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I write every day about living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words

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nick@manicgrant.com

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Manic Rant

4 min read

This is a story about image...

Ferret

I have completely forgotten that people perceive and judge me, often by the public persona which I present. I have completely forgotten that people read what I write, who are my friends and work colleagues. I have completely forgotten to present a mask; a fake artificial image of how I want to be perceived, through an entirely fabricated story, which never really happened.

Without alcohol as a crutch, I am almost entirely reliant on a daily dose of writing, as catharsis for the overwhelming thoughts and feelings, which have no other outlet.

I sit down in front of the blank page every day, and I write as if nobody is reading, but it's not true: there are people reading.

My brain has been impaired, more than usual, because of extremely low blood sugar. I've consumed an average of fewer than 300 calories, on average, during the past 4 days, which is a ridiculously low amount. Of course, I've successfully managed to drop a kilo of weight (2.2 pounds) in under a week, but I've put my already fragile mental health under extreme duress.

Thinking about what I've written from the perspective of a hypothetical person who I want to like and respect me, it seems as though my words have been regrettable. I've launched into various tirades against the whole of humanity. I've ripped ordinary folks to pieces, with long grandiose delusional rants, written in a state of temporary mania.

In fact, my mania is not-so-temporary. It seems as if my mania can last months, if not years. I suppose the kind of mania which more traditionally manifests itself - spending money, taking risks, being sexually promiscuous, gambling, drinking, taking drugs, having grandiose delusions - is pretty clearly not present, but I know that I'm quite cunning at hiding my 'true' mood. Of course, there's no hiding how I really feel, because it's all documented here, but that's by design. On average, most of my work colleagues won't be reading this, so on average, most of my work colleagues won't know how utterly insane I am; how mentally ill I am.

I've thrown caution to the wind, somewhat, and started writing whatever the hell I want, without thinking about the consequences, insofar as my professional image and reputation. I don't think it's deliberately self-sabotaging behaviour, but I certainly don't feel like I'm desperately clinging to my source of income, terrified of getting booted out of my client's organisation because of my madness... which is a big change from the preceding couple of years.

Of course, I've not yet earned enough money to retire, so any loss of income would be pretty catastrophic. There's no good reason for me to burn and bridges, and in fact there are many good reasons to preserve whatever reputation I have painstakingly built. However, I'm also really tired and in desperate need of a holiday.

I've lost all control over what comes out of my mouth, and what gets written down on this page, at least in terms of a well thought-through plan, or in terms of some in-depth thought into the possible consequences. My mouth has already run at a million miles an hour, and whatever stupid stuff I was thinking has already been heard or read, long before I've had a chance to consider the implications and regret it.

I would quite like to repair my image, and to even possibly enter a new era, where I'm perceived positively; where people once again think of me as a reliable, dependable, likeable, useful sort of person, instead of a maniac who has to be tolerated, begrudgingly, until the earliest opportunity to boot me out.

It doesn't feel, day to day, as if I'm skating on such thin ice, versus the conflict I was going through before, and the regrettable way that I was acting, but my perceptions are exceedingly wonky: I am no doubt spewing a near-continuous stream of reputation-damaging, insulting, aggravating and otherwise regrettable things, which are rapidly destroying any goodwill which I had accidentally accumulated.

There are so few working days now, for me to limp through, before I take a long-overdue holiday, but that's no reason to think that I can't totally screw everything up.

 

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Too Many Hours in the Day

4 min read

This is a story about time to kill...

Commute

I wouldn't call myself a workaholic, but I hate to be bored, with nothing to do at work. I like to keep myself busy; to keep my mind busy.

It seems extraordinary that I would struggle, then, with evenings and weekends. If I've got something better to do with my time, then why do I hate being bored at work? Why do I insist on having such busy working days, when I'm obviously so bored in my leisure time.

The reality of my situation, is that I'm completely tied to a time and a place. Given that the prime hours of my waking day, and the majority of days of the week, I have a commitment to be available at more-or-less a moment's notice, it would be very difficult for me - although not impossible - to get involved with another major project, in my leisure time.

Psychologically, I'm not built to context-switch. I spend the majority of my income-earning hours context switching, to the point which would make most people's heads spin. My approach to my work doesn't allow for any long periods of concentration, although the role does demand concentration: the only solution is to work extremely quickly, and get very good at context switching. It's enormously taxing, to have your train of thought interrupted continually, and to manage to still be productive; to not forget any of the important details.

I never really thought of myself as a details person. Certainly, names and dates often seem to be filtered out by my brain, along with other trivia deemed worthless. I'm completely clueless about pop culture. I'm utterly divorced from tabloid gossip drivel. I'm culturally disconnected from the bulk of my colleagues, for example.

Although it's pretty obvious that I'm an arrogant and aloof individual, condescending, conceited and full of a misguided and misplaced sense of superiority... I don't actually think that my life is better than anybody else's. In fact, I am acutely aware that my life is considerably worse than the breeder plebs who spend their life watching soap operas with their grubby progeny, and otherwise festering in a pit their own ignorance and stupidity: sounds like bliss.

There's nothing quite like the miserable realisation that you made a substantial wrong turn in your life, and it's too late to make different choices. Once you're beyond the point of no return, inured into a life of isolation, then your fate is sealed. Just as it was when I was a schoolchild, as an adult it will be immediately obvious that I don't fit in.

What I'm left with, would be considered extremely valuable, for those who couldn't wait to fulfil the will of their genes, as a mindless vessel for DNA replication. I sleep as much as I want - which is a lot - and I have as much leisure time as I want. Perversely, I have too much leisure time, and I wish I could work twice as many hours in the day, and 7 days a week... but it would be so irregular that it would cause more problems than it would solve.

My strategy is to sprint and coast. I am working as hard as I can, in the hope that I can take a short career break. I am working as hard as I can, so I can enjoy a period of time to pursue whatever I want, uninterrupted.

Of course, everyone's strategy is to work as hard as they can, so that they can have a lengthy period without work... for most that is retirement. For me, that's not an option... I'm working to a constricted and constrained timescale; my choices are limited. I don't know why other people think - naïvely in my opinion - that they'll get to enjoy their retirement: the omens are not good, health-wise, financially and more generally in terms of the benefit that's been promised, versus the likely reality. Your strategy is to defer that period without work until later life, gambling that your health will be OK. My strategy is to live my life within the parameters of what is for certain; that I have my health right now, today.

It might seem appallingly churlish to complain about long evenings and weekends, bored, but I assure you that the time is filled with seemingly interminable suffering.

 

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No Consequences

4 min read

This is a story about machine learning...

Up a tree

We like to believe in karma. We like to believe that evildoers will get their comeuppance eventually. We like to believe that virtue will be rewarded eventually. We like to think that there are natural laws, which bring everything into equilibrium: what goes up must come down.

Not true.

I find it very hard to objectively analyse my present situation: is it a punishment, or a reward? Is this one of the best periods of my life or one of the worst? With no absolute scale - no universal yardstick - it's impossible to measure myself, either against prior experiences, or against other individuals.

Very quickly, we get bogged down in difficult questions: is the 'winner' of life, the richest soul in the graveyard, or the poorest? We instinctively ascribe success to the rich, but we do not consider how much they might have sacrificed in order to accumulate that wealth. "Can't spend it when you're dead" goes the old saying. It's true: how much living to people miss out on, because they're saving for a rainy day which never comes?

One of my life's most treasured experiences was homelessness and sleeping rough. Of course, it was insanely traumatic at the time, but as time has passed, all that I'm left with is the happy memories; the hair-raising anecdotes; the adventures.

Perhaps I never truly believed that I was ruined; that my life was destroyed beyond repair. But, how could I have known enough about the future, to predict the astronomically remote possibility of the crucial events which helped me claw my way back from the brink of oblivion? How could I have known that things would work out OK in the end? How could I not have given up any hope of ever re-entering civilised society?

Perhaps I don't believe that I really am back. Certainly my present life is very odd, versus anybody else who considers themselves to be a fine upstanding example of a model citizen, carrying themselves through life productively, and as a valued member of society. Where are my wife, children, mortgage, car loan, life insurance, home insurance, car insurance, dental insurance, unemployment insurance, phone insurance, insurance insurance and suchlike? Where are the trappings which trap me? I certainly do not behave like a model capitalist consumer.

I am continually willing the world to block my way; to throw me out on the street; to cut off my income. I am continually willing the world to chuck me out of the club; to bar my entrance from civilised society. I am continually willing civilised society to force me out and into the underclass. I am continually willing those around me - work colleagues for example - to snap and lose their patience, and to say "you don't belong here! get out!".

I fantasise about total isolation, without a gun to my head: a little patch of ground to lie down on, where nobody will bother me, ever. I fantasise about being free from coercion.

I can forget about how coerced I am when I am busy, so I try to be frantically busy at all times. I never want to be alone with my thoughts, because I am so horrendously coerced: I'm not allowed to be idle for a single second. Every ounce of my productive capacity is milked, and then it's milked some more for good measure, but it's still not enough to pay for the privilege of breathing: somebody will slap an extra tax on me; demand money with menaces. I'm running as fast as I can to stand still, but I'm still going backwards.

Conversely, when I abandon the struggle, the dire consequences are not dire at all. While I spend most of my waking hours contemplating suicide, when I am being coerced, as soon as I collapse from exhaustion and abandon the rat race, life becomes seemingly worthwhile again: a Catch 22. I know that life is easier if you are wealthier, but it's impossible to become wealthy, because the rat race is so unbearable; unwinnable.

I live with dignity: independent, undeniably productive and industrious. I have proven beyond all reasonable doubt that I'm as good as anybody at this ridiculous game, but what good has it done me? I still go to bed alone, exhausted, anxious, afraid, depressed, isolated... but I also have the knowledge that, at all times, I can flush the whole stupid mess down the toilet and I'll be fine... better than fine, in fact... it will be better when the time comes, to cut loose from this coercive life.

 

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Greater Anonymity

5 min read

This is a story about professional reputation...

Radiator key

I had a game plan for this year, which was to write eye-wateringly boring things about my mundane existence, such that the history of my chaotic and traumatic life would be safely hidden behind a wall of impenetrable tedium. Unfortunately, I have not stuck to the plan. However, I have arrived at the conclusion that the best place to hide is in plain sight.

I once attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting - or similar such thing - which annoyingly was in a building immediately adjacent to my workplace. As I predicted, while I was in the process of leaving the meeting and saying goodbye to people in the street, a work colleague emerged from the office and also greeted me; that was my worst nightmare realised: that my private world and my work world would collide.

Today, I can count at least one work colleague amongst my readers, and over the years there have been a large collection of both present and former work colleagues, who have read some of what's published here, publicly for all to see. Most of what I write is frank, brutally honest and candid, and none of it is the stuff which can or would be discussed in a professional context. Sometimes it troubles me, being exposed in a professional reputation sense, but I doubt I do a very good job of concealing my madness in the workplace.

One thing, I hope, is quite apparent to my work colleagues, versus my readers: that I am highly productive, and making an undeniably useful contribution, with just about enough sanity to spend 40+ hours a week in close quarters with people who, presumably, have no plans to call the men in white coats to take me away.

I'm not so stupid as to think that it's not quickly obvious that I'm mentally ill, if you spend a little time with me. I'm not so stupid as to think that my colleagues don't consider me odd; abnormal; different. But, I'm used to being the odd-one-out and I've got over the initial paranoia, which was caused by mistakenly thinking that I had successfully integrated and been accepted as 'normal' when I so obviously am not. I had begun to believe that I had shaken of my miserable childhood and re-invented myself; that I had integrated with normal mainstream society. When the mask slipped, it destroyed me, because I had worked so hard to hide my flaws.

Retrospectively, I see that the effort I put into making myself as homogenous and unnoticeable as possible - the effort I put into fitting in - was essentially wasted.

People. Just. Don't. Care.

Unless you're actively going out of your way to be a problem, most people are too busy with their lives to acknowledge your existence or take any interest in you. Unless you're a massive pain in the backside, and you're annoying everybody, nobody really knows or cares who you are.

Conversely, if you make an effort to be 'different' you are equally uninteresting. Sure, you might think that your carefully constructed identity, with your weird haircut, purple hair colour, piercings, tattoos, and deliberately unusual fashion choices, is something which makes you stand out. No. In such an individualistic society everybody is attempting to stand out, so you are conforming and fitting in by attempting to do so.

Are you damned if you do, and damned if you don't?

Well, I'm very glad to have made a friend, who's a work colleague, somewhat thanks to this website and my writing. The friendship makes an almost infinite amount of being ignored by the world, pale into insignificance. I'd like to say that I don't care when I have a day with fewer readers, but it would be a lie: for sure, I want to be noticed; I want people to be aware that I am, at present, alive, having thoughts, experiencing feelings.

The massive folly that I have built - millions of words written and published - is utterly disproportionate to the number of readers and amount of income that I make, as a direct result of my effort. However, over the years, the effort has brought me some of the best things in my life.

I don't discourage anybody from going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, if they want to, even if they're not an alcoholic... I too, am not an alcoholic, nor am I a recovering alcoholic, nor have I ever been an alcoholic. My relationship with alcohol is entirely controlled by me, not a higher power, or a bunch of anonymous people meeting in a dingy basement, spilling their traumatic stories out to each other. I'm doing the opposite: publicly broadcasting every innermost thought, and most shameful trauma, and here I am... seemingly as normal as anybody. No need to label myself as anything other than "me".

 

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Would You do it for Free?

4 min read

This is a story about labour...

Balloons

A reasonable test of whether or not you love, or even like, your job, is to ask yourself the question: would you do it for free? Personally, I wouldn't willingly choose to participate in ordinary organisational office life, which is not to be disparaging of my colleagues, but there are so many better, more humane ways, to organise ourselves versus large hierarchical organisations, with life revolving around going to a building for the majority of days each week, for a substantial percentage of your precious waking hours.

The part of my work which I will keep doing, whether I'm paid to do it or not, is technology. I have rejected technology a few times in my life, in an attempt to live a life which is more connected and in touch with the tangible: to see my work in physical form. The 'weight' of the entire internet, is estimated at little more than a tennis ball, if you add up all the electrons which are storing and transmitting data, across all the computers, networks, smartphones, tablets, telephone wires, airwaves... the whole shebang adds up to barely a whole lot of nothing. Some kind of massive solar storm could potentially burn out transformers and other parts of the electrical grid, but almost all the physical cabling would survive, along with most of the electrical devices. Conversely, data is mostly so ephemeral, that it barely exists physically, as evidenced by the tennis ball example.

The thing which I do so much of for free, that it might be worth considering whether I should figure out a way to make it pay, is writing. Of course, everyone wants to be a writer, or some kind of artist. The world has no shortage of writers. Plenty of people will do it for free. The same could be said of tech though: the world is full of tech hobbyists, and by my own admission, I would still be doing some kind of tech for free.

I think the vast investment in writing is paying dividends. A former work colleague often spoke of a force-field which he called simply "too much typing" which was the barrier to entry for most people wanting to get anywhere in tech. People are very happy to click a download button, or copy-paste something, but somebody, somewhere, sometime or other, has to do some damn typing.

I freely admit to having been pretty lazy for a lot of my career. Everything I've ever done in tech has been very easy and unchallenging, so there's never particularly been a need for a lot of typing. I'd be lucky if I wrote as much as ten lines of code per day, on average, during many long boring and unproductive days, employed by organisations who wanted to own me, as an intelligent ornament; to ensure that no competitor would have me, but keeping me for no other requirement except to deny others my labour. As such, I too couldn't be bothered to do much typing, because there were no interesting challenges.

It's strange how the job of fiddling with tools but never actually making anything seems to be the pitfall of so many. I was building something for a friend today, and I thought that there were a vast number of things I could be doing, which were attractive alternatives to doing the job in hand, which most other people I've worked with would have done instead. I built something pretty damn ugly and inelegant, but it worked and it delivered interesting and useful results, which the shiniest of shiny things never do. 'Perfect' systems do exist, but they don't do anything: as soon as systems come into contact with the real world, and are forced to do real, useful stuff, then the perfect imaginary world collapses, and the system turns into a big tangled mess. This is why engineers prefer to tinker and polish their tools, and never actually make anything; to stay in the safe make-believe imaginary world of perfection which they've created, bearing no resemblance to reality.

Similarly, I think now, I enjoy writing and publishing, but mainly I enjoy not having to debate or reason with unreasonable people; I don't have to persuade anybody or listen to dull, uninteresting and unintelligent opinions. I am, however, living in a fantasy world in which I can create 'perfection' so long as I don't have to come into contact with reality. That's just fine with me though... I'm doing this for free, so I can do whatever I want.

 

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Dreading the Weekend

4 min read

This is a story about time as an enemy...

Clock

I suppose almost all of us live for the weekend, or the equivalent: the working week can't pass quick enough, and our precious leisure time doesn't last long enough. "Is it Monday morning already?" we ask ourselves rhetorically, with disappointment in our voices.

Not me.

Although Friday does hold a special significance for me, it is only that I have successfully completed another billable week, earning myself a chunk of cash, which takes me a step closer to financial security. Given the choice, I would work 7 days a week, in order to achieve financial security 40% quicker. I do not look forward to the weekend, at all.

Of course, it doesn't help that my social isolation has increased, from one extreme to another: I never see another soul, at evenings and at weekends. The only people I see are strangers at the supermarket. The only words I exchange - in person - are with the cashier at the checkout. Given that I shop for food roughly every three weeks, that's an existence which is more extreme than almost anybody on the planet. A goddam Tuareg in the Sahara sees more people than me; has more social contact. A goddam monk who's sworn an oath of silence has vastly more social contact than me.

could theoretically do something about it. For sure, I could join a book club; I could become a train spotter; I could develop an interest in ornithology; I could dress up as a superhero and go to comic conventions: the world is my oyster, but - so it would seem - I'm not seizing any of the infinite opportunities open to me, to build a real-world social network.

Why not?

Why am I not out there in the big wide world, making friends and meeting people?

I have, for example, deliberately decided to be single for a while. All of the COVID-19 stuff seemed to be making dating very complicated, what with various lockdowns and restrictions on the lives of single people, and besides, I wanted to lose some weight: restaurant meals and alcohol were never going to allow me to lose weight. Also, there's nothing quite as crazy-making as people. Recently, I was the victim of a tirade of abuse, for example, which was completely unprovoked; unjustified. I haven't got the time or the energy to be abused by nasty crazies. I really don't need my inbox brimming with hateful abuse, which bears no relation to anything I've ever said or done in my life. I'm quite glad to be able to ignore that kind of unjustified abuse, because I'm not looking for a girlfriend, or indeed trying to make any kind of connection with anybody: I'm just trying to survive the winter.

The hours pass painfully slowly. It would seem like any sensible person would do something, if they were suffering as badly as I claim to be, but it's not true: in my circumstances, you'd do the same thing... eyes on the prize. You too, would suffer in the short-term, even if it seemed unbearable, because you would also know that there's only one route ahead; only once choice, although it appears to completely ignorant idiots as if there are more choices. There are not. There are no other choices.

I look around at the options, and all I see is futility. I don't want to pretend that I believe in a sky monster. I don't want to pretend that I like Salsa dancing. I don't want to pretend that I'm interested in trains. I don't want to pretend that I'm interested in birds. I don't even want to pretend that I'm interesting in boring and unintelligent, unambitious provincial hicks, who've never travelled and experienced other cultures, with no aptitude for free thought and certainly no capacity to entertain the notion that life should be lived in a way which is dissimilar to that of slugs, wasps and other simple beasts, like the pram-faced breeders spewing out an endless stream of pink screaming flesh into a life of misery and disappointment.

Eyes on the prize: I'll never have enough money to live out my natural life at an acceptable standard of living, but mercifully I can choose the precise day of my death, to co-incide with both what is bearable, and what is affordable.

 

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Grind

4 min read

This is a story about wishing my life away...

Jeep

As a child I wanted to be a grown-up so that I could drive a car and buy whatever the heck I wanted; eat whatever I want; do whatever I want. Life has, in fact, kinda worked out for me in that regard. Life has, essentially, turned out to be everything I expected it to be. It really is child's play in fact, provided you stay true to your childish ambitions: I do, in fact, enjoy driving, expensive toys, eating whatever I want, and doing whatever I want.

I don't think I was ever so naïve as to think that things didn't have to be paid for. In fact, if there's one thing which has been front and centre of my mind, since the moment that consciousness sprang into my infant mind, it's that everything has to be paid for. You have to pay to play: I've always understood this.

As with childhood, I know that there's no other route to get where I want other than waiting. I had to wait until 17 years of age to get a full driving license, to enjoy the freedom of the road on my own. I had to wait for everything else I wanted too. I'm waiting now. My whole life is mostly waiting. Waiting for the stuff I want.

Older people, and particularly parents, are somewhat idiotic in telling children and younger people to not wish their lives away. It's moronic to tell somebody who has no freedom and cannot get what they want, that they should cherish a time of misery, suffering, deprivation and unmet want. What is there to cherish about being homeless? What is there to cherish about being hungry? What is there to cherish about having the world flaunt everything in your face, while you can only look on jealously? What is there to cherish about the impotence of having your life controlled by others? What is there to cherish in the waiting?

I've often written about this, but if I could take a pill and wake up ten years from now with no memory of the intervening decade, but all of my earnings in the bank, of course I'd take it. There's nothing I want from the present. I only want the opportunities which money can buy, which are locked up in the future, with nothing but grinding standing in the way.

Grinding is a well-understood thing, amongst younger people. In the absence of any realistic prospect of being able to afford to buy a house and start a family, it seems obvious that virtual worlds would flourish. Starting with games like The Sims, and then the infamous World of Warcraft, there has been an enormous explosion in popularity of games which aren't won per se, but instead offer a virtual reality where achievement and progress are possible, in a way which is not possible in the real world. No amount of supermarket shelf stacking will enable a young person to escape from their socioeconomic predicament - their preordained doom - and as such, it's little wonder that their tiny amount of disposable income would be frittered away on virtual objects; purchasing power so inadequate as to acquire any of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, such as shelter.

The gamification of life is all-pervasive. School is not about learning, but about grades to get into university. University is not about learning, it's the only route into a career without a ludicrously low glass ceiling. Jobs are not about passion or vocation, but each one a means to an end: a stepping stone on a career path towards... towards what? Towards a pension, and death hopefully. At least, hopefully, a long, painful, uncomfortable, illness-ridden, but not impoverished retirement, hopefully. At some point along the way, a partner will be acquired - whose looks and intelligence will be scored - and later there will be children who will also score points for their academic achievements. Everybody is keeping score.

The grind seems necessary, somehow. A means to an end, perhaps. Except, the summit is never reached. The goals are never achieved. There's no winning this game.

 

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No Retreat

4 min read

This is a story about one-way streets...

Balcony

An important reason why people commit suicide, which demands further discussion, is the way that life is set up so that retreat is almost impossible. Nobody ever asks for a demotion. Nobody ever asks for a pay cut. Nobody ever wants to pull their kids out of private school to put them into state school. Nobody ever wants to cut off their kids' allowance, or stop paying into a savings account for their university education. Nobody ever wants to lose their trophy partner, because they can't afford to keep them in the manner to which they have been accustomed. Nobody wants to downsize or move in with family. It's all a one-way street.

Taken in aggregate, a small bump in the road can easily be understood as something which would prompt somebody to commit suicide. While you might say to somebody who's lost their job "just get another job" it's actually much more complicated than that: most people are only one or two missed paycheques away from major financial difficulties. The whole house of cards can collapse very easily: everybody is leveraged to the max.

Of course, you might say that it's silly to get worked up about material things. "Of course" everyone would understand about having to sell the fancy car, not go on holiday, leave the fancy school, not buy the nice things, maybe not have the same opportunities. "Of course" so the saying goes "we've still got each other" except it doesn't work like that. When the money dries up, everyone fucks off, and then the vultures move in to pick any remaining flesh off the carcass.

Yes, we really do have to acknowledge that we all become highly leveraged such that relatively small problems are life-destroying, and as such, they are life-ending.

We humans are optimists by nature. We always assume that the stock market is going to keep going up, the housing market is going to keep going up, our salary is going to keep going up: everything must always go up, according to our human proclivity for optimism. It's not that people are stupid, although of course they are that too, but there's a fundamental hard-wired kind of specific stupidity I'm talking about: the tendency towards optimism, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

If we were beasts of pure reason and logic, we'd kill ourselves as soon as we grasped our situation: a life of pain, depression, anxiety, suffering, hard work and other unpleasantness, met with an inevitable death at the end. Why put yourself through that? Our self-preservation instincts have evolved to counteract our higher brain functions, lest our species die out, but still... why bother? It's completely illogical to live your life hoping for anything: death is inevitable; illness, pain and suffering is almost inevitable. Almost nobody dies "peacefully" in their sleep: decades of slow, painful and uncomfortable dying await us all.

Obviously, we hope to achieve symbolic immortality through our genes, passed on to our children. Or rather, our genes hope to be replicated. We are, after all, just a vessel for genes to reproduce themselves, and it would be foolish - an anthropocentric arrogant delusion of grandeur - to try to convince ourselves otherwise.

In the eternally optimistic quest for a "better life" we strive to get a bigger salary, bigger house, more attractive partner, as many kids as we can realistically feed and clothe... then we move onto status symbols, like university degrees, professional qualifications/certification, fancy cars, luxury holidays... still we are not satiated.

At some point, pretty early on in our life, we become locked into a certain destiny. Pretty much, once you've got kids, you are locked-into a certain kind of life: although you might fantasise about selling your house and living in a camper van, you never will, because you are locked in, in so many ways. Even if you're wealthy and single, you're never going to sell everything you own and become a homeless nomad. You might have gone off on a gap year, you predictable tedious middle-class wanker, but you know that any more gaps on your CV wouldn't look good on your otherwise unblemished career track-record.

Those who are unlucky enough to suffer a misfortune most often go one of two ways: they're kicked out of mainstream life, and must accept their plight trapped in the underclass forevermore, or they commit suicide. There's no other line of retreat; there's no way back, for those who err or suffer a misfortune.

This might seem like a bleak outlook, but you know it's true.

 

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A Life of Significance

4 min read

This is a story about having skin in the game...

Signpost

While I often spew words of harsh derision for those who seemingly make foolish decisions, or otherwise exhibit - in my opinion - extraordinary fuckwittery, wasting astonishing amounts of time and money, I must acknowledge that almost everyone I work with does care to some extent about delivering a good outcome. I don't have the misfortune of working with anybody, who absolutely doesn't care a single bit about their work. It's unkind, unfair and untrue to represent things that way.

Conversely, I have decided to hang my hat on the particular project I'm working on, because it somehow seems worthy of my precious attention. If that sounds arrogant, that's exactly how I intended it to come across. For sure, it's arrogant as heck to assume that I would have anything worthwhile to contribute to anything. How arrogant of me to assume that my worth is anything other than zero. In fact, I spent a long time feeling worthless. I spent a long time feeling that there was no opportunity to feel anything other than worthless. Then, one day, the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself: an opportunity, in my mind, to make a mark; to prove myself valuable beyond a reasonable doubt.

Psychologically, I have pinned all my hopes and dreams on the outcome of one particular project. I have decided that if I can play a role in making that project successful, then I will be somewhat vindicated. This is my opportunity to prove that my troubled past is well and truly done and dusted, and I'm back on my feet, in no uncertain terms. If I can make this project succeed, as much as is possible within my powers, then my achievement will be great enough to deflect, defeat, repel and reject all nay-sayers and doubters; all my critics will be crushed by my almighty victory.

Of course, I acknowledge the toxic soup which whirls in my brain, combining delusions of grandeur, inferiority complexes, guilty conscience, shame, regret and a catalogue of horrendous blunders. I acknowledge that really, being a very small cog in a very big machine, changes nothing. My involvement could never be great enough to absolve me of my sins. My contribution could never be great enough to elevate me from the stinking gutter, which I sank into due to my own flaws and depravity; my own evilness and patheticness; my own uselessness and poor choices have doomed me, and there's no escaping the consequences of my own actions.

However.

I've never let reality get in the way of a good story before, so why would I start now? The project has given me a reason to live, when I had lived without reason for so long. Why shouldn't I fantasise about the importance of the project, and in turn, my own importance, if it keeps me alive; if it gives me purpose and self-esteem? Why shouldn't I have a reason to live, purpose, motivation, self-esteem, pride and all the other things which other people have enjoyed their whole lives? Why shouldn't I have those things?

We could easily sit back in our armchairs sneeringly and cynically criticising, saying that everyone who ever wanted to feel proud about something was a monster; saying that it's vanity and conceit which motivates me; saying that - basically - I'm just a bad person with nothing to offer the world, and any attempt I might make to contribute does nothing of the sort... I'm incapable of contributing and I shouldn't even try; I should just shuffle away into some dark hole and die. Yes, that would be very easy to say that. Yes, that's what all those armies of critics are saying, cynically, sneeringly, from the comfort of their armchairs.

Sure, yes, I'm conceited and arrogant for wanting to feel like I made a meaningful contribution to something great, before I died. Sure, yes, it's an idiotic fantasy; a delusion of grandeur. Sure, yes, you're right, I'm a horrible human being, with nothing to offer. Sure, yes, you're right, I should just shut the fuck up.

Also, no. No I will not. No I will not shut up and no I will not stop.

 

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Always On

4 min read

This is a story about following the sun...

Kitten and pen

I've worked for plenty of global organisations. I've worked on plenty of projects which have spanned time zones. I've worked with teams of people, collaborating from the four corners of the planet. I have plenty of experience working at places where the hours are long. However, I always used to be quite strict about work/life balance. I used to be appalled by the idea of an organisation infringing into my personal time. Not anymore.

That I might be expected to be on-call was something which overstepped the mark: back when I used to be a poorly paid junior, climbing up the rungs of the corporate ladder, the idea that I would give any more time to a company which was already exploiting me, was outrageous; I rejected it aggressively. The idea that I would pick and choose when to take my holidays, depending upon the demands of the project(s) I was working on, was something I rejected, in the strongest possible terms.

What changed?

Well, for sure, if you pay me enough then you will get my undivided attention. If you pay enough, you can buy most of me. If you pay enough, I will be dedicated.

Also, there aren't that many projects which are interesting, challenging, and frankly worthy of my time. I'm not going to give up my evenings, weekends and preferred holiday dates, for the sake of some meaningless busywork; no way.

So, what happened?

Well, obviously, the magic double: decent pay and a decent project.

The problem is, that I always assume that with enough hard work, I can conquer any [tech] problem. This is mostly true, but most of my problems are not tech. The tech is fine. It's the people and the politics which are the problem. I don't understand why anybody would hire highly paid experts, and then ignore their advice. I mean, if you want to screw something up and create a complete disaster that wastes loads of money, you sure don't need or want my help to do that. The problem is, that I will try to make things successful which is a direct conflict of interest with the fuckwits who want everything to fail disastrously. Sure, the fuckwits 'pay my wages' effectively, so you'd think that they could pay me to fuck things up, but that's not really how I work. I'm not in the business of fucking up projects, I'm afraid, no matter how much you pay me.

I'm burning myself out, trying to make a big project successful, despite the very best efforts of a whole raft of fuckwits who are determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I've been extraordinarily quick, in order to try to sneak through some success while they weren't looking, but unfortunately they noticed that things were going to succeed, and have swung into action, destroying everything in sight. Of course, I find it very hard not to try to fend off that kind of vandalism; that kind of sabotage. I find it very hard to break the habit of a lifetime: making large software projects succeed, in spite of the army of fuckwits.

Things were going alright. Everything was under control. I mean, it hasn't been easy, but it hasn't been very hard either. I've worked very hard for a sustained period of time, but the hard work was paying off: the project was running on time; everything was going smoothly. Of course the fuckwits were going to swing into action. Of course they would try their very best to sabotage, vandalise and otherwise destroy any chance that the project would succeed. My mistake was to assume that we were working together to achieve a successful outcome; that they would be pleased that things were going to succeed, not fail.

I find it very hard to switch off. I find it impossible to concentrate, when I'm supposed to be enjoying some rest & relaxation. I can't sleep. My life revolves around one thing, and one thing only: trying to make the gigantic project a success, in spite of the enormous efforts to ruin it.

I'm a bit of a workaholic bore, sorry.

 

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