I have voted...I know how it is supposed to feel - I should walk out of that booth on a high, like a super-hero... salute the [add appropriate nation's] flag, grin so the light going dink off of a tooth, and generally feel I have done my part to uphold Freedom, and Democracy, and Justice, and all the virtues we want to believe society holds dear in making itself better.
Basically, I want to walk out with a sense of being Superman, Captain America and Guile combined, whether I'm in the USA or not.
But that is always ruined...
Having the "privilege" of being in London, I got to vote for a potential mayor, a potential London assembly candidate, and... a third form also with a list of names willing to debase themselves in all manner of degrading ways just for a cross in a box. And my, oh my, oh my, what a selection of mediocrity there was.
If there was even one candidate on the list that seemed competent it would have been appealing, regardless of whether I agreed with their policies or not. But no, it was a long list of people who somehow all seemed less suitable than the others... one of the forms had 13 choices, and I almost turned the sheet over in the hope there were more on the other side...
(Actually, the other side was blank. Yes, that was a tempting choice)
It's a bit like criminals... and yes, the parallel with politicians is a very easy one to make. But if you're going to be robbed, you want to think it's by someone who has turned the crime into an art, who burgles your house by descending in like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible - all planning and finesse. A few lasers won't hurt either. If a politician was going to be self-serving and venal, it wouldn't be so bad if it was done with effort and planning and flair. Instead, we get a selection of people who may believe themselves following a higher ideal, but largely do it by pointing fingers at each other and going "he's got fewer ideas than me. It'll all be his fault!". This is like like being robbed by someone who gets caught within five steps of your kicked in door and goes "It's not my fault, his doors wouldn't get damaged if he didn't close them."
I know this journal could be saying something worthwhile about the flaws in democracy, where it becomes a popularity contest of hollow promises; it could be about the need for elections to allow for a "none of the above" box to register disappointment; it could even be about the political parties being so generic that it's hard to choose between them all. But no, I want it to be a piece about how stupid I am - I have never not voted, taking part in every election since I turned 18. In all that time, I have also never left the voting booth feeling I have backed the right choice, merely taken the time to whittle down the wrong ones to "the one least likely to fuck it up".
That's how it was this evening. I still haven't learned my lesson, and got my hopes dashed.
Still, all the people standing haven't learned their lessons either, and made it worth my time going there to vote in the first place.
Blah. May the best man, woman or party win. Though as "best" simply means "better than the other ones", it's not a very high bar.
Keeping HopeI started to write a journal last night, something that just didn't work, and scrapped it. It was angsty. It was self-pitying. It was the sum total of words expressing exhaustion and disappointment in life, with a dash of loneliness.
This isn't that journal, you lucky people. For some reason I'm feeling a lot more optimistic today.
Things do remain much the same with me - still working as an archivist for the NHS, which is "awesome", and getting home every night so tired I can barely see straight (I've actually put eye drops in to write this; my vision is very blurred). I don't know what comes next, and I don't plan to get trapped in this job... for one thing, I'm technically a temp, so have to prepare myself for a "we don't need you any more" conversation one day; it could be a blessing though, as at least one person has worked there for over two decades. You can see the weight of the place on them - the burden of years and years carried on their shoulders, shuffling around like the job has eaten them from inside and just left their shell to carry on.
This is not what I want!
So why more optimistic today? Perhaps it's just the sunshine. Perhaps my headache is rewiring my thoughts in strange directions. Perhaps it's because I've been getting to use my mind a bit today - this sounds strange, but the job requires full concentration and no thought so there isn't really room for random "what else could I be doing?" ideas.
But I've been debating a political topic with Jalnor since last night; and thinking again about the Contents May Vary project; I looked again at a sample video I made as a prototype for potential gaming articles and was pleased with my editing; I...
... simply put, I'm not as crap as I feel I am at times, even if I am opinionated and critical (sorry, Douglas).
So, yes - I'm regaining my groove. Obviously, it'd be better if I was also able to write an interesting journal, but even writing this is clearing away a writer's block I've had for ages. I just need to take a positive step towards something, as opposed to just a step away from a world filled with medical files.
Life. It may not feel awesome, but it feels like it has promise.
Rendered EmployableOk, overdue journal time... I had a busy couple of days - two weeks ago (*cough*).
Since my job at the university ended last July, I've been living on my savings, dabbling with freelancing, looking for something else more steady to keep me going, and trying to come up with a Big Idea. It may sound arrogant, but I feel I am able to be my own boss and make a business work... my biggest problem being that I've not had a flash of inspiration that says "Do this! This is your destiny!", and I realise that lack of creativity is perhaps my biggest failing here - it keeps me from starting anything, and if I did it might also stop it succeeding.
Sorry, sidetracking. But with an ego like this, it makes working 9 to 5 rather crushing...
Anyway, money ran low out, freelancing hasn't turned into anything bigger as hoped, and it's a terrible time to find work. I ended up going into job agencies in town, asking after temp work...then heard nothing for a fortnight, but before despair kicked in too hard there was a call back to speak further from one of them.
That was Tuesday 7th. I began work as an archivist for the NHS on the 8th, enjoying the system shock of being up at 7am to get out in time in the snow after months of getting up when I felt like it.
Is it thrilling work? Is it stimulating, a job to start a career? No. It is dull, it is repetitive, and I suspect being there too long would be as crushing as working at TR was all those years ago. But I seem to be good at it, and it came up when I needed it - needed anything - the most.
I'm getting home shattered every day too... It seems to take a lot out of me.
I don't know what my next step is, beyond getting some savings again - chasing that Big Idea, probably. But, I've been hopeful so far, even when things have looked bleakest, so should keep that spirit now things actually are better.
So... yes. In other news, I should have been in bed an hour ago - work tomorrow, and all that. Good night, all.
I spent Christmas up in Huddersfield, stopping with Rob and Amber and their housemate Greg... who really needs to be poked and prodded to log in to the site, update that really old journal and add a display picture. Excuse me while I do so... feel free to join in if needed.
Anyway, yes - my usual trips to Huddersfield run like this: coach. More coach. More coach. Chip buttie. Greet friends. Tragically, this journey did not follow that plan, roadworks somewhere on the M4, or A110, or QE2, or whichever letter-number combination road it was delaying us by over an hour. This was also the first journey in my life I could describe as being painful - for the last two or three hours my legs were really suffering, cramped in as I was by someone on the phone almost the whole journey, telling whoever all about their driving convictions in detail. Oh, the joy of coach travel.
Arriving in Huddersfield, the café I usually head into was closed - it's a wonderful place, full of cheap 70s furniture and greasy carpets... I can't explain why, but I love places like this. Personality, perhaps - years of people visiting have left an impression, as have decades of spilled greasy foods. Plus, the person cooking the food is more likely the owner... they are miles above the sterile, corporate environment of a McDs or Burger King. To be fair, the food will kill you just as fast though.
Anyway, Rob came and met me at the station, saving me the walk up the hill to their house. Normally I'd be fine with it, but after that journey... not as much. At least I arrived in time for food and gaming, though these two pleasures in life are regular combinations from this point on.
You see, it would be hard to give the same levels of detail on things as the journey there; not because nothing happened, but largely because we using gaming as socialisation, and it made time fly by. So, where I leave gaps, assume it's because vast numbers of virtual creatures were falling before us collectively.
There were some adventures away from the screen - the day after my arrival was Rob's birthday, celebrated by a visit from his mum, many presents (an impressive collection of whiskey becoming an even more impressive collection of whiskey) and heading around to his friend Paul's place later in the day for... well, mainly a chance to sit and relax, eat pizza and relax more.
There was also a power cut a couple of days before Christmas. I'm sure you can picture the scene - four people at PCs, all running around chasing monsters and looking for trouble, before their screens go dark... And just enough time to look around the room in confusion, double-checking that this really is happening before the lights go too. The whole area was out - the only light was from any cars driving through. We did the obvious thing - we went shopping.
Christmas Day may well have been one of the few where no gaming occurred - there was cooking, there was eating, there was more eating, there was consideration of dessert followed by a few hours of digestion, sitting on the sofa and hoping we wouldn't have to move for a few hours. We watched Thor, a film which could have the tagline "Not As Bad As You Think It'll Be!"; not great in the slightest mind. There were a lot of Marvel and DC straight-to-video movies in the late-80s/early-to-mid-90s, and this felt like one of those with a bigger budget. But then, the film seems to have been made simply to introduce the character for the Avengers movie, and it does that. And arguably, only that.
And the following Tuesday Robin and David arrived, adding a greater degree of randomness to all conversation and significantly more gaming; followed the next day by the arrival of Faith, Douglas and Hamish, adding... well, a greater fear of violence from Faith. There is the worry that she can reach you regardless of distance, but being in the same house definitely focuses the mind...
There was also the realisation at the time of there being nine people around, all of us on the site here. In some cases we met each other on the site; in some cases it has simply been another space to communicate with people we've met elsewhere. But however you look at it, the site here has been a central part of our friendships.
Just a thought. Perhaps I'm getting soppy.
... anyway. We ate together. Gamed together. Watched films together. Moved sandstone steps together. It was a chance to just relax from the worries of life, the worries of not having a job and how money was dwindling, how far 4,000 miles really feels when you're trying not to think about it, how bad my sister's choice in boyfriend is for the family (Raargh! *unclench fists* [sidenote: so much has happened on this front; I wish it was all good])
We let 2011 roll to a graceful close, with Rob and Amber hosting a party having a few extra people in - though only one of whom, Tessa, has the good sense to be on the site...
... 2012 started, and the best part of it was how it was still too far from home to let any worries slip in. Yes, it's the New Year, it's the time to look at how money and jobs and life get sorted, but at the same time... it wasn't yet.
Of course, 2012 has to start dismantling things 2011 put together; Faith, Douglas and Hamish left in the afternoon on the 1st, and while through the 2nd it was following the relax-chat-eat-gaming plan, there was also that sense of trepidation, the weight of reality pressing on the fun, knowing I had to get my bags packed and ready to grab in the morning.
I've always said New Year's Day is my favourite day of the year - it's all hope for positive changes without the realisation that these are days like any other. Good to aspire to things, but... well, let's see how it all works out.
What should I be looking forward to? Well...
-Languages [this is the one I say every year - Urdu is key, refreshing my Mandarin is a good idea, something else like Spanish could be useful, and so on. I am regrettably ungifted with languages - I don't just have trouble learning them, but think learning little pieces of them actually removes several other pieces of knowledge before slipping away itself. I have tried with dedication to learn things before, so I'll have to find another way. But... yes.]
-Read [not just novels - though I am looking forward to clearing some of the ones I've had sitting around for the last decade, ones bought from the former second-hand bookshop next door on the basis of having interesting covers - but all the factual ones I have. I know I will be a far more complete, far more rounded and hopefully far more intelligent person for reading many of the others I have sitting around, books on culture and religion and the planet and biology and... you get the idea. Getting information on things, not just skimming Wikipedia for a synopsis]
... and body...
-Exercise [yes, this is the resolution for 99% of people at this point after Christmas. I can feel how much worse my health is now than it used to be though. So I need to get myself to a decent level of fitness again. Karate katas, tai chi forms, more. Not too hard to do... I guess I need more dedication]
-Exercise [no, I'm not just repeating myself for emphasis. Well, not entirely. Ok, I am. But as well as wanting to get myself healthy, it would be nice to get myself attractive. Yes, this is entirely ego-related, but wanting to look good for other people - or in my case, one specific other person - can't be a bad thing. After all, it isn't fair to hope for others to look good for me without any sense of reciprocation.]
-Diet [work out something more balanced. And, as scary as it sounds, this may mean controlling my tea-drinking too. I have very dark, very obvious marks around my eyes, which are apparently due to my body not absorbing iron well - partly this is from being semi-veggie, partly it's the tannin in tea. So, orange juice with food, tea later. Much later. This is perhaps one of the more important things to work out, and soon]
-Sleep [I have bad sleeping patterns. This is partly self-inflicted.]
... and spirit
-Friendships [I have many friends, and want to get back to letting them know this - whether it be with more regular phone calls, or emails, or even just dropping a message to people on here, I want the people who feel special to me to know I'm not ignoring them. I believe that great friendships ignore the time between contact regardless of how long it may be... but that isn't a reason to leave things a long time.]
Things that feel important because they're practical
-Driving [car. Practice. Vroom vroom. Yes, I know this is one I've written every year since... ever]
-Job [I need one. And I need money, which comes with a job. Or blackmail, but I have no incriminating photos. So, looks like it's a job]
-Portfolio [largely, this seems to be keep on writing for Express Tribune, start making better use of my gaming blog, and generally see if I can get any attention]
Things that feel even more important because they are intangible
-Guitar [another long-standing "I must learn to play that guitar I bought" that comes up every year. But I hope to find a little peace from playing if I learn... or at least satisfaction at learning in the first place]
-Drawing [because... well, again, it'd be nice]
-Photography [something I did start last year - trying to be a bit more experimental with what I'm doing. But there is large room for improvement. I need more confidence too]
-Dream [I want one. I want a goal, an idea, that something that could be not just an idea but a future - the career I start, the business that no one else thought of, that film no one else tried to make, that... something. I want a dream to chase. I need to dream, else I'll live my whole life as someone in the background, someone who makes things work but never actually makes them better... and I want to be more than that]
Things that are important simply because they are important
-Travel [Get a visa. Go and see T. It doesn't matter how awkward bureaucracy can be, or how safe the country is considered to be... I know she is 4,000 miles away, and my awareness of each and every mile feels like a blow. I look forward to removing the physical distance. If nothing else happens this year, doing this one thing will make 2012 a greater success than any previous year of my life.]
... I know what I need to do to make this year a good one. Let's get to it...
May 2012 be offering you the same opportunities I seem to find when I look... and may it present all of us with success. Speak soon, I hope.
Happy New Year! pt1 - 2011 in reviewAnother year slides to a close, and I owe people updates - the last few days for example have been spent in Huddersfield at Rob and Amber's place, surrounded by other sites users (it occurred to me that everyone here - nine of us in total - all have RvB profiles. Hurrah!). I'll fill that in in more detail in a couple of days - I'll be home on the 3rd.
In the meantime, how has the rest of the year been? Well...
Things I have achieved:
-Working... mostly [I had the job at the uni until July; it was a good confidence booster - the "I can do this, even though it's also not what I was ever trained to do", and managed to save what I was earning. There is a "but" attached to this, though]
-Getting published [The big achievement? Getting a couple of pieces printed in Express Tribune means I have the start of a portfolio, and can legitimately claim to have have articles published in a national publication. There is no real gaming press in Pakistan, so seeing how well this develops in the future could be an adventure in itself]
-LotROing [before about June, I'd never been tempted to play Lord of the Rings Online - but it's become a form of MSN/Skype-with-swords to keep up with friends. We can speak together, play together, and... well, we're gamers. This is a key way of socialising. So, while playing a game sounds like a strange thing to "achieve", at the same time it actually is feeling good... Ok, perhaps less-so for doing other things that don't involve swords.]
-Resuming contact with people [This is "in progress"; but I've gone back to one of my great pleasures, sitting and writing emails to people. No comments here, definitely no Facebook messages, have the same pleasure as sitting and writing something out that isn't a hurried message. At heart I'm probably a letter writer, but essentially live online. Come onto MSN and we'll chat and it'll be awesome... but get me in the right mood and I'll take greater pleasure crafting words to send.]
-Buying a work PC [I have a general/gaming PC, and one that is strictly work-only; this has worked out nicely, and opens up possibilities for things like video reviews and the like. No, I haven't actually done any though. Yet.]
-Becoming involved with two different creative collectives [Hippie Dictatorship and Oscouna. I admit, I have no idea where either stand right now, but I have done my best to contribute to them both.]
-Reading [I've been rediscovering the pleasure of reading. And have finally read I Shall Wear Midnight, which felt long overdue]
-No, I can't come up with more things for this list. That's disappointing.
Things I have not achieved:
-Finding fixed employment; or even a steady target for freelancing [Obviously, something I need to hit the ground running in the New Year.]
-... or keeping my savings longer [This is the "but" from the "working" point above. Ok, five months probably wasn't bad on what I'd earned. But I hit my overdraft the other day, so... again, I need to hit the ground running in the New Year]
-Languages [my Mandarin gets progressively weaker; my Urdu fails to get started or stronger]
-Maintaining fitness [While I was working, I walked the lane pretty much every day - a hilly mile each way. It helped maintain me where I wasn't really doing anything else to benefit myself... that was five months ago. By comparison, I am nowhere near as healthy now - no real endurance. At least I'm eating well, but once again my ego would like to be healthy and toned, and my head says it would be good for me to chase this dream while I am very definitely unhealthy and soft in the wrong places.]
-Maintaining my blog [not this one... though I should add this too, as I enjoy writing here and should maintain my journal more consistently. As a sidenote, I'm looking at the first of these review journals I wrote while writing to maintain a hint of consistency, and seeing how the site felt such a different place back then. Not in a bad way; but there are plenty of names of people I miss. Anyway, blog - I'm referring to my Old Hairy Gamer one, which was intended as an online portfolio. I've not written in it properly for a couple of months, but I've spent a little bit of my time up here in Hudderfield to discuss it with people, and so as January starts hopefully I'll have a clearer idea of what to use it for. I'm not going to say anything too well-intentioned like "and regular updates!" as this seems to just curse that happening, but... let's hope so. Watch this space.]
-Travelling [I tried to go to Pakistan and visit T during the summer. There is a whole story here, mostly damning bureaucracy. It's not a story for right now]
-Raargh! *unclench fists* [Oh, there is lots to say here. Lots and lots. This isn't the journal for it. If you don't know what this opening comment means... well, don't worry. It will mean something to some people]
Yes, I need to have more to say here. I should have more to say here, and the really disappointing thing is that I'm blank on what else there is.
I seem to have done it again...Once again, something written, something printed (3rd page). Hurrah? I'll admit I'm not as pleased with how this came out in the end. For starters, I'd tried contacting pro-gamers for interviews, gotten no replies, and ended up having to write a dryer piece than I'd hoped - that, plus suggestions from the section editor led to a change in direction from the original pitch...
... I'm making excuses. Fact is, regardless of my opinion it was considered good enough to print - it's another piece for the portfolio, and hopefully another step towards employment. Not that that feels too awesome yet - I'm trying to keep hopeful, and am definitely more upbeat again than after my last journal, but it's not an inspiring time to be looking for work.
Everyone wants journalists; no one wants to pay. It seems to be the same in PR - a friend-of-a-friend was telling me how she'd worked for seven months with several people for nothing to get experience, and on applying for a job was told she was "over-qualified" (yes, it's an excuse companies use, but what a slap in the face that must have been). I couldn't even get a shelf-stacking job at the local Boots store. It's really bad, it seems. Next step is temp agencies, see if I can start getting some money in that way and keep writing in my free time.
Look on the bright side - published, again.
SIDENOTE: the link made above is a temporary one - until the Saturday coming (26th) I'd guess. I suspect this one will stay up longer, though isn't as easy to read on screen. In the meantime, I've also gone screen-grabbing it, but should ask for the PDFs of the pages so I can print them as needed.
Paying for liesI'm rather low right now; through three months of unemployment I've tried to keep positive - keep a direction, keep momentum, look for jobs, find something that uses my degree. And yes, I had that piece published last month, and another pitch accepted the other day - it's the start of a portfolio, it's something. But it's not enough - right now, while I can say I'm writing, I'm nowhere near keeping the flow of writing going that it would ever support me, even if I was being paid a decent rate per article.
So, I'm concurrently looking for jobs - the money saved while I was working at the university is keeping me steady, but dwindling. In short, I need a fresh income, and I'm not finding it in media. At least, not in journalism. There is a horrible realisation that no one is employing journalists, but there is a huge volume of adverts looking for people in PR and marketing - skills I feel I don't have. Partly it's a sense that I'm no good at filtering content from the truth, partly it's a sense that there is more of an ethical ideal working in journalism.
The sad thing is that journalism is (supposed) to tell you how the world is, and no one wants to pay for that. PR is about selling a specific true-but-not-the-whole-truth spin, and there is plenty of money there. It says something bad about the way the world is. I can't see how to fix it.
What I do know is that - at least for the moment - I'll have to change how I'm looking for work. I can't keep looking for journalism, I need to find something, anything, that pays. There's this horrible feeling of lowering my standards, but equally I'm sitting here at home looking for things and not finding them, and it's reinforcing this idea of being useless which today has just worn me down to nothing.
On the whole, I am good at what I do, whatever I do - I've done a lot of different jobs over the years and tend to be able to show other people how they're done within a couple of weeks. It may sound a little arrogant to say that, but I do need to remind myself of this too - if I get something, I should be good at it. But in the meantime, it's feeling bleak, and I can't imagine it feeling any better until I'm able to post something here saying how employment has turned up.