After my last post, and my previous post, here’s a ludicrous number of years to go back: 23. Obviously the world’s changed massively since 1992 (especially in computer terms — I was still using my Amstrad CPC back then), but it’s not a nice round number, so why should I pick that particular year?
Well, here goes: 1992 was the year I started writing a diary, and I chronicled my last two terms at a school where I was happy, in a town where I’d lived from age 7 to age 14, as well as my family moving to Worthing, and my unremitting misery at a new school. I was getting bullied all the time there, even the girls treating me badly, and in summary I hated my new life and wanted to escape. However, I made it to Christmas and had a nice time with my family, and somehow made two friends at my new school — and, more importantly, did well at (most of) my lessons…
Anyway, like 1992, in the autumn I started spending my weekdays at a new place, and like 1992, at first I had the nagging suspicion that I wouldn’t be there for very long, and somehow doubted anyone talking to me about the months ahead. Perhaps in 1992 that was because I’d just gone through a house move and was still in that frame of mind, or perhaps it was just wishful thinking; in 2015, it was of course because I was only a lowly contractor to begin with, and doubt was cast over the possibility of me going permanent — not because of my ability to do my job, but because of their ability to pay for it. In both cases I stuck at it, and things got… better.
It’s very significant to note how timid I was in 1992, and how long it took me to find my feet; it had been no picnic two years earlier when I started at that posh all-boys school in Surrey, but gradually I’d made a name for myself and worked my way up the pecking order, but at the posh mixed school in Worthing, simply being myself was enough to earn scorn, and gradually I learned to keep my mouth shut.
Now, in 2015, although I still suffer from anxiety, I’ve reached the stage where I don’t need St. John’s wort to perk up my emotions any more, and I can have a laugh with my work colleagues, even though they’re of a similar humour to the school bullies — which makes me wonder how much of what I went through in 1992 was my own stupid fault. I know, victim shaming is a terrible thing, and the boys especially were particularly vicious (though not in physical terms, thankfully), but there are times I wish it had all been different and that I’d known then what I know now.
Loath as I am to admit that the bullies were sort of right, I have to say, I took things way too seriously back then! Oh, I tried to be funny, without resorting to (a) sneering at someone else in our year group or (b) simply quoting what a comedian said on TV last night, and that, apparently, was part of the problem — the teachers thought my surreal, self-deprecating humour was “above” the level of my peers, and that was why they made fun of me (the kids, not the teachers). Back then I could only get upset if my humour didn’t go down well and people had a go at me; nowadays (leaving aside moments of anxiety) I can simply respond by giving people a Paddington-style “hard stare”, or saying “ya funny!” in an American gangster voice (I’m sure Joe Pesci once said it with an exasperated face, possibly in Goodfellas?).
It’s worth noting that 1992 had the same date structure (from March onwards, as it was a leap year) as 2015, and so I’ve been noting that the first year I wrote a diary often has the same pattern as this year. The week beginning Monday 23rd November, for example, was absolutely horrible in 1992 (so much so I didn’t even notice it being Doctor Who‘s anniversary), to the point that I regretted not having died in the night, thanks to the bullies spraying Snow-in-a-can in my hair (several times). I even remember crying during a Physics test, and at first thought my best friend at the time was mocking me, when actually he was pretending to cry because he was scared of the test itself (having missed some school) — he didn’t criticise me for getting bullied as he’d had it in the past too!
And on Thursday the following week, thanks to a stupid argument with a classmate, I ended up “answering back” to a teacher I actually liked, and was told off in front of the class. He apologised later for the necessity, saying he had to be consistent and couldn’t let me off for that kind of thing even though he wanted to, but I still felt worthless, as though I was not only arguing with my peers, but letting down the adults who were supposed to be on my side…
Jump forward 23 years, and the week beginning 23rd November this year was also pretty tricky: after a difficult and frustrating Monday, I almost had a nasty argument on Thursday when I was told off for trying to help someone who was off research something when I should have assigned it to the off-guy completely and not helped at all (even when he e-mailed me demanding to know why I’d simply assigned it to him). I began to think my (female) boss was looking for things for which to criticise me… but I know she’s just being firm, and that they actually like me in this job and are just being stern to make sure I’m all that I can be.
In addition, I worried constantly about money, as I am wont to do these days, and as I did 23 years ago when it wasn’t always certain I could afford the bus to school. However, not only did I turn out to have more than I expected on Monday, but on Wednesday I was paid even more money by the DWP, two days before my first monthly payday; a phone call confirmed that it wasn’t a mistake they’d try to take back with interest, but was due to the gap since my last contractor pay packet!
So yeah, 23 years later my life’s a lot better, even if I face similar challenges… had enough of me dwelling on the past yet? Maybe I’ll make stopping this a New Year’s Resolution…
— — —
Wait, I’m not done yet! Never mind 13 (my lucky number) or 19 (a recurring theme in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series), 23 is somehow a number of great significance in my life, in both good and bad ways. 23 was our house number in the street where I’d spent my formative years in Surrey, I turned 23 in the year 2000, and the 23rd day of the month is often significant to me somehow. I recall 23rd November 2013 for that wonderful Doctor Who 50th anniversary special (and my masterpiece of fan obsession in this blog), but some less good 23rds include:
- 23rd November 1992: as above, I get badly bullied at school;
- 23rd May 2013: massive post-holiday depression, as I realise how much I need to change in my life;
- 23rd March 2014: Dave “Oderus” Brockie dies without me ever being able to thank him for Gwar;
- 23rd November 2014: my last evening at that horrible 24/7 shift job;
- 23rd June 2015: after a depressing day, while trying to get money for yoga, I lose my bank card in a broken cash machine, freak out and go home instead, breaking my glasses in the process.
These “bad 23rds” seem to have replaced the “depressing 12th” I used to get (nearly) every month from late 2011 to 2012 (like this and this). I know it’s silly superstition, but I’m sure you understand I’m going to get a little worried just before Christmas — especially if I take the 23rd as a half-day and try to travel to Worthing, because remember how hard it was for me to get home in 2012 on 23rd December… and indeed, while 24th December in 2013 was bad, the day before had been even worse!