the new fear

Now I am scared for new reasons.

Finally I got something.  An interview with a couple of straight, slightly stiff young professionals, followed by a presentation to them and their bosses, the company’s unremarkable (slightly vacant?) founders, then an interview with them.  Then an offer, on initially freelance terms.  Some number-crunching, a 3 month proposal, an acceptance.

Still it means returning to a ‘proper’ office environment, a Monday to Friday 9-5ish slog, a clutch of new colleagues.  (I cannot deal very well with those I consider to be tossers – what if they are young, headstrong pricks?  See last post.  How will I cope?)  A seven day notice period on each side.  It worries me that I am neither engaged nor impressed by much at the company, yet.  Least of all the founders.  Maybe that’s a good thing, an opportunity for me to make an impact.  And I barely know the company or them as people yet anyway.  I should reserve my harsh judgements.

On the other thing, the dream pursuit angsted about here previously, another option has been pursued and appears to be going in the right direction. That dream is not dead.  But there is still fear and nervousness about the new future unknown.

I fear burn-out, potentially working evenings and weekends and full office days and having no flexibility or leave.  I fear change and pressure.  I fear working really hard.  This is partly because I am slightly lazy – I like having time to go to the cinema and read books and drink coffee and walk and listen to podcasts and idle; and partly because working hard is something I have grown to prefer doing on my own terms.

I fear small-talk.  This week I overheard a perfectly comfortable, relaxed, freewheeling conversation between three colleagues about the weather and age and it made me want to shake its participants.  Anything planned this weekend?  Good weekend?  This weather, eh?  Haha, yes.  Eurgh, no.  TALK ABOUT SOMETHING… YOU KNOW..  A THING, TALK ABOUT AN ACTUAL THING, ANYTHING.

I fear (well don’t fear but hardly look forward to) the obligation to donate to anyone’s charity efforts, the obligation to sign birthday cards and leaving cards.  All that.  It feels forced and artificial and I’d really rather not thanks, but I guess I shall.

I fear (or rather just dread) all the tedious shirts and ironing and formal office wear and having to think about clothes all the time.

I fear (truly fear) handshakes.  Over the last few months I seem to have developed what I can only deduce is early arthritis in a small bone or tendon of my little right finger.  It can hurt and throb to the core in cold weather, or twang when drying up something awkwardly shaped, but most of all it can feel acutely painful when it is crushed in a vice-like handshake.  I eye people up beforehand, knowing I will have to shake their hand, predicting whether it will be a bone-crusher. I shake and smile and swear in my head (good to meet you, YOU BASTARD) and try to ignore the pain.

This strange, apprehensive in between time before starting something quite radically new keeps finding me discombobulated, confused, unsettled, spikes of sudden nervousness about being judged by strangers, in real life, unhidden or obscured by the internet. Briefly without the calming influence of my girlfriend around – an influence I realise I probably take for granted, I feel like a bewildered old man who will shortly be moving to an old people’s home. He knows he should and it’s ‘for the best’, but he still doesn’t like it one bit.

The belligerent one-thing-after-the-other bobsleigh of life is seldom without fear. That is, for some, particularly for those of a naturally anxious or worrisome disposition.

Of late I’ve considered myself against those to whom the world appears to be a big playground: businessmen who think nothing of taking out big bank loans, getting venture capital funding, growing, selling or dissolving businesses; having kids, getting married a few times, buying stuff they can’t afford.  My notion is that usually these people were largely raised in an environment without fear or worry around money, without the seeping stress of parental nervousness.  Incumbent in these people is the beautiful idea involuntarily translated that there really is nothing to fear about life.  Money is not to be feared.  You can just trust that everything will be alright.  You are good enough.

The constant worry and stress about cashflow has dogged me for a long time and I would love for it to slacken off now.  I am open to the compromise of exchanging one prison of anxiety (financial unpredictability, instability) for the new chains of an office and all the tepid obligation that brings, (regular hours, human frustrations), but hopefully reliable pay, the ability to see slightly beyond the next corner, not worry as much about paying rent every month, the chance to plan ahead, or maybe take a nice holiday.

There are others who I’m sure would be more cavalier with similarly up and down cashflow and bank balances. They would take risks, worry less, do stuff regardless, get loans, use credit cards, fall into their overdrafts.  But still, you know, live.  The feckless bastards.  And I often wonder if I had invested more bravely, might my business ventures have reaped proportionately better rewards, greater comfort and sustainability.  A swisher website, slightly better kit, more aggressive marketing.

Better not to dwell now, although that’s what you always do.  Try to look ahead.  Tentatively, probably nervously, try to embrace the new fear.

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fall to the flaw

I was really disappointed, mostly at myself.  And then it grew, that disappointment, into disgust.  I was disgusted with myself.  The inexplicable pride (when I have not much to be proud of), the inability to tolerate tossers, to keep my mouth shut (or email fingers still, to disconnect them from a fizzing brain).

Then I would briefly reconcile myself.  Onwards. There are other options.  His email reply proved what perhaps I was subconsciously testing, or asking: are you a ridiculous alpha male psychopath with a colossal ego, cracking the whip at me slightly harder than you might otherwise because you feel somehow threatened by me?

In my message I had suggested that there are perhaps limits to how demanding you can be of people working really hard for you, putting in time and effort and miles, for free.  That was the crux of what I said – a message I had been stewing over for days, not an impulsive one.  It didn’t go down well.  His eventual email response was insulting and sweary and ranting: like a man not used to being questioned.  “Who are you to question me?”  I am nobody at all to question him, a much less successful and mostly inadequate sort of person, yes.  I do not travel around the world and work with A-List celebrities, I have nothing like his experience.  But I will always have opinions and say what I feel, mostly. That’s not to say that I will be rude or insulting or sweary, but I will say what I think, sometimes to my own detriment.  It’s aligned to the excessive, uncontrollable honesty I often wrangled with when dating.  Like an all-powerful truth serum I cannot deny, inconveniently bubbling away at all times.

Several days later came that reply, upon his return to London, sent late on Sunday night, which I opened and read when sitting on the toilet on Monday morning.  Around the middle of the long, sweary and at times insulting rant he terminated our agreement, stopped dead something I was largely enjoying doing, occasionally loving doing.  While I knew it was possible when I sent the email, still I was stunned, disappointed, gutted, but being at my parents’ home and about to go out for a walk with my mother and girlfriend and dog, I tried and failed to contain it.  Receiving an email like that is not nice.

It was the sniping, needling messages I felt he was enjoying, the mild belittling and patronising.  I could see the avenue opening up towards bullying and it repelled me; I wasn’t going down  there for anyone or anything.  He wasn’t managing me; he was cracking his alpha geezer whip – you need to up your game, you’re getting there (slowly).  I could have parried that others less scrutinised could be criticised for the same things, I could have challenged more.  He was successful, big time, untouchable: our leader.

It was similar to my last big professional relationship fall-out, a man of similar testosterone and large ego.  I was dependent upon him for most of my revenue, rather than my dream pursuit.  But again, ultimately, I brought it to a head, that time face to face, professionally and with requisite composure.  Still, we never worked together again.

Why can I not accept such people when it’s the smartest thing to do in terms of self-preservation and self-interest?  Why am I so sensitive, so proud?  Why must I value basic manners and courtesy so highly?  Look where it’s got me.  (Not very far). You always need people to back you; a conclusion drawn and repeated many times on these pages.  Yet one I struggle to apply.

Still.  There are other options.  Move on.  He was just one guy who might have been important; was important briefly.  Remember that first long phone call taken when sitting in the passenger seat next to your girlfriend on that long journey, when it felt like finally, at last, someone with some kind of heft and influence had recognised you; the relief, the wash of hope that now things were possible…

Still.  There are others.  Aren’t there?

Shit. What in hell did YOU DO THAT FOR?!

No. Enough. There are other more pressing issues of making money, perhaps finding a job, those permanent concerns that seem to never go away.  It’s there you should be applying your efforts.  Those are the things which might financially and psychologically free you from this paranoid purgatory of not knowing what the hell you are doing with your life, although perhaps only to present a new kind of prison.

It keeps flashing back, the opportunity you effectively pissed down the drain in an email at the end of a long day, questioning somebody unquestionable.  Your girlfriend’s worried look when you said you’d sent it; maybe you shouldn’t have done that.  There was a possibility he’d tell you to fuck off now.  You knew that, and he did.  What did you do that for?

Now you’re disappointed again, mostly at yourself.  You loved doing that.  Eurgh, you idiot! And so the cycle starts again.