At the crossroads…
Before sitting down to write this, I finally watched Arcade Fire: Live at Earls Court. It was a surprise Christmas present from my parents, technically an extra to the Reflektor Tapes Blu-Ray, but since The Reflektor Tapes is a baffling self-indulgent nonsense-fest, Live at Earls Court is the main attraction in this package. Besides, I was there. That specific night, June 6th 2014, I was at that show. It was my first proper gig and, at the time, the best night of my life. So, it’s weird to now have a physical document of one of your personal pivotal life moments that you can view back with certainty (or at least as close to certainty as you can get with these things) for a reminder of where you used to be.
Four years and six months ago, I was coming off my first year at university. It had been pretty good. Turbulent, to be sure – my Granddad passed away from lung cancer barely a month into my time starting (he never even got to see my accommodation), the podcast collective that I had been a part of for eighteen months and which got me through some hard times collapsed totally by the start of 2014, the website that got me into writing about movies and which gave me my first official clippings shuttered suddenly in March – but pretty good. I’d made some friends both in accommodation and one on my course, gotten properly settled into my nice little flat, learned that I could live alone fairly harmoniously, managed to do alright with my university coursework. Compared to where I was twelve months earlier, I had effectively reinvented myself into a fairly solid and content person! (Plus, no traces of Type 1 Diabetes.) And here I was in Earls Court, dressed to the nines per the band’s request, dancing away any potential cares to songs from an album (Reflektor) that helped get me through the worst of the mourning period over my Granddad’s death.
Earls Court isn’t there anymore. They tore it down at the end of 2014 to make way for more condos and other expensive pieces of real estate that won’t be finished for another 15 years at least. Win Butler makes multiple snide remarks about this fact during the intermittent and brief stage banter between songs, the sneering contempt in his voice palpable. In the moment, being a Northerner who had no need to pay attention to the peculiarities of London’s property development plans, I had no idea what he was going on about and it was only when myself and my Dad got back to our hotel after the gig that we Googled and understood what Win meant when he snarked “get your bids in now, hope they’re cheap” before playing “The Suburbs.” I only had one magical gig there plus three successive years of venturing to the Eurogamer Expo, yet I feel extremely nostalgic for the now non-existent building whenever I’m reminded of it. In my various London trips over the years, Film Festival-affiliated or no, I’ve yet to go back to the Earl’s Court area. Not intentionally, like I’m avoiding some open wound that would cause me to break down in grief for a time gone by should I venture towards it. I’ve just not had any need to.
…I don’t know what that “story,” in the loosest possible definition of the term, was meant to signify. Anybody can put forward the veneer of making a grand pontificating statement about existence by stating where they are now and then juxtaposing it with a mention about where they were [x] amount of years in the past, regardless of whether there’s any actual meaning to be found in that gap or not. I was there in 2014, now I’m here in the dying hours of 2018, miserable, aimless, perpetually fucking terrified of my own mortality, and alone. Also, I developed Type 1 Diabetes despite there being no trace of it in my family’s history. DOESN’T THAT MAKE YOU THINK? WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY! On Christmas Day, I visited my Granddad’s grave in Broughton with my Nan. He lived to 63 before his cancer returned and his body gave out. I’m currently 24. My Nan told me about how my Great Nana lived to 101. I don’t remember much of my Great Nana, although I do have vague visages of the times when we all went to see her in a care home as a frail woman extremely short of memory and uncertain of who she even was.
…fuck, I don’t even know what that was supposed to signify, either. I do these year-end personal vents as a way to try and bring a sense of finality to my previous 365 (or 366 if the year’s feeling saucy) days alive on Earth. To help make sense of the random happenstances that make up everyone’s collective existences and attempt to put my continuing life into better perspective, since my broken evil mind is incapable of not fixating on the holes and failures and disappointments of my life in order to make it appear like a particularly boring Lars von Trier film. And also maybe that dumping my shit in one specialised place will keep it from infecting the other work that I want people to actually read and share.
But… I kinda got nothing this year. Unlike in previous years, my 2018 was characterised by static. Days and weeks just passing uneventfully with no major changes, no huge blows or massive victories. Where I started 2018 was pretty much the exact same position in which I finished it and the differences are ultimately minor. Only about six non-writing people talk to me regularly anymore, and they’re still spread about across the country. The friends that did finally stop responding to my messages this year (which was a smart decision on their part to be perfectly honest) were exactly the ones I expected to lose to either their own genuinely busy lives, them not feeling we were as close as I felt we were, or just passive-aggressive quiet passed off as forgetfulness, so there are no big blow-ups or self-re-examinations to relay.
I applied for a few jobs and got nowhere, save for two interviews that I bombed horrendously. My Mum has taken notice of my growing bitterness with everything, a fact she feels the need to relay to me on the nights when she gets drunk (which are growing increasingly more frequent), so that’s great. I was readmitted back into therapy/counselling uncertain as to what my big goals should be but definitely wanting to learn a way to combat my frequent anxiety attacks over death, then lost five intermittent months of my life I’ll never get back because they never taught me shit to help with that (or in general). I tried taking up solo exercise and immediately stopped the second that Circuits switched out the instructor who had to go on maternity leave with a guy because then my brain could only think back to Secondary School PE.
Look at me, I’m just listing random mundane shit. Maybe this is what growing up involves for working-class 00s children (or maybe it’s 90s since I was born in 94 but I have no idea how that shit works). It’s not a close-knit group of friends banding together to take on the world in the Big City and having adventures, heartbreak, heartache, some form of camaraderie. It’s living in your Mum’s house, unemployable with a broken brain staring down the rest of your life with an inbound indeterminate ending, as your mother grows increasingly unhappy with the man she’s decided to cohabitate with and seems forever perched on the verge of marching out of the job she couldn’t actually quit because she’s got no other skills and is also nearing 50, and the world goes to absolute dogshit around you with the likelihood of choking you to death in just over a decade’s time that you can’t do a damn thing about, and you’re just trying to cling onto the absolute last fraying thread of sanity and hope that you’ve got left for the sole reason that the almost certain knowledge of there being nothing else awaiting you after your body gives out is so totally petrifying that it simultaneously keeps pushing you onto the next day whilst also making your continued existence a never-ending anxiety attack because said end could come at any time and your therapists have done nothing to help you combat said attacks which stop you from being able to function like a normal human being.
A couple of times this year, I’ve caught my reflection in the mirror and briefly thought to myself, “hey, I look kinda cute.” In a way, that’s progress because I have despised how I look for about a decade. But these are brief thoughts invariably ruined by my disgust at this perma-stubble I have from never learning how to wet-shave. I spend several minutes in a morning contorting my electric razor in all directions to get every last hair; it’s back and insanely noticeable by late-afternoon. This year I’ve also grown increasingly resentful of my entire crotch region, how I’m forever having to adjust or scratch or reset my underwear because I can’t sit for longer than ten minutes at most before getting uncomfortable, how it wakes me up first thing in the morning even when I need the sleep and despite my gaining no pleasure from masturbating, how I’d be better off without it altogether since I don’t feel proper sexual attraction (and I’m never going to have sex anyway) and it just keeps reminding me of a gender I’ve never felt a true connection with but refuse to reject because I don’t know what the alternative would be like…
Now I’m just grousing randomly about a gender dysphoria I may not even have. I don’t know. It’s hell up in my brain, a million thoughts rushing around at once to an impossible-to-silence musical soundtrack that I cannot stop. I’m just free-associating a bunch of those together in the late hours of a Sunday night as they come to me in the hopes I may write something down which makes me feel better about this past year. Or not even “better,” just so long as I can drop something with some semblance of finality which distracts from the realisation that I have completely wasted a full year of my life. That I can’t even relax myself with a “well, at least it’s only a quarter gone” because I sure as shit ain’t living to 100; I’ll probably be closer to Granddad’s 63, so that’s over a third.
OK, new plan. List five experiences this year that were inarguably good. Maybe a grand overarching meaning will come about from there, or maybe you’ll at least read them and feel a bit happier.
London Film Festival happened again and even despite the extended runtime, lack of sleep, manic overstretching of one’s workload, and stress over poor planning that probably aged me a few years, it was my favourite year yet. Wrote a shit-tonne and maybe half of it was any good, which might be up on previous years I’ll have to check. Socialised with many people there despite knowing only one person from prior visits, which is a definite improvement on before and made me feel like I was a part of something, at least for a fortnight. Whether I go again next year is anyone’s guess. Maybe I shouldn’t in order to preserve this particular experience in amber. Getting off-track.
Did that Inflatable 5k with Lucy and had genuine fun. Iffy at the start due to unrealised problems regarding Lucy’s sensitive ears and the wind, but they eventually eased up and we just had fun clambering over obstacles like we were on 50/50 and chatting shit in the walks between obstacles because we were too lazy to train. Pretty sure Lucy still hates me for forcing her to do it, but I guilted somebody else into next year’s one so at least that particular fissure can heal. Plus, we got medals!
Got to check The Chemical Brothers off my personal Gig Wishlist by going to Alexandra Palace during the London Film Festival (sorta kinda). Had what I am fairly certain was a sustained 15-minute stretch of pure euphoria when they played “Swoon” into “Star Guitar” with a transition involving a cover of “Temptation” by New Order, one of my favourite songs of all-time. You know those audience reaction shots at certain festival acts where the person on-camera just has the most blissed out and pure look of ecstatic contentment on their face? Definitely experienced that for myself during that run, albeit drenched in something like 10 gallons of sweat and rhythmless-ly flailing my gangly arms around like a 4-year-old stuck in the body of a 24-year-old. Bought tickets the following month to their tour next year in an attempt to replicate that experience despite the obvious knowledge that such a thing will be impossible.
Had an unexpected reunion with Vicky, Milli and Josh from university in early April that kicked off Attempt #352 to Get My Shit Together when I was in Sheffield to hang with Vicky for her birthday, Milli had a rare break in her schedule before applying to Goldsmiths, and Josh was in town for a Student Media Awards thing. Rare moment of things just coming together quickly and it all working out. Avoided talking about myself for obvious reasons, but was nice to hear how everyone else was doing and briefly (wrongly) thinking that getting out of my hopeless cycle would be achievable within the year. (It was not.) This entry is also a stand-in in general for friend meet-ups, regardless of how melancholic I may have felt at the time.
Finally met Kofi Smiles properly in late-January when Paul from uni recommended me to be a guest on one of his podcast episodes about movies. Episode was never released, far as I’m aware, but it was just so great to be back podcasting again since that was a fixture of my life for so long (despite my never getting better at it) which effectively ended after 2016, even if it was just the once. Also, seemingly everybody in my friend circle knew Kofi as a friend, so it was nice to finally meet him in non-funeral-related circumstances and discover that he was a super charming and insanely likeable dude. He even met up to go see Sorry to Bother You when that got released, which he really didn’t have to do! Go listen to his BBC Radio show!
Oh, and got to dress as Daria Morgendorffer for a Halloween party. Sort of, costume needs a lot of work in future, but sentiment was there.
…yeah, still not much help. Sod it. I promised words about my year so these’ll have to do. It’s not like I can change my year or how boring I am.
For 2019, expect less articles. Technically that’s already true since only maybe 20 of my 107 articles from this year, which is easily the most-productive I’ve been since 2014 when you strip out Screen 1s, weren’t first posted on Set the Tape and they have a two-week exclusivity before I can cross-post. But I’m going to write a lot less next year. It’s time to move on, get a job that pays, because I can’t hit 25 and still be living with either one of my parents, and I spent so much of this year subconsciously putting that off because of my writing commitments. I’m not going to get paid for this, I’m never going to work up the nerve to pitch, I’m not good enough; I need to let this go for real, now or never. Maybe this’ll finally be the year I pivot to video, which is a thought I’ve had in my head ever since June when I saw a video essay about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and racism as wallpaper that was, in content and argument and references and often specific beats, almost exactly the same as my written article on this subject from back in February but in video form and delivered by a man with somehow even less charisma than me – and it’s very rare that I get egocentric about my work like this, so just imagine how watching that made me feel. But I also have none of the equipment required, no clue how to get started or do a decent job (or anybody who could help), and no charm or personality so that probably won’t happen. Point is: less articles in 2019, hopefully guaranteed.
Other than that… shit if I know. All throughout 2018, I’ve felt on the verge of giving up. Maybe I already have done and that would explain this past year. To tell you the truth, I don’t know who or what I am anymore. And even though I’ve spent 3,000 words directionlessly moaning about my state of things, I know I’m not special. I’m just one step closer to whenever my death may be, trying to keep it together in spite of that fact. You probably are too. Thanks for reading, either this or anything I’ve penned over the last three years of this site, five years of writing around the web semi-professionally, or eight years that I’ve been leaving my ramblings in random corners of the Internet regardless of how professional they were. (If you’ve read this piece specifically, I’m truly sorry for making you feel compelled to.) I’ll see you in 2019.