll have time to finally finish my Server 2008 studies, which I’ve been picking at for over nine months now, before my next round of job-searching.

What’s really worrying me — and what I must thus conquer — is the thought that this time around, I’m in an impermanent, unstable situation.  I enjoyed 2013 precisely because I felt secure in my job, and even though I wanted to move into IT, I could indulge my whims (to a certain extent) through a great holiday to America and various meetup groups.  This time, however, I’m not permanent and thus have to keep improving myself, and face more hardships if I want to complete the journey I began.  I may even have to give up some of the things I’ve enjoyed, or at least find new places to do them (for example, living in Surrey would mean I couldn’t go to the Castle any more, unless I made an expedition of it).

However, I can enjoy my life in the meantime: my personal trainer’s still alive (despite having to go to A&E recently following a faceplant incident!), my other social events continue (I’ll even be able to eat out at Nando’s or Ed’s before yoga, as I always did), and “best mate” is moving into this very house in April (the guy who cut us off the Internet in 2013 finally moving on).  Despite the anguish of the past few months, I think I’ve been happier living here in Finchley than I’ve been since pretty much coming to London in the first place (aside from my first year, when I was at university and thus surrounded by new friends and relatively carefree in terms of accommodation), so why would I choose to give that up?  It’s true, one day my life will change… but not just yet.

It may interest you to know that I turned down a job interview yesterday for various reasons (being about to start a new job, my suit being in the wash, donating blood), but most importantly because it was right here in Finchley.  Sure, it was a permanent role, unequivocally IT helpdesk-based, and it might have been nice walking for five minutes to get to work, but I don’t want a career tying me to this area of London.  I want to work in the centre, so I can commute there no matter where life takes me (in the home counties, at least), and I certainly don’t want to live and work in the same place — I like the sense of work/life separation that the daily commute brings.

(Just a pity that my current job isn’t far enough away that commuting on a good, non-delayed day would take long enough for me to watch an episode of, well, anything longer than Beavis and Butt-head!  How’s that for a weak complaint?  I know, Moon on a stick!)

Anyway, all things considered, I’m better off where I am — working, earning, and hopefully learning — and I’m not bitter about missing out on that other (permanent) job in Waterloo, compared to which this one might seem like a consolation prize.  I do feel melancholy when I consider the happier times I had in the past, but there’s no going back, if only because my life at Camden ceased to exist in any recogniseable form anyway.  Like I said before, I can’t turn back time, and nor should I try; instead, I’ll make the most of what I have now, and stop worrying about some arbitrary time limit on the things that make me happy.

Finally, it’s worth noting that around this time in 2009 was when I started my job in Camden children’s social services; it was a miserable experience initially (in the beginning everyone was noisy, not just that one loud woman), and I was very unhappy there for my first year, but I found my feet and by 2011 had made friends with everyone I was likely to make friends with (hence being able to survive the ensuing horrible period of my life).  If I can feel happy and accepted in this role in less than that amount of time, well, I’ll be ahead of schedule, won’t I?

I just wish blokes didn’t keep thrusting their hands out at me — I hate shaking hands with strangers (especially males), due to being an unrepentant introvert.  I think this frame from an Internet cartoon explains my feelings about extroverted people invading my personal space rather well:

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Emerging from darkness

ygdwygdAlthough I’m still awaiting a contract with the right start date (!), I’ve got a job starting next week; although it’s not the one I wanted, it’s something I would find bearable, and it’ll pay the bills (for a few months).

It’s a shame about the “great” job, though: it took about a week after my second interview (apparently due to the Chicago-based boss having a family emergency) to find out they’d chosen the other candidate, and I’ve not received anything even approximating feedback.  However, I reckon it’s for the best, as this job would have involved troubleshooting the software they produce on behalf of clients, rather than Windows software on behalf of employees (like wot I trained for), and in truth it appealed to me for three reasons that shouldn’t turn the head of a moralising person such as myself:

  1. The office is right next to Waterloo station, meaning I could have commuted with ease both from here (a Charing Cross branch location means being able to get a virtually empty train that’s come down from Mill Hill East) and from a putative future house in the Surrey area (assuming South West Trains had gotten their act together by then);
  2. I’d have had the chance to work with Americans (albeit virtually via Skype), and perhaps the prospect of going on a placement abroad and thus away from this cesspool country that spawned me;
  3. MONEY — I let the notion of working closely with the legal industry make me think I’d have untold riches waiting for me if I stuck it out.

So, for moral and karmic reasons, it’s probably better I didn’t get this job.  The one I got instead, for which I’d interviewed the previous day (but also arranged through my IT agency), will involve more data entry and analysis than actual IT troubleshooting on my part, but it’ll at least mean I’m working, and I’ll have the prospect of making myself indispensable and being kept on in another role, as happened at Camden (but hopefully this time in a more IT-focused role).  Thus, I’m pleased to have a job again.

(Just a pity I’ll have to commute to King’s Cross every day, a horrific prospect I thought I’d escaped when I accepted voluntary redundancy from Camden!  Will I have to get used to standing on a crowded Bank branch train every day?  Or shall I get a Charing Cross branch train, get off at Euston, and have a much longer walk at the end?  Bah, at least it doesn’t involve waiting for a bus on a cold night!)

And so it came to pass, when I found out that I’d got this job, that my feelings of anxiety and “nameless horror” began to recede, and I regained the ability to get up in the morning without gagging from nausea.  So quickly do I seem to recover from hardship the moment things start going my way — but I suppose the real reason I’ve survived a virtual rerun of late 2011 to early 2012 is that I’ve got friends and activities in London, and a closer relationship with my mother and grandmother than I enjoyed before (rescuing Mumsy from hospital in late 2012 seemed to be the clincher).

I’m not sure whether the lack of a hard time limit (29th January 2012 was the last day I could have kept my stuff at Caledonian Road) made things better this time: yeah, I was being paid money by Uncle Sucker’s limey cousin to keep applying for jobs, and indeed I’ve got another housing benefit payment coming on Monday (probably) that’ll restore some of my ravaged bank balance before I start work on Thursday, but still, it’s been very demoralising having to sit here every day, feeling guilty for turning the heating on, or going to see movies with “best mate” when you consider how much the cinema (and its snacks!) costs these days.

But it’s all over: I’ve only a few more days to wait, and I’ll be gainfully employed once again.  I’ve got until Thursday to complete the process of clearing out old junk from my room, copying the advert breaks from old Star Trek recordings onto DVD so I can rip them and post them to YouTube (yes, that is an actual thing), and hopefully going to central London to sell old stuff and donate blood, the latter being something I scandalously haven’t done since November 2013!

My only concern about this job — aside from the fact that it’ll only last between 3 and 6 months, as it’ll count as experience to go on my CV — is that it feels a bit like a step backwards: I’ll be working 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, doing something relatively easy in an office, and I wonder if my desperate, unspoken “wish” to go back to the easy days at Camden has been heard and granted.  I admit, mid-2013 to mid-2014 was probably the happiest time of my life, but I don’t want to be moving backwards into an “easier” admin job — remember when I described that as like running home to mother?

I still want to work in IT, and perhaps my newest friend (another potential date who decided she didn’t like me “that way”, but who at least acknowledges I’m awesome) has given me a good way forward: working for a Japanese business or bank with an office in central London.  I’ve not been able to do much Nihongo no benkyou in recent years thanks to my IT studies, but we’ll see if I can regain my ability to at least understand Japanese people when they talk, and not keep repeating the same practised phrases, such as kore made Nihon ni itta koto ga arimasen.  It’d mean my Japanese studies would count for something other than trying to get dates with college girls from the Far East (but hopefully that as well!)

Yes, I’m back to searching for a girlfriend — one of the ways in which I aim to recover from my recent career-related darkness — and while a contract job on an IT helpdesk isn’t the most glamorous of occupations, the fact that I’m working at all will mean I feel confident enough to start chatting women up again (or at least no less confident than before).  Although I probably won’t be able to afford to see a dating coach until my career really takes off, I can certainly go to singles events again — and I can pay my personal trainer to improve my physique, so that one lucky girl is delighted to see me with my shirt off…

(Yes, or perhaps several lucky girls — and I won’t even make them form a queue!)

It’s a strange contrast with how I felt during the first half of last week, praying to God and the spirits of my ancestors (well, my maternal grandfather and uncle) that I’d get the “great” job, or at least be able to cope.  Maybe they helped, or maybe I was talking to nothingness — but I’m certainly not one to hold the quiet practice of religion against anyone, so we’ll agree that at the very least it helps a person cope, and leave it at that.

I’ve been feeling sick and scared a great deal recently, but now that I’ve got more than just vague hope of a job in the near future, I can announce:

DAVE-ROS LIVES… AGAIN!

Premature congratulation?

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I really wish I didn’t need to keep posting this image (or the Eminem “Recovery” one)

Oh, how I wish this could me my last ever post about my job search — simply because it’s getting tedious going on about this subject, when I should be complaining about my failure to get a girlfriend instead!  I’ve had several interviews recently, but there’s one job rising above the others that I really, really want — because it would change my life and give me the opportunity to work in IT with the legal industry, which would be extremely lucrative; I’ve had two good interviews with them (albeit one via phone with a guy in Chicago and the other via Skype with two ladies, one in London and the other on the US Pacific coast), and now I just have to wait…

However, last week I did some odd things: I started acting like I was back at work and my life was back to normal, and began doing things I used to do a long, long time ago…

  • Making my own sandwiches.  Although it’s cheaper than buying them from the shop, it also reminds me of when I worked for Camden and brought my sarnies along in a plastic box (which I also still have).  If and when I work again, I’ll try to make them every morning, just like I used to…
  • Buying Doctor Who DVDs.  I finished season 21 back in December, but now want to get on with, er, Colin Baker’s time as the Doctor; I’ve been holding back, but even if I don’t get this job, I still think it’s about time (ahahaha) I resumed this part of my life — I’m close to the end, after all…
  • Going to singles events and even going on dates.  I don’t have a girlfriend as a result, but tonight I had a nice time with a new friend — and I decided that either she’d be “the one” or I’d get the job, so here’s hoping it really does work out that way…
  • Listening to my “no skits” playlist of all my music.  It started on my way to an interview Friday a week ago (just before my first “good” interview) when I thought “what the hell”, and it has continued ever since.  I’ve even been able to cheer when Gwar come on!

One thing I’d really like to go back to normal is me being able to get up in the mornings — even at the weekend I have trouble motivating myself enough to turn on my TV and watch Frasier in bed, let alone weekdays.  You’d think I’d be jumping out of bed to play games, wouldn’t you, and indeed I do once I’ve dragged myself into a vertical position, but simply getting up these days is very, very difficult.  Mind you, it might just be because it’s winter and thus getting up is an unpleasant prospect at the best of times, and only a strong compulsion (like having to leave the house around 8am for an interview) can get me moving.  The upset stomach I’ve had for a few days isn’t helping either…

I know in my heart that I will be better once I’m working again, and the job I’m hoping for is certainly my best prospect; I’ve done my best in my interviews, and it’s surely out of my hands now whether I get chosen or not (apparently there’s one other person from my agency they’re interviewing as well, and it’s by no means certain either of us would be chosen anyway).  However, I feel I should make some kind of pledge to improve myself even further if I have this job — that I’ll stop glaring at people who yawn on public transport without covering their mouths, or thinking negative thoughts about loud, surly East European blokes (note I have no problem with women of any culture, it’s always men I find myself antagonistic towards).  I will also do my best to do something for charity other than dumping old stuff on charity shops, such as working in a local soup kitchen, as the thought of becoming homeless is so horrifying that I want to help those who have already had to endure it.

(Yes, I know I’ve got my folks to support me and a home in Worthing to run back to if all else fails, but what if I didn’t even have that?)

Of course, it’s possible I’m too focused on this one job and have banked too much on getting it (this has certainly happened before), so I have to keep my options open.  I’m still applying for jobs, and indeed going to a long-delayed interview on Wednesday, though considering the company involved I hope I don’t get it on ethical grounds (let’s just say a much-loathed politician founded the place) — but I’ll still try my best.  I’ll also keep applying for temp admin jobs, and put pressure on the agency I spoke to at the end of 2014 (and for whom I got a CRB check), as it’s getting ridiculous how long they’re stringing me along!

And finally, perhaps my knowledge of Japanese will come to my rescue: my new female friend (someone who asked me out via a website) recommended I apply to Japanese banks here in London, as they could always use a Japanese speaker.  Maybe I’d start out in admin and move sideways into IT… and if all else fails, I’ll try for the JET programme, and go teach English in Japan.

What I really DON’T want to do is sit here every day applying for jobs and getting few to no responses — I feel useless and unmotivated.  I don’t pretend I’ll be completely all right if I get this job, much as I continued to suffer from anxiety and nausea for a couple of weeks after I found this house in early 2012, but I’ll be on the mend.  I just need a jerrrb…