Thursday, November 26, 2009

That's a very good question

The fact that everyone now knows I'm leaving has made for a strange week at work. Naturally people want to know what I'll be doing next; my usual response has been, "actually that's a very good question." Getting into the mental health industry is still on the list, but my latest idea is funds management. It's something I think I'd be good at. Last night I had a drink with a bloke from the tennis club; a few years ago he did the Everest Base Camp Trek and his account of that certainly gave me the travel bug. In short, I really have no idea what I'll be doing in 2010.

I saw Andy today; I didn't have a lot to say. After our meeting I almost had an accident in the car park.

I hadn't bought clothes for a year (I remember when I used to buy clothes most weekends) so last weekend Mum insisted she would buy my two pairs of jeans at the mall in Takapuna. Mum had almost given up finding jeans for me, but then she clapped eyes on the shop called Just Jeans. Oh boy. Every pair I tried on was too short or too wide or too something, and by the time I'd found some that fitted I was rapidly losing the will to live. I should be grateful I've got a mother willing to spend money on me (maybe the jeans will be my Christmas present) but I can't hack being in a mall any longer than is absolutely necessary.

The three of us played Scrabble at the weekend. Mum likes to make interesting words. As it happens the World Scrabble Championship is currently taking place in Malaysia. Last time a Kiwi won it. I really enjoy Scrabble but I could never be interested in playing it competitively because so much emphasis is put on learning lists of words, or to my mind, non-words. In fact I think competitive Scrabble could benefit from giving the official dictionary a severe cull. The addition of Q-without-U words such as QI and QAT removes an important strategic consideration - what to do with the Q - from the game. Do I just get rid of the damn thing or wait for a better opportunity? Serious players can just slap down QI for maybe forty-odd points, no problem.

We've had lovely weather the last couple of days. Let's hope the recent pattern is broken and the sunshine continues into the weekend.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Twenty-one days to go

I've just got back from my latest Italian lesson. The brass band next door are now playing Christmas Carols instead of the usual Simpsons.

It was good to have Mum and Dad up for a few days. The highlight was probably the very tasty meal we had last night at Gina's (an Italian restaurant on Symonds Street). I was lucky enough to win a $100 restaurant voucher in a raffle. Using up the $100 was no problem.

Last Monday, as promised, I informed my boss of my decision. I confirmed this in writing on Wednesday. Writing a letter of resignation wasn't an easy task - it's not something I've ever done before - but because I have nothing specifically against the company or any of the people I work with, it was at least manageable. I think I made a good job of it. On Tuesday I felt very flat - perhaps I was in shock. Did I really just quit my job? Now I'm feeling a lot better, probably because I was able to talk things over with Mum and Dad. My last day will be December 22nd and I'm happily counting down the days.

On Saturday I attended the Autism NZ meet-up for the second time. The turnout was down on last time - maybe fifteen or so - and at times I felt a bit silly and unhelpful. I wonder if I should try to convince Bazza to go.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

All White on the night

Last night Bazza and I watched New Zealand's World Cup qualifier with Bahrain. We saw it at Takapuna's Sin Bin; Bazza made sure we got there hours early to get the best seats. It was a good game between two evenly-matched teams. Obviously, with the exception of the Bahrainian (?) bloke who grabbed the third-best seat in the bar, we were pretty happy with the outcome. It wasn't until this week that Kiwis finally grasped the importance of the match. I'm hoping the national side can build on this. They should join the Asian confederation (surely next time FIFA won't let them get away with playing two matches each against New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu and Bahrain) and play meaningful matches against quality opposition on a regular basis. With the popularity of rugby in New Zealand seemingly at a low ebb, suddenly football has some real potential.

Tomorrow I've got a meeting with my boss about some work I'm doing, but I plan to hijack the meeting by informing him of my imminent move. I've spoken to Mum and Dad about this (they were supportive of my decision and the shock factor wasn't exactly of seismic proportions). We all agree that I should make my exit as amicable as possible, and besides, I have no feelings specifically against my company, or any of the people in it, anyway.

Mum and Dad are flying up on Wednesday, the same day that I'll be meeting up with my psychologist to talk about my "identity crisis". It was in 1998, when I started university, that I realised I was a bit lacking in that department. All around me people were putting up posters of Che Guevara, Cartman, George Best or Denise van Outen while my walls remained bare. I remember being confused. Why are you so desperate to tell everybody what you're "in to", how did all those posters suddenly spring up out of nowhere, and where did you get them from in the first place? I've only just scratched the surface of my lack of identity here; our meeting is sure to be an interesting one.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Whacked again

Our night tennis competition is played in a large complex; at the start there would be fifty or so players on the courts. By 9pm we’re probably down to about twenty, and from there the numbers gradually dwindle until inevitably there are only two: him and me.

Such was the case on Monday. We began with the doubles which we lost 6-4 6-2. We didn’t play badly but were simply outclassed. I was a clear underdog for my singles; I knew I would need to be at the top of my game to stand a chance. To my surprise I won the first set 6-2 – in that set I was at the top of my game while my opponent made uncharacteristic errors. Winning that set was a bit scary; despite the decisive score I was at best only a slight favourite for the match. In the second set his mistakes dried up and I was soon behind, 2-4 15-40. I dug my way out of that hole and after an hour of play brought up a match point. I’ve had considerable trouble closing out matches, but this time I was determined to put him away. Only I never got the chance. I returned his booming first serve but he powered away the volley. From that point I got more and more frustrated. To their credit two of my team-mates stayed to watch the end of my match, but even they began to annoy me. If you’re going to stay, please get off your frigging cell phones and watch the match! I lost six games in a row to fall behind 6-2 5-7 0-3. At 1-4 in the third I knew I was toast. Yet another match where I’ve tried my absolute hardest but fallen just short because of, I don’t know, something I did in a past life maybe. I decided I would go down fighting and would run down every ball, and boy did I have to run down a lot of balls. The games got longer, the rallies got longer, and he had me seemingly on the end of a string. I surprised myself with my ability to dig in. An hour after my first match point, I conjured up another two as he served at 4-5. More impossible serves. Match point number four. I hardly got my racket onto this one. Number five. Another first serve, but unlike all the others it was half-way up the service box. If I’m ever going to win this, I thought, it’ll have to be now. In poker parlance I pushed all in. The longest exchange of the match ensued. When my opponent’s final shot of that 40-plus-stroke rally sailed long I lay on the court, totally spent.

After that match, which finished shortly after 10:30, I hardly slept a wink. At work yesterday (when I eventually got there) I needed several cups of coffee just to keep my eyes open, so when I got a phone call from someone asking me to play again last night, I was horrified. After some deliberation I gave in and agreed to play. We had a close win in the doubles, then everything kicked off again in the singles. I started appallingly – I couldn’t hit a barn door in the first set, nor could I keep away from his killer forehand – but I finished up a 1-6 6-3 7-6 winner, the final tie-break score being 7-4. I was fortunate – I was only two points from defeat in the 12th game of the deciding set and was handed a couple of crucial free points in the tie-break.

Just prior to last night’s tennis I met up with my counsellor – up till now I’ve been (incorrectly?) calling her a psychologist. We had an interesting discussion but she certainly struck a raw nerve as we moved on to the topic of my identity, or lack of it. It’s something I’ve struggled with all my life, and will discuss it in a later post, but for now I’m just going to lie on the sofa and do nothing. After all that tennis I’m utterly whacked.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Watch this space

Yesterday's mystery team building wasn't as bad as I'd feared. Predictably we started with a planning session. In the past I'd have found all that marketing claptrap incredibly depressing, but because I've decided I won't be there much longer, I was able to let it all wash over me. And there was an awful lot of claptrap. We even had a quote from Nelson Mandela. I struggled to see how this particular quote had a deeper meaning of, er, "we need to make more money". The word silo was mentioned several times, or should I say a significant quantum of times. I thought a silo was one of those great big cylindrical things used to store grain; I couldn't really see how it related to an insurance company. There's also been a recent trend to use the word space when talking about subjects totally unrelated to square footage, or indeed interstellar travel. "We need to enhance our competitive position in the income protection space." "We need to achieve better results in the profit space." What's wrong with "we need to make more profit"? I really wish some people could do less talking in the bullshit space.

In the afternoon we went go-karting. Again. This is the second time we've been go-karting in a matter of months. When I finally do leave my job I still won't have a clue how to use Microsoft Access, or any of the other complicated programs we use, but I sure will know how to go-kart. I was a bit apprehensive about the go-karting yesterday, mainly because we were put into teams and raced each other in a potentially embarrassing relay format. But it was actually quite a lot of fun and there was nothing to be even remotely embarrassed about. Afterwards we had drinks, though I didn't stay for long. I did however get to meet our new CEO who happens to be a pom, so we had something in common at least. He also does Iron Man (a.k.a. Bloody Stupid Man) triathlons, and that's where our similarities ended. But he did seem to be a really nice bloke.

Today I played tennis for the first time in a little while. Getting on the tennis court gives me a good indication of the state of my mental health. After today's marathon (but not quite Iron Man) effort it would seem I still have some way to go in my recovery. Fifty-eight games, six sets, 32 players competing, it was far more than my brain could handle. We lost the men's match 6-1 3-6 6-2, mainly because one of our opponents was very determined to win, far more so than me. It's funny how I'm a lot less bothered about the results of my matches than I used to be. In fact I'm less emotionally attached to most things than I used to be. Whether that's something to do with my medication I don't know.
It was in the mixed match that everything caved in on me. We'd both been playing well - we took a 7-5 3-1 lead - but I started missing a couple of easy shots and even though we still had our noses in front, suddenly I didn't want to be there. Our opposing bloke took an age between points; this frustrated me because I was desperate to get off the court. I resisted the temptation to bash myself over the head with my racket, instead taking my anger out on the fence, but a few games later I punched myself in the forehead. Not particularly hard, but I can still feel it now. Sitting here at my desk in front of the screen, I couldn't imagine wanting to injure myself. But there are certain situations (long interclub tennis matches being a prime example) where tension gradually builds up within me, until finally, crack!
My serve had been working well for me all day, and at 5-4 in the second set I served for the match. I threw in two double faults, dropped my serve, and in no time the set was gone, 7-5. The third set was all a bit of a blur. I talked to myself a lot ("this is too hard, life is too hard") and sometimes even relayed these sentiments to my partner, who had developed a real dislike to the bloke on the other side of the net. I'm not sure what happened, or how it happened, but from 2-4 down we won four games on the bounce to take out the match. After our miraculous win, I had a chat with my partner. This was the third time I'd played with her; I felt I ought to give her some idea of what was making me literally beat myself up.

I've got more puzzles to send off to the States, so I plan to spend a solid day on them tomorrow. It was good to meet up with my aunt and uncle on Thursday. We ate at Mint in Takapuna; I had a "meat lovers" pizza. They were encouraging me to come down to Christchurch and look for a job here, but I think I'll be staying in Auckland for the time being. In my current state I really think I need some stability.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The beginning of the end

I've finally set a date by which I'll leave my job, for good, come what may. I won't mention the exact date here, but it's definitely on the horizon. Drawing this line in the sand is liberating if a little scary. What (and how) will I tell my parents? What will I write in that letter?

Monday and Tuesday were bad days. The effects of my medication - or perhaps my lack of medication - didn't help. I took yesterday off work; that lifted my mood slightly in the office today, but really I'm just going through the motions. And that's on a good day. On my bad days I sit at my desk, head in hands, just wishing I could crawl into a hole.

I enjoyed the pétanque on Sunday. The weather on Waiheke was great. We finished third out of eight teams, winning two and losing two, but with a good "goal difference". Phil made the final, playing in a different team from me, and was a tad unfortunate not to win the whole shebang. One of our games didn't end particularly sportingly. Every time I've been, we've had to play this French hippie who has dreadlocks, is always puffing on a cigarette of some kind, and has about seven teeth, all of them varying shades of brown and yellow. He's also very good at pétanque. The first time I met him I thought he'd be a pleasure to play with but no. He is desperate to win and, knowing that we're hardly pétanque experts, creates rules seemingly at will. This game was no different. But on the whole it was a good day. Having lived in dark caves for the last two and a half years, I realise how important it is to get some sunlight every now and then.

My uncle and aunt (who live in Woodbury, not far from Geraldine) are in Auckland on a rhododendron conference. I'll be meeting them shortly.

We've got a mystery team building day tomorrow. Oh man. It'll be funfunfun all the way and I simply can't wait.