Category Archives: Self-analysis

The bullies who made me

No, this is not in any way, shape or form a clue to his name, or the reason I refer to him as “capital P” — those are alternative facts.  Sad!

I’m lucky to be online tonight, as when I came back from visiting my folks in Worthing for the first time in two months, our Internet connection was down.  I knew how to fix it (unscrew the cable from the router, touch the core, screw it back in), and so did my former-drummer housemate — indeed, he was the one who came up with the solution originally — but for some reason he hadn’t done so, and with him in the lounge (where the router is), I felt I couldn’t go in and take care of it.

It was only when I heard him go in the shower that I dared step foot outside the sanctity of my room, and got it working on the second or third attempt; I’d killed the intervening time by, amongst other things, starting season 5 of Game of Thrones, which I have on Blu-ray and thus don’t need an Internet connection to watch (sorry Netflix).

But why should I feel so intimidated by my housemate, a session drummer / music teacher who became a truck driver?  Wait… shall I call him “drummer-trucker”?  Yes, that works.  I find “drummer-trucker” intimidating because he’s gone wonky recently, and acts condescending and confrontational, like the kind of bully who insults you for no reason and then claims you’re the one with the problem, because he’s just having a laugh and you’re taking it too seriously.  About the only thing missing is a crowd for him to be playing up to, like when I was at school…

Don’t worry, I won’t drone on about every individual school bully I faced off against, or we’d be here all day (and I’ve probably forgotten a few) — and more to the point, I’ve covered a lot of this before.  No, I’ll just focus on the ones who stayed with me, up here (Dave-ros taps his temple, pointing approximately at his brain), for long periods of time, and perhaps changed my life directions now and then…

Moving to Worthing in 1992 wasn’t ideal — I’d worked my way up the social order going to an all-boys school in Surrey (and no, not through any vulgar or political means), and going to a mixed school in September just meant I got bullied by the girls as well as the guys.  Fortunately the girls had grown to accept me by Easter 1993, and it was just the boys making my life hellish… especially one guy with curly hair, big gums and permanently-slitted eyes (and no, he wasn’t from the Far East, just incredibly smug).  He was certainly the kind of bully who’d get everyone against me when I was minding my own business, and somehow I let him get inside my head, to the point that it was only when he left school at the end of Year 11 that I was finally able to get on with my life.

The strange thing is, a couple of times he was actually nice to me — either returning my schoolbag when other thugs were throwing it around, or chatting amiably outside school one day.  It’s why I’ve often wondered if he and I were actually supposed to be friends… but hey, I wasn’t into BYOB parties when I was 15-16, so I’d never have fitted into his crowd.  Fortunately, I no longer bear him ill will, and hope he’s sorted his life out.

You’d think leaving home would change things, but nooo, I got more of it at university — perhaps due to studying Geology, the most “thuggish” of the sciences (presumably because you have to do a lot of walking, and get to hit rocks with hammers!).  Not only did I get comments like “coathanger” shouted out when I was nearby during a field trip to Wales, but apparently one night two real scumbags got drunk and decided to come by my room to beat me up!  Fortunately I was out playing Quake in a computer lab that evening, otherwise I’d have suffered for the crime of… what, exactly?  Being myself?  I guess they made me more determined to be myself, if they had any effect at all…

My postgrad days saw the two blokes in my Astrophysics MSc ka-tet treating me badly, but at least one naffed off to do a PhD, while the other became the fellow I always refer to as “good housemate” in these hallowed pages, simply because I learned to roll with the punches, and gave as good as I got — in a way, he toughened me up and helped me laugh.  This guy, of course, once upset me by saying I was obliged to hurry up and (he thought) lose my virginity to a prostitute, to stop letting mankind down, but when he got his own place, and precipitated my worst month, he let me sleep on his couch for a week, while I waited for my new room to become available, so he’s forgiven.  I haven’t heard from him in ages, but I hope he’s all right and living his life!

Even beyond education, there exist bullies — and sadly, some of them have authority… when I first moved in with “good housemate” and our two female friends in Wood Green, I managed to get a temp admin job working for the local council (which I’ve mentioned before); at first I was doing well, organising deliveries and collections of Occupational Therapy (OT) equipment, and making friends with the delivery men (and on one or two occasions, helping them out when they were a man down) — and this seemed to frustrate the boss, a Scots lady with long white hair, whose very presence eventually made me cringe.

Although at first I was apparently the best they’d had in that job, she changed her appraisal of me when she decided that I should stop using my initiative and start blindly following rules — as though process was more important than results.  She’d also heap her own work on me in stupid ways, telling me to prepare fax messages, then telling me “that’s not how I’d phrase it” and requiring me to ask her for the exact wording I should use (which she then scrawled on the smallest size of Post-It notes, rather than e-mailing me).

At times it felt like she was trying to “sicken” me, and one day I actually had a bit of a breakdown from her constant nagging and work-heaping… fortunately the guy between me and her smoothed things over.  Still, this was the only job I ever quit for reasons other than returning to university or moving on to a better job, and I don’t regret doing so — and apparently I lasted longer than anyone else, and virtually no-one else liked her!

She wasn’t the only female superior to make me sad at work, though at least the loud girl I worked with at a nearby housing department in 2005 turned out to be all right in the end, and just a bit bossy at times.  However, it was a different but similar girl in my HR (Recruitment) days who really got to me — and, much like my current woes (not to mention the “brain fuzz” I was getting at the start of the year), it would always seem to be one week good, one week bad.  If she was unhappy with me, she’d criticise me for just about everything, even stuff that wasn’t my fault (like two recruiting managers for the same job telling us different things, or someone having written the wrong department next to a job in the diary), and claim I was “picking and choosing” my work.  If I was lucky, she’d leave me alone, and maybe sometimes even thank me.

It’s largely thanks to her hot-and-cold treatment that I didn’t reapply for my job there when yet another restructuring took place, and jumped at the chance to be redeployed in 2009 (to the job I was doing when I first started this blog).  Mind you, she got her comeuppance: she actually wanted to work in HR as a career and so reapplied for her job, yet when it came time to her interview, she panicked so much (perhaps due to criticism of her treatment of me?) that she had to walk out to compose herself!  After that she was a lot nicer to me during the remainder of our time there, and I wished her well when she went on to better things.

I reckon she was going through some bad stuff at that time of her life — what with actually wanting to succeed in a job I could take or leave — and perhaps that’s why my “drummer-trucker” housemate is being such a see-you-next-Tuesday lately: he regrets his decision to throw in music in favour of trucking, and is taking it out on the rest of us… or maybe he’s gone alcoholic: he drinks a six-pack every time he’s home in the evenings, with his music or DVDs playing loudly, and these are the worst times if we encounter each other.

He used to be all right: yes, there have been times we’ve argued, and he accused me of “needing to get laid” when I didn’t enjoy being locked out of the kitchen, but he also drove me to the hospital when I did my ankle in last year… mind you, he was still teaching drumming at the time, and thus had social skills.  Still, his pranks have never even been funny: things like shouting out he’s joining me and “best mate” when we’re going to the Castle, or telling me there’s a man who keeps coming to the door asking for me — it’s like he’s setting up jokes, but never follows through with the punchline.  Even today, he yanked the kitchen door open as he was walking past from the lounge, and any time he catches me using the upstairs toilet, he rattles the door handle impatiently.

Worst of all: this guy who sits alone drinking, actually has the gaul to accuse me and my other housemates (including “best mate”, the only person who doesn’t actively try to avoid him) of being “anti-social”!  Perhaps he’s just a hypocrite, considering he fills the house with his cookery smells (or on one occasion, petrol fumes from the motorbike he keeps on the front path), after leaving passive-aggressive notes in the kitchen for a previous housemate over curry odours.

I wish things hadn’t gotten to this stage, as I respect him for handling our billing (and the landlady) all these years, and want to part on good terms — but it’s up to him to make any moves to apologise, as he’s the one behaving badly… though I wonder if he himself is trying to avoid me, for precisely that reason?

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Nothing to fear

Don’t worry, folks, I was entirely unaffected by the ostensible terror attack here in London today (even my commute home was untroubled).  While it’s sad that innocent people died, it was clearly a futile endeavour compared to 7/7 or 9/11 (or the recent attacks in Europe), and I’m not afraid of terror.

However, that might be the case anyway, as I’m less anxious now than I’ve been in years.  Much like Cartman thought had happened to his sense of humour in that South Park episode, I think I may have “blown an anxiety fuse” recently — and, like Cartman, perhaps that’s a ludicrous explanation and I’m actually just getting more mature.

(Yeah, right, and monkeys might fly outta my butt…)

I first noticed this phenomenon during the horrors of November 2014, when I was doing that shift-based job I hated from the start: the second (and last, as it happened) day shift, on a Friday, saw me mysteriously perk up after lunch, almost as though a switch had been thrown in my head… or the part of my brain dealing with anxiety had simply worn out and shut down.  As I thought at the time, it may have been purely because it resembled a normal working weekday, for the first time since I’d finished at Camden (those six weeks of 90-minute commutes to and from Greenford didn’t count), but it certainly felt like some kind of biochemical change in my noggin.

And now, today, in 2017, I don’t really feel afraid or intimidated any more.  Okay, I still can’t stand noisy, crowded places, but that’s because I’m a human being from the planet Earth, and nothing to do with anxiety — I find such environments unpleasant, as any sane person would, but I don’t find myself freezing up, trying to stifle a scream or curling into a foetal position, just wanting to get the hell out there as soon as possible.  Similarly, a couple of weeks ago I was so afraid of arguing with my former-drummer housemate that I installed a voice recorder app on my phone, in case I needed evidence that he was threatening me… now, I find I don’t really care what he does, because it’s not like he interferes with my food or anything like that — it’s all just tedious “jokes” and annoyance.

Moreover, now that I’ve settled into my job as IT helpdesk “face” and put the terrors of January 2016 behind me, I find that I don’t panic when my boss criticises me, or cajoles me into doing some work — I know she’s just doing her job, and I’ve been reliably informed (by my workplace senpai) that she’s a lot nicer and more reasonable than many IT bosses… and hey, she may be right, it’s not impossible for someone of management grade to be correct about something!  Plus, of course, she swung me a pay rise, which has turned into another pay rise thanks to a new payscale being introduced, so I owe her a great deal, and can stop feeling afraid she’s going to ditch me on a whim, or that she’s setting me up to fail.

Having more money, of course, also helps me feel confident about my place in the world — I’m no longer living hand-to-mouth, and can finally do things I’ve only dreamed of (like going back to the USA for the first time in three years, Trump notwithstanding).  You may think it’s wrong for me to feel happy having money when our government seem to be ensuring as many people as possible end up in poverty (zero-hour contracts, unemployed and disabled being cut off from benefits, the economy tanking due to Brexit while the rich get tax breaks), but sometimes you’ve got to worry about yourself first, before you can help others.  Much as I dismiss the Bible, I see the wisdom in the bit about beams and splinters, and know I’ve got to keep myself safe and well if I’m ever going to help my folks (the most important people to me).

Something definitely seems to have changed in me.  I remember how I’d get massively depressed and/or anxious during 2015, in the aftermath of that horrible period of unemployment, even with pitifully small cause — clamming up and withdrawing from the office because people were being noisy, or worrying that I’d offended a girl I fancied, and spending whole days sinking deeper into sadness even as I tried to throw myself into my work (to the point that a work friend recommended I take St. John’s wort).  I’m beginning to wonder whether the part of my brain that caused those bouts of misery (and began doing so in late 2011) is malfunctioning now, perhaps dying at last, and that this is why I keep getting “brain fuzz” these days: it’s a case of crossed wires (or a leaking pipe), and instead of depression/anxiety being triggered by this thing, I’m getting random bursts of memory at those times.

As far as this particular brain issue goes, I’ve seen the quack (again) and arranged a blood test for next Friday, just in case it’s down to hypothyroidism.  I know I apparently didn’t have that back in 2015, according to a blood test I received at that time; I was concerned then that I was feeling the cold a little too much, but it later emerged (after I spoke to an actual doctor in person, rather than a bored receptionist on the phone) that I was borderline low iron, which would explain a lot.

(Oddly, I also don’t feel the cold anywhere near as much nowadays… though that could be due to rebuilding a layer of fat, alas!)

In the meantime, my bouts of brain weirdness seem to have stopped entirely, even though I’m back drinking caffeine, eating chocolate, listening to my diverse music collection, and working hard.  I still feel brief weirdness now and then, often when thinking things out — like a single word, rather than a group of memories, is sounding in my brain — but something similar happens to me when I’m dozing off in bed at night (while reading, wash your minds out!), so it’s no big deal… probably.  I wonder if this apparent recovery is due to having discussed the issue with my mother at the weekend — it certainly felt like something “turned over” in my brain at that moment — and perhaps it’s like so many people’s experiences with the IT helpdesk: when you try to demonstrate the problem, it immediately disappears and you look foolish!

I know I should feel more worry about the state of the world at the moment, with the deplorable rise in right-wing sentiment, and my government’s plans to spy on us wholesale and punish whistleblowers, allegedly in the name of combatting terrorism — and, of course, Trump (no complete sentence needed there).  As I’ve noted before, my life improvements seem to send the rest of the world along the highway to Hell… but what good would it do for me to feel bad, to give up the good things in my life just because I feel like I don’t deserve them?  If anything, now that I’ve got my life on track, I might be in a better position to help others… and maybe help prop up the economy by spending?

Not so immature

nota

This is one presidential campaign where Richard Pryor’s advice to vote “none of the above” is very sound

I suppose if I could say one good thing about Donald Trump (making Hillary Clinton look like a better US Presidential candidate isn’t “good”, as she’s hardly a saint), it’s that he’s made me feel better about myself.  Purely by accident, of course, because I’m not an American voter, and even if I were, he only truly cares about himself and (possibly) his business cronies.  I’d never vote for him… because he doesn’t want votes from people like me, he wants latter-day Brown Shirts, and I’m better than that.

You may remember my vitriolic outburst against racist scumbags in my own country, emboldened by Brexit but always with us; indeed, I was uncannily prescient about how they’d go after gays next (according to a song sung in Trafalgar Square)!  I also somehow predicted in that post (not that it took a “yuge” mental leap) that Trump would salivate at the thought of access to nukes, but naively, I had no idea about the depths of his sexism… yes, I’m on about the recording of him boasting about grabbing women by the P-word and so on, something which incenses me.

No, I’m not on the Internet just to say “ooh, I’m offended”, so if you’re reading, Stephen Fry, please rein in your contempt (well, for that specific thing at least, I know I’m not as erudite as your good self!).  What I want to say is that I genuinely feel I’m better than the scumbags voting for Trump because, in addition to Muslims and Mexicans being kicked out, they appear to want women returned to their former second-class status (some even apparently want the 19th Amendment rolled back), in the same way that I feel I’m better than the aforementioned sub-humans who join the BNP and EDL in this country.

Why?  Well, first of all, the reason I’m incensed is that there’s this notion that all heterosexual men are supposed to be like Trump — brash, arrogant and trash-talking women while around other men.  Now, I’ve been told off in the past for letting the side down (how naively I thought back then that I’d only complain about my love life just that once!), and indeed on one occasion, by a friend I respected, for not thinking about a close female friend in sexual terms.  I’ve never been that way, and never been comfortable with this so-called “locker room talk”; I think it’s because I don’t want to share my sexuality with other blokes — I want to find a woman for me, not so I can compete with those buttmunches, as generally other men’s opinion of me is irrelevant and valueless.

And no, I’m not “p*ssy-whipped”, or a “well-trained man”, responding in some kind of Pavlovian manner to psychological manipulation by the “superior sex” — I got here on my own.

(Well, okay, maybe it’s thanks in some part to my mother and grandmother, as well as “female best friend” and “other female best friend”, amongst others — but rather than training, they simply showed me that women deserve respect!)

As with never wanting to get drunk (I was once wrongly complimented for this apparent “willpower”), it’s not some conscious opposition to my nature, it’s the way I am.  I’m an intelligent and compassionate person who doesn’t see empowered women as a threat, or demand that they “know their place”, and I’m not trying desperately to prove I’m “modern” and “right-thinking” in the face of feminism, fearful of ending up being lumped with the scumbags I despise.  I agree with feminism — or at least what it’s supposed to be, the drive for gender equality.

This is why I no longer think I’m some immature manchild.  Yes, I play violent video games (just got Doom for my birthday — thanks Mumsy!), listen to heavy metal (*cough*GWAR*cough*), watch cartoons (though Futurama and South Park aren’t exactly for kids!) and make goofy jokes all the time, but I don’t arrogantly flirt with women like they’re obliged to submit to me, and then insult them when they fail to respond as they “should”.  Those are the truly immature men, the ones who are stuck in a worthless past that we shouldn’t aspire to restore, thinking they’ve some $DEITY-given right to do whatever they want simply because of their genitalia.

(Like Trump, of course, but let’s not give him too much airtime in this blog…)

I don’t want all heterosexual men to end up as second-class citizens, desperately trying to atone for simply being attracted to women, as some kind of sins-of-the-father reparation (I’m sure you’ll recall me saying something similar three years ago, and probably many times thereafter) — it’s the swaggering, arrogant kind I consider to be relics of the past.  Forgive me for my hubris, but I truly believe I’m better than them — not because I grew out of that immature chauvinism, but because (aside from holding some foolish opinions after getting hurt now and again) I was NEVER like that, and never wanted to be.  I don’t understand why men act in such abhorrent ways towards women, and frankly I hope I never do; it reminds me too much of the bullies at school.

Yeah, I’ve long fantasised about women (because I’m not gay, just in case that point isn’t clear), but never about abusing or degrading them, or treating them like disposable objects.  True, I want to be a dashing hero who rescues a beautiful damsel (which you might still think is a bit old-fashioned), but rest assured she would come to me out of desire, rather than reluctantly believing she’s obliged to “reward” me.  And yes, since it’s a fantasy, I’d have the lovemaking abilities of a god, and leave her utterly satisfied — not to gain some kind of power over her, but to make her happy.

I think this newly-discovered maturity is why I hold no grudge against any of the women I’ve dated but with whom it didn’t work out — especially the most recent one, who I really thought was a keeper.  It was disappointing, but I’m glad she was honest with me that she didn’t feel the spark, and I didn’t demand she retroactively pay me for the meal, like some kind of refund (yes, that kind of thing actually happens, for a tabloid definition of “happens”).

I know I’ve complained in the past about how hard it is to find someone, but I’ve grown up during my search over the past few years (perhaps in part thanks to this blog), and I’m sensible enough now to know it’s not because womankind as a whole is too stuck-up to give me a chance, but just bad luck and a lack of self-confidence on my part (and low motivation when I was in my 20s, possibly because I had close female friends and didn’t feel a desperate yearning).

Of course, I might just be a great big coward who’s afraid to try anything too forward with women in case I get accused of heinous sexism (and wonder whether a richer, better-looking guy would be condemned for the same action), but I like to think I’m actually a good guy by nature… am I right?  Can I chart a course between swaggering Scylla and sulking Charybdis*, and be quietly confident with the right woman, thrilling rather than offending or boring her?

(How many Trump supporters know what I mean, or even think anyone should care?  I’ve no problem with a lack of knowledge, but their rampant anti-intellectualism is something I utterly despise!)

If I do find someone and raise a family with her, and other good guys do the same, will this lead to a new generation of men who behave like civilised beings instead of cavemen, but instead of doing so out of fear of retribution from female peers (or cynically in an attempt to get girls), do it simply because it’s the right thing to do…?

The journey continues

tmp

I’ve never read it, but I read the Wikipedia article, so that sort of counts… right?

Sorry I haven’t written anything in ages; to be honest, I was thinking about stopping this blog entirely… but I pledged that would only happen once I’ve sorted my life out, and despite the improvements I’ve made, there’s still a way to go — especially in one area I’m sure you’re sick of me going on about…

All right, so I’ve finally broken into IT and have a job I enjoy (which perplexes my teammates!), with prospects for the future.  And yes, I’m more confident and comfortable with myself than ever, to the point that the depression and self-loathing which plagued me in 2011-2012, and the pessimism and anxiety I felt in 2014-15, seem like bad dreams from which I’ve awoken.

However, I still need to create a proper future for myself that doesn’t consist of renting and playing video games — which means getting a mortgage before I’m too far into my 40s (which itself might be difficult, thanks Brexit).  And, of course, I’m still searching for true love (or at least someone to make out with), as I have been since even before leaving home in 1996.

(And no, I won’t stop going on about this topic unless and until I achieve a result more positive than first date after first date — if you don’t like it, either stop reading my blog entirely, or get me laid.  Your choice!)

However, I think recent events (including today) have brought me to the understanding that I no longer regret “becoming heterosexual” when I was 18, or all the adventures I’ve had as a direct result of my search — such as going to university, going to Michigan, going to university again, going to the western USA, going to Meetup.com groups… these things may not have happened solely because I was chasing my libido, but it was certainly a driving force in not just sitting around in Worthing watching Doctor Who videos for my entire life.

Indeed, I no longer regret the events of the past few years, because even through the bad times, I’ve felt more alive than in the previous few years — and I don’t regret starting this blog, because setting down my feelings and admitting how bad things got in late 2011 meant I was able to weather the (perhaps worse) storm of late 2014 without contemplating suicide.  I’m glad I’m still alive and able to experience new things — and if I’d given in to my darkness, I’d definitely never be in a position to find someone.  Dead men don’t get laid, right?

I’m even glad to still be going on dates that don’t lead to anything significant: I don’t regret going to London Bridge (a less logical place than R’lyeh) a few weekends ago, only for the young lady to take one look at my outfit and groan “oookay!”; nor do I regret spending a Sunday going for a walk with a cute woman who had a cute dog, who seemed to think afterwards that she wasn’t what I was looking for (that’s a new one on me!); nor do I begrudge paying the Tube fare for going to meet someone today at Waterloo who seemed to think we should have chatted through the dating app more before even thinking about meeting in person, as I wasn’t really her type.  In each case I’ve been comfortable in myself, and it’s really been the woman who’s failed to realise how awesome I am (except in an “I’m sure you’ll find someone special soon because you’re so lovely” kind of way).

Actually, I find myself wondering whether, like the (ahem) protagonist in The Missing Piece, I’d stop enjoying my life so much, and having all sorts of adventures that take me to new places, if I found the woman of my dreams and settled down to raise a family with her.  I know I shouldn’t assume that having a family with kids would mean I could no longer do any of the things I like, or that I’d have to stop being my quirky and eccentric self and become an utterly serious adult who never has any frivolous “me time”, but society seems to think all “real men” should strive for this, and derive pleasure only from either seeing their kids grow up, or watching their sportsball team win.

I won’t say I’ll never change, but if I finally find a woman and the experience changes me, that’s very different from me changing myself to conform to what society thinks I should be, as some sort of precondition of finding someone — that I’m somehow “wrong” as I am, and that I need to become someone completely different before I can even think of so much as hooking up.  As a great sailor once said, I yam what I yam — and, as I’ve known since my search began (and as I’ve probably said in this blog before), I need to find someone who likes me because of my whimsical ways, not in spite of them.  If one day I put away childish things for a higher calling (such as becoming a father), so be it — but until then, I intend to continue doing the things I enjoy, and looking for someone with whom I can enjoy them.

But oh, I hope I find someone significant soon, because all these one-off dates that don’t even lead to a kiss are really starting to grate…

Stay or go?

CBThere’s a big decision I’ve got to make: do I stay and remain safe, but perhaps regret not taking a chance on something better, or do I go and face whatever comes, but perhaps end up worse off than before?

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about the EU Referendum, as I’ve already cast my vote on that issue (I won’t reveal which way I voted, but let’s just say an article from the Telegraph a friend posted on Facebook convinced me… to vote for the other side).

No, I’m facing a far more important decision: do I go to my old roommate’s wedding in Michigan, at the behest of his younger brother (the guy who’s had me visit many times before, including this time two years ago), and thus spend a ludicrous amount of money on plane tickets at the most expensive time of year to travel… or do I blow off the family who were so kind to me in 1998-9, and indeed the guy who took me into their bosom in the first place?

It’s because I wasn’t informed early enough to get affordable plane tickets — November would have been nice… though with the bother I had in my current job (at least until I passed my probation), and the unpleasant experiences I had in 2014 and 2015 leading up to it, would I have risked getting tickets anyway, instead of saving for a rainy day?

Sad though it is, I think I’m going to have to “remain” on this occasion, because barring some VERY cheap tickets turning up within the next week, it’d be a huge investment — and a wedding also doesn’t sound like my scene (I’m hardly likely to meet someone there), even if I feel obligated to support the guy, as I supported his brother in 2006 and sister in 2007.  They say it’s the right decision if it hurts, and so I think I’ve got to say no on this occasion, if only for the sake of my finances, even if it means missing out.

In any case, while I do enjoy visiting my “second family” in Michigan now and again, if I can only afford one holiday this year, it’s gotta be something I want to do… and what I really want to do holiday-wise at the moment is lie on a sunny beach somewhere (i.e. not snowy Michigan), reading in peace and quiet while sipping cold drinks, with the chance to ogle several bikini-clad college girls, ideally at least one of whom fancies me.

(Hey, if you don’t ask, you don’t get!)

Since “best mate” has just gone to Japan with a group of friends on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and all my other friends now live apart and have commitments of their own (“female best friend” now lives in Norway!), I guess I’ll have to go somewhere alone.  For cost reasons September seems the best time, as although the aforementioned college girls will be busy, so will the damn noisy brats and their parents.

What do you guys reckon — should I revisit my childhood experiences in Lanzarote, or the fun time I spent with dear friends in Marmaris, but this time as an adult and a lone wolf?  Or, should I stick to my four-year cycle, settle for a brief visit to a European city (like my day trip to Paris in 2012), and save up for a better holiday next year (like my American camping trip in 2013)?

Of course, if Brexit really does happen, I might end up with not only no opportunity to go on holiday, but also no job, no money, no home and no human rights… oops, little bit of politics creeping in there!

Manning up

darktowerDespite the title, I don’t want to get into the whole debate about what a man “should” be compared to what a woman “should” be, like that it’s somehow okay for women to express emotions other than anger or triumph but not men, who need to repress that all in order to “be” manly (except during sporting events), because that’s what society expects.

However, it is emotional control that I seek, as I’m still prone to stupid bouts of anxiety and confusion these days, even if I’m better than I was last year, more confident with my daily tasks, and even physically moving with more certainty.  Despite my building confidence, one little thing can still set me worrying like a child…

For example, even though my boss expressed happiness with my performance before she went away on holiday recently, she also told me off for looking at the Internet (despite everyone else in my team doing that between tasks), and it got me anxious all over again.  I’ve been dreading her return to the office, which is happening tomorrow, but why should I?  I work hard in my role, I’m learning all sorts of things, and everyone makes mistakes — and if there’s a lesson to learn, it’s not “don’t goof off”, it’s “don’t let the boss see you goofing off”.

(I actually wonder if that’s precisely what she wanted me to learn!)

Another thing that messed me up recently was “other female best friend” posting an article in Facebook about trypophobia, an irrational fear of holes in patterns, especially organic ones (and most of all, lotus pods — Google them if you dare).  I’d never consciously felt such nervousness before, but now the holes in the walls at the Castle climbing centre, the speaker grill in my alarm clock radio, or even certain patterns in stone doorframes of posh houses around Marylebone (where I work), can make me feel scared for no sensible reason…

And speaking of walking around Marylebone, there are quite a lot of beggars (presumably thanks to Islamic State driving them over here) — and maybe it’s fear (rather than contempt) that keeps me from even acknowledging them, or maybe I’m just too afraid to admit that I don’t want to give money to strange people, and feel the need to rationalise this as “they might be con artists or in a gang”, or “they’ll spend it on booze anyway”.  It’s hard enough for me to interact with strangers at all (otherwise I’d tell off cyclists who ride on the pavement instead of tutting).

It’s possible I’m just experiencing similar fears to those everyone else has, but I don’t want to — I really do want to “man up”, and become a proper grownup who can face problems confidently instead of finding childish excuses to wimp out.  The problem is that I never really had any real life male role models growing up: my father never visited, my cool uncle died when I was young, and my grandfather, although a good man, was of a completely different generation.  Perhaps this is why some of my few male friends over the years have been a kind of “alpha male” to me, including “good housemate” when I was at Caledonian Road: he challenged me, accusing me of being gay (and also a heterosexual virgin, depending on his whims), and helped toughen me up a bit.

(Probably not intentionally, of course!)

spock_eyebrow

If I could raise one eyebrow, I’d have it made!

These days, lacking any significant male celebs to admire (because I’ll never be a footie fan), I find myself trying to emulate some of my fictional heroes, men who keep their heads and replace fear and anxiety with confidence and competence.  An obvious example (cited a few times in these hallowed pages) is the unflappable genius Mr. Spock, of course, who taught me to think logically and rationally when dealing with problems, and that it’s all right to be internally conflicted as long as your intellect remains in control and you maintain a quiet, knowing demeanour.

However, perhaps my greatest inspiration in terms of “manning up” comes from Stephen King’s very own gunslinger, depicted at the top of this post: Roland of Gilead, from the Dark Tower novels (yes, I’ve reached that far in my attempt to read through all of King’s works).  Like him, I want to be someone who never gives up, always moving forward instead of focusing on the past (“if only…” being one of the most futile things to waste thought upon), doing whatever is necessary without hesitation or complaint (however unpleasant), and never shirking, goofing around or forgetting the face of one’s father (i.e. screwing up like a fool).

I also find myself wishing I could be more taciturn, like both men: watching and listening intently, noticing every little detail, instead of feeling the need to make smart-alec comments, ask nagging questions and blunder around making silly and avoidable mistakes — to be quietly confident in all things instead of concealing my anxiety behind a facade of manchild whimsy.

Of course, the most grownup thing I could do would be to accept myself as I am: yes, I have room for improvement, but what’s wrong with me being a bit of a joker, if I make people laugh and cheer them up?  That’s always been a major personality trait, and while my inane attempts at humour may annoy Vulcans or gunslingers, maybe I’m not such a bad soul after all.  The main thing I need to do to “man up” is discipline myself and work hard in everything I do, never putting off things I can do right away or finding excuses, but also to accept when I can’t do a thing (as happens with a lot of my IT tickets), and either ask for help (when appropriate) or be patient for a resolution.

Truth be told, I’ve been a bit withdrawn for the past couple of weeks (I’d love to say that’s the reason I’ve not been posting in this blog!), but now I’m once again forcing myself to go out and socialise at meetup groups in the evenings, instead of rationalising that staying home is about saving money or preserving my spare time (though it doesn’t help that my exact bit of the Northern Line is closed many weekends in April and May… it’s 2012 all over again!).  It’s fine to be afraid, as long as you’re honest with yourself that it’s the reason for not going out, the first step to fighting and overcoming it (which is what grownups do).

Since I (still) feel loathing for most of the male population of London, going out is a case of leaving my comfort zone and facing my fears — and thus a good example of “manning up”, don’t you think?

Excessive worry… still?

ad_furrowTwo years ago, I realised I was worrying about nothing altogether too much; well, I still am these days — though it could be argued I’m now worrying more about things that really matter, than petty arguments with housemates.

First of all, on Friday while I was seeing my personal torturer, and probably at the exact time that Iain Duncan Smith was drafting his resignation letter, I was texted by DWP that they were gonna call me during the weekend about Universal Credit.  This got me worried, because although I stopped qualifying late last year when I went permanent at my workplace, there’s always the fear that they’ll have realised they overpaid me (you know, because it was more than a pittance), and will thus want it back.

It didn’t help that 3 Mobile (yes, I’m belatedly naming and shaming them here) were having a “bad signal day” on Saturday, making me wonder if I’d even receive the call, and then be punished further for failing to be available at the right time… so imagine my relief when the call turned out to be a general notification (a follow-up to a letter that I only received today), about a change in the Universal Credit policy, which hopefully won’t affect me anyway.  Phew, they weren’t penalising me for failing to notify them that they’d overpaid me after all!

Of course, if I ever lost my current job, I’d be right back on UC again… you know how close I came to that back in January, after I told you in, er, February; well, I was horrified two weeks ago when, after a morning I’d been so close to panic trying to fix a PC at reception that I’d all but dragged a member of the Facilities team out of their office to support me, I got an e-mail notification that my boss wanted to see me on the 21st (today) for a “PDR”.

I couldn’t help but link the two events, and fear that she was going to tell me I was close to getting myself fired again… so imagine my relief, again, when I had the meeting with her, and it turned out to be a standard “performance & development review”, something everyone goes through (and no different to my days at Camden, aside from being annual rather than monthly); she recognised I want to improve my self-confidence, and on that basis she’ll arrange for me to have some customer service training.  Phew, again!

Although I never got to the same level of anxiety as January 2012 or November 2014, and continued to function over recent days and weeks, I recognise I need to grab my self-doubt by the throat and strangle the life out of it.  It’s particularly essential if I’m the “face” of the IT department, as I need to project confidence and sympathy: this morning I was mumbling and stumbling when trying to explain to my colleauges that our Internet connection was down and we were awaiting a fix time from our useless supplier in Docklands, who have let us down this way before (in November, and also last week when I was in Worthing), and you can imagine that made the prospect of my impending PDR seem even worse — a good example of panic creating more problems than it solves.

(Fortunately, my boss got all the anger out of her system ranting at the hapless fool at the ISP she got on the phone!)

Despite all this, I’ve noted my confidence on good days has been growing over the past months, as I’m clearer about how to do things around the place, and more aware that people appreciate my help; hell, I even move more confidently these days!  I just need to learn not to panic on the difficult days, but I hope I can achieve it without the help of mind-altering substances…