Month: October 2019

Pay no attention

I can still remember the nerves as I sat there, front row, at the school assembly. The main school hall was in the middle of the building, with classrooms off to each side and for assembly it was laid out with row upon row of plastic seats, ready for every pupil in the school to sit and listen to the headmistress. On this day, rather than sitting with the rest of my class, I was sitting up front next to a teacher as I was about to be invited to get up in front of the entire school.

Off to one side at the front of the hall, from where the headmistress was addressing us, was a large black grand piano. Far larger than the upright that took pride of place in my parents front room, or that of my piano teacher, the only two pianos I had played. That grand piano was the largest piano I’d ever seen and as I stared, marvelling at the lustre of that deep shiny black casing and the curves of its acoustic chamber, it seemed to grow larger and larger with every passing second.

Then my name was mentioned and, taking that as my cue, I got up and walked over and sat on the large leather stool, checked my music was at the right page and looked down to be faced with a gargantuan keyboard that was fully 10 feet from end to end (maybe it was 20 feet, or 30? it’s a hazy memory and remember, the piano was still growing with every passing second), each key was the same size as my entire hand, the pedals were large enough for me to stand on. I can’t recall which year I was in, only that it was Primary school, and there I was, a tiny, petrified boy sat in front of a piano that was rapidly taking on gargantuan proportions and proving more and more daunting by the second.

It took all my strength and willpower to push the keys down for the opening notes – I can’t recall the piece I played but I’m betting something by Mozart – and I know I stumbled over a couple of notes midway through but, by and large I have no further memories of the performance. I don’t know if I re-took my seat to deafening applause or stony silence, I don’t know if the headmistress made any further comments, I can’t recall if it was at the start or the end of the day.

What I can still remember, with alarming clarity for someone who has atrocious powers of recall, is how nervous I was before, during, and after the performance. As I sat there waiting to be called up, I was hoping my sweaty palms wouldn’t be an issue, not to mention wondering if people would just start laughing at me and, as the headmistress called my name, I can still feel the lurching drop that occurred in the pit of my stomach as I got up and walked to the piano, knowing all eyes were on me, watching me and nothing else.

These days I can look back on such an event with a smile, safe in the knowledge that I got through it and it was probably a good thing that I was able to do it at all. Such things are character building for a young boy, right? Ahhh the joys of hindsight. However back then the entire experience, the build-up to it, the performance, and the teasing in the playground after the fact, all added up to what was simply a horrifying experience for what I was back then; A young, not very confident, boy who didn’t even really enjoy playing the piano at all. I still don’t know how the entire thing came about, but I’d guess living in the same street as the headmistress had a bearing…

I’m not sure where my dislike of being the centre of attention came from. Perhaps because I was always happiest and most content as a child if I was on my own, lost in my own worlds of imagination. Perhaps that was something I used to block out other things going on around me, and perhaps that was due to my sister not arriving until I was 8 years old with my Mother being in and out of hospital in the intervening years. I honestly don’t remember and I know my childhood was a happy one, and full of love, but most of my most vivid memories only feature me on my own.

So from being the type of child who used to sit at his desk and stare out the window, watching the cars drive round the roundabout so often I could tell from the brake lights which car was which – Ford Sierra, Fiat Panda, Cortina, Astra – to being plonked in front of the entire school to perform was a massive leap. I didn’t enjoy the clamouring Aunts who wanted to hear my play the piano at home, let alone sit in front of all of my classmates and friends.

Horrifying.

Part of that, I realise now, blends into my mental health issues and the inability to take credit for things I have achieved. I don’t dwell on my achievements, I don’t put weight behind them and congratulate myself. At least I never used to, that has started to change but that’s very much a work in progress. With that in mind then, it’s easier to see why being the centre of attention has never sat comfortably, doubly so when it is in any way congratulatory which, given how aggressively competitive I was growing up became a very sharp double-edged sword.

I was in the Boys Brigade for most of my childhood and won every trophy going. In the Juniors I won Best Boy, and repeated it when I moved up to the Company (go 1st Dumbarton!). My squad won Best Squad and Best Squad Games trophies that year too, a clean sweep. Which was great, I lead a group and we were successful and then I had to accept actual trophies in front of a people at an awards ceremony and UGH.

Regardless of where it’s come from I have never liked being the centre of attention, and as a 40-something year old man, I still don’t. So as something which I utterly abhor as a personal experience, I struggle to find the appeal in it for others. Why do you get up on a stage and sing? Why do you write your heart out and then read those self same words out loud as others gawp on (as I did recently).

It’s also why, whilst I have many friends who adore the current… trend? … of drag artists and drag shows, it’s that very extrovert and OTT behaviour that pushes me away from it. You may see makeup that is on fleek (?) and outfits that dazzle and shine, and acres of positive energy and empowerment and acceptance, but beyond that all I see is a clamouring for attention that borders on the desperate? LOOK AT ME, it screams, LOOK AT ME!

Which, to someone who internally is typically screaming STOP LOOKING AT ME, is so far from my comfort zone that I can’t even begin to understand it. Logically I know that there is a lot more behind the power that drag artists get from their performances and that it’s all driven by many other factors and can be a hugely empowering influence for the individuals who take part, and it’s just as likely that they are deliberately pushing things so so far with their extroverted behaviour that it stems from the same place as my deep hatred of being the centre of attention.

Yet it remains so so far from my comfort zone that I can’t empathise with it to the point that I really don’t enjoy watching it and, in my own way of dealing with my emotions that may, occasionally, be externally expressed with a small (teeny tiny) level of sarcasm to those who do enjoy such things, well to those people I apologise. It really REALLY isn’t you and most definitely is me.

For the record I’m not anti-drag artist, it’s just not for me. I’m glad it brings happiness and joy to so many people.

This topic has been on my mind once more as we roll towards the end of October and my annual ‘I hate Halloween and everything that goes with it’ mindset. Friends of mine host a party every year, and every year I publicly moan about ‘having to get dressed up’ and invariably, because I don’t want to let people down and have an innate desire for approval, I end up scrabbling around for a costume at the last minute.

My favourite to date was a printed t-shirt that read “Error 404: Costume Not Found”.

Once again this years invite arrived (via Facebook obv) and I immediately, internally, baulked at the idea of it. I don’t mean I stopped and thought about it and then reacted, I mean it’s like a reflex, the minute I read what it was that knot in my stomach appeared. Now I should stress that my reaction is not about attending the party per se, nor is it about the people who may be attending (well not ALL of them), and it’s not like I haven’t attended Halloween parties held by these gracious hosts before, and hey I’ve even dressed up a few times, but no, it’s the thought of having to get dressed up and walking in and having people turn and look at me.

For a while I used to think it was the dressing up thing specifically. And it’s definitely a large part of it because I tend to struggle to feel comfortable in my own clothes, let alone having to find a costume that fits and doesn’t make me feel more ridiculous that I do on any other given day (I think we can see where this is headed).

Admittedly Halloween is a bit of a double whammy because I also don’t understand why Halloween is so popular, and why so many people revel in the scary, horror side of it so much. Let’s dress up as a zombie, ohhhhh, let’s dress up as a witch, aaahhhhh. But then I don’t enjoy horror movies so the entire genre that is ‘horror/Halloween’ is complete lost on me and I’m really REALLY fine with that. But, I digress.

I know a LOT of people who enjoy dressing up, not just at Halloween, and that makes me wonder what they get from it? Is it actually driven from the same place? A dislike of being ‘seen’? A way to not be the you that you aren’t all that fond of, by pretending to be another? I’m veering heavily into stereotypes here but looking at the continued expanse of the cosplay world, is that a prime area for extroverted introverts? And does that make me an introverted extrovert? (hint: yes I am, mostly).

I have, on more than one occasion, dressed up in fancy dress for a party. But the more I consider it, and the more I look at my natural reaction to being requested to dress up, the more I struggle to put the wishes of the requestee (who are requesting this of everyone, and aren’t singling me out, I know) over my own needs. Given my constant, innate desire for approval, the need to be liked by as many people as possible, I can confirm that, as the kids say, the struggle is real. I want to dress up in the best costume and have everyone at the party turn and stare in awe at how amazing I look and to praise me for it, except I want them to do all that without looking at me. Is that too much to ask?

A lot of this relates to my own body issues. I watched enough Gok Wan back in the day to know that my own internal image likely doesn’t match the reality but I spend every single day aware of my size. I pull my coat closed when it falls open, I adjust my position when I sit at my desk. Given I try and NOT draw attention to myself because I don’t like what I see, is it any surprise that I don’t want other people looking at me? Why would I willingly do something that is entirely designed to make me the centre of peoples attention, that is wholly predicated to make people look at me?

All of this angst lies slap bang in the middle of my inner quandaries, driven by emotions writ when I was a child, which have me simultaneously loathing any form of attention whilst at the same time craving approval and realising that to get the validation I internally crave I have to put myself in the spotlight now and then.

And yes, I’m aware that it isn’t healthy to seek validation from others, I’m much much better at loving myself these days than I have been, the base instinct remains.

So sometimes I go to parties and dress up. And more often than not I end up leaving them early because that simple act is the culmination of several days build up and by the time it arrives, and I’ve spent a couple of hours there, I’m done.

I’m still not fully sure where this is all seated though, and year on year my mood around Halloween seems to sway from indifference, to a mild loathing. It’s the same feelings I get when any mention of “ice-breaker activities” or other such enforced fun are mentioned, the same internal stomach churn, and the same sarcastic comments are issued forth.

I don’t like my reaction to those, nor to Halloween in general. I don’t like my perception of how others see me when I act this way, and I know many people think I’m just permanently grumpy. I’m really not. I’m not a curmudgeon or a grump, I’m typically pretty happy, I like enjoying life, and I do love hanging out with friends and family and having a laugh.

I recently bought myself a piano, a small keyboard, as the mood occasionally takes me to sit down and play again. I was surprised about the memories it brought back and how quickly my fingers remembered what to do, which note was where, and I still sit down every now and then.

Sometimes I’ll see a piano in a hotel bar, or as is more likely in a public space somewhere, and I wonder what it would be like to sit down at it and play something. I know I have the ability, if perhaps not the memory, nor the dedication to practising that it would take to do so, but I don’t. I know it might happen in the future, nothing is fixed, but for now I’m happy knowing that I could if I wanted to, and that I’m choosing not to, even if I’m not happy about the reasons why.

So no, I won’t get dressed up and go to the party like I have done in previous years, and even though I’m not happy about the reasons why, I’m always happy to get the invite and knowing that I could.

Poo emoji distractions

A thought experiment/rambling thoughts of the current state of the world and my space in it.

Seriously, I’m not even sure why I’m posting this.

My name is Gordon and I am a contradiction. Like many of you I am aware of the world around me through the media that I survey. I believe climate change is real and that we all need to do something about it. I believe that the rich and powerful are only growing more rich, more powerful, and more arrogant in their beliefs, and that is very much not a good thing.

This is not a post about Trump/Johnson or their ilk, I do not want to talk about entitled rich boys who bluster and lie and care for nothing. These are broken men in positions of power and yet somehow I am partly responsible for letting that happen.

Climate change I can impact in small ways. Like the man who planted a tree a day and rejuvenated acres of desert to forest, the decisions I make everyday have an impact. I eschew reusable coffee cups and bring my own. I have never used straws but now request them to be absent from my drinks. I recycle, I renew, I make concerted efforts to step away from the consumerism train that is ohhh so easy to find oneself riding.

There are other examples of course, small steps taken in the hope that they will collate and gather with others and somehow make a difference, even though we aren’t sure exactly what that difference will be.

So, that’s me. But what of the powerful, the elected, the rich white men who refuse to dirty their hands? How do we call them to account? Extinction Rebellion are on the right path, our governments need to step up and lead, but that requires those rich white men to change habits that would impact them, that would weaken the power they so so desperately crave, not to mention reduce the riches they are accumulating. Regardless, protests are building momentum and the early signs of change are starting to appear.

I return to the personal, how do I balance this all out?

I walk past two large chain coffee outlets on my way to work each morning; Starbucks and Cafe Nero. Which is better to get coffee from? I don’t mean which makes the better coffee (subjectivity be damned) but of them which is the company that is trying to do good in the world, that is holding itself accountable for the things it can control. I’ll bring my reusable cup but what are they doing to contribute to this and, perhaps more crucially, how much of what they say they care about is true?

I recently wrote about my internal switherings and lack of moral standing when it came to getting a new iPhone which, it turns out, was simply a way for me to weirdly justify a purchase of want over need. I’ve spent many years always getting the last shiny iPhone and all the fancy new features which, inevitably, I only really get to grips with towards the end of the renewal cycle just in time to get yet another new shiny model dangled in front of me.

New hardware is one thing, but each year and each upgrade, I’ve experienced the same set of emotions; a building excitement of the new shiny iPhone and, as all I tend to do is shift the software over, the slow burning realisation that it’s just the same that I had been using day to day, the same apps and experiences, just with a new case, or tweak to the battery life.

But let’s look more closely at what’s held within that smartphone, not just the parts and pieces and thingymejigs that Apple are so fond of soft-porning at us, but the apps themselves. I find myself sucked in to the usual social media apps purely because of the number of people I know who use them, so it makes sense for me to use them as well to make connections and have more joyous shared experiences, right?. After all, that’s what the Facebooks of our world promise.

And yet despite all those clever adverts and seemingly well placed intentions it is clearer and clearer that as our society disintegrates and crumbles into the powerful (rich) and the weak (poor), so these apps are conversely growing, merging and becoming so large that, within the spaces they create, they are now facilitating the very splintering of society that the early promise of social networks railed against, nay, promised it would counter.

Perhaps the phrase dumbing down is apt here as the further we delve into social media models and interactions, so we find our own usage of them has driven the problems we see today. News is now a snippet, a word bite with little exposition or explanation. Nuance takes on the weird vagueness of a word from ye olden days that was once common place but is now that thing that used to happen, you know, back then when we used to be patient enough to read a little more on a subject in a quest to better understand it. And today? Well, today we have beliefs and movements that are built on the back of ambiguously worded tweets and to hell with things like facts and proof. Both left and right wings create circular logics which expand and bloom and quickly lose all shape and semblance of their origin.

And it’s in our social media that these things play out day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute and then, before we know it, Brexit day is here and no-one on either side of the political landscape really knows what to do or even how we got to precisely where ended up and, rather than trying to figure it out, simply offer us more soundbites, more vaguely worded morsels (always a giveaway when they use big words), and ever more deliberately oblique informati… (godammit they’ve gotten to me as well), LIES, LIES, LIES.

And behind it all, the entitled, arrogant, rich and powerful white men nod and smirk then return to their private clubs and large houses while everyone else goes home to whatever debt laden building they occupy and wonder how they will make their credit card payments this month and, with all this raging anxiety, look for a distraction and pick up their smartphones….

And lo, they cry CONSPIRACY!

I’m not buying that though, and not just because I’m trying to wean myself of the trends of rampant consumerism…

No, I’m not saying this was all planned out – it would be a massive feat to socially engineer the populace thus, not to mention get the IT companies to play along – and given where we are today, with rising right-wing movements across Europe not to mention actually in power in the UK and USA, and sometimes it’s all you can do not to just stand and gawp as it all unfolds. And then you catch yourself and realise you need to try and do something, anything to help, if even only for your own sanity.

And so you say NO I do not need a plastic straw, and YES I brought my own refillable water bottle.

It were ever thus of course, and no doubt historians are all quietly murmuring along to the strains of a Reich-this, and an empire that. Mankind has always imploded at various points in time, so perhaps it all just feels the more unexpected and fervoured because, as well as the divisions that we have created, we are also simultaneously destroying the very planet on which we depend.

And lo, the end is nigh!!

Ahhh, but is it? As ever civilisation will take a hit and move on and once more find balance and 100 years later the ancestors of those self-same murmuring historians will look back and marvel at the decisions and events that played out and ended up with that particular buffoon as Prime Minister of the UK. Yet the larger fear is that in a few hundred years there will be no historians around to document the end of civilisation at all as the planet will have had its share of us and the remaining humans will be finding out that they are no longer the dominant species on the planet.

And having said all that there is, of course, the realisation that my own little social media bubbles are part of the problem. The polarising views we are seeing are only from those who are making all the noise, the vast majority of people remain ambivalent at best, looking on at various world events with a sense of detachment. Brexit is happening, but it’s happening over there, and with those people, none of whom we trust regardless of which side they purport to be on. Trump is real but only the brashest voices stand up to oppose him and so the cycle continues with voices becoming louder and louder, shriller and shriller, and it’s still just rich white men acting like the little spoiled boys they are. Why shouldn’t they, there are no consequences for them, after all.

So let’s play a game. Single use plastics are the bane of the modern natural world so we are cutting down our use of them. Climate change achievement unlocked. But what of the bane of the modern intellectual world, those flickering screens we scroll and scroll and scroll day after day, hour after hour to distract us from the growing list of horrors perpetuated from behind locked doors by rich white men?

I use Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp everyday. All three are owned by the same company, a company which has gotten shadier and shadier in spite of being hauled in-front of an (incompetent) panel of American politicians, as well as having had some extraordinary revelations on their working practices revealed to the world; yet it continues to grow.

With all of that in the background, and half a mind on reducing the amount of time I spend on my phone/social media, I’ve been wondering what it would be like to ditch all three.

Let’s start with the big one, the main hub of Facebook. I find it most useful for learning about local events and gigs, occasionally for organising an event, and for wishing people Happy Birthday.

If I wasn’t on Facebook the thing I’d miss the most would be the events. Facebook do have a separate app called Local for those though, but obviously that still falls into the world of Facebook which would defeat the purpose here. Equally it can be fun to see someone else you know is also attending and I’ve used that a few times to get together with people at events that I would’ve missed otherwise.

Everything else I do with Facebook, the groups I’m a member of, the memes I share, are all very easily dropped as the value to me is low. That scrolling feed of images and videos is a distraction and little more.

WhatsApp is the main form of communication with all but one of my friends. We have a family chat on which we are regaled with videos of my niece, arrange family get-togethers, and make jokes about jobbies to annoy my Mum (the wonder that is the poo emoji truly knows no bounds!). I have a few other group chats on there which all serve a specific purpose and of all the Facebook owned apps I think this is the one I’d miss the most. Now, if I could get everyone else I know to switch to something else (Telegram perhaps) then that would be great, but the friction involved means it is highly unlikely to happen.

Of the triumvirate, Instagram is the one I enjoy the most. I have long enjoyed dabbling in photography and it’s an easy outlet for the creative juices. It also still remains (that damned non-chronological ordered feed aside) the simplest to interact with and has managed to retain a base level of good feel to it. I don’t bother with Stories all that much but do enjoy scrolling through the images shared.

Ditching Instagram would be the hardest of the three on a personal level then, and I guess I can look to a return to Flickr as a go to place.

But what of it? Pull the plug and revel in the smug self-satisfaction of the entitled? After all, I am an affluent, middle-aged white man, it is my place in this world to do little and reward myself. On the flip side they say it is never too late to change.

And look at where I am now, pontificating over which of the many apps I have installed on my expensive new smartphone, is the least evil. I am Gordon’s sudden realisation of a first world problem.

Yet all of this, ALL OF THIS, is within the bubble I have created for myself, and yes it is a first world problem which means I need to be part of the solution. Yet I cannot speak to the current drug tendencies of teenagers because there is no way for me to know that without extending my bubble. Female genital mutilation? Aside from knowing it happens and is barbaric and awful, what else can I add to that conversation? Abortion, rape, religious prosecution, racial harassment, none of these things am I qualified to speak to.

And yet they are there, in my social media, slipping past from time to time. I have opinions and thoughts but firing MORE of those into social media, well, isn’t that what got us into this damn mess in the first place?

I am fully aware that removing myself, one individual, from social media is a fallacy, a drop in the ocean, it would barely register to any other than those listed as Friends and even then, how many would notice? No no, I am not looking for a self-pitying reassurance that I would be missed, far from it. Instead I am questioning my own inner conflicts, wondering when a stronger voice will take hold and push me to one side or another.

On the one hand I hold my efforts to be mindful of commercialism, my recycling/reusing attempts, and a desire to leave this world better than when I left it (or at least my teeny tiny part of it), and on the other the mind-numbing distraction of the social media which in turn has helped educate me about the need to be mindful of commercialism, that has shown how less is more.

It remains a quandary and I wonder if I’m just not strong enough to take a stand, too scared to turn off my social media feeds and hope that people will still reach out to me. They might, if I announce it, but I have to presume that over time, without the immediacy and front-and-centre attention spots that social media offer, I would slowly fade away like a photo of Marty McFly.

I look wonder what is coming, what the next news report will bring, and I find that that too scares me. It doesn’t feel like this cycle is close to ending, it is still building to a crescendo and hope is all that gives me a sense of lose purpose, scanning the horizon for any sense of a new direction or, perhaps, a knight in shining armour (likely a person who does not identify as male, riding what may be loosely defined as a unicorn, no?).

I’m old enough to know that knight is not coming. I know we got ourselves into this mess and as a single humanity we need to find a way out of it, or to at least reverse the direction in the hope (there’s that word again) of finding some perspective, of returning some balance in the midst of all this upheaval. I’m not hankering for a return to how things were but I deeply desire a future that is different from the one that is looming towards where I stand, helpless and seemingly powerless to do anything except stand and watch whilst it engulfs me.

Until then, I’ll need Facebook to make sure everyone I know is safe and to keep up with the latest news on Brexit, as well as the latest video of a dog trying to catch its own tail with hilarious consequences that end up, after 4 minutes and 56 seconds of rather dull footage being neither hilarious nor consequential in the slightest and with that disappointment I’ll let the next video play in the hope it brings sweet relief and I bury my head deeper and deeper in the social desert.

Until then, I will recycle and re-use, I will buy less and fight the desires of want over need. I will try and spread love and understanding and consideration, I will try and speak up to counter racism, sexism, and all other forms of prejudice should I see them. I will make mistakes but I will try and be better. I will share all of this on Twitter to help amplify the voices of those I support.

Until then, I will bide my time by walking in the woods and trying to capture the perfect image of sunlight through the trees that will look wonderful with the Clarendon filter applied when I post it to Instagram.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll send a poo emoji message to my Mum.

Such are the end of times.

At least I will go out laughing.

Gordon and Becca looking ahead

9 years later

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair… – Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities

It was around about now, some nine years ago, that the house my ex-wife and I had owned in Hamilton sold and I found myself on the hunt for a place to live. We’d agreed to separate earlier in the year, and had started making our own plans for our lives apart and this was the last vestige of our shared life. A tale of two lives indeed.

I had already decided to move to Glasgow specifically to the West End as I’d always enjoyed it’s mix of old and new; the grand spacious tenements, the constant buzz as new influxes of students descend on the area each year, the mix of working class, artists, and the aspiring upper-middle classes (so bourgeois darling!).

The timing was less than ideal and I quickly found myself upping my budget so I wasn’t in direct competition with the aforementioned, newly arriving, students. And so after some fruitless weeks visiting tiny box after tiny box, I finally found a nice flat with big rooms in a good location. It was an open viewing and there were several other people there also making appreciative noises, and so the next morning I resorted to ringing the letting agency 15mins before their office opened. Lo and behold someone picked up and the flat was mine!

It was a perfect base from which to begin a new chapter in my life, with my home city of Glasgow within walking distance. I moved in a couple of weeks later and not long after that I joined the local Yelp community, which remains one of my better decisions as I’ve made friends there that remain to this day. I was already using Yelp as a way to find places to visit, places to eat, and on my first ‘community event’ (a pakora evening in Mother India) I happened across a work colleague, what a coincidence, from there … well, I’ve mentioned this before (in what appears to be staggering foresight but, well, I didn’t know then what I know now).

The next years staggered forward with nary a plan in sight. My career was going well enough, a new role gained, trips to our offices in Belfast, Boston and Sunnyvale (California), and a memorable customer visit to the headquarters of Sears – a vast building about the size of two large UK shopping centres, which had two full size coffee shops as well as a massive 2000 seater canteen that had more food on display in one place than I’ve seen or since, it took us 20 minutes to walk from the entrance to the meeting room – and it felt I was on the right path, finally.

My career had always been a thing of change. I studied Electrical Engineering but left college early and worked in the local McDonalds before my Mum found a job advert for me which took me to a small cottage and started my first career in technical authoring (writing software manuals). A year later I was made redundant and ended up moving to the south of England with a job secured in Aylesbury, a year and a half after that another redundancy, a brief six months working in Reading and a return to Scotland (Hamilton) before I ended up at a software company that changed names five times, and owners twice, before they too made me redundant. A frantic few weeks (with a holiday in Singapore in the middle) got me to where I am today, contracting in a bank doing ‘IT stuff’.

Lesson learned, careers can be planned and targeted but will always be at the mercy of those capricious cherubs of fate. In a way I was lucky to go through two redundancies so early in my working life, as it made me realise that whilst you can have hope and dreams, and work hard to better yourself, you are never fully in control. I have chosen to leave two companies of the six I’ve worked for so far, and as I get older, so the work and the people become more and more important to me. Who knows where my next career move will be, but as a lot has already happened in the intervening nine years I can only presume the same for the next nine?

On a more personal note you could also say that matters over the heart and the intricacies of relationships are as much influenced by chance as they are fate. Not long separated, with a new flat, so came a new relationship and with it other new experiences, a chance to explore more of myself once more and a door that opened to yet another, simultaneous, relationship. It was all very new, and was as rewarding and fun as it sounds. To have two partners, who are fully aware and comfortable living in such a relationship structure was not something we happened upon, it took work and effort and emotional growth and many more things but I’ve written about being poly before.

So if you fast forward through the last nine years and I’ve moved home twice, been through two polyamorous relationships, attended Glastonbury a few times, been made redundant for a third time and subsequently switched careers, made many many new friends, and spent the entire time exploring and learning as much about Glasgow as I could. I also spent a fair amount of time discovering and understanding more of myself.

There have been family members that have passed, others got married, my gorgeous little niece arrived, both my parents health took a hit, and through it all I’ve been lucky to have had the love and support of my best friends and my wonderful family who have never batted an eyelid no matter what news I turned up with. I am very lucky.

It’s been a wonderful nine years for the most part. I find myself looking forward to what the next nine will bring and feel much better equipped as to whatever life will throw my way, although I must admit it does help that I have much more clarity as to what my future holds…

About a year ago life, as it is prone to do, threw me another curve-ball and it’s safe to say that I find myself at a very different place both figuratively and literally, one I would not have predicted as the freshly divorced singleton I was all those years ago. We moved in together early this year, her two wee staffies are now our two wee staffies, and I feel happier and more content with each passing day. We frequently comment to each other that whilst this has all happened quickly, it has never felt rushed and has always felt natural and right and easy and stress-free. We make each other laugh and smile. She is my best friend.

If you’d told the newly divorced version of me that this is where I would be today I would not have believed you. There are plans for the future and I am excited for them to arrive and every morning I wake up and smile.

Over the past nine years (and many before that) I made many mistakes and with hindsight of course there are things I’d do differently, but we can’t go back, we can only look forward and the path ahead of me looks so much richer these days. I will make mistakes in the years to come as well, but I take solace that no matter what happens I have people in my life who love me as much as I love them and who I can rely on (and not JUST because I know too much about them…).

If the last nine years have taught me anything I’d be a fool to share it with you as my life, my decisions, and the path I took to get to where I am today will not be the same as yours.

Yet if I were to pass on any learning let it be this; Say Yes more than No, surround yourself with positivity and love, accept that you have and will make mistakes, and focus on living life not owning things. Laugh more than you cry.

Who knows maybe the next nine years, with all the wonderful adventures it will bring, will see me finally embrace that advice for myself. Regardless I will face it all with a smile on my face and a heart full of love, and no small amount of dog hairs on my clothes.