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Topics - Demolition Squid

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Apple Talk / The Trams Didn't Get Me.
« on: September 30, 2013, 01:19:04 pm »
So hay PD.com.

Last time I touched base, I was being hunted by trams in Amsterdam. I then disappeared for a long time. I thought I'd pop my head back in to see what was going on with you spags, and let you guys know what was up with me. Be warned that this is incredibly spammy and self-indulgent, all about my life and woes... but hey, it felt good to write it all down, anyway. Maybe some of you will get a kick out of it!

Amsterdam was horrible. I went over for a conference, and it was nothing at all like I was hoping for. I wanted to discuss the subjects and engage with the material... almost nobody else there was interested in talking about anything other than their own research and sometimes not even that. Highlights included the woman who loudly and repeatedly asserted that all issues and subjects were fundamentally expressions of the repression of communist urges in western society since the collapse of the USSR, to the fact that the panel I was invited to speak on was originally billed to have four speakers. I was the only one there on time, one more turned up ten minutes late, and another forty minutes into the one hour talk. The fourth never appeared. Greatly disappointed, I skipped back home a day early.

When I got back, I was informed I no longer had a job. As I was working on a 'freelance' basis, I wasn't entitled to any notice period. I'd spent all my savings getting to and back from Amsterdam, and so, without any other options, I moved back in with my parents. I hoped at the time that I'd be able to jump back into work pretty quickly. The last time I was out of work, I didn't have any experience. This time, I'd worked for 13 months, I had a great letter of recommendation (my immediate boss thought I was awesome, and was actually in tears when she said she had to let me go... which was weird. Despite how shit it was for me, she took it harder than I did!) I didn't think it was going to take long to find another position.

Six months later, and I'm seriously depressed. I managed to have four interviews. The first literally never told me why they didn't want to hire me, never responded to my email or phone message inquiring why - I can only presume I did something so traumatically horrible in the interview they repressed all memory of me. The second said they felt I was overqualified. The third asked me to dance, and I refused - they said they were hiring another person who had demonstrated more 'commitment' to the company. I didn't realize that the funky chicken dance was such an important part of the modern office environment.

The most depressing one was when I decided to start going back for internships. I felt worthless, and I was willing to do anything by this stage just to get out of the house. I interviewed for an internship position with a major London marketing firm. I knocked it out of the fucking park at interview. It was less than minimum wage to start, but with a quick boost to generous levels that would let me move back out of home. The interviewers were both impressed with me, I was even introduced to the COO and head of human resources before I left. We talked for three hours, when it was supposed to be an hour long interview - I felt pretty confident I was going to get it.

Weeks passed with no response. I emailed them back, and they apologized for taking so long to get back to me. There was a far more experienced candidate, who had actually done the full time, fully paid role that the internship would progress to after a year, for six years. He was happy to start at the bottom and work his way up again. They complimented my intelligence, said that I clearly had a head that would be great in the marketing space, and wished me luck.

I was crushed. Honestly, I didn't want to do marketing anyway; it seemed like a horrible way to use my talents, but I did want to get paid and be my own person. It was the nicest possible rejection they could have given me... but how the hell can I compete for entry level jobs against people like that?

In the background on this, I'd been vastly increasing the amount of time I spent playing online roleplaying games. I was a huge fan of text-based roleplaying, where players essentially do collaborative writing to tell stories. I have been in these communities for about eight years, and when I was at university or working, that wasn't a problem. Without something else in my life, though, I began dedicating twelve, fourteen hours a day to the games. One of my closest friends IRL suffered a mental breakdown after being hit by a car (and reversed over, shattering his leg). Another couple had a baby. Another moved across the country. Days would pass where the only contact I had with another human being was through the game... and I began to prioritize my 'game' friends over my real life. The game had never let me down, it was always there to distract me. Its disturbing looking back on it, but at the same time, I am thankful I had something. I honestly don't know what I would have done, stuck in a tiny village with no money (jobseekers allowance was being used to pay off the various debts I'd managed to accrue), and nobody to talk to.

About four months ago, though, I heard about a seminar. 'How to Write for the BBC' or words to that effect. It was free, and my dad offered to take me there. I went, and it was genuinely inspiring. Not just because the man who gave the talk was great, but because of how much what he said I already knew. I've always dabbled in writing, and with the amount of roleplaying I'd done, I already 'got' everything he was talking about in story structure, dialogue use, and tone. What I didn't know about was the format used and how to break into that world. I've always dreamed of being a 'real' writer, but until I heard this guy talk, I never believed it was a realistic goal to set for myself.

On the way back from the seminar, I ranted and raved about everything we'd discussed. I'd taken pages of notes. My dad said it was the first time he'd ever really seen me really passionate about something that wasn't political. I'm not a very excitable person, really, but I was excited. Really, truly. It felt as though someone had given me permission to do what I wanted with my life.

I never wanted to be one of those people who is perpetually 'writing a screenplay' or 'working on a novel'. I was so terrified of being labelled a social dropout that, ironically, I became a social dropout. My self esteem had taken such a huge beating over the long period of unemployment and my consistent inability to find anything to apply my degree to that I was leaning hard on this game community (where I was considered awesome for my ability to string two sentences together), and refusing to do anything else.

We talked a lot about where to go from here. My parents wanted to support me (and I am hugely grateful to them for that), and I managed to get part time work at a supermarket cafe. There are weeks where I earn less money now than I would if I was doing literally nothing and continuing to claim jobseekers allowance, but it feels fantastic to be working again, even if it is only part time. In the four months since I decided to try and make a go of it as a writer, I've finished three short pieces, almost finished two longer pieces, and sent sketches in to the BBC. There's a surprising amount of opportunities out there, and even though the feedback has largely been 'this is good but not quite good enough' so far, I feel like I'm on the right track. Another competition comes up in two weeks, and I've got a piece read for that, too. The BBC accepts submissions three times per year through their 'writers room' project, which should hopefully be opening again soon. That's what I'm working on at the moment, trying to finish up my first piece longer than 20-30 minutes so I can submit it. I've no illusions that I'm going to get selected first time, or even get feedback; they estimate they give a proper critique to 1/1000 entrants, and then take forward 1/10 of those who respond to the critique. But I feel like I've got direction, and I'm enjoying what I'm doing.

Last week, I also finally stepped away from the world of online gaming for good. It hasn't been easy; being a part of that community has felt like a major part of my identity since before I was really an adult. But, I realized that it no longer felt like fun. It felt like an obligation, and it was cutting into time I would rather spend with my friends IRL or working on my writing projects. My buddy has recovered from his breakdown, and is back out and about. My two friends with the baby now want to try and get together once every week-two weeks to help them stay sane (and the baby is freaking adorable. She's called Eris, by the way. That made me laugh). I've started doing face to face tabletop roleplaying once a week with these guys and a few other friends I haven't given enough time to over the past year... and I don't feel like I need to supplement that with even more distractions.

But PD.com has also been a large part of my life, and I don't consider you guys distractions. The truth is, after moving back in with my parents, it felt embarrassing to admit that I'd taken a step backwards in my life. No job, no girlfriend, no home, no prospects ... and maybe it is still a little embarrassing that I have to rely on my family right now. But I feel hopeful about the future, and even if it doesn't work out, at least I feel like I'm making positive progress, now. I'm not just stagnating, and I'm not relying on someone else to give me work; I'm producing what I want to produce, and that's a great feeling.

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