' I started this November habits workout today. Basically I am abstaining from fast-food, drinking and wanking among some other goals. It serves a few different functions. It helps to break some of the destructive routines I seem locked into. It is also financially sound as it takes into account a lot of what I spend my money on. Health benefit is the third prong of this trident of outcomes. After Thursday nights near collapse I realise I need to do something about the smoking. I am becoming more and more compelled and beginning to propel myself towards Georgia.'
Abstinence has its own unique pleasures but they are all moderately masochistic and almost always transient by definition. For instance I may take pleasure from denying myself chocolate but this pleasure is derived from denial of a much more obvious pleasure. Of the three habits I specified above I think I find drinking the easiest to repress. The reason for this is, I think, a logical one: When I drink I drink in a stereotypically Irish fashion, that is to excess! The excess itself doesn't necessarily provide the high that precipitates the pleasure, rather the pleasure is to be obtained in the slow act of getting high. What the excess does deliver in due course however, is a vicious reprimand that feels as if your brain is being bludgeoned to the perfect point between maximum pain and death. We just call it a hangover. And it is the prospect of evading this self-inflicted torture that makes abstaining from alcohol a much easier play than the others.
Of the others, I suppose the masturbation moratorium is worthy of some comment. This really is a masochistic reward as the body is bellowing for a release that it is being refused. It is a bodily function remember and the problem with bodily functions is that the compulsion for satisfaction multiplies for as long as the function remains less than satiated. Basically the little buggers are ferociously determined to get out! This makes it a particularly testing program to adhere to and one I didn't quite manage in the end.
The bottom line betrays, in a less than subtle fashion, my feelings towards a female at the time. Of course it may be that I was just a deprived horny wretch, out of my mind on pheromones and lust.
Thursday 6th November
Lying in bed with someone on my day off still sounds pretty good to me today. I don't think it is too much to ask but I am unwavering in my conviction that it should not be with just anyone. Even so, a day in bed was probably a little more commitment than I could suffer at that time. Anyway, having sequestered myself from the dating scene, being a lone ranger was always going to be the result.' I am lonely. A lone ranger riding. And I want sex and eye contact and lying in bed with someone on my day off. The thing is though, I don't want someone to be anyone, otherwise I expect they would have been by now. Perhaps I am wrong on this point but I seem to have made myself incompatible, like an old iPhone charger. Maybe I can only work with something perfect. I doubt the outward me comes close to reflecting the inner me. I watched Hitch talking about role models today. He made a good point about how people try to replicate the lives of others rather than simply use them as inspiration . He is right and I do it.'
Hitchens himself is probably one of the role models I have most attempted to replicate myself. A more engaging public speaker I have never witnessed. A man with erudition and conviction spilling out of every pore he was a supreme hero to many people, like me, who aspire to but fall pathetically short of his exceptional talents. As Sam Harris asserted in a tribute to him after his death, "The man had more wit, and style, and substance than a few civilisations I could name."
Wednesday 19th November
' I need to begin considering what I am going to do next year. The more time I spend with engineering the more sure I am that I don't have another year at DKIT in me. Travel the world, take Georgia with me and write polemics on the world. Dreaming. But getting a job abroad is an exciting prospect for so many reasons that I think it might be the only option worth pursuing. I want to learn a language, I really do. I want to see something different, to broaden my mind. I'm just bullshitting all the time, I don't know anything. It's funny though because I have felt more like myself in many ways this week. Especially in admitting my tastes, showing my opinions and arguing that I am right. Even with the refusal of extra hours I am showing some repressed assertiveness. Despite this, I have been told repeatedly that I am about to crack.'
Next year is now this year and although I am still less than convinced that I have another year at DKIT in me I have just recently reapplied. I feel as if it is going to be more difficult to maintain the urgency this time around but I am hoping I may be pleasantly surprised. Actually a sizeable portion of the reasoning behind me pursuing this extra year is so that I have more potential choices for employment, from which I may be able to procure for myself an alternative country of residence. The education I receive from being in another country usually outstrips that which I get from books and study.
On the point alluding to admission of my tastes I fear it must have been an exception. I am typically very shy about revealing my most true pleasures, especially in unfamiliar company. In fact I have become conscious of a rather deflating character flaw that leads me to speak much more passionately about those things that I dislike than those that I enjoy. I don't see this as a particularly attractive feature in others, on the contrary I delight in hearing people speak passionately about things the really love, so this one goes on the long list of self-improvements.
Friday 21st Novemeber
' You know man, sometimes it's all okay. I have work tomorrow but then I have that one day off that I have been pining for. The beard is going on Sunday; I hate it and it looks ridiculous now. Last night before I slept I had this overwhelming nostalgia for those weekends on the beer. Perhaps it came from a fear that I might never do it again but it was a dreamy sensation. It felt like good memories and intoxicating anticipation. With Georgia there is no hope. She is entrenched in a live-in relationship and desires to return home. I'm not sad. I want to nail my exams. So I must begin study early.'
Sigmund Freud wrote that "only the context can furnish the correct meaning." He was referring to the interpretation of dreams but I trust it is okay to apply it to a diary entry. Even if it is not okay I am going to go ahead and do it anyway. The fact that I seem to have been so exceedingly elated at the prospect of a single day off can be contextualised by the severe lack of days off I was getting at the time. A single day off in the face of college five days a week and working some nights and almost every weekend is, for me, like it was watching Michael Schumacher overtake Hakkinen for the lead of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza '98. I was so happy, looking back they were both so sexy!
To further furnish the meaning of the extract above I must relay that the nascent shoots of my bearded growth began revealing themselves in mid/late October. However as October gave way to November and these shoots had progressed to what could be described as a moderately thick beard, I found myself unwillingly bound to my facial hair as people began to believe that I was allowing it to lengthen in support of some charity or other. Of course I never was but it was the month we were in and so I went along with the charade for as long as I could accept looking like a hobo sailor. To be honest I never really enjoyed having a beard but it was only in the few days previous to this that I realised just how utterly ridiculous my appearance was. When I finally overcame the pretence and shaved the damn thing off I did sojourn briefly as a man with a moustache. I don't think this is a man I will ever want to be again. It could only be detrimental to my overall life chances and surely increase my chances of a criminal conviction. Trust me, I still have the pictures.
The nostalgia visited upon me that evening, I suspect, was a function of a young man who, remembering something that he once enjoyed terribly, is struck by the impression that he probably won't ever enjoy it again the way he used to, even though at times he may want to. Those weekends on the beer provide a backdrop for many of my fondest memories so it seems natural that I might retain a tinge of regret at the thought of losing them completely. But onwards and upwards.
Tuesday 25th November
' Sometimes it surprises me to think of just how much work I have put into this semester. I should be proud to have taken this fairly significant step forward. For someone who has been negatively disposed to complete apathy and painful sensitivity, constant application has been unattainable. When I think of how unsuited to engineering I am, how easy it would have been to keep on working for money, how depressed I've been for over 10 years, I must allow myself some satisfaction for what I have been able to do for the last 10 weeks. The thing now is to keep the wick turned all the way up.'
Sometimes I think that almost nothing is important enough for me to care about and this can stimulate lack of effort on my part. I haven't always been disposed towards sustained effort in anything. Usually my capriciousness leads me to short-term interest and a terminal inability to complete a task. For instance I might begin learning how too play the guitar or how to speak a new language but I soon get bored, query why I began in the first place and find something more interesting to do. This is a cyclical affliction.
I suppose this would explain why I was so proud of myself for the relatively small achievement of working hard for ten weeks. I say now that it was a small achievement but all achievements are relative and personal.
Wednesday 3rd December
' I bumped into a little lady I used to know. If I haven't mentioned her name in this diary up to now then, take my word for it, there has been a massive change in me. Even the fact that I am unsure whether I have mentioned her or not is a sign of the difference. Shocked to see her at first, I found some composure and made the effort to go chat with her and her mother for a little while. It was fun, like old times almost. I can tell you now, she once consumed me completely. Every single thought I had was coloured by her influence. I clung to her like a newborn at times and it all fell apart thereafter. It occurred to me afterwards that despite all of our fallings-out over the past year or two that she always believed in me, saw my capabilities. Aside from that I am fretting about my social awkwardness. It feels terminal. I think I have lost my sense of humour. My sense of fun too.'
I have always, until recently, been predisposed to faintly ridiculous and often fatal attractions. Perhaps the word fatal is a touch strong, no-one died because I fancied them but you get the picture I'm sure. Boyfriends have often been a pre-requisite for girls I have had crushes on. Throw in the occasional pregnancy and a couple of thousand miles and a pattern develops displaying my propensity for finding obstacles. Actually it is a talent I haven't lost.
The subject of the extract above was another one of those doomed attractions. More than the others this one fucked things up for me with this person. She was a very close friend. Still is I think, just in a completely disconnected way now. At some point along the way the vision of her in my eyes transitioned from that of a mate to an object of sexual desire and physiological necessity. I did suppress this for quite some time but I spoke up one day and let things deteriorate afterwards. It is a shame. Truly I wish now things had remained as they were before but that's all gone now.
' I am still struggling to learn new things. I find it extremely difficult, time-consuming and exhausting for me to understand anything properly. It is making me regret the wasted years more than ever. Some things you won't ever repair. I remember when I was younger that most things academic came effortlessly to me and when it didn't I always had enough to get by. I never ever thought that anyone in St, Paul's was more intelligent that me. Now I know I'm not even close to the top. But I am happy that I want to know things. Sean's party is going on downstairs so I will leave my internal monologue to a more learned self tomorrow.'
As much as it deflates me to admit it, it is true that it becomes much more difficult to learn things as you get older. I always thought of that as the stock excuse of lazy adults who were unwilling to put the effort in any more. But in my case I was so much more intelligent as a teenager than I am now and it sickens me to think of how I wasted all that potential I once had. Now when I attend DKIT in an effort to learn I find myself feeling incapable of retaining information and having to struggle to understand new theories. There is a theory that this resistance to learning is at least partially the result of the cynicism of adulthood. The principle is that brains, in their more formative years, accept information as truth and without question to help stimulate the speed at which new information is processed. Conversely, the older brain is more critical in its reception of new information and requires more confirmation of its accuracy before accepting it.
This would go some way towards explaining my intelligence gap. I am certainly ore critical now and I do need to understand why what I am being is told is true before I can be confident enough to accept it. Or maybe I am just a lazy adult who is unwilling to put the effort in any more.
' The party, the alcohol, it had the affect I had been expecting. I didn't so much as open a Microsoft Word document today. It has set me back a full day and I really need to get some significant work done tomorrow. I have sat on my computer or phone today for the guts of 12 hours. The old style depression hangover days were being vividly replayed. I don't ever want to return. I have been chatting to these three ladies today: B, L amd S. B I just love to chat to. She seems to be a slightly messed up kid but so much fun. L seems absolutely fascinated by me and S can't text well at all.'
The party was the work christmas party. In the preceding days I had been extremely reluctant to attend and even on the day in question I had resolved to be a good boy and stay home for the night. Alas this was not to be as I was finally cajoled into it by a friend. The reason I didn't want to go was simply due to the mountain of work that was piling up to the point of rivalling K-2 and due for submission the following Friday. I was convinced going to the party would stifle my productivity at the beginning of the week and I was correct. As it turned out I spent a significant amount of time on the day of my brother's wedding finishing off one final report.
I think I can remember that day as a compound of many lazy days, the result of a night on the lash, unable to do anything but text and check-out facebook. It isn't a particularly good way to spend your time and not something I really want to do too often in the future.
I must say I cringe now at the statement that I think someone is absolutely fascinated by me but I suspect I was being totally honest at the time. But that's not to say I was in any way correct. I really think I'm the only person absolutely fascinated by myself. As for the young lady who was not able to text well I have to concede that it is a deal-breaker for me. I once refused to continue texting a girl because she spelt the word nothing as 'naffin'. She may have had a thick Belfast accent but that is no excuse and I stand by my actions still. I only question my motives in being engaged in dialogue with this person in the first instance.
' Woke up at 5pm today to Mum and Eamon knocking on the window. I was attempting to assimilate to the all-nighters. The night shift was actually good fun but it completely fucks up your sleeping pattern. Good craic with Mark and then I slept all day Tuesday, before I do it all again. A story was relayed to me about a botched suicide attempt at the weekend. It made me think about how and why I had never done it. Maybe I was just lucky. Maybe it was coming. S most definitely thinks there is something between us, I am less sure. I mentioned to Angela about the virginity and she said it was cute. It kind of is.'
'Woke up at 5pm today' doesn't seem likely to be the beginning of a most riveting entry. Anyway I had agreed to work a few shifts from 9pm to 7am on the run up to christmas and it seemed like a valid reason for staying in bed all day. My only small misdemeanor was in bolting the front door of the house, thus blocking entry for the rest of my family who were returning from my brother's wedding in Westport. The night-shifts were quite enjoyable as it happened, primarily due to the absence of the most frightening entity in retail...the customer.
I do intermittently consider the suicide thing relating to myself. Someone once told me that I was driving down the road towards it with increasing velocity and that it would eventually happen if I didn't take the steps necessary to confront it. These steps I must have, at some point, taken but it seems like it was more down to good luck than judgement and more down to the efforts of a few individuals other than myself. Like I say, maybe it was coming and up until about eighteen months ago it always felt as if it was. But that was then and I think it may be a little different now.
As for the virginity thing, I don't really want to get into it here and now (if that isn't a poorly chosen collection of words) other than to say that I wasn't referring to myself in this case.
Wednesday 31st December
' So here it is, the last entry of this little epoch in my history. Well, perhaps I exaggerate somewhat. It's not as if there are any tangible dividing lines between today and tomorrow. Yes it's New Years Eve. Yes I am sat in the house in front of a computer, trying to a minute amount of study. Yes half of my family are downstairs eagerly awaiting the chimes, Yes I am jealous of my friends who are have a social life and are out on the town tonight. Yes I even find myself grimly texting S for some token company. But even with all that I think I am pretty happy. The one strange thing about that though is that I seem unable to express it very well. I know people think I appear constantly sullen and overrun with work but inside my head that's not how I feel at all. I am not in a bad place at all.'
I have always disliked New Years Eve. Especially since I became old enough to consider spending the evening in a horribly over-crowded nightclub and with it a social pressure dictating that you had to at least be out somewhere, anywhere. So this year it was excellent to be in the house, happy doing whatever small amount of work I was doing. I can't imagine any scenario where I would have been happier to be out in Newry that night.
It is nice to finish on a fairly uplifting note. I think I was pretty happy at this time despite the fact that I was a little more busy than I would have liked and that I had no social life to speak of. I guess happiness comes in myriad forms. It does slightly irk me that I am not always able to relate it very well. I think it comes from so many years of feeling genuinely sullen that by now my physiology has been moulded to express this disposition. But I shouldn't complain of this too much when it beats the hell out of having to play the sad clown.