askygoneonfire: 'Love' painted on to four fingers of a hand (love hand)
So I was given 5 questions by [livejournal.com profile] meepettemu. I am supposed to say that if you comment and ask, I'll give you 5. And I will.

1: do you have specific plans for after your PhD, and if so, what are they?
This is the question that keeps me up at night. The simple answer is, I don't. The more involved answer is I want to stay in academia but to do that I need to pull my finger out and publish something and be prepared for a few years of continued precarious employment and be open to moving anywhere in the country to chase down any positions. The thought of starting all over again somewhere else in the country seems exhausting. But so does applying for jobs just in Brighton. I think there is a cruelty to the treadmill of academia where, at your lowest ebb, you need to muster the most energy to secure yourself employment and career. Whatever happens, it will surely be narrated here.

2: Is there a significance behind your raven tattoo? If so, what?
It's a carrion crow, not a raven. And yes, there is a significance. It's more of a narrative, really;

I love crows, I think they are wonderful, engaging animals and I enjoy every interaction I have with them. They are also, to me, quite strongly tied to Brighton, I have only ever lived closely with crows here in Brighton as they dominate the university's campus and I often sit and watch them at lunch, on breaks, and during my office hours (one memorable day, I saw a crow disembowel a dead rabbit, it was hilariously gruesome). They are also, of course, members of the corvid family. An exceptionally clever genus (corvus) they include the new caledonian crow which makes and uses tools, and the raven which can solve puzzles quicker than a 5 year old human. Good old, common, familiar carrion crows have also been shown to mourn their dead.

There is considerable mythology surrounding the crow, some of it I believe is clearly linked to observable behaviour (such as their feasting on carrion, mourning their dead, and intelligence and rational approach to problems) and the rest is the usual imaginative leaps of man. In particular, I like the mythology which says they are messengers for the dead/from the dead/of the dead, and that they are said to be able to see forward in time.

When my friend died, I felt something huge had shifted in the world. It came at a time I was trying to decide the direction of my life. The night I learnt she'd died I vowed to move back to Brighton, take control of my life and direct it in the way which my gut told me to go, and not be guided by financial fears or ideas of what I 'should' be doing. I did all of those things before the year was out.

I knew I needed a tattoo to mark this shift in my life, as a tribute and reminder of Lux, and an emblem of my new outlook and determination. I had also been considering a cover up of a tattoo I had got when I was 19 and trying to remind myself of my own strength and ability to stay alive. So, bearing in mind all of the above, I chose a crow - conveniently being an ideal colour for a cover up tattoo.

My crow is facing forwards - as we must always do - but looking backwards - remembering what has gone, seeing the lessons and people that came before. And he knows death, but he does not fear it, he simply knows it is a part of life and an essential part at that.

3: When you were a teenager, what were your career aspirations?
I never had a strong sense of where I wanted to go or who I wanted to be. The only career I ever really wanted was to be either a vet or a zoologist. Those dreams were quickly quashed by a) going to a shit comprehensive that ignored talent and neglected to aid underachievement and b) spending ages 15-19 being fucking miserable and very nearly getting no A Levels. I was not good enough at Maths or Science by the time I was in Sixth Form - largely because I was depressed, stoned, and in a dreadful school - for that to be a realistic dream so I let it go.

I'm not sure how I feel about it.

4: How old were you when you first realised you might not be straight?
The thing with being bi/queer/pan/whatever is not being straight doesn't come into focus as early as it seems to for your out-and-out gay folk. You can rattle along quite happily fancying men and assuming your feelings for women are comparable to the idol worship of your straight female friends. The clues were always in the men I fancied - they were never handsome or rugged or butch. They were all beautiful, delicate, thoughtful, queer, and vaguely off beat. I was never going to be the 'right' kind of heterosexual.

I think I was about 13 or 14 by the time I actually started having sexual feelings for women - which is around the time I started having sexual feelings for men, now I come to reflect on it. And I was 15 or 16 when I started coming out. As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, David Bowie was part of how I came to be sure. And so was Nicky Wire. 

I think I was about 19 or 20 before I heard the term pansexual and finally found a word to describe my specific desires, and adoration of the Bowies and Wires of this world. Queer entered my lexicon when I did my Masters at 22 and added another dimension to my self expression. 

5: Where in the UK would you choose to live if it could be anywhere?
Brighton. Where I am right now. Where I can't afford to stay and am unlikely to be in a year's time. And that is already breaking my heart.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
It's getting to the point in my PhD now where I'm just circling - revising and editing everything. The only 'fresh' content I have left to write is the introduction and conclusion and, by definition, there is not much new I'll be putting into that, just summing up and contextualising.  It's getting harder and harder to write my thesis because of this.  The creative, blank page stage is in some ways very intimidating, but it's also quite freeing - there's no wrong place to start, just start throwing stuff at the page, deal with what sticks later.  Now is about focus, detail, concentration.  Honing my argument, tightening up holes, reading 20 books to generate 5 solid references to support one framing sentence.  It's peddling faster than ever to move slower and slower.

This is, in some ways, good. I'm firmly moving into the final stage of writing and the end is in sight.  Within 6 months I could have a full draft with a reasonable expectation I'll only have minor corrections to make before having a manuscript suitable for submission.  In other ways, it's never been harder than right now.

I'm exhausted; intellectually, emotionally, mentally.  And physically I'm in bad shape; my shoulder injury (displaced/separated ACJ) is at its worst, constant pain with the only variation being how much pain I am in each day.  I have an MRI on Thursday and a consultation with a surgeon in October.  I have done *everything* I could to fix this without surgery - 2 years of physio (over 3 years) where I did every exercise at home between sessions I was directed too, I've had 3 steroid injections into the joint, 3 x-rays and 2 ultra sounds.  And still I am in pain.  Still.

There is, in some respects, light at the end of the tunnel - it's reasonable to hope surgery will resolve the problem but, if it doesn't, nothing will.  That's terrifying.  Also terrifying is the prospect of more pain - that's guaranteed immediately after the operation for a minimum of 2 weeks followed by pain as I get muscles back up to strength.  And, perhaps most gut-wrenchingly, is the uncertainty of finances during re-cooperation after the operation.  

I don't get sick pay from my job teaching at the university because I'm on a zero hours contract and it's looking like I'm going to be having operation at end of year or early next year and thus unable to commit to taking on teaching during the spring term so I could potentially lose out on 4 months of money.  

I have carefully, excruciatingly carefully, saved up during the last 5 years and have precisely enough money to live on, pay rent, etc, for the next 12 months.  Every week and month I am out of action for as I recover from operation is time I am basically wasting money - as I won't be able to work on publications or thesis revisions, or teach, or apply for jobs.  The big fat gaping hole that faces me as I draw closer to the end of my PhD is made exponentially worse when I consider facing financial insecurity again.

I am fortunate in that my parent will not allow me to go hungry or homeless.  But they also don't have the resources to pay my rent; their help whilst appreciated and fortunate, would take the form of me moving in with them. Again. 200 miles from Brighton.  At the age of 32.

Everything is very uncertain. Everything is gradually getting harder and harder, more and more intense, and with every step forward I am more and more committed to this path which has absolutely nothing at the end of it unless I can generate opportunity, financial security, a career etc.  And god damn it, my shoulder hurts so much.  Chronic pain is fucking horrible.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
What a year. What a life. What a world.

I feel the need to tidy away 2011, make room for 2012 but attempts to do so seem doomed to failure as a sense of hopelessness in front of 'fate' overwhelms me each time I try. The irony of course being that I don't believe in fate.

I've been trying to form in my mind the things I want for 2012 in the belief that determination is 90% of the route to realisation. 'Space' is right up at the top - I simply can't live in my parents house, if I want to be alone I have to sit in my bedroom. If I want to cook I have to squeeze in the kitchen in between them being in there and endure endless questions. I really value silence and solitude and time to myself and for the last year and a bit that has been completely absent. The main block on that road is not knowing where I want that space to be and whether I should rush for the short term pay off (very tempting) or play a longer game for savings and a place in September. Much of this is dependent on the current PhD application I have.

The PhD is second on the list; I am struggling to motivate myself to complete the application which has been further frustrated by my laptop killing itself this week so any work must be done in an environment I don't enjoy working in - namely on the family PC in the spare room. I am pushing myself to have the application in by today (which is difficult as yet again I can't get a second referee and have been told in fairly unequivocal terms by my first referee that this is the last reference he will write for me, which whilst fair given it is now 4 years since I started my MA, royally fucks me over for any future plans) and the funding application in by the end of next week. I am basically shooting in the dark though as have nowhere to turn to ask for assistance in writing the application and online guides only tell you how - not if what you've written is any good. I had a dream where the person I have asked to supervise me told me my application was a pile of shite and there was noway I would get a place. Thanks for that one subconscious.

Third and finally on the 2012 wish list is a relationship. This one really complicates the first wish the most - where I choose to live and perhaps buy a house, is going to impact on my potential love life. There do not seem to be any women my age in the area. There are older women (significantly older, I have no problem with 8 years or so difference) and there are teenagers who are just leaving for university or at university. There are no mid-late twenty somethings who have ended up somewhere they never intended to be and would quite like to meet someone and build a life. Buying a house in this area feels like condemning myself to singledom for the foreseeable future and I don't want to make a potential positive of owning my own home into a life sentence to loneliness. Unlike the above two where there are numerous routes and options available to me this 'wish' is the one which seems to pose the most insurmountable obstacle to my own happiness.

I feel more conflicted and lost now than I ever have before and that in and of itself is quite distressing. I'm at an age now where I thought I would have things straightened out and I'm angry at both myself and the world for not delivering on that - I feel I've let myself down. It struck me yesterday, as I walked past my University college graduation photo in the hall, that 2012 will be 6 years since I first graduated and whilst I would not claim for a moment those 6 years have been wasted - I travelled round the world and I lived in a great city and I got a good Masters degree - I still find it hard to understand how 6 years could have passed without me getting a clearer idea of not only where I was going but where I am now. Indeed, in that 6 years I've lost some of the things I thought were a sure thing - like the certainty of marriage and not returning to live with my parents.

I recognise of course that we live in difficult times; the economy is poor and both jobs and funding for educational opportunities are scarce. I am lucky enough to be in a stable, secure job with strong prospects; I regret that I cannot *feel* the meaning of that though, I simply acknowledge it to be true. I came across a Nietzsche quote last night which, whilst I do not know the context of the writing it was taken from, certainly seems to express the reason I cannot settle at this time for 'adequate'; Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?

How true that is - something I feel all the more keenly since the death of my colleague in November.

Life is a thousand times too short to live without fulfilment and joy.


askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 There's a lot I want to say about my holiday but there are so many different voices which I want to use to tell the story I am struggling to know where to begin.

The first couple of days I was suffering a throat & mouth infection, a bit of a cold and the tail end of this cycle's depressive period - it didn't make for the best start to my trip, or incline me to feel anything terribly positive about Budapest.  Like Santiago in Chile, Wellington in New Zealand and Montevideo in Uruguay it will forever be 'a place where I was depressed' and, because of the nature of travelling, cause and effect get jumbled up in your memory and I can't really rustle up any positives. Being the beginning of the trip it was also the point at which I felt most acutely alone - since 2004 I have only ever left the country with Ali so this was the first time in my adult life I had ever been anywhere single, and it takes more getting used to that you might expect; for me at least.  I'm sad to say as well that tail-end depression and poor physical health meant I wasn't up to a day in the thermal spa baths which Budapest is quite well known for.  Having seen photos of the baths I feel I might have missed out a bit there but, like [not going] swimming with wild dolphins in Kaikoura in New Zealand, I'll just have to chalk it up to hindsight being 20:20 and let it go.

Soon enough though we met up with our Intrepid group and it was time to leave Budapest by train (which was supposed to be direct - just 5.5 hours - only the track had flooded, so we were rerouted by bus, then 2 more trains, so it took more like 7 adventurous hours) and head to Osijek in Croatia.  Osijek was a lovely place but I can't disentangle anything I did or saw in Osijek and nearby Vukovar from the accompanying stories of our tour guide Igor.  He was a few years older than me and slept in a basement for 6 months whilst his city was shelled.  He also took us to Vukovar, the hospital museum and the Memorial Centre a few miles out of town near the site of the mass grave and shared with us, by saying very little indeed, something of the feeling an hopes of the people of Vukovar today and Croatia at large.  It was a challenging period of the trip to be sure.

From Osijek we moved onto Serbia and Novi Sad and, later, Belgrade.  Inhabitants of Novi Sad seemed to be living the life everyone in the UK dreams of - a walk through the park in the early evening saw teens, families and couples all interacting and enjoying the communal space - kids playing, adults talking, teens drinking/joking/courting.  I felt a real sense of longing for a life I decidedly don't have in the UK and one which may not even be possible here due to a difference in culture.  I also became acutely aware of the old catch; you go somewhere in the world and see people living the kind of life you want to have and you think "I could move here, I should move here!" and, if you're straight, you do.  If you're queer, you have to go away and research and find out if you'd be welcome to live that life with a same sex partner.  Sometimes, when you already feel a little blue, it makes the world seem a bit smaller, and a bit more hostile when you realise that sitting in the park with those people, doing the same things they are with the person you love is just not an option for you and yours.  Well, I say 'feel a little blue', perhaps the knowledge of how Belgrade's Pride parade went down a few years earlier was nagging at the back of my mind too.

Belgrade was a lot of fun, lots of drinks and it really marked the point at which a travelling-friendship was struck up between me and a couple of girls I was travelling with.  Something I found in Belgrade also was I began to enjoy travelling for what it is again - seeing new places with new people and experiencing snippets of life different from your own. In Budapest I really didn't feel that was something I could appreciate anymore so it was like welcoming an old friend back - or reopening a part of myself.  It's difficult to express but something did click for me in Belgrade.

From Belgrade it was another border crossing into Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sarajevo which quickly proved to be my favourite stop of the trip.  Helped, in no small part, by running into Angelina Jolie on my first night there!!  She was at the Sarajevo film festival with Brad and I just happened to be passing the theatre as she arrived (to a welcome from a small crowd, all of whom were screaming violently!) so I got to scream my heart out, feel my pulse race and generally go "OH MY GOD!" with excitement.  Bosnia was also the point at which I rediscovered my absolute love of smoking - no small coincidence that it was in Bosnia I think given it's the only country I've been to where you can smoke on the train!  Happily, cigarettes are dirt cheap in the Balkans - particularly in Bosnia - so I could gradually kill myself without breaking the bank.  

There are a lot of really complex emotions I have about Sarajevo and even before I arrived I felt a real connection with the city - of the same kind I feel for Brighton - which only strengthened after 3 nights there.  After going on a tour of the city and hearing about the Turkish builders/invaders etc etc and the older history we went on a trip to the Sarajevo tunnel and passed along Sniper Alley.  Our guide was just 2 years older than me and described a little of his experiences and memories during the siege - which feel oddly personal so I won't recount them here.  Suffice to say, never has war felt so close to home, so personal, so real.  Our last night in Sarajevo was spent in the company of one of the aforementioned girls and our trip leader, a Slovakian by the name of Tomi.  We went to a Latin Dance club and got a sense for the legendary spirit of Sarajevo's nightlife.  I missed Sarajevo the moment we left - still do, in fact.  

From Sarajevo we took a trip to Mostar which coincided with the competition day for the unlikely national sport - bridge diving.  Me and two of the girls set up in a cafe overlooking the bridge and drank beer in the shade as mad buggers threw themselves headlong into the almost-too-shallow river.  The very best part of the visit to Mostar was that it meant a 7 hour round trip travelling through the breathtaking Bosnian countryside.  It was like nothing I knew existed in Europe and absolutely revealed to me the motivations behind all the wistful "Oh I went there when it was Yugoslavia, it was beautiful"'s I had been hearing before I went away.

By the time we got to the Ostrog Monastery in Montenegro for our one night stopover our small group of 7 was firmly in the travelling mentality with absurd in-jokes and catchphrases - I felt as though I'd recaptured some of the best things about my previous travels back in 2007 and regained that calm, fulfilled, happy attitude which so few things really give me.  Travelling is like eating a really good meal after you've been hungry all day - completely satisfying, guilt free and, above all, necessary.  Except all that connects to how my brain feels when I move from new place to new place every few days, not my stomach.

Anyway, enough of the crap similes and metaphors.  After a fitful night's sleep in the sparse dormitories in Ostrog it was time to catch a bus south to Kotor, on the coast.  Kotor was definitely when "too many tourists for my taste" began which was quite a difference to earlier experiences where locals in Osijek and Vukovar said hello and excitedly congratulated our guide Igor on showing tourists round again.  Rebuilding in both towns is terribly slow so the prospect of tourist spending seems quite welcome.  Kotor, whilst charming, pretty and inexpensive did not set me alight.  There was a local festival on - dancing and music, all aimed at local families so at 9pm, when the heat of the day had passed, well rested children and their parents came out to the old town to shout, cheer and sing.  Completely charming and a pleasing slice of life which was decidedly different from the UK.  

Our final trip onwards was back into Croatia and to tourist-mecca, Dubrovnik.  It is a lovely town/city and worth a visit but we dispatched with the tourist necessaries in a few of hours and moved on to eating, drinking an finding a local-swimming spot.  With the sort of desperation for enjoyment that only the last night of a holiday can bring I found myself once again with the aforementioned girl and trip leader Tomi, going for a midnight dip in the sea.  It sort of makes me sweat with humiliation when I look back on it because the beach was far from deserted and more people than I care to imagine must have seen us make a naked dash from beach to sea (and my subsequent vomiting after we got out and dried off) but I can at least comfort myself with the knowledge I'll never see any of them again.  Hopefully.


This break really did rejuvenate me and reawakened things in me that I thought were lost or dead with regards to a passion for travel.  There are so many small moments or realisation or admiration that there are neither time nor words to recount here but which are firmly locked in me now. I hope I have the opportunity to return to Sarajevo again - more so than anywhere else I visited. I do find myself slipping inexorably back towards a place where I feel an acute sense of isolation and, short of packing up my backpack again and fleeing this country for good, I am not immediately sure how to mediate that.

Failure.

Jun. 24th, 2011 09:36 pm
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
 I didn't win the scholarship.  So my offer letter for Hull to study for my PhD there is not worth the paper it's written on.  My PhD on the establishment of the queer family and the stress it places on heteronormative society will not be written.

After feeling numb for an hour or two, I cried.  Then I felt numb again.  Numb and sad.  So sad, in fact, that everyone at work was concerned I was too stressed.  I took today off, called in sick, and evidently it all kicked off - two of my colleagues went, separately, to our boss to tell her I was over worked and had a workload which was unreasonable for one person.  In fairness, I am doing my job and the job of another person who is on long term sick and that is stressful, but it is good stress - the sort you can manage, and the sort I leave at the door when I go home.  I am absolutely mortified that people said that to the boss, who then went to see my Mum, who also works there, to ask how I was.  My Mum said that more than anything she wanted to explain that I was off because I was so sad about missing out on the PhD scholarship - but of course neither she nor I can tell my boss that I am super sad because I won't be quitting in September - or that I was ever considering doing that.

I really, truly do not know what to do with myself now.  I know I need to move out of my parents - where is the big question.  I desperately want to go back to Brighton but I'm not doing that without a guaranteed job down there paying at least £17k. So do I move out for the short term here and keep looking for Brighton, burning a hole in the small amount I have saved up since living with my parents, or do I stay put and hope that I can save even more for the costly return to Brighton in the near future?

I've had a look and I can't find shit in Brighton job wise.  Also, this feels a lot like the decisive end to PhD dreams.  It's too long and too much of a long shot every time for funding.  I can't risk paying for my first year and hoping to get funding for years 2 and 3 because there is just no guarantee I will get it and then I will be worse off than if I hadn't done a year at all.

I feel like there is just a big gaping void for me stretching out from August.  I simply do not know what to do.

Giving up and drinking myself to death feels like a cracking idea though...
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
I was nothing,” said Nutt.
“How can you say you were nothing?” said Glenda.
“I was nothing,” said Nutt. “I knew nothing, I understood nothing, I had no understanding, I had no skill-“
“But that doesn’t mean someone is worthless,” said Glenda firmly
“It does,” said Nutt. “But it does not mean they are bad. I was worthless.”
Glenda had a feeling they were working from two different dictionaries, “What does worth mean , Mister Nutt?”
“It means that you leave the world better than when you found it,” said Nutt.

Unseen Academicals - Terry Pratchett
 

I keep going over this extract in my mind. I think because it hits on something very key in how I think and how I look at the world.

As with a lot of characterisation in Pratchett, Mister Nutt's preoccupation with gaining worth is initially approached with humour and gradually becomes key to the understanding we have of him as a character and, as in this case, leaves you with a shadow of that character in your mind that cannot be shaken off. I think it is also important to note that Mister Nutt is an orc - a violent murderous uncivilised beast with claws and the ability to bend the rules of the world around him - except through concerted effort and a deep seated desire to accumulate worth he suppresses these 'innate' instincts; he tries, in short, to be better than is expected of him and to be the best he can be, however hard that might be to achieve. Dealt with by anyone but Pratchett in any context than the discworld such a characterisation and motivation would be sickeningly saccharine, but I think it manages to be much more astute than that.

But this wasn't meant to be a book review.

I am still jolly unhappy (I enjoy the English language which made that construction possible). And I am still taking things to heart that other people might say I shouldn't - but I am and I feel justified in beating myself up over them. With this in mind, it strikes me that in order to succeed in this rejuvenation of the self and my life I must focus, like Mister Nutt, on the most effective way to accumulate worth.

I have been discussing with a colleague the possibility of us going travelling somewhere exciting this year - at the moment we're looking at a trip through Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia - Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro.  There are lots of buts - right now I don't have a valid passport and the trip is costly.  We also don't know if we'd get along after 2 weeks travelling and not enough sleep.  But the prospect of travelling does throw up some questions, whilst I feel fulfilled after a trip, it is largely because I feel I have participated in the world and made strides toward educating myself in the diversity and variation of life on earth and met people - mostly other travellers - far outside the normal run of things.  But travel is categorically not about me making the world a better place or accumulating worth.

What to do then? I know I don't have it in me to make the big gestures, do the great deeds, save the world.  As an example, my friend who got kidnapped last year spent, after his release and subsequent repatriation, all his waking hours getting a new passport so he could fly straight back out to rejoin the convoy.  I could not do that - and that's ok, if we could all do that the world would be a very different place and the blockade of Gaza would have crumbled under sheer weight of numbers some time ago.  But how does one make a notable, measurable difference in the world when you can't make noticeable, measurable gestures?

I try always to treat everyone I come into contact with with respect and kindness, but I'm also a person and in a bad mood sometimes and paranoid sometimes and worn down by some people not subscribing to that philosophy, so that's never going to be a perfect score.  I try to be mindful of my actions and my choices in the world, to ensure the employment I undertake is not morally reprehensible by association or otherwise.  I eat ethically - choosing local produce whenever I can and abiding by a strict vegetarian diet.  These are all things people list and take comfort in - I've heard them do it - but in my attempt to overhaul my life and myself I keep coming back to the notion of worth and the sense of my own failure in that respect as the core of the thing I want to change.

I think there is something to be said for being in love and being romantically loved that allays ones fears of worthlessness; an absolute certainty that for one person at least your existence is of worth and value.  Which, I suppose, brings me neatly back round to my last post and the words of Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo, namely, that we cannot act without a sense of our own value and we cannot achieve a sense of our own value without acting.

askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
With things like this, I rarely write in the heat of the moment, I prefer to check my sources and reference thoroughly. But today? You don't need references. Turn on the tv, have a look at news sites. It's happening.


The Lib Dems have betrayed us. The promise they made - the reason so many of us voted for them - is that they said they would not introduce higher top up fees, they promised us they would protect the right of every young person in this country to be able to go to University no matter what their income.

The current fees are expensive, difficult but not impossible. I campaigned, along with my fellow students back in 2004/2005, against the introduction of top up fees - they should not have happened but here we are. However, they are manageable; whether that be through grants or savings or loans. The new fees will literally make it impossible for everyone who wants to go to University to go.

Yes, the rich will still go. Yes, the poor may well get full assistance; but that pot of money is not unlimited so there will be stiff competition and firm cut off points - cut off points which will leave a gulf between the have lots and have not-so-muchs/have-littles. I got full financial assistance from my Local Education Authority to go to university but I still had to have a student loan in order to pay rent and bills. As such, I came out of university with a £12,000 debt.

Contrary to the government's claims that student loans are interest free, I am charged a phenomenal amount of interest every year on a loan I have yet to start paying back (I have, 4 years after graduating, still not attracted a large enough salary to meet the minimum threshold for repayments). The idea that these debts do not worry graduates, the idea that this is not a burden IS A NONSENSE. The question of whether I would have gone to Lancaster with a £9,000 charge for learning seems an easy one; without a full scholarship? definitely not. How could I? The resources my parents had to help me through university would have been laughable in the face of fees of that size.

Police Commisioner just said "any right minded person will condemn the violence, if they saw it, they will condemn it". I saw the violence, I don't condemn it - not with a broad sweep I don't. I feel that anger; and I wasn't standing amongst a group of protesters, contained by police and charged by police horses - provoked and scared - I wasn't there and I still completely understand the anger that led to this violence.

I agree wholeheartedly that the protest was hijacked by trouble makers- in particular the later pictures from the protest show people who seem to fit certain profiles associated with violnce for violence's sake - but to say all the violence was the result of that is a sweeping dismissal of the anger and chaos which the government and police caused.

Video of mounted police charging the crowd and clearly trampling some protesters who simply couldn't move out of the way fast enough was available at the top of this article on the BBC website for several hours today, it has since evaporated. [ETA: And been reposted here]

Protesters report, on twitter, that those who were smashing windows and doors at the Treasury were shouting "we want our money back". The police say it was criminal damage and not protest. I think it was both.

I'm disgusted that the majority of news stories are now leading with the fact the Prince of Wales and Camilla had the car they were travelling in were attacked. This is not an indictment of the incorrect expression of the protest, but of the uncontrollable, justifiable and absolutely AVOIDABLE rage of protesters. A friend just said the following of this incident;
"The living embodiment of inherited privilege gets hassled by people who just had their futures taken away. He's just lucky this aint France"

The police stated "protesters have failed to stick to the agreed route", one twitter user quipped "to be fair, so did the Lib Dems". How horribly true.

 


I cannot imagine a country in which I will ever vote Lib Dem again.

I'm sitting here crying over what we have become, what our government is doing to our education system and absolutely sobbing for the anger I feel at the betrayal of the Lib Dems and my empathy for the angry chants and actions of the protesters today.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
The Big Move of adjusting (largely unsuccessfully, I might add) to living with my parents.  The Big Move of leaving behind the most important friends I have ever had or made.  The Big Move of quitting a job I hate, bolstered by self confidence that it was a Big Move to get a Big Payoff. All of it was, in short, Big.  Was it worth it? 

Today is day 7 of the new job.  I have done most of the jobs in the office now; filing, personnel file updating and management, purchase orders, making travel arrangements for teachers going on trips or courses and communicating those arrangements to them, shredding, more filing, delivering post, database usage, management of the school calendar.  It will come as no surprise to anyone that this is deadly boring.

I think, were it not for the fact my fellow office workers are a cheery, friendly bunch who assume greater knowledge when explaining something rather than lesser, I would have quit already.  As it is I am torn.  I am finally getting office experience - something that has been a gap in my otherwise excellent experience section on application forms - and if I join the union I could volunteer to be the union rep for the school workers and that would be brilliant experience but...

I can't help but feel I'm missing out on something much, much better.  I am really angry about the fact the job centre had me booked in for a one-on-one careers advisor session - specifically designed for 'professionals' and people with degrees who find themselves unemployed - on Friday gone but I had to cancel it as I had started this new job by then.  It might have been useless, but I really didn't feel like it was going to be useless.

I hate being unemployed, largely because there is nothing to do and nowhere to go because you don't have the money to do it.  But how is trading Brighton and all my friends therein - a place I love with a job I hate, for a place I hate and a job I hate? I explicitly weighed up no money to save for PhD/great city/terrible job against good job/money to save for PhD/terrible place to live/no amazing friends.  I feel short changed.  

And I don't like feeling short changed, so I need to act.  I'm just not sure whether quitting is the right course of action or whether I should stick it out and then quit say, in the new year claiming my reason for leaving on future application forms as being because I wanted to get office experience and stayed only until I had.  The latter is the obvious, hedging-your-bets choice, but no part of this move was supposed to be hedging my bets, it was meant to be bold and daring, and it was meant to be the shock my working life needed to get it on a decent track.

At the end of the day, I don't want to be rich - I want to be happy in the way I spend my days.  And yes, money is an excellent facilitator; house, garden, holidays, food, books, PhD; but that is all I want or need it to be.  Yes, I want to work.  But I want to enjoy my work.  And I want to feel like I am doing something appropriate to my needs; which are, quite simply, to be engaged by my work. 

Either way, I need to make a decision.  I haven't slept since, well, since I started really.  No more than 5 hours a night.  Feel like the living dead.
askygoneonfire: if you lived here, you'd be home by now (November the 15th)
 In 26 days I will be 26. Struggling to have any positive feelings about this.

Today I visited the job centre to transfer my claim from the Brighton office. As with the previous visit the advisor was rude and...stupid.  He mocked my signature for looking silly (I know, wut?) and kept laughing at the course title of my Masters (Sexual Dissidence in Literature and Culture) before needing convincing that yes, that is what it says on my degree.  He snorted once more and said "I won't write that on your file" and simply typed 'M.A.'

I spent the afternoon with my brothers, which was lovely.  Although we all had a bit of a weird psychic moment where brother 2 and I left his flat to surprise brother 1 with a visit - 1 didn't know I was even going to be in town today - we arrived to 1's flat but he wasn't in.  So we nipped into the nearby Asda and received a call from 2's partner who was still at their flat.  1 had just arrived.  This means that we both left our respective departure points at the same time, having not planned to meet or visit and all three of us deciding on the spur of the moment to visit at that exact time.  Weirdness.

I got home to my parent's house and my Mum tells me that the school at which she works, the same place I had an interview the other week, want me to work there in some sort of admin role.  Apparently it pays better than the one I interviewed for and I won't have to interview again.  So obviously I'll take it if they offer it to me - don't look a gift horse and all that.  

I was planning on going to the cinema with brother 2 tomorrow for Orange Wednesday to see Salt.  We were going to go to a matinee because it's cheaper and he needs to get home at a reasonable hour to go to bed as his schizophrenia medication makes him sleep for at least 12 hours and he's at work at 7am the following morning.  ANYWAY, I'd be leaving at 1:15pm for the cinema, not unreasonable that I won't be constantly in the house between 8:30am and 4pm, surely? My parents believe I'm being reckless with a solid job offer and I should arrange to stay in ALL DAY.  This is particularly stupid given my Mum could just say to the recruiting woman tomorrow morning "oh, she's only in until 1pm as she has to go to the job centre" or just "go out".  Not unreasonable, right?  Parents continued repeating same thing.

Eventually I packed up my stuff and went upstairs to my room, once again - I've spent a significant portion (if not all) of 5 of the 6 evenings I have been living here for, in my room (and the sixth night was spent at a friends house).  I may as well have got a bedsit and stayed in Brighton.

I am, despite my above refutation, thinking about looking a gift horse in the mouth.  I have spent the last 3 years trapped in a job I hate in a city I love.  I say trapped because of the working pattern of 1 day on, 1 day off, 4 days on, 1 day off, repeat didn't allow me time or energy to look for new jobs with necessary zeal.  Financially, of course, I was also trapped, unable to afford luxuries or save any money, but earning just enough to pay rent and bills; making myself unemployed in Brighton would have been suicide/was unthinkable.  But the gleaming, shining, bouncing, glowing star of optimism that convinced me to move back up North was the idea I would have space and time to find a job I might enjoy, as well as live in a place that would allow me to save for the now mythologised PhD.

In short, whilst the prospect of a job falling into my lap seems a delight, I can't help but sigh a sad sigh and prepare myself to be reinserted into just the working environment I so gleefully fled in Brighton.  I feel trapped all over again and I haven't even had the job offer.

I was meant to be having some sort of careers guidance meeting with an advisor a week on Friday.  I was feeling really positive about that.  And I was planning on going to Nottingham on Thursday to register with some agencies in the hope of striking out into publishing/editing industry - copy writing? Yes please.  But agencies and waiting for the career you've picked to turn up requires having an empty calendar - you have to be able to answer the phone call that says "we have a 3 month contract for a copy writer in x, can you start on Monday?" with "yes" not, "no, I have to give my one months notice first".

I keep getting trapped in this stupid fucking economy with my fucking useless (although, apparently amusing) degree and attempts to break out of it last LESS THAN A MONTH.  I just want a good job.  A graduate job - £20,000 p/a is not an unrealistic salary expectation.  What was the point in going to University, getting myself a £15,000 student debt, when I could have got a job at a local paper or something and worked my way up.  I could have done a degree at 50 if it was still something I felt I needed to do.  Instead I'm completely fucking stuck.

I'm single. And I'm 26(ish) and I'm living with my parents again - the latter being my choice in principle, by only because I thought it was a radical move that'd give me the opportunity to break out of the have no money-get paid-pay rent-have no money cycle of finances I simply couldn't break free of in Brighton.  And here I am, feeling more hopelessly stuck than I have done since I made the decision to move if I didn't find a new job in Brighton back in May.


ETA: Oh, and the rats aren't settling in nearly as well as I hoped they would and the only time they come to me is when they are cowering in fear and want to hide from everything/nothing in my arms/under my legs, rather than for kisses and tickles and hugs like they used to.  I feel fantastically guilty for upsetting them so much

askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (conor)
You could be happy and I won't know...

Is it too late to remind you how we were
But not our last days of silence, screaming, blur...

For the tiniest moment it's all not true
Do the things that you always wanted to
Without me there to hold you back, don't think, just do.

 
It's funny really, the way songs can make everything come rushing at you. I've written about this before, I know. And tomorrow I am starting another NaBloPoMo which this month means I'll be writing to prompts, so you can at least be assured I'm unlikely to write about it again, but I wanted to do a bit of a free writing blog post, working from an audio prompt*. So here we go...

And miles from where you are
I lay down in the cold ground
and I pray that something picks me up.

That's where I arrive, after that first lyric. Pick me, oh god please let something come and pick me up and return me to that place. Make the line "you could be happy and I won't know" a lie, make it something I create not respond to.

Increasingly though it's not her arms I want to be delivered back to - just someone. I miss that intimacy. Indeed I miss it so much I had a very confusing evening with my ex on Saturday where we fell back into a coupley-intimacy we rarely shared when we were actually going out. But then copious amounts of wine spritzers (yes, really. And no, I've never drunk one before) will do that for you.

In my dreams I keep saying "I love you" and then turning around to find out who I have said it to. Not once has it been Ali. Friends, family, acquaintances, strangers. But not once has it been her.

All of this is probably particularly confusing because the last week has been spent in a manic haze. The end of this period of nervous activity was bookmarked in the usual manner - I slept for an inordinate amount of time. Saturday night I went to bed at 1am, slept until 3pm, got up for 2 hours, napped for an hour and a half and then went to bed at 11pm - bringing the grand total of hours I was awake on Sunday to 6 and a half. An unremarkable 11 waking hours continues the trend today.

with a name I've never chosen
I can make my first steps as a child of 25....
just because I'm sorry
doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it at the tim
e

It's coming to that - I'm none of the things I wanted to be - would have chosen to be, but it's time to try and dismiss that nagging feeling of being some how displaced from my own life and attempt to forge ahead with what I have. I have contradictory feelings of regret (I regret I regret things I regret I regret anything, I regret nothing...)but there simply isn't time to sort through them. Somehow I need to just step out of the place I have been in for the last year and a half.

I realised the other day that I really do want to stay in Brighton and the move back to the East Mids if I don't get a job by September is a second choice, not a first one. But part of taking this step as who I am not who I want to be is going to be sucking it up and doing that if that is what is required to move closer to some of my longer term ambitions.

I've waited here my whole damn life
And I've forgotten what I wanted
Maybe I can do it
If I put my back into it

I am so saturated in regrets these days that I find it near impossible to look forward. But increasingly I am recognising that is what is holding me back. Or at least, I think it is a big component.

I've got one thing coming up next month - the ArtFor Pride exhibition - and I really want that to go well. I've got one painting sketched out to do on Wednesday and I'm hoping to get a couple of others done in the next few days as I have some holiday from work and apparently the weather is going to be shit so holing up in my attic room and getting on with it is a really appealing prospect.

It's the longer term which it remains difficult to envision. I need to let go of how things ended with Ali - no amount of self flagellation, soul searching or in depth analysis of the dynamics of our relationship is going to provide me the answers I was once convinced I would eventually find.

In slow motion the blast is beautiful

I think my Romantic inclinations are at least partly responsible for turning what was, in the end, a disastrous relationship, into something tragically beautiful. I rewrite my own history as some sort of tortured artist who creates the apotheosis of her academic career as the defining, life-giving relationship crumbles unacknowledged around her ears. Falling into a pit of alcoholism and despair in the face of a betrayal she rewrites as a refutation of everything good and pure in the world.

Except it wasn't that.  It was mundane, and yes, hurtful and distressing, but mundane.  Why is it that I can only understand my own history by writing it down and translating it into something more than the sum of its parts?  I need to learn how to make my life and my actions worth more because of their objective value rather than because of the value I can impress upon them through the smokescreen of forcing them into a neat narrative.


* Snow Patrol's Final Straw and Eyes Open.
askygoneonfire: if you lived here, you'd be home by now (November the 15th)
 My ambitions in my life have always been basically the same; partner, cats, dog, house, car, garden, lazy Sundays, books, stability,

It seems that I can never hold on to more than one of these things at once.  Which is...disappointing to say the very least.

Over the years one thing seems more urgent than another and I find myself longing for its realisation.  Every fibre of my being desires it and every moment of my spare time is spent in my imagination.  So vivid are these fancies that I can almost feel the chill in the air as I sit down in the undecorated, sparsely furnished living room of the house I own for the first time.  I can hear the dog sneeze with excitement in the kitchen as I put my shoes on in the hallway to take him for a walk.  I can feel the weight of the paint cans as I heave them out of the boot of my car one sunny Saturday afternoon, met at the door by the cat who rubs round my ankles and I clutch the paint cans tighter for fear of dropping them on the cat.  Tripping over the books stacked against every wall before I've had chance to put the bookcases up.

And then a customer shouts at me, and I go and serve them, and grimace through their rudeness, or politeness, as it goes.  And I am brought back to reality with an uncomfortable bump.

Right now I'm trying to work out the shortest route to buying a house and having that.  I think shared equity would be the only way I'd be able to afford a deposit.  And I know for a fact I wouldn't be able to afford even the smallest possible deposit on a place in Brighton.  So I need to move back to the East Midlands.  Most often my little fantasy pastes in a house on the housing association estate they built in my village about 14 years ago.  Is that realistic? Is that what I want?

These fantasies, desires, hopes....dreams, whatever you want to call them are the reason I hoard books.  I just book a new bookcase, because even though I might only be in Brighton for another 4 months, it's always something that will take me just a hair's breadth closer to the dream.

In these uncertain times, I really don't even know what is realistic to hope for any more.  I have friends who never left the East Mids who have jobs and own their own houses, they got in before the recession, and they have been in full time work for the last 7 years.

Don't get me wrong, I don't regret leaving, I definitely don't.  I don't regret my degree, or my Masters.  I don't regret living in Brighton when money has been so tight.  I just wish these things didn't come at the expense of stability.  I wish my Masters hadn't coincided so completely with the beginning of the recession where all graduate training schemes were more or less withdrawn the day I graduated.  I wish I hadn't made myself apparently unemployable by pursuing the further study of a niche subject purely because it interested me - but I don't wish I hadn't done it.

I know I could compare myself to a hundred and one of my peers and see they are all in the same situation - I know they are, I recognise it as a stark fact.  But 'being like every one else' is not the motivation, so such comparisons aren't useful, they alter nothing.  I want these things because I want them.

I do, however, recognise, that all of these dreams are attached to one very clear payoff in my mind; they will make me happy.

Happy.

It's an empty word, it can never be all of the things it claims to signify.  You can't have all the things happy means at once.  And you sure as hell don't get happy from moving somewhere in order to get one box ticked off whilst simultaneously unticking a load of other boxes.  

And me? I don't get happy from any of the brilliant get-happy-quick schemes I come up with.  I don't get happy by fleeing one place to the next.  I don't get happy from another new bookcase.  I won't get happy when I get the house, the flat, the girl, the dog, the cat, the book, the garden, the Sunday.  I won't.  'Happiness', illusive as it is, can be achieved by degrees and in the small moments, but for me? It's not gonna come just yet.  Because the days where I get home and just cry keep happening.  The days where I stand in front of the mirror to brush my hair and it takes me 5 minutes to actually lift my arm, keep happening.

But because the road to a place where I don't feel like that is so long, because the journey is unmapped and unclear; because on the days where I cry the hurdles to overcome seem so absolute, so huge; because all of these things I keep on looking for the quick fix.  And the quick fix is imagining how utterly my life would be transformed the day I signed the mortgage on my house, or rolled over on a Sunday morning to see the face of the woman I love for the hundredth time, knowing I'd see her again every day for the rest of our lives.  


These are my most favourite daydreams.

Roar etc.

May. 15th, 2010 09:20 pm
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (November the 8th)
So I've been lucky enough to win paid time here on dreamwidth. Regrettably my laptop is knackered and currently with eBuyer who will almost certainly refuse to fix it under warranty. I'm conscious however that it has been quite some time since I updated so at least a cursory post is in order.

Life has rather run away with me, only in that screwing you over sort of way. An unending stream of job applications has come to precisely, hang on let me just check...yeah, to precisely nothing. My current job (soul destroying retail, thanks for asking!) somehow manages to get worse. The staff I don't complain about my job with/to (a minority) are incompetent beyond belief. Today's simple instruction, by way of example, was "to log out, just press function then clear" What did she do? Function, 1, enter. She was just about to press 1 again when I, through grated teeth, said "no. Clear. Press. Clear." If you can hear my eye twitching you'll have a good idea of where I am aggravation wise.

The government, the education system promised me that if I worked *really* hard, made sacrifices, gave my all then I would be rewarded. The job markets would be filled with jobs in the milk and honey production industries, my bank account would be more bouyant than the very cheapest dingy that has carried it's unlucky, fatherless child far out to sea from some free bar beach resort. But, instead, what do I have to show for a Bachelors and Masters? A massive student loan which I still don't earn enough to start paying back. A soul destroying - and I really do mean every syllable of that phrase - job. Not too mention the remarkable achievement of making myself completely unemployable by doing the Masters at all. A pretty impressive result, I'm sure you'll agree.

In short? BOLLOCKS. Someone give me a job with at least a gesture towards my field of expertise, a field which I believe to be both important for the development of society and the further liberation of all minority groups. Viva la queer theory!

Or something.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
I have two songs absolutely wedged into my head. I think both of them say quite a lot, in one way or another. Indeed the second one I'm linking to is the one complete with the John Lewis advert that is currently running, because I think it's kind of beautiful. And I know that makes me woefully prone to the effect of advertising, but whatevs, I loves it. The first one is beautiful too, only more lyrically than visually;

We still lie together every night, while I sleep I dream that we're all right, if this is love I'd rather keep dreaming, you could never be an actress, I know the knife's underneath the mattress, if this is love I'd rather keep dreaming, dreaming like a fool
The Boy Who Trapped the Sun

Billy Joel/John Lewis


My Northern getaway is drawing to a close and I can say with confidence that I am in no way ready to return to the South. Life down there needs to change dramatically in the next few months or I simply don't know what I'm going to do.

Actually, I think I do. Will review life in September with an option until November to make a decision. Leaving Brighton being the question at hand.

Strange, I thought I loved that city, but a few days away with the situation that is awaiting me on my return? Not so much. "Lately it feels like we're drifting apart". That's the way with love, I suppose.

askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
So, in what can only be described as a predictable development, I have been signed off work with 'stress exhaustion'. As I remarked to a friend on Friday, I can and have continued to work whilst this stressed but it does not end well, and why make myself ill over a job I hate?

I've just begun reading Moby Dick and, like Ishmael, when I feel the hopeless melancholy and pervasive paranoia descend my greatest wish is to flee the soulless city for the wild and absolute anonymity of nature. I find myself in my parents house where the question of how I've come to have a week off work remains prominently unasked.

I'm finding some sort of comfort in the silence which envelops this house, only the birds break the silence morning or night. In the void left by city bustle, of course, rests my frantic thoughts. A lifetime of listening to the anxious nonsense which spills forth provides no help in trying, as I am now, to quieten that hysterical rambling.

On Saturday night I attended a family gathering for my Mother's brother's 70th birthday, it's been around 8 years since I have seen that side of the family and once again I was misrecognised as my brother's girlfriend; a peculiar and embarrassing mistake. My Mother's other brother asked me if I still wanted to do a PhD, I told him I was desperate to, he told me he anticipated it's completion so that he could boast about having a Doctor in the family. I smiled. I am the first person on both sides of my not unsubstantial family to go to University, an honour which seems to leave me irrevocably distanced from a family of the terminally unemployable and the lifelong incapacitated. It's odd to regret your success in that sense and harder still to sense the weight of pride which urges me on to gain appropriate employment and fulfil that most loaded of words, my 'potential'.

Which all leaves me firmly where I started, laying in bed at my parents house, reading a book by torch light wondering just how much the protagonist and I have in common. Am I, like Ishmael, fated to go down this disasterous road too blind to change course, too weak in the face of hopeless destiny to break out an original course?
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Prompted by a recent post by someone on my livejournal friendslist I have decided I want to write a post which could most accurately be categorised as autobiography. I intend this to be an overview of one aspect of my life this past year. I'm hoping it bookends things for me just by forcing it into a narrative form. I need it to be public, which is why I'm posting it, but I am also aware it has limited appeal, which is why it's below a cut.

Read more... )
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
I am so afraid of missing things. I live in terror of not having the time or capability to do all the things I want to.

I want to go to Cuba, before the Castro's die and communism collapses. I want to go to New York and see the Empire State Building. I want to drive across America. I want to go on an Arctic cruise. I want to learn to snowboard. I want to go back to New Zealand. I want to go back to Brazil and go to the Amazon. I want to go interrailing through the bits of Western Europe I haven't been to and go on to Eastern Europe. I want to go to Russia - St. Petersburg in particular. I want to see the Northern Lights.

PhD. Publish a paper. Read a lot more books. Have a library. Own a house. Tend my very own garden outside said house. Get a cat. And maybe a dog.

This gets a little repetative )

I need to have some certainties, I need for at least one of the things in that list at the beginning of the entry to be in hand, to be guaranteed. I need to be able to sit down at night and say "yes, there's a lot of things wrong, there are a lot things up in the air, but this? See this, right here, this is sorted. Everything else can go to hell because I've got this one thing, and it's sure, it's sorted, it's permanent."

I'm impatient.

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askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
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