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,..it 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.
'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!
'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.
'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.
'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!
'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.