“Stanley, why aren’t you doing your homework?”

And so another era of radio silence. This particular site may have lost whatever blood was going to it, but I still feel the need for some kind of outlet. Something broader, something I can throw out there, regardless of anyone everything actually seeing it.

Today, I need it’s help to figure some things out.

I resigned from my job in July. There were many reasons and I share some of those with others. Ultimately I’ve come to realise that I’ve never taken any risks, and I feel like I’m stagnating. I have a little money, so I’ve decide to take some time and figure out what I’m actually doing.

I’ve pursued  two main approaches. My original focus has been on a teaching English diploma; with an eye towards finding work while travelling abroad. A very logical and ambitious goal for me. Early on I maintained a huge amount of enthusiasm for this project, and I’ve been taking it very seriously. However, over time the process has become more and more of a drudge.

The qualification is earned through completion of two online courses and 20 hours of practical classroom experience. I managed to negotiate six months to complete everything – I’ve passed the practical component and completed 60% of Course A. The online parts involve units followed by ‘Progress Checks’ followed by a handful of ‘Checkpoints’ (essentially exams/coursework for the relevant units). I’ve halted at Checkpoint 2. Yes, they are challenging and require you to knuckle down a little more, but everything you need to pass them is in the unit materials. I just cannot motivate myself to push on.

You can plow through the units themselves very quickly, but I’ve increasingly found the process more and more unsatisfying. Yes all this work could lead to something amazing, but one problem I’ve always had is pursuing things that could take me away from where I am rather than work on who I am. Even on the other side of the world, I’d still be carrying me, and this realisation is unsettling.

I’m in my third decade (or Ryan 4.0 as I pretentiously consider it) and I’m yet to figure out what I want. All I know is I struggle with ties – good or bad, everything is shackles. Right now I want to play by my own rules, I want to focus on what I want and only satisfy obligations to myself. I’ve done a great deal of work the last few years: learned a lot, tested myself, achieved many things I would never previously believed possible. But I can no longer ignore that the enduring thread has been, for longer than I care to dwell on, that I am miserable and feel empty inside.

At the risk of turning this into a therapy session, I’ve been through some pretty fucked up shit. There are many many people who have it way worse, but for my part I don’t feel it’s unreasonable to note that I’ve had more than my fair share. For so long now I feel like I’ve been bleeding out; head up, marching on but increasingly limp.

The second approach has involved film. For the longest time after university, I did nothing related to film-making. Eventually I began writing CD/gig/book/film reviews for a sadly defunct magazine called Nocturnal. Recently, thanks to contacts made during that period, I’ve become typing for a website called Filmwerk. Unpaid work but well worth it. I get to see movies for free, at home and at screenings, many in advance of their theatre releases. I’m making contacts and it’s exciting to see where this could lead.

Alongside this, I’m involved with a film podcast, the first episode of which will be released soon. I also want to make my own videos/podcasts/features, for which I’ve created my own site (Violet Cause). This all ties into the conundrum of my life right now – I previously had a stable job, a career, one which I was pretty good at. I was making a living but increasingly felt like I was imploding. I could pursue a career taking me abroad but to do a job I’m not especially energised by. Then I could pursue things which tap into what I love but offer little or no security.

This isn’t an uncommon puzzle, but I have to be conscious of the fact that I tend to detonate when things feel far beyond my control. Basically I need to find reasons to keep this thing going on my own terms, because I want to keep going.

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This One talks about Death

This is one I’ve always needed to write.

I won’t call it an epiphany. Lightbulbs can’t take this long to come on. Call it a lingering, teasing subconscious knowing.

Ask me about my earliest memories and all I can summon up are impressions. Emotions, colours, oblique images of sunlight and green leaves and running running running. Imagination is a good word. In my head. Always in my mind.

My earliest cohesive memory is of the day my father left home. Chasing after him as he charged through the front door. Mum and dad had spent what felt like days in their room. I walked in at one point and was immediately turned out again. Memories are unreliable at the best of times. This is what I recall.

Divorcing couples is mundane. The significance of this event has less to do with the details and the drama. For me, it was the moment I had to confront a world outside of myself.

I worshipped my father. He was funny, kind, knowledgable, creative. Over the years I resented my mother because she dealt in what’s practical, what’s necessary; while it was all magic with him. Over time I matured and became wise to the wonder in her too, as well as appreciating the sacrifices and true value of everything she had done for me and my brother. I can’t say I ever hated my father. I resented what followed in his wake.

Calling it “The Damage” may be a little extreme. My comic strip mentality wants to call it an “activation event” – a shock preceding a critical change. Looking back I consider that my whole life has been about the fissure between my outer and inner worlds: again a fairly mundane struggle, but more overt in people “like us”.

The other night I was casually regarding my toes. Picturing what my feet would look like with certain ones cut off. Considering the permutations and how my walking would be affected. I haven’t cut myself in nearly ten years but I think about it every day. When I wake up and before I go to sleep. My right arm, which took the brunt of all the Red back in the day, feels heavy. Sometimes like lead; and I just leave it hanging it at my side as I walk

Is there any worth in writing a suicide note, even if you have no cause or intention to follow up on its promise? Should it be something everyone does – setting out the reasons you want or need it to stop, in the hope that you’re heading off trouble ahead of time? Sign offs have never appealed to me, because you can never cover everything and honestly why would you leave that behind? Something tangible, crafted in your misery, tainting the fingertips of those you’ve left behind.

I won’t call it an epiphany, because deep down I’ve always known. I’m waiting for it to stop. That it’ll end “before my time” seems inevitable to me. I cannot cross the divide – I’m still that little boy caught between two worlds, and the bleed is too much to take on sometimes. I have to be this way because all bases must be covered.

I don’t want to do my part anymore. I want to live.

Transitions

Today’s Daily Mirror features a two page story on a British transgender couple who are waiting to receive confirmation of their respective transitions before getting married. The Huffington Post also carried this story back in July, as part of a thoughtful and insightful feature published on Gay Voices.

My friend “A” recently completed her transition. We first met nearly two years ago when she was still a he, and had come into the store looking for books on gender identity and sexuality. Previously I’d only ever met one other transgender person: the recently reassigned husband of a man I was in hospital with. Given the strife this had put on the latter’s marriage I was (and remain) impressed with the confidence and candour with which A is able to discuss her experiences.

It would be idiotic of me to claim any expertise on this subject. For any true insights into the lives of transgender people and their loved ones, I heartily recommend gendermom – a mother’s blog about life with a trans daughter. For my part I have to wonder about my comfort with this issue. I come from a working class background lacking what you’d call progressive ideas around status, race, identity and sexuality. I’m confident that my family members who denounced blacks and faggots would struggle to even grasp the concept of someone born into the wrong body, even struggle to devise suitably offensive epithets.

Unfamiliarity breeds contempt. Contempt, suspicion, fear…a whole litany of negative responses. As kids we’d belittle and tease one another by calling each other gay. Its a cultural thing, and as with prejudicial attitudes towards the mentally ill, its likely to stem from a lack of contact with, and questions raised by, people of certain dispositions.

The Brothers Hitchens queried the validity of the term ‘homophobia’ on several occasions – stressing that a more literal reading of the word’s etymology is “fear of the same” as opposed to fear of homosexuals and homosexuality. Dear departed Christopher would run with this theme, noting how often homophobia rises from a doubt and disgust within the homophobe. Spectrally such doubt and disgust is common in transphobia and psychophobia – if their gender identity could be misaligned, what about mine? Could I hear voices too?

I often come back to a long ago conversation with my aunt. Mass immigration is a hot potato in these parts, and she was bemoaning the number of african families moving into the area. ‘I want ’em out’ she told me, ignoring one particular irony – one of my families’ best friends since my uncle’s 70s childhood is “Black Tony.” I pointed this out to my aunt. ‘Oh that’s different. That’s Tony.’

How would things be if we had  “Gay Tony” or “Trans Tony” or indeed “Schizophrenic Tony” in our lives? Everyone in my family knows  my story and diagnosis, and yet its all wary eyes and awkward shuffles when the topic comes up. Even as a simple statement; a matter of fact in a conversation, with all the emphasis and drama of someone announcing their transition from full fat to semi-skimmed milk.

Perhaps some would argument that because mental illness can have fewer, conspicuous traits (for example mincing or removing your dress and becoming a bricklayer), its harder to get a handle on, and know how you’re “supposed” to respond. Everyone gets depressed, but not everyone dresses like Freddie Mercury, so demarcation is complicated.

An obvious solution to this is to treat us like people. Easier said than done, but once the step is made positives aren’t hard to find. Young couples like Jamie Eagle and Louis Davies, Arin Andrews and Katie Hill are cases in point. These news stories don’t invoke the spirit of the freak show – sure they’re curiosities, but the emphasis is on people finding themselves and young love.

‘In May 2010, Jamie was diagnosed as transgender.’ This was the only part of the Mirror story which made me wince. The ‘D’ word. I’ll admit I have developed a particular sensitivity to clinical terms used in certain contexts – maybe Miss Eagle’s eyelids wouldn’t bat at all. Language assails us in different ways, and I immediately recalled how the Blessed APA no longer consider being transgender a mental disorder.

Curiously another part of this story drew my attention – the couple are from Bridgend County in South Wales; a part of the country regrettably known for its high suicide rates. I’m not drawing any connection here. I mention it because, as part of my own particular disposition, I see patterns and peculiar associations everywhere. Bridgend was a place I used to pay special attention to.

That this was the only negative I could find in the piece – one drawn from the quagmire of I – is a source of something approaching optimism and reassurance for me. Some kind of signal that our culture isn’t collapsing in on itself; folding into something rancid and inherently dismissive of the rights, needs and simple truths of the individual and those important to them.