But it's still the fucking Middle.
On Sunday night, I had my last supper (doughnuts and Frazzles), and prepared a healthy salad to enjoy on the First Monday Of The Rest Of My Life. I even went to bed reasonably early.
Then, at 4:30 this morning, while I was for some reason dreaming about giving directions to a man on a bus, the sound of a car crashing into a van in the Real World outside my window woke me up and had me racing to look. All I could see was a sheepish looking fellow collecting bits of his car from an empty road, while a van driver swore at him.
It took me a while to get back to sleep, such was the unceasing excitement of a very minor Road Traffic Accident below. My alarm then woke me up at 7:00am. I looked out of the window. The dented car and van had gone, but grey skies, wet roads and queues of rush-hour traffic were in its stead.
So that was cycling out. Despite my normal daily cycling routine, I had spent last week on the tube, simply because I couldn't be bothered to bike it. This morning, despite my every intention to cycle, the weather put me off yet again.
And so, considering this was going to be the day I turned everything around... I didn't.
Work sucked. Work normally sucks, but it sucked to the point where I thought I may be clinically unemployable, because I don't actually mind this particular job. I can just do it with ease, that's all, to the point where I now resent having to wake up for it. But then I get that with most jobs.
This weekend, I'd discovered the resignation letter from my last job. I had written,
"Life (here) has become duller than a pocket torch in a deep cave. For quite some time I have managed to develop a supreme apathy thanks to this company and its knack for bringing everyone down. I find the work of no redeeming value whatsoever, my colleagues are as miserable and fed-up as I am, and the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is the thought that I am not alone in having a crap job.
As I sense my third decade bearing down on me like a jack-knifing lorry on the M1, I’m annoyed with myself for not leaving this stopgap of a job a long time ago. I earn a pittance, far less than I had been earning four years previously, and I have absolutely no future here."
I wrote that only three years ago when I was in my Twenties and had one less thing to whinge about - namely, being in my Thirties. I recalled this letter today while sat at my desk. Then, it dawned on me: I don't really like working for a living. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a work-shy layabout. I just come across as one. Give me a job that challenges, intrigues, utilises my skills, and fills me with joy, and I'll shut up. It's just that I don't think I've had that yet.
But I know things are bad. Really fucking bad. This morning, I actively sought out THIS song on my iPod. I first heard it a few months ago on Classic FM and downloaded it, despite it being as subtle as a Vicar in a drug rehabilitation centre, and squirming at its thinly-veiled Christian undertones. The artist is Josh Groban, and the song is called 'You Are Loved (Don't Give Up)'. As the title and genre suggests, I'm in a pretty bad state if I need to listen to that to get me on the tube. You have to be either a teenager in the bitter throes of your first doomed relationship, or else a committed Christian whose faith feels undermined because you laughed at a gag that contained the word bugger to want to listen to that song. I listened to it this morning through gritted teeth, particularly the lines 'Everybody wants to be understood/ Well I can hear you/ Everybody wants to be loved/ Don’t give up/ Because you are loved.'
I am British and male. I find it hard to put up with those kinds of sentiments at the best of times. Now I am listening to it on the way to work and listening intently.
But moreover, I want to sample the strings at the end and turn it into an epic house track.
So that was work today; trying. Mainly because half way through the day, I realised that I was tired, and when I'm tired, I can't concentrate. And when I can't concentrate, I resent having to concentrate. And when I force myself to concentrate, and the phone rings, or my colleague shoves paperwork under my nose (he literally does), or a customer walks in and demands immediate attention - I find it hard to tilt my head back and laugh like a carefree student on a gap-year holiday picking strawberries in the Dordogne.
I finish work and go home. Hordes of commuters fight to storm on to the tube I am trying to leave. I nearly shout something in anger.
I switch tubes. This second train eventually arrives at my home station and I stand up to leave. A young girl on the platform outside lines up with me on the other side of the door and barges on before allowing me to get off. I bite my tongue.
I get to my flat and chop up some lettuce and tomatoes, and add mackerel to my plate - the meal of the dietarily condemned. I reach into the fridge for Large Northern Flatmate's brand new, full and huge jar of Mayonnaise, my one non-healthy nod towards taste. In one deft movement, I scoop up the jar and watch as it slips from my hand and flies through the air.
'It's made of glass, the fucker's gonna smash,' I manage to think before it hits the hard ground and explodes with an unexpected heavy splat.
I twitch my nose.
A vein in my head pulses.
I leave immediately for the newsagents downstairs. There is a strong body odour in there, emitting from several pensioners, and no mayo. I try another shop. They have a smaller squeezy bottle version. A gang of Chavs are gathered nearby, yelling at the proprietor for various condiments and dangerously close to getting into a fight with me. They yell some comments in my direction but my iPod blanks them out. I concentrate on not killing them all. I meant it. I was ready and able to go eyeball to eyeball and scream vicious abuse into the face of the cockiest one, but they're remarkably not abusive enough.
I head back to my flat, replacement mayonnaise in hand. A young thug storms towards me, and begins to bodypop. Now I've never been Threatened via Dance before, but it was odd. It was only a dance, but it was unnecessary. It was vulgar. It was two people walking toward each other, yet he felt the need to start a one-man hoedown. It was his random Fuck You at a complete stranger.
I stare at him like the idiot he is. I sneer. He jives past, then turns around and shoots me the evil eye. We sneer at each other. He can dance the dance, but he stops short of stretching both arms out and asking if I've got a problem. This is a good thing, as I would've said 'Yes. I've got the sexual allure of a bin, I have no career, a teenager's wage, one life I'm expertly cocking up, and I'm really, really fucked off right now.'
I go home and eat a cold mackerel salad avec white blob.
I blame fucking Facebook for my current funk. I couldn't resist the temptation when I joined to see if the guys I went to school with were there. They were. Mostly married, some with kids. The ones who weren't married were dating. And it ached. Not because they were living some perceived great life that I wasn't, but for other reasons.
There was one guy on there who I liked a lot when I was at school. I 'added' him to my Facebook list, and we struck up a brief conversation. I asked him about himself, and he never replied. It seems daft, but it irked me. I hadn't harboured any deep-seated desire to meet up with him after all these years, but a response would've been nice.
I think I have good reason to feel peeved. When I was at school, I was bullied. It wasn't particularly physical, although I was punched a couple of times, but mainly I was spat at. But the main abuse I got was ostracism. I wasn't sure why, and even now I'm not too sure. In retrospect, I think I was too needy, and a needy child, desperate to please and have other friends in my experience won't have any. My problem, my reason for being shunned, was that I was the school Fat Kid, and you Do Not befriend Fatty. A large, formative part of my childhood was spent indoors, because I didn't have any friends to go out with. Mondays were hell as a sea of grinning faces forced me to admit to staying in at the weekend while they were all out together. At the time, it tortured me. I thought this is how life would be and now, whenever I read of a bullied teenager who's killed him or herself, I want to scream. More accurately, I wish I could be there before they take the plunge, and make them see reason. Their lives would almost certainly change full circle in as short a time as a few months - mine changed irrevocably when I went to University - yet the intensity and passion of their emotions had clouded their judgement and their notions of the future.
All the guys I've found on Facebook, some of whom were my childhood bullies who revelled in calling my disabled Mother a 'cripple', are all settled, and all keep in touch. Even groups who were separate to each other at the time are all connected in their wider network today, while I'm spying on them from my bedsit and I feel slightly strange and stalky. Ultimately, I still feel ostracised.
My being bullied has had zero impact on me, or so I thought until very recently. I have since made my own friends over the years, the most fantastic, decent people you could ever wish for - including a Large Northern Flatmate - who like me for who I am. I've even reached the point where I struggle to keep in touch with all of my friends. And until I saw all these old schoolguys again, smiling and posing in new photos, I had forgotten all about them.
But as these bad memories came back to me in waves and torrents, so too did the promise I made to myself when I was 15, fat, and friendless: I'll show them.
No I didn't.
Living well is the best revenge. I live in hope.
Still, at least Josh Groban loves me. Or maybe that's Jesus.