Feeling exposed

Posted: June 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s late-ish on a Thursday night and I have been chasing my tail for the last few hours unsure of what to do with myself. I’ve been working on an application for a job in London working as an assistant editor on a respected political journal, and though I have a first class honours degree in Politics and, I think, all the language skills and requisite capacity for critical thinking necessary to do the job well, I doubt myself, and wonder if I am capable of completing the application, and, since I doubt my chances, if it is a worthwhile use of my time.

The application was something I found a few days ago when I was scrambling around trying to find my feet having completed a couple of projects I had been working hard for since New Year, and which provided the structure I need to function. I ran my first marathon in Prague a couple of weeks ago, and completed a course in writing the short story for which I had read God Knows how many shorts, articles and books on creative writing (some of which are surprisingly good), and endlessly puzzled over my own talents and temperamental shortfalls, trying to harness the former and strongarm the latter, the very day before I was due to jet out. Landing back in dark and dismal M_____ and driving back to the rains of C____, I found myself between dwelling places, between projects, well and truly out of love with the work I was doing, the place I was living in, and out of sorts with the people I was surrounded by, and, overall, in utter disarray, which in the coming days I was to express in blog posts and e-mails and God knows what else.

When I find myself in such moods, in the anomie of being without a focus, I tend to grasp around for one at length, running fatiguing sprints in all directions until I chance upon something that might be a negotiable path. This time that involved improving my Czech with a view to moving back to Prague, fucking around with the photos I had taken in Prague, reading Czech, writing in Czech, chasing Czech girls who have no discernable interest, planning out what I am to do with the many half-written short stories I have scattered around on manuscript pages, notebooks and computer files, planning to embark on a project to do a Studs Terkel and interview people about their work, moving house, watching Six Feet Under, fretting about my place in the world, and cooking. As ever, some of these things were positive, some less so, but all of them, while I was still without a viable all-encompassing project that might molify my mind, felt wrong, incomplete, diversionary.

I chanced upon an advert for the position while reading, or trying to read, the latest issue of the London Review of Books which I subscribe to and rarely read, so infrequently do I have time and concentration to meaningfully shoehorn it into my schedule. Though I had been focused on a move back to Prague, the job seemed like the kind of thing I could do. I wondered too whether London might be a kind of answer, close enough to home to be comfortable, filling a gap in my experience of life in Britain such as might broaden my fictive imagination, surrounding me with the kind of intelligent company I miss here in C____, and giving me some stimulating and challenging, hopefully reasonably well-paid work that might rescue me from the mess of McJobs of the last ten years since university. Also, since the deadline was fast approaching, it gave me the kind of short term structure, reinforced by urgency, that my mind is sometimes most comforted by in these moods.

It is a quixotic application. I have all the skills, but none of the on-paper experience. I needed to supply an example of my writing. I decided to submit both an example of my fiction – the same story I am unsure of which I submitted for the short story course – and to write a review of a novel I was translating from Czech while I found myself unable to write until I freed up my creative self once again back home with my Imperial Model B typewriter back at Christmas time. Still, it seemed to warrant an attempt, and I was energised by the sheer back-against-the-wall-ness of it.

And so I wrote, in scattered notes, pieces for cover letters, the review, pieces for my CV, and began to re-read the czech novel I was reviewing. It was demanding work, and it left me tired at a time when I was tired out too from some hard shifts at work, from some poor nights’ sleep having taken my ADHD meds at the wrong time, mis-timed doses of the caffeine which has never helped me, bad nutritional habits and lifestyle choices and the rest. In down time I ordered back copies of the journal from E-bay, booked up lectures at the Hay-on-Wye festival, and smoked the cigars which don’t help me sleep but which seem to promise, at times, a short period of heightened focus.

Still, I was unsettled. I was not running, nor doing any exercise, and with the caffeine and the struggle to reassert my diet having come back from Prague, I was eating crap and my head was spinning. Yesterday I found myself bumming around, avoiding the mental exertion of it all, and the stress of trying to work out what I wanted to do with myself on so many levels at once. I drove around, bought a couple of cigars, and hung around by the river at B____ with a long mental list of the things I needed to do: call friends who were worried about me, pay bills, write all the various parts of the application, decide if I wanted to be in London or Prague, if I wanted to be with the Czech girl who I was texting so much or the girl who was texting not at all, whether I should try to reconnect with the place I was at and where I had once enjoyed being, or with the people who I was so far away from round here having decided back in the New Year that I need to put my focus elsewhere than the place I was working and the people there who seemed to not want to know me.

I rang my friend. I rang, as I often do, with the feeling, so familiar to me, that likely as not, however much time we had spent together, and all that we had done, he rang and texted out of a sense of duty or pity. I have a lot of problems with trust and attachment, and have always had this feeling that I am other, that genuine social relations take place between other people and that whatever attachment people feel towards me is ersatz, more forced than is the case with others, grudging or committed out of some

[I discovered this draft on the 1st June, 2013, and published it backdated to the date it was last edited, June 4th 2011, because however I feel about it, it certainly shows where I was at at a certain point in my life.]

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