Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Status Quo Song

My official last day at work is May 20, but in reality I've not been there for ages. I go in, check my mail, potter about and come home. Spend varying amounts of time looking on line for possible jobs and then, depending on the weather, sit in the garden and slowly allow the darkest parts of my soul to take control of my mind.

My critics, of which I have many, could suggest that I've had a year to prepare for this and in reality I have, but, in my defence, the last couple of years have been odd and much of it through no fault of my own and I'm not just talking about slipped discs and arthritis scares. This stuff is the subject of a blog entry currently under construction and while it has a place here, it isn't going to be allowed to enter. The thing is, I prepared myself early, within a week of knowing there was a good chance I'd be made redundant, I was scouring the papers and the net for a replacement job. I had notional success too; interviews for 4 jobs (6 if you count the two on offer at my current employer), a second interview for one of them, but... always the bridesmaid. I have this theory that I don't actually get jobs from interviews and if you examine it closely there is truth in my theory.

I was never interviewed for my job at Comics International, nor was I for the work I did for IMS (in fact, it was me that went to the meeting with demands and they gave me them), when I came into the social care industry, my interview for the YMCA was on the steps of a co-operative vegetarian market on a cold February Saturday and with my current employee my 'interview' was half an hour chewing the fat with an old friend before he told me what the deal was. Even the Mayday Trust was odd; I went for a job as a support worker and got offered a deputy manager's post based on my experience. I'm beginning to think I give good interview to a point. There's always one person better than me. The story of my life in some respects and don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about it, I can just see a pattern over the last 49 years.

The question on the lips of some of my close work colleagues and the majority of my friends is, 'what are you going to do?' and the honest answer is, I haven't got a clue. One of my bosses, bless her heart, suggested I go back to journalism. I'm always careful not to do something hysterical in front of colleagues, so I said that I'd been away from it for too long, was far too rusty and a bunch of other feasible but largely bollocks answers. The truth is I'm not good enough. I was good enough for what was essentially a semi-professional comics magazine, but I'm a damned sight better 'journalist' now than I ever was when I worked for QCL and I'm still several miles behind most of the people I know. I'm not technical, you see? At least not technical enough to hack it in the hack zone.

One of the reasons why I've edited and serialised my 'book' about comics, was at the suggestion of an old friend in the industry who said in an email the other month, 'Why don't you get back into comics; ironically, you're about the right age to succeed now?' But, in reality, they might as well have said why don't you see if you can get paid for beating yourself up. Plus, while the serialisation appears to be well received by some, I've been spending a lot of time over the last week re-editing the coming weeks' entries, because they're just too boring and subject specific, but they need to be there. Plus, there's this thing about not liking comics; if I work with a kid that I dislike, there's a good chance the next one I will like. With comics, I despise them with a passion - the same way most addicts despise the drug of their choice. The thin line is far too fragile now and I'd upset too many people.

Obviously, remaining doing the kind of thing I do now is the most likely answer; but I'd just about hit the top of the tree as far as unqualified people go, at least in terms of pay and benefits. I could return to management, but I hated it the first time around and frankly there are several totally logical and uncontroversial reasons why that becomes an outside chance at best; equally, there are a number of reasons, if I could go that route, why it would suit me. Taking a step backwards looks like the likely course and end up taking maybe a £5k wage cut, returning to work shifts, nights and Bank Holidays, 6 years after I said I'd never do that again. But, I'm also now joining 900 other people on Northampton's dole queue and that's where the reasons I'm saving for another blog entry come into play; but essentially I leave my current employer with zero confidence that I can even do this kind of job any longer.

There's my little music sideline project, but that is a project, something I can do in my spare time with a couple of hours free. If, and we all know it's a big IF, something comes out of it, then great, but I've had too many dreams dashed to enter into this with nothing but achievable targets.

This is probably the main reason for my mental blockage - the half a dozen unfinished blog entries that I can't focus on - this blog has always been cathartic, even when it's got me into trouble and the truth of the matter is I'm worried sick. The wife might see it, if she does she's not letting it outwardly affect her - which, by the way, is a very good thing as long as she isn't letting it fester inside. I've always been able to put on a brave face; most people who know me know that I get grumpy, but they also a) treat it with the ridicule it usually deserves and b) know that it will pass, normally very quickly; but on the whole, I'm the man with the sunny disposition. Two of my senior bosses who I've been dealing with over the last couple of months have been inspired by my lassez faire attitude, my positive outlook and my jovial resignation of the events unfolding in front of us and I'd be lying if I said that wasn't what I do in most situations like this. I've always been a good man to have in a crisis.

It's when I get home and have the rest of the day staring at me that I become racked with doubt, worry, fear and hopelessness...

Still, mustn't grumble, eh? It's not like I've not been here before, is it?

Moving on...

Actually, no, let's not. I want to brag about something and by God, it might give me a bounce in my self esteem.

I am great in a crisis. I don't know why I didn't think of it before; probably because areas of self analysis didn't go there in the past. My wedding: my best man wasn't. I had to arrange everything he had a month to do in 24 hours. My shop: when the chips were down, instead of sitting burying my head in the sand, I got out and did things to avert the disaster. Ultimately it didn't work, but it gave me another year at trying.

Death: With both my parents, the wife's brother, various relatives and friends, I either ended up having to deal with the logistics; be the shoulder to cry on or keep calm while everyone around me was falling apart. I did my own grieving, but usually days, even weeks after the event. However, I don't do pet deaths anywhere near as easily, but they don't tend to be as public.

When I was at Comics International, probably the thing my old boss misses the most is my ability to solve problems. Give me a pagination table and the need to put a quart in a pint pot and I'd do it, seamlessly. Half a page of copy in 20 minutes - done and dusted. Technical glitches - even if I didn't know what I was doing, I'd fix it enough to get us by. Even if I wasn't there, I'd get a call asking me what I'd do and invariably we'd come up with a solution.

So when I came into social care, the best of me was seen when situations got stressful, potentially violent or just a bit over the top. If there was a problem to be solved, I'd solve it. From getting a forgotten kid an education to helping people when they think all is lost. The first couple of years I was with my soon to be terminated employer, I was working almost exclusively with the young people who didn't interact - at all. I had so much success, even if I didn't alter their course, we found out why it was happening. It was probably the happiest time I had there, I felt like my employer's crisis manager.

Perhaps I can think outside of the box; or maybe it's because I remain calm, because I have to, that allows me to think straight; see the obvious where others are overcomplicating things? All I know is I deal with another person's crisis with the same skill as I mask my own.


  1. I was about to dive in with a "I doubt there's anything I can do to help, but if there is, let me know", but that last bit seems to suggest that you'll be fine, maybe even relishing the challenge a bit.

    Still, if there is anything I can do, etc.

  2. Give me a job! ;) Or send me loads of money! Either will do.