Saturday, December 30, 2017

Forgive me Reader, For I Have Sinned. It's Been Two Years Since My Last Post

There aren’t, thankfully, many times in my life where I’m watching a shitstorm unfold in front of me while I think ‘Oh great! I did this.’

But it happened on Christmas Day, my sister and two nieces hugging one another for reassurance as they cried and screamed. Their exact words are lost to me now, but they were along the lines of “Ungrateful bastard!” and “He’s ruined everything!”

I’d been at their home for ten minutes, but the argument had kicked off as soon as I walked through the door. It happened because I'd specifically asked them not to buy me anything as I’d just lost my new job and it was easier all round to hide in my flat throughout December eating Doritos and not actually buying anyone anything. When I walked into the living room and saw a mound of presents however, I felt at once impotent, embarrassed, and ashamed.

‘Can’t you just save them for my birthday?’ I asked diplomatically. It didn’t help that my sister has a dark temper and zero patience that wasn't helped by a cold and her cooking all morning.

‘Don’t be so ungrateful!’ she snapped, speeding from gift-giving to rage in just under a second.
"Ungrateful," it transpires, is my trigger word and soon after, I’d stormed out of the house. My sister’s boyfriend managed to talk me back in (quite easily; I was starving), and after a Christmas meal in near-silence, I ended up creeping out and driving home before dessert once it became clear my presence was so toxic that there was no point in me staying.

I felt wretched and when I got home. I didn’t bother to turn on the lights and sat in the dark sobbing like a drain or, if you prefer, like an overweight forty-something with two dead parents and no wife or job and the remaining three members of my family not speaking to me.

I wasn’t really with it after Mum died, and my boss of ten-and-a-half years hadn’t helped. I’d like to say he meant well but I can’t as, at best, he’d horribly fucking misjudged the situation.
Mum died mid-November 2015. Two weeks later, having returned to work a fat demoralised orphan, he assumed that what I needed was to be thrown an exciting job ultimatum: As my decade-long getting in for 9am not counting occasional train delays really pissed him off, I was to commit to 8:45am starts each morning. If not, I could come in for 9am and take a cut in wages, or else work ‘til 7pm. As my hour's lunchbreak already consisted of me running across the road to get a sandwich and eating it at my desk in ten minutes flat before carrying on with work, my argument was always that it mitigated any morning lateness and then some.

But he never saw it that way. He just really hated my 9am starts.

And so, as I left on Christmas Eve 2015 for my first zero parents yuletide having lost Mum just five weeks before, my boss’s final sentence was a cheery ‘Think it over!’ as he shut the door behind me.

I’d been back less than ten minutes in 2016 when, after standard pleasantries, he asked what my decision was.
‘Is everything still as you say? 8:45am, or a wage cut, or changing my hours?’
‘Well you’re kinda boxing me into a corner here, so I don’t really have a choice and feel like I have to resign.’
‘Put it in writing then,’ he said breezily as he sat down at his desk, the cheerfulness of his reply at odds with his shock when I handed him my resignation that evening.

Turns out he'd been bluffing and I'd called it, but what followed was a mess. The boss decided to get  a freelance HR person in to an emergency meeting. I wasn't all that happy about his weird motivational fuckery, while he was annoyed (or at any rate it gnawed in his head) about the two extra weeks I took off to bury my mother and deal with her no longer breathing, as I had by then used up all my leave. 

All we established was the same old status quo where I agreed, as I always did, to do my utmost to get in by 9am and not after, but weeks later, things had really gone downhill. I was seeing a bereavement counsellor and didn’t know what the hell I was doing with my life other than going through the motions. Then my Mum's little dog that she absolutely doted on died, and that raw sense of loss overtook me again. Meanwhile, I was having more selfish neighbour flare-ups with 1am music blasting out from one of the apartments, and a new management company who really couldn’t give a fuck about my complaints. And at work, our cold stalemate exploded into a nasty argument one Monday morning and I felt it best to go home.

‘I’ll take this as a full day’s leave’, I told the boss as I left, and called my mate Ed on the way out. I wanted to see if he was around for an impromptu coffee but he had an 11am shift starting and suggested I see my doctor instead to get a note.
Things had been really shit, he said, and with my boss demonstrating all the compassion and understanding of a stucco wall, he thought it sensible to prepare for the worst.

‘I guess so,’ I replied, and with nothing better to do, I headed straight for the station, got the train home, walked to the doctor’s, pleaded with the receptionist dragons that sorry for not booking but I would only be five literal minutes, then burst into tears when I saw him.

It caught me by surprise as I thought I was coping quite well as he signed me off work for a week. I emailed the form through to the office which was met with a stony silence, but guilt and responsibility got the better of me and I only took three days off; three days spent compiling photos and hanging up pictures of my dead parents.

In the end, my boss had had enough and offered me “two or three month’s wages” to just fuck off forever, though I didn’t take him up on it at the time. It took me a couple more months to realise this was actually a pretty good deal so,  in the spring of 2016, I reminded him if he ever remembered his offer and when he said he did, I told him I'd take him up on it and I resigned. I had worked at that company for almost eleven years - most of my thirties then into my forties, and all of this blog - and tried to concentrate on the pluses (getting on the housing ladder with my flat), and not the minuses (rotting there for over a decade, and not having any romantic female contact since my last dates when I started work in 2005).

So it was a bit of a shock when I left the company, and my final pay packet was exactly the same as it always was. I was given a pen though, and it turned out that without his offer in writing, he thought that would suffice. (It took a further six months and having to hire a solicitor to get it sorted.)
I used my newfound freedom to give myself an amazing summer of 2016. I didn’t go on holiday, but quitting my dead-end job meant I had the time and inclination to diet and hit the gym hard. Over two intense months, I lost a remarkable two stone and for the first time in several years, I felt lighter, happier, and energised. I could see a future once again; with no job, the possibilities felt endless. I could write. I could do 'any old job' and meet new people. I thought about studying to become a counsellor (but didn’t, due to the expense and arbitrariness of choosing that as a career. I also have a counsellor cousin who scared me off when he told me “Hell is other people” - and he's way more fucking cheerful than me.)

I was a little too eager in my weight loss endeavours. My new lifestyle wasn’t exactly realistic or, y'know, liveable, and I gave up as I didn’t feel I could both diet, and look for work – a job in itself – at the same time.
I tend to do new things with such intensity that I compartmentalise them into standalone projects instead of babystepping sensibly through everything together, and burn myself out. This meant by August 2016, I stopped gymming and drinking cold, horrific liquidised vegetable mulch each day, and switched instead to spending a few hours each day trawling through jobsites and applying for work. 

It was painfully slow and dispiriting, and because I’m the junk-food equivalent of an alcoholic, I started buying Tescos Chicken Caesar Wraps and Sun-dried tomato and feta pasta salads for lunch which I kidded myself was vaguely healthy until I added what were once called ‘Family-sized’ bags of crisps as an appetizer. Needless to say, by last Christmas, I'd secured a handful of interviews for jobs I never got, and regained all the weight I lost to boot.

So, looking and feeling like shit, just a slave to my pathetic weaknesses and failing to get that magical, exciting new job I thought was just around the corner, I broke the habit of a lifetime; I spoke to my doctor about anti-depressants.

They did nothing at first and I felt nothing, neutral; not happy, but not completely miserable either. Then after about a month, I felt great. Normally I'd have to be on a strict diet and cry on a treadmill every other day to get that warm sense of achievement but now, a pill each evening was all it took. 

By mid-May after five and a half months of intense job searching (I must have applied for about 300 jobs by then), I managed to get a great job just fifteen minutes’ walk from my flat, and for considerably more money than before. Finally, I had turned everything around, notwithstanding my weight which got turned around then put back again.
With things back on track and feeling good, I decided I didn’t want to get addicted to anti-depressants so a few months ago, I decided to ween myself off them, a six-week process of reduction that as luck would have it, coincided neatly with my sudden sacking. 

I had passed my three-month probation period comfortably. The directors didn’t much give a shit. There was no appraisal or meeting. Time simply passed so I sent an email to remind them and asked if they had any issues about me they'd like to raise. They didn’t, not that they bothered to reply.
But that all changed a few months later anyway when I was asked to go into the meeting room one Monday morning in October. I grabbed my notepad and pen thinking we were about to have an impromptu meeting but instead, I was sacked on the spot. There was no verbal or written warning, just ‘It’s not working out', and fuck off.

To say I was shocked was an understatement. I'd had two interviews to get the job - the second one lasting a full day - and I was asked to prepare a report. My first two weeks was spent shadowing my predecessor and getting an in-depth feel for the role so there'd be a good handover. And when they sacked me, they wanted me gone that instant even though it would fuck them up as much as it did me, and that's a tremendous blow to anyone's confidence, being wanted rid of that urgently.

I suspected something was afoot though, as the company had just hired a waddling lard-arse comprised of 20% duplicity and 80% pie and who saw no hypocrisy in calling me fat, and who clearly wanted to make a name for himself as a ruthless cost-cutter. And while I thought I'd been settling in quite nicely, the truth was I never really gelled with anyone and I could be booted out with relative ease. There were a few people I got on with, but it was an extremely cliquey company in an industry I had no background in and I simply didn't fit; My complete disinterest in any kind of sport didn't help either.

I did get on with a couple of guys though. One I sent a text to a couple of days after I was fired, but he misconstrued what I wrote and thought I was blaming him for my sacking, so that's us never speaking again.The other wanted to meet up a few weeks later which cheered my spirits until he asked me for a £10,000.00 investment in a business he wanted to set up. I politely declined, and remain thoroughly unsurprised that we've not spoken since.

So with no income coming in, I asked my family for a Xmas gift freeze that got ignored.

I have had two interviews with a charity in London, though. I hope I get it despite the large drop in salary and the fact it’s only three days a week – giving me very little to live on – but I'll be grateful to work in the public sector again which suits me ethically. I really don’t want to work for money-motivated Del Boys ever again. 

At least this fucking year’s nearly over, one that was spent mostly unemployed, largely on antidepressants, and wholly overweight. It’s New Year’s Eve tomorrow, and for the first time in over twenty years, I’m likely to be spending it home alone. It feels quite appropriate.