Finding it harder and harder to finish books these days.
2019 was so shit I didn’t even finish my reflections post. 2020 was better than that!
The second half of 2020 saw three blog posts on Theory Engine and two here. Posts that roused people in different ways, that I’m proud of. I also wrote an article for a magazine, which was published in April. That’s not much writing for me, but that’s because I was Fucking Busy this year.
I took my own advice and got busy in Janaury organising a week-long irl Salon for Philosophy people, an event which ultimately drew the most important new people in my life towards me over the rest of the year.
After that I had to work, money had run out.
Managed to squeeze a funeral, a wedding and a festival into 2020 before the great lockdown in March, and was lucky enough to work a lucrative contract from home for the whole spring and part of summer, giving me more in savings than ever before. The downside was being desperately bored and inhaling sugar while playing videos games and thinking about precious little else.
Come the summer, I noticed my flatmate managed to take his family holiday as normal, thanks to restrictions being lifted in July. I consequently got out and about in the summer as much as possible, reconnecting with Bristol and my friends there, as I had been meaning to do for eight years.
I also met my goddaughter Poppy 🥰 the most gobliny of the Covid babies but now the most beautiful and the most precious!
And finally my end of summer trip to Lisbon had even more consequence than the-already-laden-with-meaning aspects that I was aware of. (Reader, we moved there)
As soon as I’m busy I don’t quite have as much sex as I would like (which is not loads, actually). Sad face. But still, not too bad this year, and I started a major new relationship in October. Thank god they were willing to break the rule of the law to see me in person twice. We’re mainly a video-call relationship, which I’ve never done before, and it’s pretty awesome.
They are something else though, I can’t even write about it.
My household went ahead with our traditional “private” party in the summer, where we throw a party for ourselves and intimate guests, rather than get exahusted as hosts. It was very sexy and awesome. Added 3 people to “the list” that night 😉
I’ve stayed in alot of hotels this year and it’s been awesome to be a tourist during such a quiet season.
I’m also in love with someone. Mostly just sitting with that one.
We arrived in Lisbon on 10th December, and were at a cuddle party two days later. Ditto New Year’s. People are amazing, the internet is amazing. It’s good to immediately meet like-minded people in this new place.
I’m now as close with my digital friends as I ever was with an irl friend, I love them dearly and can’t wait to be in realspace together.
What do I even say? I got my wish to not be bored anymore, that’s for sure.
For a couple of months now I’ve been exploring something new. It’s incredibly hard to talk about. It involves Jesus, and Buddha. I’m still a baby.
It’s kinda the crescendo that has built on other kinds of change that I began this year, like trying to be truly in explore mode, hold myself much wider open, while also trying to step back, humbly, from over-effortful control of my living environment.
I think being wide open really worked, ha.
I started the year as a web developer and ended it taking donations for writing and posting pictures of my feet :::shrug:::
A wild idea (move to Lisbon) with a wild timeline (9 weeks) came off without a hitch because I live with the most competent people I’ve ever met. All six of us moved out, arranged for our stuff to go into cheap storage, and picked up certificates of residency in Portugal before the end of December. My housemates are my heros.
Now I live here, and I love it. I have the money to stay here for a long time without working much and I’m about to move into a place nominally on my own. I could not be more ready for what I know is coming next.
***this post sat in my drafts all year.Publishing the unfinished draft now before we advance too far into 2020***
Reflections post delayed by a month because I stacked up a giant project for myself in January 2020. Well done Jess.
January 2019 feels, predictably, very far away in memory.
A year of two halves. I started the year continuing the longest full time contract I’ve ever worked in London and I finally got off that gravy train in mid-June because writing/the Twitterverse were calling to me. In a satisfying twist, the rest of the contractors on my team were let go two weeks later because the company decided to outsource the whole department.
In the second half of the year I mostly didn’t work and had lots of time to write, tweet and scheme with the philosophy types in Twitterland. Nonetheless I did do a number of tiny contracts in the autumn right up to Christmas and for the first time ever, I have savings.
Early in 2019 my household was given notice to leave our beloved warehouse. We lost two months of our lives and a large chunk of money exiting our home and finding a new one. My birthday was abruptly reformed into a goodbye party, which was well attended and we had several “break down/waste removal” weekends which were very poorly attended. It was gruelling. The experience left me closer to my housemates and pretty distanced from the community that the warehouse had served for the last seven years.
We managed to find a new house all together and spent the year settling in. It’s less space for more money, but this is London, dream properties can’t last. At least we have a bath now.
Twitterland & Writing
I took a two-week trip in March to San Francisco which was an oasis of awesome amongst the work/moving house shitstorm. I met several people I only know from online chatting in real life and it was great. I also visited my mentors, David & Charlie. I had time to read, time to think and time to go dancing at a lesbian bar in the Mission.
In many ways that trip defined the rest of my philosophy year. I’ve kept on with the “let’s meet IRL” thing, to the point of setting up a private club for just that. In 2019 I met half a dozen Twitter friends, either in SF or at my house in London.
I wrote eight Theory Engine posts, including a new egregore I was super proud of and four major posts on this blog, including leaving the cult, class and gender stuff. I joined another semi-private Slack for “memetic mediators”, was a guest on one podcast, was a guest on two video livestreams, made a youtube channel with one lonely video on it and started a new business venture for IRL philosophising called Sensemaker Workshop.
I also started doing something I’ve never done before: video calls with Twitter friends.
Sex & Romance
I wrote in my diary on December 17th 2018 “still no-one to have sex with”.
On the sleeper train to Lake Tahoe in March I made out with some random dude who had been flirting with me for hours. It was extremely hot and one of the most daring things I’ve ever done. I was consumed by passion the whole rest of the trip. That week I resolved that my number 1 priority in 2019 was to have more sex.
Because I’m a good drone, I made my goal somewhat SMART: I would attempt to have sex at least once per menstrual cycle, or 12/13 times in a calendar year. Naturally building up a few partners that I can regularly shag and/or bootycall would all be part of the process.
Things started slowly. In the early part of the year I dated a guy who I’d met in January at a meetup. It was nice, we had some sex, but ultimately it wasn’t working as a relationship so we broke up and we’re still friends. Around the same time I managed to pin down and sleep with a boy I’ve fancied for literally 4 years, and managed to bone on two occasions. The number of times I tried to have sex with someone, but then they couldn’t because they got too drunk or whatever, was disappointingly high. I need to work on fancying more stable people.
It was fun to make a few unusual decisions to try to have more sex. I went to a few parties that I might not have attended otherwise, I dressed slightly differently and I bought the premium mode on a few dating apps.
I managed to find one new person to sleep with from okcupid, amongst a crop of more cringey okc dates, and my private bar membership came in very useful for that!
I also resumed sleeping with someone I live with, and that has been truly lovely.
In all, I managed to have sex on 10 occasions between March and December. I feel it’s a win! Will I have the same priority next year? I’m not sure. It seemed to only work if it was genuinely my overriding goal, and any half measures will not have much impact. I’m curious to deepen the relationships this year, because at one point in December I noticed I was feeling big emotions while having sex, and that felt really quite novel. I think I’d like it to happen more.
I read 12 books, saw 27 movies at the cinema, hosted 4 sexy parties, started smoking we’ed again after several years teetotal, which I’m super chuffed about actually. I also got into yoga over the Xmas break.
Started but didn’t finish a bunch of books this year, including A Joyce Carol Oates novel that was too hard to read before bedtime and a Lynne Reid Banks novel that had too much mono-melodrama 🙂
Dune took ages to finish but at least I did (on my second try)
I love doing reflections at New Year, but I still find it very weird to use a few days after Winter Solstice as the dividing line. None the less we must proceed:
This year has been so varied and so intense. I’ve experienced some new things, both good and bad. Have met heroes and achieved dreams but lost people, plans and projects such that I felt utterly crushed.
For the first time ever I experienced grief. A deep dark chasm of sadness that pulled my natural emotional average down by its weight for several months.
Much of it was the first half of the year and it’s been better since spring, but the sadness keeps orbiting back around with the loss, and the ramifications of that loss.
So what actually happened?
In Jan/Feb some longterm housemates who had been long term dissatisfied with living in the house had various degrees of blowup. We had round upon round of sharing circles, trying to be our best selves, but in the end people lash out. Both times at me, because I’m the most vocal when I think problems are happening. Maybe I could do it better, maybe I should shut up, I don’t know, but it hurt.
Coupled with trying to find work but suffering a few setbacks, such as a code test I just wasn’t up to, I felt beaten down personally and doubting my skills at work. I played video games for nearly two months solid to escape the emotions.
Eventually, I managed to get two weeks of work, and buy a new laptop. Thank god! The weather was grey and wet though, and the office time depressing.
I also discovered that one of my ex-lovers, a woman three years younger than me, had died. I’ve never had a friend die before. We were no longer close and she died of unknown causes, so it felt more surreal than anything else.
Then in March a sudden cold shock. We were all lined up for a Portugal trip that eventually we decided to cancel (too much rain) but I suddenly realised for myself why the team had been gradually drifting away. On a series of key decisions I was consulted, but not listened to, as if I was an advisor but not a team member. Our Land became His Land. Our House became His House. Cue another several rounds of sharing circles and meetings within which came a truth I’d been blind to for this whole project: it was no longer communal. Our investor was taking full control, despite my warning that I cannot be on a project that’s not built from a team. I was very explicit about that, about the ways it would need to be to be truly communal, and it was explicitly rejected. He just couldn’t get past needing to control.
So I lost Portugal, the Land, the plans for the next 3-5 years of my life, my hope for a new community home and worst of all, my best friend. I felt stupid for thinking it could be any other way.
Around this time it was my birthday. I had been lifting for 8 weeks to get in shape for the TopGun theme, and everyone who came said it was their favourite party so far. Indeed by the evening when I lead half the guests in a mini lifting routine on our home-made indoor beach volleyball court, I was laughing and enjoying the party. But I had started that morning crying my eyes out because nothing was going to plan, and I no longer had my best friend to help me.
Over this time I’d been having tiny moments of contact from the little “smarty pants” twitter community I inhabit, small rays of light in the dark spring. The beam of hope on my horizon was flying to SF to meet my blogging hero, and maybe some friends/lovers too.
That was due in April. I was pretty crushed to discover that my hero was having a hard time with life, and recommended I bring along friends when I visited because he would be too tired to really talk. At the same time the intended friend I was going to bring along also let me know that they were unavailable, meaning I could see neither of them.
I felt devastated, and I thought hard about why. I was really desperate for validation and encouragement in this area of my life (philosophy) that few friends can engage me on. I craved peers and importantly I craved elders. I tried to resolve some of my needs for myself with some success. But this was when the grief started
And none the less I rallied, and resolved to meet other people in SF instead. I reached out a bit on Twitter and decided to swallow the financial cost of accommodation. I settled in to the plane, began to watch a movie and as the delays stretched from minutes to hours I listened in totally numbed disbelief that we should all get back off the plane into the terminal because the flight was cancelled.
This final twist was at least making my year so far laughable as well as simply deeply depressing. I just became numb. I stopped making any plans, stopped assuming I knew anything about what was going to happen next.
I reached out in small ways. Improved my house, offered my web dev skills to friends. It helped.
My friend’s funeral finally happened, and I found it to be affirming. I think funerals can be, but it also shows you the kind of time I’d been having up to then.
In May, my year pivoted around. I took intense driving lessons across just three days, with my test on the fourth. I cried every day of lessons and barely slept, but I passed with three minors. Thanks to assistance from one of my newer housemates, I had my own (shared) car by the very next week.
The rest of the unusually hot summer was spent in a mixture of short work contracts, driving around and outdoor swimming, a new and unexpected hobby.
I helped with Bi pride, where we had a float and went to BiCon which I enjoyed very much. I have volunteered for a small role organising next year!
In my final contract of the summer though I was fired without notice from a contract I’d been working. It was pretty obviously unfair and some sort of personal power play, but it knocked my confidence yet again.
Also, a beloved housemate moved out. I’d been toying with leaving my houseshare entirely and starting a new one, but her room was amazing, so I moved into it. I left behind my home-made cube room, and the ground floor previously shared so closely with my ex-friend.
I made a new plan to work, to save money, to get up early and to be my own investor in community projects, and leave these stupid boys behind.
At the same time, 3 housemates moved out and 3 new ones moved in, in quick succession. It has been a long road to integrate and help them, but also keep the house together/cohesive. This is probably what I did all September.
Despite my enjoyment, the summer contracts had not nearly been enough. I wasn’t covering my expenses, let alone earning enough to save. I had a few bits and pieces in September but my luck changed in October and I landed a sweet deal that had me working all the way up to Xmas, and will continue in 2019 as well.
Around that time I had the great pleasure of meeting my blogging hero, who had finally managed to visit the UK, and so I met him in my very own kitchen. He was still extremely tired, but we hung out a few times and taking him along to our local London thinky meetup made me feel like I was escorting a rock star. Fuckin’ ey.
…and just to keep me from being too smug about my positive emotions my friend and housemate, the one who is funding the Portugal project, announced he would move out from our house to Portugal to live there on his own. It felt like he had chosen that place over our friendship all over again. We’ve been so close for so long I seriously feel lost in every aspect of my life without him. From coding work to business in general to running this entire shitshow we call a warehouse, to my hobbies, to talking about guns, politics, sociopaths and everything else no-one will talk to me about. It’s a big loss. It still makes me cry. And all because of doorknobs.
Apart from that, I have almost no life news for the rest of the year. I simply worked, kept my head down, opened savings accounts and worked some more. My ability to think drained away, and I missed my Reading Challenge target.
I’m now dearly missing thinking, and reading, and investing in new relationships and getting up whenever the hell I want. But I did feel a huge lift of anxiety as the money started rolling in.
One relationship ended this year and their feedback was vague but negative and so knocked my confidence. I slept with a few new people this year, but just as one-offs. Multiple people I fancy have turned monogamous or are work colleagues who ignore me romantically, while people who I fancy for something beyond superficial reasons seem few and far between indeed. I would like more romantic and sexual partners and feel that those avenues don’t exist or get closed off. It is a source of sadness for me this year.
My one long-standing partner is still going strong though and is a source of much needed comfort, though the balance of that seems increasingly like I’m the responsible one who dishes out help more than receives it.
Despite the awful year I suffered those shocks quite well. I feel I’m at baseline now that money has been relatively stable. Baseline still means occasional death anxiety, maybe once a month disturbing my sleep. I still worry too much and plan too far ahead. Now that I have money I am considering therapy.
This autumn contract has really powered my savings goals, and summer was ok too. I’m quite glad I got to have lots of summer fun (and work in air conditioning when it was simply too hot!) Looks like when I make a decision, lag time to achieving savings goals is only a few months. Could work on improving my day rate though.
I’ve written just 6 blog posts this year. A friend made his own version of balcony philosophy and I enjoyed being part of that. I met some people from Twitter, including the Ribbon Farm founder – swanky! I’m also part of a Slack for fluidity-types, although it’s gone quiet now.
Reflecting at this time of year seems weird, as I’ve said. I feel the first half of last year was one thing, and now I’m in the middle of something else. I’m looking up interest rates for savings and options for investment returns. It’s all very unusual but hopefully the direction I’m headed.
This post has already taken far too long, let’s publish now and get it out there.
A little below my goal this year…
I started but didn’t finish:
- Marian Keyes’ ‘Last Chance Saloon’
Books of 2017
that Santa Baby book because it had themes of abuse! Too emotional for night time reading. Also a bit crap.
Antifragile Naseem Taleb – read plenty of it, but couldn’t force myself through the final third.
Reflections on the past year. I feel proud of how long this calendar year has felt. It’s nice to balance the feeling of vertigo I get when I reflect on how old I am vs hold I feel with the sensation that I have crammed a lot into a single year.
The start of the year was all trips to Portugal, to our new land. I luckily found some work too, overseas no less. Early summer was stressful looking for more work, but I had some good weekend holidays and BiCon too. Then work, endless work until October. But that month is a traditional time for new beginnings, it seems. More Portugal, then a final push of other travelling and events. I visited the Isle of Bute in Scotland and I’m taking my driving theory test today, for the second time in my life.
All this on the backdrop of communal warehouse life, and something else. The background of thinking, always thinking.
So, judging by my diaries from last year autumn is a time for change, and boning! Same thing this year too, happy days. I am now edging, very slowly, towards my own personal ideal minimum number of boys (three). And my, oh my, the latest escapade was gooooooood. Had some female-flavoured sexy interaction too, which as usual has left me extremely thoughtful about roles and gender.
My family and friend relationships have really been improving this year. My nephew is now nearly two, and alongside seeing much more of that sister, I’ve also been seeing more of my cousins and other sister. I am finding these relationships really satisfying. Despite the sadness of two grandparents passing away, the cousins on that side of the family are now genuinely warm with each other and aware of each other’s lives. It felt so good to great each other warmly, while the older generation are distant.
My longer term partner and my best friend provide relationships that feel like very solid foundations upon which I build my life, and I feel privileged to experience such security and affection.
I’m starting to meet the people of the Philosophy Twitterverse in meat space, which is very exciting. This techincally started last year, just a few months after I first found Meaningness but one friendship in particular blossomed this year, while another has just begun. I hope to meet up with the same people more next year, and meet others too. Chuffed about this.
Made friends with a new housemate and it’s been excellent.
Was it really this year that I separated this blog from the philosophy one? I guess it was, all the way back in January. Well, Theory Engine was born and I feel very smug about the name. It also inspired me to move back to more personal topics on this blog, which was great.
I also founded my fortnightly meet called Balcony Philosophy that has yielded excellent conversation and reading lists.
As I said, I met some people in meat space, which has brought me (digitally) closer to some of the others, woo-hoo! Finding these peers and elders feels really good, and when lots of them are in the Bay Area kinda-rationalisty space it feels really cool in a Bloomsbury type way. I want more!
(I think last year’s missing Philosophy section, that I was going to write in the reflections post, would have described reading Meaningness, then spontaneously starting to write my own stuff. I thought I’d need discipline and tricks to get me writing and keep me doing so, but as it turned out I couldn’t help but snatch as much time as I could to write posts in between all my summer travels. I commented on meaningness and slatestarcodex to get their attention, while following up on Twitter. It worked and occasionally I got mentioned in tweets or roundups. It was very satisfying to participate in the online bloggy philosophy world. Now that it’s extending into real life I am super stoked!)
This year I worked over the summer, though the contract started a bit later than I would have liked. I failed to earn a whole year of salary, but was as near as dammit. It’s been two months since I finished and only slowly getting back the philosophy mojo. Three months in one go was hard, but I learned some things, both code-wise and about getting on in offices. I loved working in the City. My London love continues without letup.
Earlier in spring, when I was just about out of cash from last year, I had a contract in the states for a couple of weeks. I got to see San Fran for one day and made some lasting freelance friends.
I went back to BiCon this year, after a gap of three. It was excellent and affirming to see old friends there. BiCon is important in a way that’s hard to describe but “Bisexual Christmas” is pretty close. I feel more secure and happy than previous years, and truly not expecting too much this time, so I had some meaningful interactions. I also broke my toe.
Represented Bis at Pride, went well. I love the Pride parade. Also had a Bivisibility Day cake party in September, because I’ve been realising that there is a bi culture, and it’s pretty cool and super important. It’s a full way to be, and everyone should be able to know about it. One of my favourite parts of bi culture is the term “monosexual” as the opposite of “bisexual”. We don’t say it infront of them though.
This bi activism thing has simply not gone away, even in the midst of my “I don’t believe my politics any more” phase. It’s clearly fun & meaningful to me so I guess I’ll keep doing it.
I have been so proud of how long this year has felt. I have been on seven international trips: three for work (San Fran and Munich twice) and four to Portugal. I also finished up the year visiting Scotland.
We began clearing work on The Land in January, have had architects plans drawn up and now we are canvassing quotes for the house to be built. I cannot wait.
Portgual trips seem to warp time, where it’s hard to remember what came before one’s life of getting up with the sun, hard work under the bright sky, peeing anywhere you want and cutting logs for the fire. It seems like that life has gone on forever and London is a distant memory. At the same time, when I get back to London, it is as if the last events that happened to me there occurred just yesterday, which can’t be right. I get this strong feeling of not knowing how long I’ve been gone.
Anyway, I’ve deliberately disrupted my routines / not gotten into any outside of work and this year has been a subjectively long one, which is great!
Have been feeling mostly fine. It’s like a sleeping monster. I still get that panic about dying at night sometimes, but with big gaps between occurences. I feel like I have a few different ways to calm it down.
Something happened to me in Portugal in November. Some kind of unlocking to do with enjoying pleasure in the moment. I can feel it in the background all the time now. It’s making life better, this quiet focus on the pleasurable body. It has inspired one swimming session, and I hope it leads to more exercise, exercise with a more consistent motivation. I’m certainly suddenly interested in yoga, including the sprititual practice, which is a change from before.
I’ve come to feel that Heathrow Terminal 2 is the best airport terminal in the world. I love London so much. I love my living situation less. Hard to not post projections for the future, maybe I’ll write those down separately.
EDIT: This post was left unfinished. I publish now for the interested reader.
Change, change, change again!
I’m particularly keen on the reflections post this year because a friend recommended that I record how I think now, in order to have an interesting history of how my thinking changes over time.
Well, 2016 opened with a continuation of much that was happening in December. Two things were pertinent in January, I was working a contract and I was getting fortnightly talking therapy on the NHS.
I was in an office full time. The commute was long and grey, the days were grey and the company itself was a bit grey too. Related to health insurance. Sane people, just a little dull. Even the tube line that I used each day was the grey one. But it was money and I was pleased about it.
The whole beginning of the year was then much the same. My contracts were not quite back to back, but the gaps were entirely filled with illness, so I did nothing but work or be bedridden. At one point I had two colds and two rounds of tonsilitis back to back, which led to a chest infection.
But due to my revenue, I graduated myself onto a “real” salary of £2,000 gross /month. More than I’ve ever been paid before. This lasted until the end of August.
I used it to “be London” – swanking around buying coffees and eating in restaurants. I got a pricey gym membership (another first) and even used it 3 times a week when I wasn’t ill. I bought some things for my living space, including a sofa, which according to my close friend is a “grown up” thing to buy, haha.
I finished up the final 4 of 6 sessions of NHS talky therpay with Uwe. It helped a lot. I feel shy writing more about it.
In May, I discovered Meaningness.com and it helped a lot too. More in the philosophy section.
New Person from last year was/is still around and still great. However, for most of this year I was not able to visit them because of their flatmate/landlord’s refusal to allow me in the building.
The flatmate/landlord is the driven man who I fell out with in 2014. Back then, I sent an email to say I didn’t agree with some of his beliefs, and would be withdrawing from their friendship to concetrate on earning my own money. In 2015 I succeeded in that and was still visiting the house to see New Person. At the end of 2015 it transpired that Driven Man was waiting for me to ‘come around’ about my crazy decision about our friendship. I did not ‘come around’. So they banned me from the house.
Eventually, mid-year, New Person said to Driven Man that I was going to start visiting the house again and he couldn’t ban me from being there. Driven Man’s response? He told New Person to move out. There is so much more detail, but yeah that was stressful.
After a tough summer of savings and multiple job changes, New Person now has their own place and we celebrated Christmas there, woo-hoo!
Also, in late 2015 I slept with someone new. I’d met them a while before, but they were not in a good place to be dating. Now they are. I had some feels, which have waned since. I’m still not sure how close I want to be with this person.
I use Goodreads. My Reading Challenge goal was 20 books (an increase on the 17[?] that I read last year). I in fact read 15, including just one graphic novel. For me graphic novels count as cheating because they are so short, but I also often read 300 pages of a book before abandoning it as rubbish. Last year had around 3 graphic novels I think…
Here’s a screenshot:
Books I’ve abandoned this year:
- ‘Bodily Harm’ by Margret Atwood
- ‘The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden’ by Jonas Jonasson
My reading challenge goal this year it back to 17.
Books of 2015
I see I’ve barely made a post since October 2014. Via my customary ‘reflections’ post, let’s take a look at everything that’s been going on for me this year.
For much of last year I spent time thinking about how to save the world. I also spent some time trying to find paid work, but perhaps not enough. I had a new friend who made world saving his sole concern and invited me to help.
Around October 2014 I felt that this friend’s attitudes and strategies were incompatible with mine and we parted ways. At the same time I fell in love once more. I had been completely single for a long time, and had unsatisfying relationships for some time before that.
New Person was (is) quintessentially kind, generous, empathetic and thoughtful. Most importantly they make me feel calm. It threw into stark relief the wrangling and frustration I felt with my world-saving friend and New Person helped to set me on a new path.
Extremely useful life lesson: if a person you care for makes you feel doubtful or confused, even after attempts at different types or levels of communication, then they are not good for you. They are failing to empathise with you, and no matter what possibilities your relationship might have held, you will never realise those possibilities because they do not have a strong enough desire to work with you. They let you continue to feel confused, they are fine with you experiencing crippling doubt. They are not good for you and you must let them go.
In autumn 2014 I had abandoned paid work in favour of world saving, leaving me once again with no cash beyond next month’s rent and not much more experience in my industry than the year before. This was a conscious decision in August, and it was deliberately reversed in November. By Christmas I was attempting to turn the boat once more, but this time I really meant it.
This year has been a year of two halves. In the first half I was still living in poverty, eking out every penny I earned to stretch into the unknown future. In January I had to borrow money for rent. At the last moment I got a week of work in March, which covered back rent for February and lasted until April. I got one more week of work in May, again covering back rent and leaving enough for one more month into the future. I spent nothing but Oyster payments and rent. I was kept in weed and good cheer entirely by New Person, who also covered my train fare for visits and the occasional meal out.
When actually seeking to earn money but not having any, the world closes down into a dark, cramped tunnel. There is only one acceptable activity: looking for work, or training more for work.Some weeks I coded every morning, and I mostly managed to read blogs about my craft and checked job boards every day. I went to meetings and meetups, but all this took all the willpower and discipline that I had available. There was nothing of me left over for anything else.
Every pay day I experienced a brief rise back to my normal IQ. Those 13 points lost due to anxiety about money tangibly returned for a week or two, allowing some light at the end of the dark tunnel to peak through, but soon closed up again as rent day went by.
I have on and off anxiety, which takes the form of intense death anxiety, and this reached a peak in May. I started to wonder how anyone could think that doing anything in life is important, or meaningful. I couldn’t believe that others didn’t see how laughable plans for the future seemed to be and I was constantly triggered by the smallest things, particularly lists of ‘100 things to do before you die’ or common phrases like “well, you can’t take it with you”. What on earth could it matter if you saw that movie or didn’t? Visited Thailand or didn’t? Bought a house or not? It’s meaningless in the context of that self disappearing as if it never existed in the first place.
This anxiety used to plague me before sleep, when all was quiet and there was only my ego inside my head, but by May it was leaking out into my days and eventually stopped me from doing normal things that I knew were statistically risky, like being in cars. I knew I needed help but didn’t have the energy to get it. But I did have my housemates and my partner, who knew what was happening and gave me support.
One thing I did have for that dark time was videogames. New Person had an Xbox One and I became obsessed with Destiny, a first person shooter with RPG elements. Getting my own XboxOne so that I could play online with them became my goal to symbolise what I was striving for.
Then in June came the second half. I had resisted the urge to relax my job hunting for the summer, like I had so many times in the past. I reversed my reasoning about how it’s better not to work in the summer. I had previously fucked up my momentum by stopping in the summer, all because of chronic fear of missing out. But I had no agency to do anything this summer without money and I could make my own summer with a holiday in British winter. If I had money. So I carried on trying to find work.
This was the moment I had been gambling on for two years. Due to the day rate for my industry, any contract longer than 3 weeks could pay my back and forward rent and also start to pay all my debts. It took just 4 days to earn the money I owed people from the previous two years.
On my first pay day I had to run out and buy clothes, since I owned almost nothing without holes or without missing buttons, and no suitable shoes or coats. I was lucky that it was summer and a start-up office, so I could hide my lack of clothes by not really having to wear the normal office uniform.
I worked for the next 11 weeks or so on and off, achieving a second contract for two weeks with another company. I registered a limited company, under the name I’d chosen with my Dad 13 years previously. I opened a business bank account. I got an accountant. I spent hundreds of pounds filling up my wardrobe that had not had a new item added to it since 2011.
Everything was suddenly ok. After those 11 weeks it was September. I took New Person on holiday to Amsterdam. I bought the Xbox. I rebuilt my warehouse bedroom with vastly better materials. I replaced my mattress with a bigger, handmade futon. I started to fund New Person to be self employed.
I had a flood of new emotions, and I will hopefully dedicate a post to my feelings when buying a new summer coat. Almost everything I thought about the world is now different. Again.
When I came back from my holiday in September there was no work around. The fear that my summer contracts were a fluke was hard to keep at bay. I had overspent a little on my house rebuild, so only had rent covered for three months ahead rather than 4. And I hadn’t planned for Christmas. But I stayed a bit more calm. I went outside sometimes. I was paying myself a salary from my business earnings that gave me spending money over and above my rent, so I could go to the pub and afford train fare.
I went to get help for my mental health and cried throughout every step of the process. Everyone in that process was great. I strongly feared I would have a non-queer friendly Christian therapist with the name “Uwe” pronounced “oo-way” by the lady on the phone. But to my great relief he turned out to be an avuncular, humanist, atheist German man called “oo-ver” and he was/is amazing.
More work showed up in November. I ditched a client that I did not like because they made me feel uncomfortable, even though I desperately needed the money. But instead I managed to work at a global film company, and my rent was sorted.
Finally, out of the blue, I had a long contract in December, and despite losing some respite time I gained gleeful abandon shopping for Christmas presents. Gifts I could easily afford with no thought at all, for the first time since I started doing Christmas. It was wonderful.
In the background of this anxiety/money quest, I had noticed that my sister seemed to like me more than before. She also got pregnant this year and when I saw her this summer for her birthday she was tolerant and kind: a big change from the past. I decided she’d need help with the baby, because her husband and family that live close by all work full time hours. But I couldn’t just rock up when it was born, so I should call her while everyone else was at work during her pregnancy. She was sitting at home absorbing the world through youtube, discovering TED talks and the Bechdel Test and the gay rights movement for the first time on her sofa.
Reconnecting with her after years of antipathy was something I hoped for but didn’t really expect and it’s very good to feel it happen. Change was a beacon on my horizon this year, even if I couldn’t always see it.
This Christmas I met my nephew, just 6 days old and so much more interesting because he’s related to me. I didn’t know how I would feel about being around a baby, but once I’d held him, I couldn’t wait to hold him again. I also stood up for my sister, as the one who will be hit hardest by this new arrival. I think she took strength from seeing me, and that’s also a wonderful feeling.
Last year I honed my skills on the whetstone of yet another driven man that I ended up in some kind of a relationship with. Once again it was difficult and the end painful, but made so much easier by the sharp relief of New Person. Their skills, their drive to be better, their emotional maturity. It was them that made this year happen, that made the dark times not too dark. Them who encouraged some forgotten geeky joys, who showed me how to plan for the present, how to enjoy things right now and how to be calm.
Finally, to keep another tradition, here is a screenshot of every book I read this year.
Books of 2014
Unifinshied were: Flight Behaviour, World War Z, Anna Karenin, Outlaw Culture (bell hooks). All except the last one: I didn’t finish them because I was not enjoying / thought they sucked.
Books of 2013
Unfinished: The Prague Cemetary
I felt a slight shock when I realised that 2012 is almost over. Here is my traditional post musing on the things I’ve done this year.
I gave away (almost) all my worldly possessions. I went to my third BiCon. I had group sex! I had group sex more than once! I had group sex with people I’d only known for a day! I went to Doncaster, Middlesbrough, Manchester, Bradford, Cambridge, Portugal and Madrid for the first time. I walked outside of Birmingham New Street Station. I cried infront of a painting. I went to a psytrance festival. In a foreign country. I swam in a lake sparkling with fool’s gold. I saw a lizard. I volunteered for litter picking at a festival. I saw how the world works. I learned how to get food out of bins. I was travelling/homeless for two thirds of the year. I read/watched the entire run of Promethea, My So-Called Life and Firefly. I fell in love. I added some notches to my bedpost (including three girls and a royal marine!) I blagged three nights in a caravan after a festival. I went backstage. I was a runner for stilt walking performers. I met some famous drum ‘n’ bass DJs. I did bi activism. I stayed over in a squat. I stopped being scared of London. I saw Tube mice. I hitch-hiked. I ate melon and liked it. I kissed a guy with a forked tongue. I made many new friends. I stayed on a boat in the Lake District. I met many people who will change the world. I tried mushrooms. I stopped taking sugar in my tea. I got so ill my period came a week and a half early, and I mistook it for kidney disease! I broke up and got back together with the same person! I walked on a slackline! I learned to juggle! I protested outside the deputy PM’s house! I lead a protest charge with “She’ll be coming round the mountain”! I marched with the trade unions against austerity (twice)! I saw a world title boxing match! I went to a gig with someone I didn’t know. I saw my father. I met my step grandmother, and other estranged family. I entertained revolutionary thoughts. I took my clothes off for cash. I joined libraries in four different cities. I got a tax rebate. I “looked poly” in public. I confused people. I loved it when my boyfriend kissed a guy. I stayed awake all night and worshiped the full moon. I wrote dirty stories for money. I went to OpenCon. I was captain of a starship. I lost my childhood. I quit my job. I had dinner at Harvey Nicholls. I was looked after. I busked on the street. I got pet rats and had to give them away. I felt human. I stayed alive.
This year I’ve had a So-Amazing Life.
And what have I learned? When it comes to food, you get what you’re given, be grateful for it, don’t waste any and always share. When it comes to sleep, just do it when you want to or when you can, there’s no need to worry. You can learn to change your sleep over time, including where you can tolerate doing it. A futon on slats is the best way to sleep ever. Food is only out of date when it smells bad. Food is all around you, the more humans in any given space, the more free food you will find. The humaniverse will take care of you, if you let it. Be patient. Walk everywhere. Be the change. Doing new things makes life feel full. Being somewhere comfortable with nothing to do slows time down. Follow your highest excitement. Whatever your heart sings for. Who dares, wins.
Still to come:
get dp’d, apply to a PhD, start my own business, get a tattoo, get my driving license, go to Burning Man, eat at high table.