Sunday, 13 September 2015

Final Year, Part 4

March 23rd
"I am a flame. dysfunctional and disaffected females are the moth. Today A joined the others in asking me what she is going to do with her life, her mind tortured by low self-esteem and an unrequited fancy. I am only too happy to help in her case. It seems she is feeling the pain of letting the years roll by and is in need of change. Restless but paralysed by inaction because her confidence has been stolen, if it ever really existed. The reality is that I am not really sure what I can do to help. Listening is the greatest tool at my disposal. I suppose I understand more than some."
The curtain-raising analogy seems a little laboured to me now which may infer that I was more than a little tired that evening. It may even be a legitimate charge, one that I do not care to counter, that its two key components might better serve reality if they were quietly interchanged. Even so, despite these two quibbles of style and content I fully expect any reader with a rudimentary grasp of English to decode the intended meaning, namely that ladies with 'problems' appear to enter my field of perception more often that one would expect by chance.  
     Sometimes the conversations stimulated by this phenomena are more than I can stand and it leaves me resenting the person who is asking me for help, simply because they have left me feeling drained and depressed. But in the beginning I try to treat all my clients the same. Like I wrote above, I am only to happy to help and I find myself asking the types of questions I wanted people to ask me when I felt like they do. The right question can draw out of someone something they desperately want to say but are afraid to because they think nobody wants to hear.
      Honestly, I don't think most people do want to hear and it's kind of sad if that is the case but maybe that is the reason I am attracted to these people, or vice-versa, or both. Regardless of whether that is true or not I am doubtful that I am able to provide any real succour for these people. I'm no life-coach and have serious suspicion over my capacity for compassion. Perhaps the best I can do is to help them learn from my mistakes so that maybe they won't waste as much time felling shit as I have,

March 27th
"Glad to see the end of those three days, the end of those nine weeks. I became extremely vexed with it all by the end of the day. My project is fucking nothing at all. When I look at the others I feel an impending sense of embarrassment about the forthcoming presentation. As for work, well it is just an absolutely ludicrous example of a badly run business. People who have no clue what they should be doing. Managers who simply do not want to manage. Money and energy seeping out through the floors. The burden of workload is completely unreasonable. A lack of forward planning on at least one level of management."  
The best thing about Christianity is the holidays! There isn't even a realistic contender for their dethronement and the long slow drag towards Easter only served to heighten the pleasure when the holidays finally arrived. It had been a typically monotonous series of lectures and labs up to this point and I was seriously just fucked-off with the whole thing by now. 
     It amuses me now to read that I thought my final year project was a complete disaster at this stage. When we broke for Easter all I had was a big box of completely unrelated jigsaw pieces with no idea what picture I was expected to compile from them (I exaggerate slightly but I can assure you that my project was fucking dreadful). I am only amused now because, in the end, it actually worked out quite nicely and I've even been placed on the short-list for an award because of it. It's something I would do well to remember next time I find myself struggling and ready to capitulate. Perseverance is a magnificent force. 
     As for work, well it hasn't really changed in the interlude between writing and reading this diary entry. Myopia rules! In some ways it has become quite entertaining to watch the degeneration of something that was at one time fairly impressive. It does give me acres of fodder for both laughter and complaint, which are two of the primary perks of a job like this. But that is all tempered by the frustration of seeing something, once vital, descend into complete disorder. I feel like an alzheimer's relative watching helplessly as the disease purges relentlessly towards its inevitable ending.

March 30th
"Waking up this morning was a complete and utter head-fuck. I thought I had time travelled about three years in reverse gear. 7am, still wrecked on the second day of a hangover because I've been out drinking at the weekend, dragging myself out of bed before driving to Marks and Spencers for work at 8am and a quick smoke before popping in through the back door. The day itself was weird but not too weird, it was just strange chatting to some of the daytime staff. Apparently J is pregnant so I will be getting a new manager soon and and my first impressions of E are pretty favourable." 
The description does justice to the bleak reality of my full-time sentence at Newry's corporate Strangeways. Humans have an enormous capacity to overlook their own histories of pain and suffering in the glare of the associated pleasure. Even the most agonising of vomit-ejaculating hangovers or the severest of oxygen depriving workouts are swiftly forgotten as the endorphins begin to gush and another nights revelry is being planned. This is how it was for me because until that Monday morning I had forgotten how awful I used to feel in that routine. 
April 3rd
"I am still amazed and not at all amused at how many people, at least superficially, subscribe to the ludicrous demands of Christian Theology. It is an intellectual nadir for the human race when people refuse to eat meat on a Friday because they fear eternal punishment. So many people walked through M&S today in search of fish, which is of course perfectly acceptable. It frustrates me that I don't have the confidence or capacity to articulate my derision of the superstition. Anyway, I woke up this morning with the depression hangover from last night. It is a little bit of a worry with the exam stretch approaching." 
As ludicrous as the theological demands are, and they are hideously unenlightened, they still aren't quite as ludicrous as the fact that a significant number of the population still adhere to them. It depresses me to see otherwise intelligent people acting like the sheep in the perfectly insidious Christian analogy of the shepherd and his flock. Don't get me wrong, I am all for people doing stupid things (stupid can have its pleasures) but I am totally against people doing stupid things because someone else has been telling them it is really quite a virtuous course to be taking. I think the ' if they told you to go jump off a bridge would you do it?' rule should be applied in cases like these, i.e. use your head.
     Although I get frustrated at not being able to articulate these thoughts verbally, sometimes I think I should take that as a stepping-off point so that I can avoid the mental vexation that this type of thing can cause me. Perhaps I would be a little happier if I let things slide once in a while and amused myself with other pursuits. Perhaps, but I'll probably never find out if that is true of not.  

April 7th
"I am listening to "The Archduke Trio" by Beethoven. My room is dimly lit from a lamp  and I am eagerly awaiting a reply to a message from C. It is a scene and a somewhat curious one  for me but it is coloured with an air of romance. I can't say that classical music has ever appealed to me but the piano tones in this piece are exquisite, even to this philistine. But I am not terribly original, having taken inspiration from "Kafka on the Shore". My message has not arrived yet and it leaves me in limbo. Denying that I am glancing towards my phone every few seconds is futile. The trio are coming to an end." 
My hazy memory of this evening is sepia-tinted because it encapsulates a brief moment in time when that music was playing every night and it seemed as if I was eternally awaiting a reply to a text message. It is funny how even slightly sad things can make good memories. 
      The reply I may have been pining for didn't arrive often and it was almost never immediate but there was solace in Beethoven and books. 
        Reading this back it has struck me that this scene is somehow analogous to my prevailing disposition in life. A dimly lit room and a neediness for some kind of attention; sequestered romance and lack of originality;  an obscure feeling of transition and self-denial; the feeling that something good is coming to an end.  

April 8th
"Things seem to be tipping along quite nicely from time to time. I then have the sense that I am positively heading in the right direction. No time to dwell on wasted time. Today Mairead came up with Eoin and Eabha. Rather unusually it was a lot of fun playing with then, especially Eoin. Not because I don't usually want to or because I don't see him often enough but because he doesn't tend to engage with me on Sundays. He actually came looking for me a few times today. It was almost like it was in the old days when he was a baby growing up and I would have spent hours playing with him. It was a nice reminder. Otherwise today I just went to work. Did a little college work but Eoin's interruptions stifled that somewhat. I've been thinking about my stomach and how I need to reduce it so I'm going to destroy myself on the bike." 
It is pleasant to feel, at least once in a while, that your life is progressing steadily in the right direction. This is noteworthy only because it is so uncommon. Much more common is that I perceive only entropy in my existence as my mind degenerates into varying levels of disorder. I suppose that on this one day in April I must have found myself reasonably contented with the trajectory I was on, owing to the relative proximity of those otherwise dreaded final exams. 
      It's a rather wonderful kind of fun playing with nieces and nephews, especially when you know that you get to return them at the end of the day. The conversations I have with them are unquestionably some of the most enjoyable I have as younger kids have a much greater ability to to command attention than most adults do. As fun as all the running and jumping and squealing and laughing is however, it comes with an associated threshold that once exceeded takes at least one nights sleep to redress. The threshold is usually reached around the third instance of fighting or crying and that's when I'm off. That sounds a little harsh but the reality is that in this case you really can get too much of a good thing. I may have digressed a little from the contents of the diary entry here but that is my prerogative. 
       I kind of destroyed myself on the bike this summer. It had no effect in reducing the dynamic quality of my stomach.

April 10th
"My final day of work for ten weeks was nothing short of uneventful. I was a little surprised at my own mood in that I was neither excited or sad that I was withdrawing. Of course I am going to miss some of the people in there but those I could probably count on one hand. The excitement wasn't seen because although it is a career break it is not a holiday and I go straight back into routine on Monday morning. The money question worries me slightly but only because I don't want to annihilate my savings. I think if I am able to maintain my discipline as I have for the past 9 or 10 days I should be able to stretch my paycheck further than usual."
Those ten weeks off seem like a million years ago now. Actually it doesn't even seem as if the sabbatical ever occurred. The only thing I would have changed about my time off was to have taken longer than I did. I think at one when I had little else to be doing with my time I may have found myself at a loss for company and things to do but not so now. 
      It really is only the people you work with that you miss when you leave a job like mine. The rest is just money for nonsense and boy is there a lot of nonsense (but not a lot of money). But even the people I didn't miss quite as much as I though I would, which is a little sad in it's own way. Being so busy with assignments and exams I didn't really have time to miss anyone. I didn't really have time to have emotions, or a life, or a biscuit. Fucking exams ruin everything!
      Somehow I did survive financially, although I did manage to decimate multiple bank accounts in the pursuit of happiness and holidays. But that was all worth it. In fact, if I could go back and do it again I would, only to it bigger, better and bolder. I really don't like saving money but if it buys me plane tickets to places I haven't been before I can do without the lobster in my lunch box.       

May 9th
"Saturday evening is always a strange one when you relate it back to days gone by. It is eternally linked to drunken nights in Newry desperately trying to grab hold of a girl for the night or desperately depressed. So even now when I have largely exercised that need to go out every weekend there is still a little pang in my belly that is trying to tell me that I am missing out on something. The feeling becomes more acute when you have snapchat and Facebook telling you that everyone else is having such a great time. Just one of the many downsides to social media. Still, none of it makes me want to go out really." 
I used to despise Saturday nights in and Saturday nights out. The reasons for hating Saturday nights in was a cocktail of FOMO (fear of missing out), the fucking horrible prospect of having to watch Match of the Day and the nagging fear that I didn't know where my next shift was coming from. Of those three only FOMOTD (fear of match of the day) remains intact. Fear of missing out evaporated when I realised that I really wasn't missing out on anything I hadn't seen before in Newry on a Saturday night. I would imagine it is statistically probable that I've experienced all possible combinations of drunken fun Newry has to offer and most of them really aren't all that great. As for the tertiary reason for my disillusion, I've probably just realised that women have a lot more to offer than the shift. 
      My reasons for hating those Saturday nights out are many. Hideous clothes,Tequila Rose and wedding discos; make-up caked and tan faked; the 'Sophie's choice' of Canal Court or Bellinis; endlessly queuing for overpriced alcohol before repeating the effort for overpriced taxis; drunken disappointment, the impending hangover and another wasted Sunday; Newry.

May 14th
"Today I found myself  totally and utterly mentally exhausted from the efforts I have been putting in. Twice I fell asleep in the middle of my attempts to study. Whatever it was, I just couldn't find the drive and focus to really get stuck into the DSP study like I needed to. I even tried going to the library at one point but that was a fucking disaster. In the end I managed to squeeze out a few hours in the evening and the work I had done last week should help a lot. C text me after midnight with pics of her in dresses, asking my opinion. Is she fucking with my head?" 
To be totally honest I don't know why I bothered to mention falling asleep in the middle of my attempts to study, it happens fairly often. Having said that I was probably more exhausted that usual, simply due to the subject I was trying to study for. I had an exam on digital signal processing the next morning. This means trying to understand how to use certain algorithms to design digital filters and implementing something called the Discrete Fourier Transform to analyse the frequency content of a signal. I feel sick just thinking about it now. 
      I don't know what I was thinking when I went to the library. It is always a fucking disaster when I go because there are just too many sexy A-Level students studying for their exams and I get terminally distracted. Perhaps I have gotten that the wrong way around. Now that I think about it I probably go to the library for the sexy A-Level students and it turns into a fucking disaster because I have to study when I am there! Anyway I finished with 95% for the module in question so I guess they weren't that sexy after all.
      Either this girl is fucking with my head or I have once again inadvertently installed myself as the gay best friend. Either way, she came to the right person for fashion advice and of course she wore the dress I chose.

May 22nd
"Third year final exam day! Didn't that just fly by? actually my dear, not at all. Nevertheless it is here and I am delighted for this. As per my routine I awoke at 4am so that I could get some last minute cramming in. On the whole the exam was not too bad at all but probably not likely to do exceptionally well. Afterwards I got out of there because I didn't want to hang around for the post-exam chat. I had my haircut and then met McCoy in Newry before driving to Dublin for drinks. It was a strange evening in a way but quite a good one. I had a laugh on the way round to Whelans. And then there was Whelans."
It certainly was a long year to get to this point but a good one too. I remember the exam, not my best not my worst, pretty much as I had expected. I remember more the effort it took to stay in the exam hall to read over answers and try to squeeze a few more marks from the paper when I was just bursting to get out of there. 
     It always feels like a slight anti-climax when you come out of the final exam of the year. As great as it was to be finished I was totally exhausted from all the work and the 4am cramming sessions and if I'm honest I probably would have been just as happy to go home and climb into bed that night rather than go on the lash. 
     In Dublin we went on a slightly labyrinthine pub crawl along the South side and it was fun, if not a particularly raucous evenings entertainment. After midnight we stepped into Whelans and almost immediately things got out of hand for some of us. But that's a story for another time...

Monday, 10 August 2015

Final Year, Part 3

January 3rd
" Panic set in this afternoon when I woke up and realised I was letting another day of potential study slip by. I think that panic was the best thing that could have happened to me at this stage. It focused my mind, induced enough clarity to allow me to see what has been holding me back and what I need to do to return to required levels of productivity. I arose with the intention of rebirth. Energy tablets and berocca are back. I had my shower, straightened out my room. It is obvious that the late night texting is killing me so FB has been shut-down and I even locked my phone in the boot of the car."
It was a case of preparing to study without actually doing any substantial revision up to this point. I think I leapt out of bed at something like 2pm that day with the vision of imminent failure smacking me in the face and a resolve to force myself into action. Clarity informs the solution to a crisis and the distractions are more easily identified. My attempts to have a social life, whether through the classic mode of human interaction or through a modern electronic medium, were rather punishing to my odds of success at the time. It is a sad indictment of my lack of focus and occasional neediness that I had to lock my phone in the boot of my car just to avoid its hovering distraction. Even when it is not making noises my peripheral vision is constantly active as it attempts to catch a glimpse of a flashing notification LED. Fortunately out of sight out of mind and in the boot of a car had the hoped for affect of sedating my thirst for a vibrating handset and letting me get on with some work.   

January 9th
"I hate my own stupidity, my ignorance. I despise that I know so little about science, history and philosophy. It hurts me when I think of how little I really understand and how little effort I put into changing that. The Charlie Hebdo murders have left me personally frustrated because I am unable to articulate a coherent response. I don't understand enough of the content, the motivation, the conflict to form an opinion that I would be confident enough to express. There are certain truths that I feel like 'I know' but for which I haven't fulfilled the academic criteria for evidence. I don't have the confidence to speak without certainty. A virtue perhaps, but I'm often uncertain." 
I know nothing! and it is extremely irritating to me that, physiologically speaking, my best years for absorbing and understanding new information and ideas are behind me and wasted. But I can't change that now, all I can do is either regress to a popular and happy state of ignorance or continue to inform myself even when it leads to immense frustration. And I suppose humans didn't make it this far through regression.
   I was tremendously interested in the Charlie Hebdo story in January but I didn't really have the time to wade into it deeply enough to satisfy myself. I am reticent to voice opinions in public without having a strong grasp of the reality of a situation even when those opinions are strongly held. You see it is one thing to be certain in your convictions in light of deep understanding of facts and circumstances but entirely another to hold convictions in absence of these criteria. This is when statistical stereotyping and prejudiced generalisations enter the equation, forming opinions from pseudo-facts. I guess it is fair to say that my reticence may stem from a fear of being caught out and schooled by someone in better possession of the facts. A simple human defence-mechanism.

January 12th
"Well that, was fucking dreadful! Today's exam was a disaster for everyone. I mentioned last night that I was getting up early to study. I did, at half 4. Little did I know that it was a complete waste of time as almost nothing I looked at would appear on the exam. We've been led up the garden path to believe that past papers would be relevant. They were not! In fact they were blatantly misleading. Nevertheless I must continue on tomorrow and Wednesday. I will need every ounce of ability to see me through the control exam. My desire for literature has been awoken once more tonight." 
I only hear the voice of Will from The Inbetweeners and not my own in that opening exclamation.It certainly was a fucking dreadful exam and my worst result of the semester transpired from it but that was still 68% so I'll take it. It does highlight the error of focusing on past papers when studying for an exam even though statistically it gives the greatest probability of success. It is a method employed for short-term ends, specifically the passing of an exam. However it isn't particularly useful for true understanding and total absorption of any of the material. It is something I mean to address when approaching each new exam cycle but in the pressing nature of the time I always recall the statistical advantages of studying the past papers and abandon the total knowledge formula. 
     I remember that every one of us came out of that exam dejected and demotivated, some of us convinced we had failed and the rest just hoping to have scraped a pass to avoid a repeat. Even in the exam there was noticeable shifting and squirming in the seats and a constant flicking of pages as we all searched desperately for some questions we could make a stab at. Perceiving that the rest of the exam hall struggling was quite comforting at the time. In fact it probably enabled me to relax and I think I squeezed as much out of that exam as I possibly could have that day. 
     As for my desire for literature, I am not entirely sure why it was shaken awake that night so my comment ends here.
January 24th
"I have just squeezed Steven Pinker, Bertrand Russell, The Qu'ran, The Communist Manifesto and Sylvia Plath into my burgeoning bookshelf. It is all part of trying to have my opinions formed from the first principles by learning for myself. Today I was so pissed off in work because of what I perceive as stupidity and ignorance. Maybe I am a little frustrated at my own development. I let everything linger in the future, rather than taking it in hand right now. I took Georgia home last night. I really do like her. The connection has not really weakened because of her holiday. Snapchatting C here. It's been a while." 
As addictions go it's not a bad one. Although the addiction exists at present more in a state of compulsion to purchase books rather than to read them. But my intentions are always good even if life and other things have a habit of getting in the way. In fact I am currently in the middle of reading on of the above, The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker. The book is a scientific and philosophical investigation into the human race's history of violence and how it has declined exponentially in spite of many people's perceptions to the contrary. Actually it is one of the greatest books I have ever read and I would recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in history, philosophy, science, sociology, anthropology, psychology or neuroscience. 
     Sometimes I think that my annoyance at the stupidity of others isn't simply transference of my frustration at my own. The impulsive book buying may be circumstantial evidence of this. But then I realise that it is not the stupidity itself that really irritates me but the general regression to acceptance of it. By this I mean the unwillingness of intelligent people to show their true intelligence and the tragic belief some people hold that they are incapable of learning new things. It has become a cultural norm in many places, a dagger through the pre-frontal cortex some and a ticket to an easy life for a few. But I think I pity the few.

February 2nd
"I wonder if I am not falling behind once more. I wonder if I am not truly happy about the progression. Sean is getting married, Aine too. Barry has quit his job and is doing what  he wants to do. Steveo is trying for a PGCE and probably engagement sometime soon. Caolan and Roisin are settled in their new house. Even E has a decent job now. It isn't just those I have mentioned. Others are in good jobs, buying houses, travelling the world, living. But this was always how it was going to be with me. I didn't grow up in the years I was meant to. I may never now."
Fuck me! You can spend your entire lifetime in a degenerative comparison with your contemporaries. Well I certainly can anyway. So other people are happy, on the face of it at least, but that shouldn't automatically entertain direct comparisons in the negative. The question is: Do I really want the things other people have and do I need them to make me feel happy? In a reasonable and lucid state of mind the answer is obvious to the point of the question being made redundant. 
    However reason and lucidity are only two components of a temporary state of my polyphasic temper. During my less enlightened phases I think I should be celebrating my third wedding anniversary, working in a comfortable job with at least a negligible correlation to my degree and considering the ludicrous proposition of fatherhood. These appear to be the trappings of the superficially successful lives of my contemporaries and many of them seem genuinely happy. But I have no desire to sire an heir and much to find someone who might be compatible for mixing my genetic material with. I must admit though that the house and job stuff do make an impression on me so perhaps this is where I should focus my unstable attention in future.

February 3rd
"Today was certainly the first day that I felt myself gently dipping my toes into the semester. In fact it was the first day I really enjoyed what I was doing. I am thinking about adventure again. Or if not adventure then a future of changes. I don't have any desire for engineering so I might very well chuck it into the sea in another twelve weeks. Whether it is travel, real money, a new job, learning something completely different, finding a way to write more often than I do at present, well I don't really know. Adventure for adventures sake." 
I can't say that there were many days during this final semester in which I really enjoyed what I was doing. Electronic Engineering is a title allowing a modulated course to be constructed from a broad range of often minutely related subject areas. With this in mind you might think that the probability of finding something you are particularly interested in being quite high and you would be correct. However probability is not reality and I kind of beat the odds on this one. It's really quite boring you know.  
     I love dreaming of adventure, love dreaming of a more exciting future. Sometimes the feeling is intoxicating enough to initialise action in making it happen and I think I can pour all my energies into getting the fuck out of dodge as quickly as a well-financed escape would allow. It's the prospect of travel that excites the most energy. How could anyone not want to see the rest of the world? Only ignorance could possibly deny the virtues of seeing the world outside your front door, the education and enlightenment, the pleasure and pure wonderment of it all. 
      I am often left a little disappointed when this excitement dissolves into the monotony of life and the energy required to press ahead with plans dissipates to nothing. That's pretty sad actually. 

I know I am a dork but I am amused by the accidental inclusion of three words in that penultimate sentence that begin with the prefix 'dis'. Word fun.

 February 10th
"Sometimes I think about sex in ways that make me want to command it right now. Writhing, hot, twisted bodies. The visualisation becomes vivid. I am depriving myself of the opportunity for a reason, for a future goal but I question how much I am losing in the mean-time. The sexual impulses of a man don't recede just because he is attempting to suppress it temporarily. I am still charmed and hypnotized by women walking past me every day. I am intermittently drawn towards the doom of former lovers, a mistake I would be better to avoid. It is the inner thighs as her legs as her legs are wrapped around me that is imprinted most often on my mind."
Command  it? Right now? Eh, no that seems a little unlikely. Warren Beatty I am not. Even the impression that I thought I was losing something as a result of focusing on college might seem to imply a rampant sex-life, hurtling along like a high-speed train into a tunnel. The reality was much closer to a Hornby model railway: A sad little man playing with himself in his room because the girls don't want to. 
     I am stating the obvious I know but men are men. We are compelled to engage in sex because we wish to ensure our immortality by passing on our genetic material to the next generation. Often this is a pleasure of course but there are moments in the lives of most men when it would be convenient if this function came with an off switch. Moments when the hypnotic features of a woman can be all too distracting to a man who really just needs to get some work done. It was probably during the times when I was attempting to lose myself in study that I was most realising n my mind most vividly those legs wrapped around me. You see one way or another sex always wins. The human race would not be so prolific otherwise. 
      I notice I mention something about being drawn towards doomed lovers. The warning proved prophetic...

February 16th
"Rather bizarrely, although through my own twisted contrivance, I had a brief text conversation with Luiza today. Superficially she seems quite settled and calm, even suggesting that we don't chat too much. She is right of course. She mentioned that we are two very different people now and I wonder about the truth behind that. Am I really so different now? The pre-text behind this interaction was that I have gotten a new phone and my number has changed. A worrying sprout of Machiavellian machinations. Otherwise a regular day. Some classes, some exercise, some homework, some job hunting."
Luiza is an old flame of mine. Someone with a distractingly fascinating personality whose charm belied a severe destructiveness beneath the surface. She could be fun and entertaining to be around but her own issues got the better of her a little too often and when she began to drag me I had to cut the cord. I guess on February 16th and the preceding days I was feeling a touch lonely and all of her crazy shit didn't seem like such a drag, so I took a shot. 
     If I had made that text six months earlier we might well have met up again and I'd only now be recovering from all the harrowing consequences likely to have entailed. As it was she who poured cold water onto the nascent rebirth of our connection I think I should like to say thanks to her for doing me this favour. We haven't spoken since and I have no intention to either. It is quite probable that we won't ever have any contact with each other again. This seems a little sad to me.

March 4th
"Today began well when I got a wonderful sense memory of some feelings I used to have. A smell and some sunshine had me dreaming of Liverpool. I'm on a Bob Dylan kick right now so the drive up to DKIT too and I'm feeling confident now. In class I took a personality test at Kevin's behest. It actually appeared quite accurate, proclaiming me an introvert, more fixed on ideas than reality. Newton, Descartes and Socrates are my spiritual predecessors apparently. I'll take that. As the day wore on and I got home a severe depression threatened to strangle me. Angry and hopeless again, I began to consider where I am going and why do I even bother. I may die of this mental disorder anyway. It gripped me for the rest of the evening. So much so that regression seemed to be almost complete." 
I love random vague memories that remind you of a time in your life rather than a specific occurrence. Cold sunny days like this one often leave me with a nostalgic feeling for the time I spent living in Liverpool. The use of nostalgia to colour the memories is important though because it wasn't all good. 
     As you can tell, not every day during this semester was a particularly productive one. I vaguely remember arriving late this morning because I wanted to stay in bed longer and I could. When I got there everyone else had taken the personality test, proving themselves as sociopaths and male-mothers among other generic groupings. These things are so fucking stupid but when they throw up something that you are happy to hear you take it as fact to bolster your self-image. I like Newton, Descartes and Socrates but I won't ever mimic their success and that's personal tragedy I am reminded of once more. 
      That is a pretty violent mood-swing to occur in the space of a few hours. It has happened a few times this year for one reason or another and even for reasons imperceptible. It is a bloody awful feeling when I regress into that state of mind that I have frequented so often in former times. It is the hopelessness that can kill me. The thought that there is absolutely no possibility of you ever having any kind of happiness in life is scary and if you really believe it there isn't really any point in continuing. Anyway it seems to subside more readily these days. The Venlafaxine helps.

March 13th
"Today I got the resolution I had previously stated I required. It was in the negative but I credit myself for balls. Yes I asked a girl out and yes I thought she wanted me to but alas, she refused my invitation. I am rather disappointed I must concede but it is not terminal. I even hold out some hope that it may occur in the future but hope isn't always a positive mode of thought. It can however be a superb driving force in the right context. It struck me this evening when A told me that her beux had said he wasn't ready just how delicately poised most people's emotions are. Certainly those who contemplate happiness." 
First thing's first, it did happen in the future. Reading this back two things strike me, the resolution and balls. The merit of the first is having a mental aggravation resolved, ideally removing the distraction and stimulating progress. Up to that moment I had probably been rehearsing the scenario in my head a couple of million times, ultimately wasting energies that could have been better spent on a game of sudoku or something. Seriously though, if you have a constant distraction on your mind that you can eradicate with action, act.
     The second, balls, strikes me because I did something that I would consider at least a little unusual in my environment; I asked someone out. But not only that, I did it face-to-face and without the hearty intoxication of alcohol drowning my inhibitions. I also did it by eschewing the modern trend of using electronic text messages as an emissary to carry my question. Okay so I didn't exactly discover penicillin on March 13th but it was still a good day for me. 

March 17th
"As you can see from the insertion above, today is St. Patricks Day. It turned out to be quite a fun day in parts.I went down down with C and R and D joined us a little later. I walked alone from their house into town. It is very refreshing and regenerative. Apparently F and S are moving to Sheffield together and maybe won't be at Sean's wedding. Why should I care about these things though. D was gagging for pints but I managed to resist, finishing the night on the Manley's sofa watching a movie, and feeling a little in need of a girl." 
I've never been terribly fond of St. Patricks Day myself. Sure it's a day off and it is great to celebrate Ireland but it's associations with underage drinking and the foundation of ludicrous mythology have always been a bit of a turn off for me. But having been locked in my bedroom for a couple of months it was a good chance to go out and have a bit of social interaction. 
      It was a lot of fun hanging out with the guys that afternoon, watching the typically front-loaded parade (towards the end I vaguely remember seeing a portable toilet on the back of a lorry), eating concession stand burgers and sweets and even allowing myself a single pint of Guinness to toast the occasion. Formerly that one pint would have led me onto countless others before I would be leaning on the railings outside Bellinis kissing some hideous Scottish woman who bares and uncanny resemblance to Alex Salmond. Not that this ever happened! I'm more restrained now and I had college the next day so I wanted to be as fresh as possible. 
     Circumstances similar to the one depicted in the final sentence always seem to leave me feeling a little in need of a girl. I don't think it is a symptom of being the third wheel because I never am in that house and rarely ever feel that way. It probably has more to do with the need for physical contact and an intermittent desire to have someone to cosy up to on the sofa at the end of a long day. Either that or it was simply that I hadn't had sex in a while and was a little in need of a girl for that.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Final Year, Part 2

Saturday 1st Novemeber
' I started this November habits workout today. Basically I am abstaining from fast-food, drinking and wanking among some other goals. It serves a few different functions. It helps to break some of the destructive routines I seem locked into. It is also financially sound as it takes into account a lot of what I spend my money on. Health benefit is the third prong of this trident of outcomes. After Thursday nights near collapse I realise I need to do something about the smoking. I am becoming more and more compelled and beginning to propel myself towards Georgia.'
Abstinence has its own unique pleasures but they are all moderately masochistic and almost always transient by definition. For instance I may take pleasure from denying myself chocolate but this pleasure is derived from denial of a much more obvious pleasure. Of the three habits I specified above I think I find drinking the easiest to repress. The reason for this is, I think, a logical one: When I drink I drink in a stereotypically Irish fashion, that is to excess! The excess itself doesn't necessarily provide the high that precipitates the pleasure, rather the pleasure is to be obtained in the slow act of getting high. What the excess does deliver in due course however, is a vicious reprimand that feels as if your brain is being bludgeoned to the perfect point between maximum pain and death. We just call it a hangover. And it is the prospect of evading this self-inflicted torture that makes abstaining from alcohol a much easier play than the others.    
     Of the others, I suppose the masturbation moratorium is worthy of some comment. This really is a masochistic reward as the body is bellowing for a release that it is being refused. It is a bodily function remember and the problem with bodily functions is that the compulsion for satisfaction multiplies for as long as the function remains less than satiated. Basically the little buggers are ferociously determined to get out! This makes it a particularly testing program to adhere to and one I didn't quite manage in the end.
     The bottom line betrays, in a less than subtle fashion, my feelings towards a female at the time. Of course it may be that I was just a deprived horny wretch, out of my mind on pheromones and lust.

Thursday 6th November
' I am lonely. A lone ranger riding. And I want sex and eye contact and lying in bed with someone on my day off. The thing is though, I don't want someone to be anyone, otherwise I expect they would have been by now. Perhaps I am wrong on this point but I seem to have made myself incompatible, like an old iPhone charger. Maybe I can only work with something perfect. I doubt the outward me comes close to reflecting the inner me. I watched Hitch talking about role models today. He made a good point about how people try to replicate the lives of others rather than simply use them as inspiration . He is right and I do it.'
Lying in bed with someone on my day off still sounds pretty good to me today. I don't think it is too much to ask but I am unwavering in my conviction that it should not be with just anyone. Even so, a day in bed was probably a little more commitment than I could suffer at that time.  Anyway, having sequestered myself from the dating scene, being a lone ranger was always going to be the result.
    Hitchens himself is probably one of the role models I have most attempted to replicate myself. A more engaging public speaker I have never witnessed. A man with erudition and conviction spilling out of every pore he was a supreme hero to many people, like me, who aspire to but fall pathetically short of his exceptional talents. As Sam Harris asserted in a tribute to him after his death, "The man had more wit, and style, and substance than a few civilisations I could name."
 Wednesday 19th November
' I need to begin considering what I am going to do next year. The more time I spend with engineering the more sure I am that I don't have another year at DKIT in me. Travel the world, take Georgia with me and write polemics on the world. Dreaming. But getting a job abroad is an exciting prospect for so many reasons that I think it might be the only option worth pursuing. I want to learn a language, I really do. I want to see something different, to broaden my mind. I'm just bullshitting all the time, I don't know anything. It's funny though because I have felt more like myself in many ways this week. Especially in admitting my tastes, showing my opinions and arguing that I am right. Even with the refusal of extra hours I am showing some repressed assertiveness. Despite this, I have been told repeatedly that I am about to crack.'
Next year is now this year and although I am still less than convinced that I have another year at DKIT in me I have just recently reapplied. I feel as if it is going to be more difficult to maintain the urgency this time around but I am hoping I may be pleasantly surprised. Actually a sizeable portion of the reasoning behind me pursuing this extra year is so that I have more potential choices for employment, from which I may be able to procure for myself an alternative country of residence. The education I receive from being in another country usually outstrips that which I get from books and study. 
     On the point alluding to admission of my tastes I fear it must have been an exception. I am typically very shy about revealing my most true pleasures, especially in unfamiliar company. In fact I have become conscious of a rather deflating character flaw that leads me to speak much more passionately about those things that I dislike than those that I enjoy. I don't see this as a particularly attractive feature in others, on the contrary I delight in hearing people speak passionately about things the really love, so this one goes on the long list of self-improvements.    

Friday 21st Novemeber
' You know man, sometimes it's all okay. I have work tomorrow but then I have that one day off that I have been pining for. The beard is going on Sunday; I hate it and it looks ridiculous now. Last night before I slept I had this overwhelming nostalgia for those weekends on the beer. Perhaps it came from a fear that I might never do it again but it was a dreamy sensation. It felt like good memories and intoxicating anticipation. With Georgia there is no hope. She is entrenched in a live-in relationship and desires to return home. I'm not sad. I want to nail my exams. So I must begin study early.'
Sigmund Freud wrote that "only the context can furnish the correct meaning." He was referring to the interpretation of dreams but I trust it is okay to apply it to a diary entry. Even if it is not okay I am going to go ahead and do it anyway. The fact that I seem to have been so exceedingly elated at the prospect of a single day off can be contextualised by the severe lack of days off I was getting at the time. A single day off in the face of college five days a week and working some nights and almost every weekend is, for me, like it was watching Michael Schumacher overtake Hakkinen for the lead of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza '98. I was so happy, looking back they were both so sexy! 
     To further furnish the meaning of the extract above I must relay that the nascent shoots of my bearded growth began revealing themselves in mid/late October. However as October gave way to November and these shoots had progressed to what could be described as a moderately thick beard, I found myself unwillingly bound to my facial hair as people began to believe that I was allowing it to lengthen in support of some charity or other. Of course I never was but it was the month we were in and so I went along with the charade for as long as I could accept looking like a hobo sailor. To be honest I never really enjoyed having a beard but it was only in the few days previous to this that I realised just how utterly ridiculous my appearance was. When I finally overcame the pretence and shaved the damn thing off I did sojourn briefly as a man with a moustache. I don't think this is a man I will ever want to be again. It could only be detrimental to my overall life chances and surely increase my chances of a criminal conviction. Trust me, I still have the pictures. 
       The nostalgia visited upon me that evening, I suspect, was a function of a young man who, remembering something that he once enjoyed terribly, is struck by the impression that he probably won't ever enjoy it again the way he used to, even though at times he may want to. Those weekends on the beer provide a backdrop for many of my fondest memories so it seems natural that I might retain a tinge of regret at the thought of losing them completely. But onwards and upwards.

Tuesday 25th November
' Sometimes it surprises me to think of just how much work I have put into this semester. I should be proud to have taken this fairly significant step forward. For someone who has been negatively disposed to complete apathy and painful sensitivity, constant application has been unattainable. When I think of how unsuited to engineering I am, how easy it would have been to keep on working for money, how depressed I've been for over 10 years, I must allow myself some satisfaction for what I have been able to do for the last 10 weeks. The thing now is to keep the wick turned all the way up.'
Sometimes I think that almost nothing is important enough for me to care about and this can stimulate lack of effort on my part. I haven't always been disposed towards sustained effort in anything. Usually my capriciousness leads me to short-term interest and a terminal inability to complete a task. For instance I might begin learning how too play the guitar or how to speak a new language but I soon get bored, query why I began in the first place and find something more interesting to do. This is a cyclical affliction. 
     I suppose this would explain why I was so proud of myself for the relatively small achievement of working hard for ten weeks. I say now that it was a small achievement but all achievements are relative and personal.

Wednesday 3rd December
' I bumped into a little lady I used to know. If I haven't mentioned her name in this diary up to now then, take my word for it, there has been a massive change in me. Even the fact that I am unsure whether I have mentioned her or not is a sign of the difference. Shocked to see her at first, I found some composure and made the effort to go chat with her and her mother for a little while. It was fun, like old times almost. I can tell you now, she once consumed me completely. Every single thought I had was coloured by her influence. I clung to her like a newborn at times and it all fell apart thereafter. It occurred to me afterwards that despite all of our fallings-out over the past year or two that she always believed in me, saw my capabilities.                                                           Aside from that I am fretting about my social awkwardness. It feels terminal. I think I have lost my sense of humour. My sense of fun too.'
I have always, until recently, been predisposed to faintly ridiculous and often fatal attractions. Perhaps the word fatal is a touch strong, no-one died because I fancied them but you get the picture I'm sure. Boyfriends have often been a pre-requisite for girls I have had crushes on. Throw in the occasional pregnancy and a couple of thousand miles and a pattern develops displaying my propensity for finding obstacles. Actually it is a talent I haven't lost.
    The subject of the extract above was another one of those doomed attractions. More than the others this one fucked things up for me with this person. She was a very close friend. Still is I think, just in a completely disconnected way now. At some point along the way the vision of her in my eyes transitioned from that of a mate to an object of sexual desire and physiological necessity. I did suppress this for quite some time but I spoke up one day and let things deteriorate afterwards. It is a shame. Truly I wish now things had remained as they were before but that's all gone now.

Saturday 6th December
' I am still struggling to learn new things. I find it extremely difficult, time-consuming and exhausting for me to understand anything properly. It is making me regret the wasted years more than ever. Some things you won't ever repair. I remember when I was younger that most things academic came effortlessly to me and when it didn't I always had enough to get by. I never ever thought that anyone in St, Paul's was more intelligent that me. Now I know I'm not even close to the top. But I am happy that I want to know things. Sean's party is going on downstairs so I will leave my internal monologue to a more learned self tomorrow.'
As much as it deflates me to admit it, it is true that it becomes much more difficult to learn things as you get older. I always thought of that as the stock excuse of lazy adults who were unwilling to put the effort in any more. But in my case I was so much more intelligent as a teenager than I am now and it sickens me to think of how I wasted all that potential I once had. Now when I attend DKIT in an effort to learn I find myself feeling incapable of retaining information and having to struggle to understand new theories. There is a theory that this resistance to learning is at least partially the result of the cynicism of adulthood. The principle is that brains, in their more formative years, accept information as truth and without question to help stimulate the speed at which new information is processed. Conversely, the older brain is more critical in its reception of new information and requires more confirmation of its accuracy before accepting it. 
     This would go some way towards explaining my intelligence gap. I am certainly ore critical now and I do need to understand why what I am being is told is true before I can be confident enough to accept it. Or maybe I am just a lazy adult who is unwilling to put the effort in any more. 

Monday  15th December
' The party, the alcohol, it had the affect I had been expecting. I didn't so much as open a Microsoft Word document today. It has set me back a full day and I really need to get some significant work done tomorrow. I have sat on my computer or phone today for the guts of 12 hours. The old style depression hangover days were being vividly replayed. I don't ever want to return. I have been chatting to these three ladies today: B, L amd S. B I just love to chat to. She seems to be a slightly messed up kid but so much fun. L seems absolutely fascinated by me and S can't text well at all.'
The party was the work christmas party. In the preceding days I had been extremely reluctant to attend and even on the day in question I had resolved to be a good boy and stay home for the night. Alas this was not to be as I was finally cajoled into it by a friend. The reason I didn't want to go was simply due to the mountain of work that was piling up to the point of rivalling K-2 and due for submission the following Friday. I was convinced going to the party would stifle my productivity at the beginning of the week and I was correct. As it turned out I spent a significant amount of time on the day of my brother's wedding finishing off one final report. 
     I think I can remember that day as a compound of many lazy days, the result of a night on the lash, unable to do anything but text and check-out facebook. It isn't a particularly good way to spend your time and not something I really want to do too often in the future. 
     I must say I cringe now at the statement that I think someone is absolutely fascinated by me but I suspect I was being totally honest at the time. But that's not to say I was in any way correct. I really think I'm the only person absolutely fascinated by myself. As for the young lady who was not able to text well I have to concede that it is a deal-breaker for me. I once refused to continue texting a girl because she spelt the word nothing as 'naffin'. She may have had a thick Belfast accent but that is no excuse and I stand by my actions still. I only question my motives in being engaged in dialogue with this person in the first instance.

Monday 22nd December
' Woke up at 5pm today to Mum and Eamon knocking on the window. I was attempting to assimilate to the all-nighters. The night shift was actually good fun but it completely fucks up your sleeping pattern. Good craic with Mark and then I slept all day Tuesday, before I do it all again. A story was relayed to me about a botched suicide attempt at the weekend. It made me think about how and why I had never done it. Maybe I was just lucky. Maybe it was coming. S most definitely thinks there is something between us, I am less sure. I mentioned to Angela about the virginity and she said it was cute. It kind of is.'
'Woke up at 5pm today' doesn't seem likely to be the beginning of a most riveting entry. Anyway I had agreed to work a few shifts from 9pm to 7am on the run up to christmas and it seemed like a valid reason for staying in bed all day. My only small misdemeanor was in bolting the front door of the house, thus blocking entry for the rest of my family who were returning from my brother's wedding in Westport. The night-shifts were quite enjoyable as it happened, primarily due to the absence of the most frightening entity in retail...the customer.
      I do intermittently consider the suicide thing relating to myself. Someone once told me that I was driving down the road towards it with increasing velocity and that it would eventually happen if I didn't take the steps necessary to confront it. These steps I must have, at some point, taken but it seems like it was more down to good luck than judgement and more down to the efforts of a few individuals other than myself. Like I say, maybe it was coming and up until about eighteen months ago it always felt as if it was. But that was then and I think it may be a little different now.
      As for the virginity thing, I don't really want to get into it here and now (if that isn't a poorly chosen collection of words) other than to say that I wasn't referring to myself in this case.

Wednesday 31st December
' So here it is, the last entry of this little epoch in my history. Well, perhaps I exaggerate somewhat. It's not as if there are any tangible dividing lines between today and tomorrow. Yes it's New Years Eve. Yes I am sat in the house in front of a computer, trying to a minute amount of study. Yes half of my family are downstairs eagerly awaiting the chimes, Yes I am jealous of my friends who are have a social life and are out on the town tonight. Yes I even find myself grimly texting S for some token company. But even with all that I think I am pretty happy. The one strange thing about that though is that I seem unable to express it very well. I know people think I appear constantly sullen and overrun with work but inside my head that's not how I feel at all. I am not in a bad place at all.' 
I have always disliked New Years Eve. Especially since I became old enough to consider spending the evening in a horribly over-crowded nightclub and with it a social pressure dictating that you had to at least be out somewhere, anywhere. So this year it was excellent to be in the house, happy doing whatever small amount of work I was doing. I can't imagine any scenario where I would have been happier to be out in Newry that night. 
     It is nice to finish on a fairly uplifting note. I think I was pretty happy at this time despite the fact that I was a little more busy than I would have liked and that I had no social life to speak of. I guess happiness comes in myriad forms. It does slightly irk me that I am not always able to relate it very well. I think it comes from so many years of feeling genuinely sullen that by now my physiology has been moulded to express this disposition. But I shouldn't complain of this too much when it beats the hell out of having to play the sad clown.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Final Year, Part 1

In September of last year I began writing a diary coinciding with my return to college for the beginning of my final year. The idea was simply to document how the year progressed because I had set my targets relatively high and I had anticipated a rather difficult time in attempting to achieve these. Reading back was actually quite entertaining from me and I would recommend it to anyone, especially if you are in the process of targeting specific goals. 

I have taken several extracts from the first seven weeks of the diary and included them below, along with some more recent reflections on them. I can't imagine anyone ever wanting to read this shit but it's been an enjoyable afternoon for me nevertheless.  

Tuesday 16th September
' "I will improve myself," says Anne Frank. Dying at fifteen she never got the chance I have. Continued with classes today but already beginning to feel a little weariness seep in. Careful! Although not altogether difficult I am finding absorption of the material a problem at the moment. On a more positive track I have 100% attendance and even began to do a little homework tonight. My mantra is 'six-week segments'. My social life is bound to suffer and I plan on being complicit in its demise.'
I remember Anne Frank's diary was the last book I was reading before beginning the semester. It took me by surprise how much I enjoyed it and I was l little taken aback when it ended so abruptly. When I was in Amsterdam I disdained at the idea of visiting her house when there was a red light district and a city full of weed to see. Now I think I'd rather see the secret annexe. 
     I look at this today an can scarcely understand what the fuck I was on about 100% attendance and feeling weary, was my second day of the semester! Although by my previous standards two days in a row was a worthy achievement and I probably indulged in a celebratory piece of cake that evening. It is interesting to me that the shut-down of social activities was already in place at this point. 

Wednesday 24th September
'Two more days to the weekend and I get that breather. I am in that transitional phase where I have got a lot of work on , some of it started but nothing finished as of yet. I'll be happier when I get one or two things parked.                                                                       Presently it seems difficult for me to get out of bed in the morning but when I am up and moving I am pretty wide awake. Perhaps the Berocca and vitamin B tablets are having the desired effect . It strikes me that women were once my only active goal and now...'  
Obviously my idea of a fitness regime around late September was a bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes washed down with a glass of Berocca and a vitamin B supplement. It was the secret ingredient to my going after the distinction I desired. Maybe I shouldn't rest too heavily on the sarcasm though because I did get out of bed and go in every single day during this stretch and that is something I'd never been able to do before. And that was half the battle for me because the time became an investment that I wanted to see a return on even when the days were not always productive.

Saturday 27th September
'Another Saturday night in and a rather productive one. Some Matlab, Kicad and Galileo work done. Highlight of the day has to have been seeing Manley with a child's bicycle wedged beneath his car. He drove off of course. Was a laugh hanging out with the lads and A today. I wonder if any of them have the same disappointing relationships with their families. Last night I was hoping Georgia would invite me in for tea when I drove her home. I'd concocted some wild fantasy of a passionate liaison. She knows I am sure but I must remember my exile.'
I remember this day rather more vividly than most of the others in this post. There are two reasons for this. Firstly the aforementioned child's bicycle wedged beneath the car and the swiftness with which the smiling culprit absconded from the scene. Obviously you should never ever leave your bike unattended on a pedestrian footpath. The second reason is that Phil Jagielka scored a stunning equalizer in the merseyside derby at the Kop end. I rarely admit this but I am an Everton supporter whenever I am a football supporter at all.  
      Of Georgia (Georgia is not her real name if you hadn't already guessed) I had excited myself that myself and her would engage in some quixotic affair worthy of one of the classics. You see Georgia is in a solid relationship and I believe her partner was working late this particular evening so my mind accelerates to where it should not go. In any event an awkward incident was avoided because I kept my secrets to myself (for once). So my self-imposed exile from the female form continued.

Friday 3rd October
'You know what? I had such a laugh with J tonight at work. We were laughing about M&S hiring policy after someone was found to be lifting from the tills. They seem to hire a lot of smelly, ugly people. I thought she was going to cough up a lung at one point. College was good today. It felt pretty productive, which is always good. Still a lot to get done in the next few weeks and I have Dublin tomorrow night for Sean's stag. I would rather not go as I need all my focus for study. Anyway I will bid my interlocutor, you, this page goodnight 7am start!'
They really have been hiring some very smelly people over the past few years, almost as if that is one of the primary criteria. This one guy was smelly, ugly, had a weird walk and absolutely no rapport with customers. And to top it all off he was lifting too. Laughing about it and ridiculing the whole thing was probably the only way I could find to get me through those Wednesday and Friday evenings in work.  
     I was apprehensive about going on Sean's stag because I was working from eight that morning (I was falling asleep at the wheel on the motorway) and I had a million assignments due the following week. Despite that it was a really good evening and introduced me to a bar called Whelans,which I had never been to before but have been back a few times since. It always pays to keep an open mind...always! 

Tuesday 7th October
'The possibility of a social life seems further away than ever. The reports are just filing in one on top of another right now. It's going to be tough to shift the tide. I'd like to start getting some grades soon so I will be motivated to maintain the good work. I think in many ways I am happier this way. I failed to pick up my ADs today. I must make sure of them tomorrow. I didn't receive an email reply from B today although I doubt it will be long in coming. I look forward to it. I replied to Luiza today but I must keep correspondents to an absolute minimum.'
By October I think I had pretty much cut-off all interactions with my friends barring the odd game of football. I am trying to make up for it now but I know I had to retreat into my bedroom during that period just so I could get some work done. But like I said, I was strangely content at the time. 
     Failing to collect my Anti-Depressants was something that happened a couple of times over the course of the year. When it results in one or two days without them it's usually not a problem. Any longer than this and it leaves me feeling like there is intermittent machine-gun fire ricocheting off the inside of my skull. Fortunately it is not something that I allow to happen terribly often. 
     The final statement from this extract alludes to an horrific error of judgement from the previous Saturday night. Drunken and in Dublin I resorted to texting someone I really shouldn't have been texting. Fortunately she never replied that night and we never did meet up again. I awoke that Sunday morning a relieved man and even thought to myself, "they were right, there is a God!". 
Saturday 11th October
'I wish I were as brave as Malala Yousafzai. I wish I were talented enough and concerned enough about something so important that I could dedicate myself to it completely. I fear I am too selfish, to materialistic to make that kind of impact.  I realise I am only here for me. Today I was once again struck by my atheism and the pressure to suppress it. I was particularly struck by the thought that I can't even be myself with my family, making it difficult to be myself anywhere. Disassociate yourself from other people's outcomes. I need to work harder.'
Malala is the young lady who defied the Talaban over the education of women and was rewarded with a bullet. She had won the Nobel Peace Prize that week and it had me considering my own lack of achievement. Here was this girl, at the age seventeen and with none of the material advantages I have had, achieving greater things than I will ever get close to and it made me think I am just wasting my fucking time on stupid meaningless shit. Of course I know it is not true but the thought that I could be doing so much more lingers.

Thursday 16th October
'I have been labelled "in the zone"  and productive today. I guess I am but not to the extent that the description implies. I really won't know until the semester is finished and I have my results. It would be redemptive to at least go a little way towards making up for the A-Level disaster by getting good results this year. Is college all I ever talk about? I still haven't seen Mairead's baby. It's been almost two weeks. Although I have been busy it really isn't an excuse but I am unlikely to rectify the situation tomorrow. This girl off Question Time tonight is a babe. And smart.'
Jesus, what the fuck am I talking about with this girl off Question Time. Evidence that I was definitely getting a little horny around the 16th of October. If I remember correctly she was quite sexy though!
    As for the pretext to that wonderful sign-off sentence it is telling that I have attempted to use my destruction regarding my A-Levels as a driving motor for my motivation. Honestly, my fuck-up in those exams (although I understand the reasons more now) have been a source of great embarrassment for me ever since and greatly choreographed the path I took afterwards. I looked in the mirror and felt like Gazza with all that wasted potential. It was a powerful motivator for me.

Monday 20th October
'Not having enough time to read other shit can be a frustrating side-effect of study and work. Something to make up for in the future. I'd really like to do some proper cycling this winter. Get the cold weather gear and head out christmas day. That sounds good to me today. I am definitely becoming more introverted except around a specific few people. It is becoming impossible for me to initiate or maintain a decent conversation with most people even if my brain is working fine. The "use it or lose it" philosophy of neurological process appears to be proven here.'
First thing's first, the cycling thing never happened. Not even close, it was a lie all along. But it did sound good at the time and still sounds good to me now. There is not question that I became incredibly introverted at various stages throughout the semester but it is my natural disposition not something I contrive. I have really had to work hard on my social skills in the past so when I let them slide a little they can deteriorate drastically. It is actually quite helpful when I am in that kind of single-minded mode and I can always find a good conversation with my internal monologue. The only problem there is that he tends to want to talk a lot at night when I am trying to sleep.
Tuesday 21st October
'I got the call today. The one I've been waiting for but not the one I expected. Mairead has asked me to be Godfather. I told her that it might be a problem, that I had my reasons for thinking that it might be a bad thing. I still felt like shit, even when she said it wasn't a big deal if I refused. It will have a profound affect on me either way. I know I will spend more time thinking about it, considering its consequences than any of the others did. I feel I am lacking council today. Is it really too much to ask that people accept, without rancour, that I don't agree with them and only try to do what is right.' 
I had several days of real turmoil after this phone call from my sister. I had always maintained in my head that I would never stand up and be the Godparent to a child when I am completely against any ceremony that forces a single religion on children. I didn't want to be a hypocrite, but it's not so easy when you finally get asked. 
     There were so many reasons why I was unwilling to facilitate the request and I won't bore you further with the details, some of which you can probably guess at anyway. But the pressure to do it, to please my family and not disappoint my sister seemed incredibly intense at the time that I was gravely concerned about the consequences of making the wrong decision. I was also keen to make it clear that my refusal should in no way be taken as a rejection of the baby. If anything it made me more interested in her life. 
      In the end I stuck to my guns and honestly haven't regretted it for a moment since. 

Tuesday 28th October
'My motivation has gone too soon. It's felt like that this evening as the work I have to do appears more and more insurmountable. I know it is largely because I am tired and I am aware that it will to-and-fro for the next few weeks. With the winter settling in this week I am worried about a repeat of the degeneration that occurred during this period last year. At least I am aware of it. Perhaps this will give me a fighting chance this time. Also tonight the desperate tinder swiping and sexual frustration that stores energy through repression. I need a shag.'
Motivation is a very sensitive aspect in my life. Occasionally impressive, it is all too prone to dramatic attenuation. So as the winter rolled in and the workload began to increase I found myself peaking and dipping several times a day. All I could do was persevere. 
   The previous winter I completely capitulated and was lucky enough to survive relatively un-scarred but this played on my mind for most of that semester. I was always waiting for my habitual assailant to return one more time for the memories but it was something I avoided right the way through the year.
    For anyone using Tinder as their primary social outlet I highly recommend that you abstain immediately. It can be a fun little play thing for people who want to have a laugh and kill ten minutes. It can even be catalyst for a first date or a one-night-stand but for someone in the position I was in it just becomes an irritating distraction. Tinder in that circumstance only exacerbates the feeling that you're missing out on something by committing to the books. Better to just have a quick hilary to dissipate that sexual energy and get back to studying!
Thursday 30th October
'I seem to be going through some kind of a change at the moment. It happens to me from time-to-time. I get this impression that I am really not where I should be and I begin to drift into dreams of exotic travel. My outlook becomes more profound and a little austere. I think of time wasted and my desire to learn all I can when there isn't enough time. I am lost among my friends because either we don't share the same outlook or I am unable to express mine. My mood is not as light as it has been and I am increasingly wary of S.A.D. Especially in light of last winters events.' 
That sounds like I am talking about the menopause. I am not. However the things I am talking about are very familiar to me as feelings I have had at variable intervals in my life. It begins as a more serious outlook on my life and drifts towards the things I haven't done and the things I absolutely should be doing. It is a lot to do with the inadequacy of the current trajectory I'm on and discerning where best to aim for in the future. At these times a lot of the frivolity is taken away from life and I become acutely aware of the rapidly ticking clock. It all sounds terribly sullen but I consider it a good attitude in moderation. It helps me to set goals and push myself harder even though it makes me despair about the past just as often. 

Well that seems to be how I finished those first six or seven weeks of that second from last semester. I'll tell you the rest some other time. 


Monday, 16 March 2015

Fear and Loathing in Lislea

I'm so fucking bored! I think I have become an emotionless android, going through the predetermined steps of a program code. Recently my life has been existing primarily on my laptop, making my social life a digital one. Actually, this can be a good thing for a little while when you really need to get some work done. It's just that one day you wake up to the fact that it's all just so utterly tedious. Fear clasps hold of your hand for a second and you realise that time spent in boredom is time wasted.

"Himmelhoch jauchzend, zu Tode betrübt" 

It's a famous quote from Goethe, by way of Anne Frank in my case. It translates basically as "On top of the world, or in the depths of despair." The significance of the quote, for me, is derived from its bang-on description of how I used to live, back in the old days. Back in the old days when my emotions oscillated between self-destruction and euphoria on a daily-basis. When I didn't ever want to get out of bed, except on days when I was fuelled-up with hyper-activity. When I was a twisted wretch, pining over any woman I'd meet.

I am so fucking bored! Bored with an exhaustingly monotonous college course and a job which revolves around the toleration of stupidity. Sometimes I feel like the job is crushing any spark of intelligence I may have once had and that the college thing is simply a means to an end, i.e it gets me paid. On the flip-side I get money every month to sustain my inactive lifestyle and I know I will have a first in electronic engineering if I put in just a little work for the next two months. These are good things but it just doesn't seem like enough to make the road worth the walk.

Life before venlafaxine was a little more noteworthy, a little more exciting. At least that is the sense I retain in my memory. In spite of the time spent in the aforementioned depths of despair, I had some fun times during my depressed youth. But now it feels as if in settling into the role of a relatively focused student I've lost a bit of something. Like now I am just the watered-down version of myself. Maybe I have become even more introverted and androgynous than before. Maybe I'm dead inside like a big rotten old oak tree. Maybe I exaggerate a touch.

Perhaps I am doing myself an injustice. There is after all a lot to be said for the quiet life. I am more tangibly productive than I have ever been and I've gone from absolutely despising electronics to making plans for doing an add-on year after I finish. I am fairly stable at present, a positive in light of previous catastrophic meltdowns. I've even managed to save money while going to college! This I could classify as a miracle. Still, it's all so very dull.

I shouldn't complain too much though, life is pretty good on the whole. Perhaps as good as it has ever been by some measurements. And even though I think I am suffering from an atrophied sense of humour there are some people who can make me laugh more than ever. There are enough good things to do too, if I can find the time away from the boring shit that I just have to get done.

As the pleasures of this life are transitory we should all attempt to enjoy them while we can. With this in mind I shall make a list/mission statement:

There are so many good books to read and so many beautiful women to fuck. There are so many great roads for me to cycle, so many songs to hear. I have so many places to see and awesome people to talk with. There are so many languages I could learn and so many bad ideas I can criticise.

It is a shame that I should ever say I am bored.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Decision made

If I digress at times throughout the course of this text it is because the thoughts swirling around my head are so confused and unfiltered that it makes it virtually impossible for me to speak about them, and only a little less difficult to write about them.

I must begin again with a qualification. Not one of the points of argument or criticism in this article are concerned with the question of whether or not there is a God. Nor am I interested in anything he may, or may not, have said or done but I am sharpening my knives for some of the people who say and do things in his name. After-all the Roman Catholic Church is a man-made empire regardless of their reasons for beginning it in the first place. Every one of it's theological doctrines relating to this topic are the words of men not Gods. Each of it's pre-conditions and rules come from the mouths of men claiming they understand the mind of their celestial master. Whether a believer or not, you have no reason to accept any of the things these men have been telling you and even less reason to allow yourself to be influenced by their self-ordained (quite literally) moral authority. 
'De Omnibus Disputandum' - Karl Marx

Three weeks ago my sister Mairead asked me if I would be my little niece's Godfather. My other siblings had all done it for the other children so I guess it was my turn. After initially declaring my unease and taking some time to consider whether I would be able to do it, I finally had to say no. I thought about it quite a lot and more than almost anyone in my position would. Because of this I know she respected my decision even if it was disappointing. That doesn't stop me feeling an acute sense of despair at having to let someone down. Since then, when I have mentioned it to a few of my friends I have found it difficult to articulate effectively my reasons. Most people find it a bizarre thing to have done, I suppose because it is so often an automated response to say yes. Anyway, as a method of absolving myself somewhat I thought I might stick some reasons down in a word document.

Each of Mairead's three children have been conceived through IVF and now each one of them is a baptised member of the society that considers their very conception unethical and sinful. This disgusts me absolutely and is one of the core reasons why I refused the request. But if a child's parents can accept the evil paradox in full knowledge of the facts then I don't think it is my place to proselytise to them directly. So I shall proselytise to you instead...

You know they think these children are illegitimate? You know they think it violates a marriage because the process includes masturbation? You know they think the scientists and doctors who deliver you a baby this way are villainous murderers because some of the eggs are destroyed along the way? You know they tell people that children conceived through IVF are more likely to have birth defects without resolving the scientific reasons behind it (The birth defects are more related to the initial problems regarding the parents infertility than they are to the IVF process)? 

Remember, these are all church teachings and not the word of God. This is why it was impossible for me to stand up as a proxy for this church's inscriptions on the blank moral canvas of my five-week old niece. She still has me always, just not like this.

At some point during my considerations it was put to me that myself and my siblings had not been pushed in the direction of Catholicism or Christianity, not really. It is a typically apocryphal description of how religions operate in Ireland and in my case it is simply wrong. The apparent hereditary character of religion should probably be proof enough of this but anyway, I will elaborate. I 'am' Catholic and I didn't have any choice in the matter. I went to two Catholic schools, both of which took time away from teaching English and Maths to shove their own religious diatribe down our throats. Even this might be seen as the broadening of a childs mind to help them develop a spiritual understanding. But it never was that, it was always awful indoctrination. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and the only eating we ever did was on the Roman Catholic wafer. I wouldn't even have known Islam existed then or that eastern philosophy might help me develop spiritually. At that time I would barely even have been informed that there were a million other forms of Christianity. Obviously those protestants were wrong! 

The supple brains of young children will accept what they are being told as indisputable, grass is green, blood is red, God is great and he is Catholic. So it becomes very difficult to change afterwards and even when it does, open dissent carries a burden of shame for some people.

I really have trouble with any kind of indoctrination. Anything that tells people what they should believe or feel about something only encourages narrow-mindedness and intolerance. Thinking for yourself and being yourself regardless of what other people might want you to be are the greatest things you can hold on to. If only I had a little more confidence I may have been able to dissent earlier than I have.

I live in Northern Ireland, a country historically segregated along religious dividing lines. Violent, murderous dividing lines and although I am not naive enough to think religion was it's only defining factor, no-one could excuse it of some of the shared culpability. Yet we continue to propagate the dividing lines by forcing our children to join us on one side before they've even spoken a single word. Tony Blair once remarked in a debate about how touched he had been at a meeting that bridged the religious divide in Northern Ireland. Christopher Hitchens then hung Tony by his own petard when he asked him in a gloatingly droll tone, "Where does the religious divide come from?" I always think of Hitch when I think of religion in Northern Ireland.

However far we have come, protestant and catholic are still attached as labels and the ludicrous prejudice and suspicions persist towards the other despite a more enlightened population. I hope that when I send my children to school that the factors determining their destination do not in any include their membership of one church over another. I know it seems utopian but it shouldn't be. 

It is possible that you think I have been totally selfish here. That I have made a mountain out of a molehill and that I should have kept my mouth shut and gone along with things like everyone else does. I can understand that but it is not the way I want to do things. I genuinely think the baptism is a bad thing and that it would have been extremely hypocritical for me to have gone through with it. It would have been a completely vacuous ceremony if I had been involved and anyway I hope that my little niece would rather have an uncle who actually gives a fuck about her to say no for the reasons I have. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

My catholic ireland

The Catholic Church in Ireland has in most instances seceded its credibility and influence. For many people who would have once slavishly cooperated with its ludicrous demands there is merely disillusionment and apathy. I have gone past the point of disillusionment by now. I have reached eager hostility.

When my sisters baby was stillborn last year I was sad. She was devastated beyond anything my meagre emotional abilities could understand. You do what you can to help people at these times to ameliorate the pain and provide whatever inadequate succour you can. Later, I began to familiarise myself with a former teaching of the catholic church that any babies that died before being baptised into the church would never be permitted to enter heaven and be left to dangle in limbo for eternity, motherless. Obviously because of recent events it excited my interest. I admit that it may not seem like such an utterly malevolent thing to say in 2014 but it decades gone by in devout Ireland this was a truly evil idea. To tell young mothers who have just had their hearts ripped out of their worlds, young women who believed with absolute certainty in an afterlife, that their child was not worthy to join them in heaven, that they would never be seen again stuck somewhere between heaven and hell was unjustifiably cruel and abusive. Yet this is what happened. Misery heaped upon misery. Lives ruined for parents who could never get over it. God will accept murderers and rapists with the correct access codes and a little repentance but he doesn't want to know about your dead baby. 

This stuff is real. This stuff happened. It has been perpetuated because we have allowed it to play a persistent role in our lives. The good doesn't outweigh the bad. It merely provides shelter for its perpetrators.

It seems that in Ireland, just as everywhere else, that religion is hereditary. I was a Catholic before I could walk, before I could talk, before I had developed the cognitive ability to realise that a piece of wafer is not also the flesh of a two thousand year old man from the Middle East. Get them young and you get them for life! History tells us that they took that particular motto to its sinister extremes.

Baptised as a baby I am now one of the flock. Free to have the same opinions as everyone else, free to learn the prayers and dogma of Christianity, free to disassociate myself from people who’s parents and teachers have slightly different opinions to what mine do. So the guilt begins to seep into the conversation around the age of six. All those terrible things that a child is capable of need to be addressed. For a short period at this important point in a child’s development the maths and English lessons are dispensed with to make way for the classes preparations for First Confession. I’ve thought about this as coldly as I can and I will try to distil my opinions succinctly. There are certainly children in these classes who require a little extra help with their reading or their writing or their counting. Nevertheless their valuable time at school is being used to tell them how they should feel guilty and beg for forgiveness from a supernatural being they can’t possibly understand for the crime of slapping their sister or stealing an extra biscuit. As well as this they need to be coached to ensure that they interact in the correct manner with the elderly virgin who will be their direct interlocutor when they repent for their sins. Of course it all ends well. The child may not be able to read any better than yesterday but God will have forgiven them their childish misdemeanour's. This is all assuming that they have been forced in the right direction and have chosen the correct god. Otherwise these kids are condemned to eternal hell.

Next up for us kids is the beginning of the financially incentivised indoctrination. The first holy communion and later confirmation are the two major milestones on the young catholic’s résumé. The child is quite literally forced into these religious ceremonies. They have absolutely no right of refusal and for the most part don’t even fully understand what they are about. Community peer pressure comes into consideration for most parents in Ireland because even the non-religious wouldn’t want it to be said that their child hadn’t been confirmed along with his classmates.

It is not the theology itself that incites my anger when I remember my religious experiences as a youth. The fact is that many or most people pick and choose the bits they personally require and dispense with the more ludicrous and nasty elements of Catholicism in favour of a bespoke type of religious moderation that really isn't catholic at all. More often it is the repression it always had on free thought and critical thinking. In my school religion was taught an examined in a way no different to biology or maths. However it differed in being a subject not only to be learned in the classroom but a doctrine to be enforced by peer pressure and ceremonial propaganda. 

It amuses me now to remember the teacher student dynamics that often occurred at those sports-hall masses we used to have ash wednesday or some other nonsense. Back then we would have been sniggering and laughing as adolescents do, not taking the event very serious at all, until one of our teachers would come along telling us to be quiet and show some respect. The teacher would be satisfied that he had imbued us with the appropriate level of contrition and we would sit quietly and listen as just a little pang of the old catholic guilt rises in our bellies. Thinking about it now though, I see that the sniggering and laughing boys were showing the appropriate level of respect all along. We were the silly little boys not grasping the full significance of the ceremony and the teacher was the dutiful overseer of virtue. Now I see that the teachers had taken a break from teaching and that now they were enforcing.

It is true that the Catholic church has displayed an outward growth in humility over recent years. There is more room for open discourse with the population and even some theological concessions have been quietly accepted. However, it is always a retreating tyrant that begins handing land back to the natives. Modesty is a weapon to shield decline. Where was the humility when their power in Ireland was seemingly exponential? Was there any modesty in the horrific and malevolent acts they committed when the island was theirs to be pillaged. They preach forgiveness if you repent. So they repent.