Saturday, December 31, 2011


Geraldine Cinema changed hands 18 months ago and it no longer seems to show the best movies. The flip side of this is that live bands now play there. Last night I saw the Shot Band with my parents. The band hail from Wellington, just like many of New Zealand's best singers and musicians. They were joined by some local acts including a young woman of about twenty who sang in a dark, almost medieval style. It was a good evening's entertainment, exceeding my expectations, and if anything the dilapidated old cinema added to the ambience. At just $15 each, it was exceptional value.

Last week we watched the Royal Variety Performance on telly. A real stand-out performer for me was Sam Wills, a mime artist known as The Boy With Tape On His Face. His act was simple but very clever at the same time, and showed me how some blokes of my age make a living. Not everyone applies on Seek for the privilege of pumping out pointless pieces of paper. I Googled him and was surprised to find that he was a Kiwi. Not only that but his performing career began in Timaru, just like Hayley Westenra who was also a Royal Variety performer. I know who I would rather see. The subject of Miss Westenra came up at work recently; we all agreed on one thing: none of us could stand her.

A few hours from now another year will have slipped by. I get on quite well with the head of our department at work but he's very much a product of last century. He's never quite sure what to call years in the modern era. He normally comes out with "two-eleven"; I can tell he longs for the simplicity of "eighty-two".

Two-eleven, or twenty-eleven as I call it, hasn't been a bad year but it took an unexpected path for me which was at times very stressful. My decision to take the Wellington job was without a doubt the toughest decision I've made in my life. For the first time ever I drew up a list of pros and cons of staying and going, assigning weights to the outcomes. It was a close race which staying won with a score of exactly nil. So I literally couldn't win. I recently learnt a new word - zugzwang - which describes a situation in chess where every possible move puts you in a hole, so to speak. My decision was a zugzwang - I was choosing between two undesirable options; I'd rather have stayed where I was. While waiting for my offer (or not), I had another interview with a company called One Path, aptly named because after ten minutes of the interview there was only one path I was interested in and it was marked Exit. In the end it was probably the possibility of regret (if I didn't take the job) that swayed my last-minute decision to accept.

My first six weeks or so in Wellington were tough. I was in a strange town where I didn't know anybody (I still don't really), in a job I basically didn't want. I was depressed so I saw the doctor who nearly doubled my Efexor intake. Things improved, but whether it was the drugs or just getting used to my new home I don't know. A real turning point was the trip I made to Auckland in July. It was great to catch up with Richard and some of the others at the autism group but I found Auckland a depressing place and was glad to get back.

I don't plan to be in my job twelve months from now but plans rarely work out. Getting up in the morning with precisely zero chance of doing anything meaningful in the coming day gets to me after a while. If my job wasn't supposed to have any meaning in the first place, I could handle that a lot better, but the fact that it's built up to be something of vital importance, and I just don't see it, makes me think there's even wrong with me than I originally thought. The whole corporate thing will always be a struggle for me. When it comes down to it, I've never been a team player, and the bigger the team the more difficult it becomes. I feel a sense of guilt when I compare myself to a teacher or a mental health worker or even an artist, who gives something to the world almost on a daily basis.

I'd love to feel that I was good at my job. I did get that feeling in my earthquake work. That boost to my self-esteem meant that I cared what I looked like when I left home in the mornings. I tried to look like me. In my current job I just try to look vaguely presentable, putting on the first shirt that I can find.

A year ago I'd never have imagined I'd be a property owner. I'm very glad I did it - I think my purchase was a sensible one - but I'm not excited about it as perhaps I should be. That word has been used by various relatives in the past week: "How exciting!", "You must be so excited to have bought a house!" But really I'm not. I'm relieved, I think I've made a good financial decision, and it will be "nice" to have my own space, but that's about it. It does bother me that excitement is an emotion largely consigned to the past. Is it the job or the drugs, or both?

Tonight we'll be going to the Caroline Bay Carnival for New Year's Eve. I'll probably be forced to sit through a concert with music from Barry Manilow or Daniel O'Donnell before throwing a few dollars at the chocolate wheel.

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