October the Eighth

(here I am, rock you like a hurricane)

It’s currently just gone midnight on the morning of Sunday, October the eighth, and I feel like taking stock.

Partially for your credit, it must be said. The last post to be published on here went up eleven months ago (three hundred and fourteen days, to be exact) and so those of you to whom I speak exclusively on here have been treated to an unprecedented media blackout from the team here at JP Casey Industries.

But that face is that most of the practical realities of my life, and my general outlook on things, have changed considerably in the last year or so, and I feel like writing them down, or at least trying to name a few of the changes, will help me inflate my own ego through the medium of frilly buzzwords like ‘perspective’ and ‘introspection’ and ‘self-improvement’. Or perhaps I wanted to start blogging again, and a brief, ‘previously on JP Casey’-type post was as good a way as any to get started.

So the biggest change, at least according to conventional wisdom, is that I graduated. I received a 2.1 in English Literature and Language from UCL, which, I’m told, is quite a thing to have done. However, the direction of this change defies that conventional wisdom. I’ve left university with the overwhelming sense that I’ve not learned anything, that I’m a less capable and independent adult than I was when I started, and even less sure of the direction I want to take in my life. I feel like this experience isn’t singularly unique to me – in fact, most of my friends seem to be in an identical or largely similar boat sailing across the paradoxical oceans that make up our lot – and I feel like we need to think more intelligently about the actual role of university in society.

Sure, in some cases, a student will be awarded a degree in a subject that leads to a sensible and relevant career, or will give them useful skills with which they can find a sensible and relevant career. But for every one of those, there’s an English graduate who can kinda write tweets sometimes and is left with a part-time dodgeball refereeing position as the closest thing they have to a direction in life. Not that that example is based on myself, of course. No way. Not at all.

University, for me at least, provided questions, not answers. It made me think more critically about who I am and what I want to do with my time, but hasn’t given me the answers to those problems, or even given me the skills to go about answering them myself. It’s ironic that an institution that boasts of learning, knowledge and teaching is actually a black hole of tangible knowledge about oneself; maybe we should reverse the entire process, where students are brought in to ask professors about topics that they find interesting, in an attempt to discover more about themselves through the questions they ask, the answers they expect, and how they respond to unexpected answers. And maybe UCL could pay me twenty seven grand for the privilege.

Another significant practical change that I stopped doing everything. Yes, almost literally everything. I went from training six times a week for three sports teams to playing zero sports. From essays every other week to not writing anything in, well, at least eleven months. From seeing my friends, teachers and teammates every day to locking myself in my room for four days at a time, armed even with several water bottles and bags of crisps so I would be able to sustain myself in my self-imposed social exile, like the solitary dwelling in a bomb shelter surrounded by the nuclear fallout of socialising, the tumbling toxic clouds of conversation, the pungent radiation of human existence.

But then I started reading Asimov and I decided that metaphors such as people being equivalent to nuclear winters are workable.

It is true, however, that my calendar is decidedly more empty than it used to be, not least because I am, at the time of writing, unemployed as fuck. Which is a technical term for when you’ve been applying for jobs for four months without success, and are now equally afraid of not getting a job, as you’ll remain in your sad, lonely stupor forever, and of getting a job, as you worry you’ve forgotten how to wear clothes and talk to people in a vaguely professional environment. It’s a good phrase; I use it often.

I tend to do things in extremes, and that’s no more apparent than in this sharp change. I did enough for three people at university, and now am barely doing enough for a third of a person now that I’m a graduate. I’m perpetually exhausted, unable to work on ‘constructive’ projects such as job applications, writing and working out for more than three hours a day before my brain, knees or arms crumble underneath themselves. Maybe I’m lazy. Or scared. Or defeated. But I like to believe that my laundry list of extra-curricular projects, accumulated over a decade or longer, is evidence against such damning accusations, and ought to be considered more seriously than the messy four months of ‘Oh God Why Am I Awake’ nonsense that followed them.

The solution, then, is somewhat evident: do more things, but not so many that they burn you out. And I’m trying – I work three nights a week, not five; I read regularly but don’t pressure myself to do it every day; today I started work on a rewrite of my novel (yes, for real) and didn’t even set a NaNoWriMo-style word count deadline for each of the next 3,520,349 days – but it might take a while before results appear.

Which is fine. I’m not in any financial rush to find a job, and while my mental health is hardly perfect, I certainly have better days, which are not to be sniffed at.

But I guess the main change is that I’ve stopped looking for change. Woah. Profound af right? Someone get me a Man Booker prize. Is that Leonardo DiCaprio on the phone, asking for my involvement in an Inception sequel?

Joking aside though, I’ve developed a tendency to split things apart into neat chapters, and approach them as such, as if every chronologically separate part of my life ought to have a neat beginning, where I adapt to this new and strange setting, middle, where I encounter problems and try to work through them, and end, where I reach a satisfying conclusion and meet my Prince Charming. But divisions of chronology are not divisions of psyche, and the expiry of my stupid student ID that still reads ‘Casey Casey’ does not necessarily mean the expiry of some part of my person, and its replacement with a new character.

I’m still sad a lot, and overly intense and excited in patches; I play too much Bloodbowl and spend too much money; I enjoy writing but have no idea if or how or when to make it anything more than a hobby; I like jotting things down in extended lists of three but am wont to ruin an otherwise neat observation with a ham-fisted and fourth-wall yanking attempt at a joke.

So I am sorry that I’ve not written a lot lately, if these are things you have enjoyed perusing from time to time. I’ll try to keep these up but, as described above, am not pressuring myself to do anything, so another one of these might float across your reader or your timeline at some point soon. Until then, I’ll try to address the problem that I’ve written over seven hundred blog posts and still have no idea how to neatly end these damn things.

Swimming

Howdy,

I did a thing today. A new thing. A thing I’ve not done in years.

I went for a swim.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with swimming. I’ve always enjoyed it, but my pursuit of aquatic greatness has always been hamstrung; I was in the designated ‘you such, you swim widths not lengths’ group in school, and family members have been relatively successful competitive swimmers in the past, so my attempts to drown across the width of a pool always looked like abject failures in comparison.

I’ve also not swum for about two years. I know because today was my first time swimming with my pump, which was stunningly not a catastrophic failure.

My adventure at Cally Pool and Gym (yes that’s honestly the name of the place) was an odd one; as a Saturday afternoon, it was startlingly empty, a far cry from the mesh of bodies, water wings and squealing children of the pool back home. I was the only one in the pool for a good fifteen minutes, which was awkward at first as I felt the judgemental gaze of the lifeguards on my flappy, flaily back, but I soon settled into a rhythm, doing that weird variant of breaststroke I do with two kicks per arm stroke.

Then a grand total of three people trickled into the pool, and I had a small revelation. I feared the guy to my left with the swimming cap, and the ginger bloke to my right with the goggles, as they clearly knew what they were doing, being all kitted up as they were. But upon closer inspection, one was painfully slow and the other could barely kick his legs. But this isn’t to dismiss them entirely, far from it. While they excelled at technique and form, I was pretty quick; while I struggled with keeping my head above the water, they were slow in drawing each stroke to a conclusion. Each of us had strengths and weaknesses, and I honestly learned a lot from staring and the bobbing heads of randomers in the pool.

It hurt more than I would have wanted – I only picked swimming because it will theoretically keep me in shape without damaging my legs any more – and I didn’t swim as far as I would have liked, but it was still a great thing to do. I missed swimming, and I’ve found a pretty cool gym.

A good Saturday, all things considered.

Casey