Category is: Dear diary

2014 has been a pretty terrifying year if you look at the news. Or maybe we’re only being made more aware of the horror? Still, from Ukraine to Ukip, Ferguson to Ebola, the No thanks vote, #Gamergate, Yewtree, Robin Williams RIP, to everyone going apeshit for icicles it’s all ugh. So I’m going to get seasonally solipsistic and just write about what I know: Me me me.

It’s been ridiculous; I’ve had the definite sensation that 2014 was where I went off-script, which is strange as I didn’t have the merest semblance of a plan, never mind a script. In my early 20s I was ashamed that I always I had no clue, so in my late 20s I had it all down. Now in my early 30s I’m clueless again, but I’m glad.

The biggest change was going freelance: a much steeper learning curve, more money, and more time off to worry about a lack of money. At the moment I work two variable part-time jobs which takes some of the uncertainty out of it, but that could all change at the drop of a hat. It’s been worth it though: being so much closer to the design side, super quick turnarounds, getting sites live in days/weeks instead of months/years, and as a bonus most of my work’s now in JavaScript which has long been the awkward gap in my skill set.

No longer needing to get sign-off for conferences I went to more than usual: 12 Devs of Winter, MK Geek Night All Dayer, London JS Conf, a workshop with Harry Roberts, Reasons to be Creative, dConstruct, BIRDIE Conference and The Web Is. A whole week away in Brighton thinking beautiful thoughts and a few days in Cardiff was lovely but I’m not sure multi-day conferences are my bag: I don’t do networking and costs of hotels and trains adds up.

2014 also seemed to be the year of Drag, starting with seeing DWV at The Meth Lab in Camden, the first time I’d seen any Ru girls in the flesh. I’ve been back a few times since as they shipped in more queens from across the pond, but I saw way more on the super surreal Drag Race Cruise; puttering about a ship with a gaggle of ridiculously talented and fully realised performers working through their various dissociative identity disorders, while the ship puttering about the Mediterranean, stopping in a different city every morning.

Elsewhere every party was a wig party, everyone started drinking Prosecco instead of water, and in unrelated news my 30′s finally caught up with me and now hangovers are EVIL. Glastonbury was about as as awesome as I’d hoped, it surprises me in new ways every time. Caught the end of the Edinburgh Festival, because whynot. Took pics of Harry and Dom performing at Bristol Pride, because whynot. Taking pics of Harry and Amy at Miss Behave’s Gameshow was a real treat. I spent my birthday in Venice with Dom instead of whichever club du jour which was a big change, as was spending Christmas with his lovely extended family, eating ALL. THE. THINGS.

It’s been a ride, but with everything that was going on and the relentless pace of work I’ve felt overwhelmed a few times. While it’s been great stretching myself I guess it’s inevitable I find some of the edges; my crashes have been messier and I’ve fallen behind with photos, blogposts and generally seeing people way more than I’d like. So I guess that’s the start of the list of things to work on in 2015!

Count to ten

Dear diary

I don’t really like the word depression; it’s terribly reductive and misunderstood by most, probably myself among them. But I was just watching a panel on depression at TheWebIs as part of Geek Mental Help Week which struck home on a fair few points, and what with the discussions around Robin Williams’ death a few months ago this stuff has been rattling around my noggin for a while now…

My dad is awesome. He’s had a ridiculous life that I’ve only scratched the surface of. He’s witty, clever charming, and I have happy if vague memories of “story time” where he’d read old children’s books like the Princess and the Goblin to the family. Apparently he was a pioneering house-husband in the area I grew up in, earning the scorn of the community mothers for being male, but that was the 80s and apart from the words to the entire Radio 2 playlist I don’t remember any of it. (Hell I might be remembering a lot of this wrong, but that’s always a risk.)

I remember many times where my dad was there for me and overall I admire him, which is probably healthy for a son, but he was also periodically absurdly irrational and hateful, lashing out at the family around him. It was pretty bad in my teen years and we weren’t on speaking terms for the bulk of it: I wasn’t allowed in the lounge or any room he was in. “Setting him off” was about the worst thing that could happen so there was a lot of walking on eggshells. Heavy, purposeful footsteps were usually the precursor to a confrontation, tears and slamming doors the end to one.

It was pretty standard I guess? After all as far as I can remember nobody got hurt, but being sat down by my father and explained to at length why he “didn’t like me”, or being made to sign a “contract” saying we’d have nothing to do with each other after I grew up, or just shouting in my face and then saying “Aha! So I can still scare you huh?” as I cowered is a bit messed up.

Maybe nobody ever explained why he did that stuff, maybe they did and I just didn’t get it. At around the same time I remember having the distinct impression that I was the only gay on the planet in spite of obvious evidence to the contrary, so god knows where my head was at. Either way I didn’t understand depression or alcoholism or S.A.D., all I understood, and what I was told repeatedly, was that I took after him, and was probably going to go the same way.

So I’ve been watching myself, most of my life, trying not to be that reverse role-model, that cautionary tale. In some ways I guess it’s been positive; I’m eventually getting better at understanding my moods, why they’re happening (which is sometimes for no reason at all) and at the self-care that can keep myself from having a mini breakdown or spiralling into a deadzone. That micro-management can be exhausting of course, but it’s probably worth it. Some spend their lives looking forward reaching towards goals, which must be nice, but the driving force in my life is mostly awkward shame at past mistakes and demanding better of myself. But hey whatever works right?

Much worse is the lack of confidence in my own faculties means I’m always in that count-to-ten moment, my breath caught in my throat. It can take days to work out with any certainty what I feel about something as I flip it over and over in my head, trying to work out if it’s legit or some irrational efemera, the longer timescales meaning it’s usually easier to subsume than react or express myself. My worst habit by far is having whole conversations and arguments with people in my head: I can get really tense and angry about things that nobody ever actually says.

Mind you 33 years in I’ve still not worked out what what I feel about my own face so maybe that’s bog-standard male emotional constipation and painfully prosaic repression? I don’t know. Part of the frustration is that people don’t talk about this stuff so it’s impossible to compare notes. I still file all this under “not that bad” but then I’m a relativist: 20 years ago I was in hospital outpatients with arthritis and trouble walking, but you can’t really dwell on the suck when there’s other kids waiting in wheelchairs.

Of course things got much better between my father and I after I left home. He said I “suddenly became human” so maybe university or living without that constant tension changed me into less of a resentful teenager. I even worked at his bookshop in the summers. Things got better still after he sobered up and got medical help. Still has his mood swings and random bouts of depression of course, especially around this time of year when it gets dark most of the time, but hey. So do I.

cake on tap

Dear diary

(Cross posted from the company blog at MetaBroadcast)

Hello! I’m Dan. I insist I’m not really a programmer, or a designer or even a photographer, but I’m probably all three. My crippling impostor syndrome battles daily my addiction to creating Stuff, so I compulsively whittle words, code and photos until they’re so supernaturally shiny that they glow with an otherworldly light. And then I decide that they’re rubbish. Enough about me though, because I’ve joined MetaBroadcast to eat cake and make things pretty.

It’s been a surreal experience being an agency side designer/developer joining a product-lead company of software developers. MetaBroadcast is a strange land preoccupied with purple and pink, where we don’t use sass and html is templated in with javascript. We also seem to have an entire team dedicated to keeping the building stocked with cake.

The MetaBroadcast crew stop for refreshment

On top of the culture shock I’ve also gone from full time to part time and there’s a whole lot to cram into a two day week: from the unfeasibly filling Foodie Fridays, to the Metaversaries, to daily Happy Hour meetings (which I don’t really understand but everyone sounds awfully clever), to the actual work: prototyping cool stuff with metadata.

Happily I also happened to join right before the quarterly away day, which this time featured a fairly chilled putter about central London exploring various alleys in search of the fabled and illusive Seven Noses of Soho which are totally a thing. It was curious and interesting on its own, and once you factor in the sun, okonomiyaki in Russell Square and more coffee and icecream than you can easily deal with; it was a great day out.

Nose hunt!

I’m outside my comfort zone, I’m learning fast, and I’m making cool stuff. Once I put Sass in all the things and get the hang of saying no to cake it’s going to be a grand old time.

Subcontracting: fun but hard

Dear diary

I’d spent 3 months thinking about going freelance before I made the jump, so I had a pretty good handle on what it would involve. Or I thought I did!

  • Faff with the finances Yes but 3 months worth?? I was living off savings until the financial stars aligned and I could actually get paid.
  • More money True but between time off, a new Macbook Pro and a holiday later this year I’m pretty much back where I started. Damned capitalism!
  • Bring your laptop I didn’t actually see this coming, I bought the MBP for conferences and mobility, but everywhere I’ve worked asked me to bring it along so it’s become my work computer.
  • Hard work Between my freelancer presence being an emergency measure and wanting to impress new colleagues, every day is crunch day. It’s not entirely a bad thing; it’s pushed me to learn quickly and produce some great work. Still, I’ve already burnt out a couple of times, leading to…
  • More time off Yeah, sometimes whether you like it or not! I expected that but what didn’t occur to me is how booking in a holiday or conference ahead of time makes it awkward to get work for that whole month.
  • Stressing about finding work It takes up a load of time and energy in my “days off” which is a waste of time as something usually come up, last-minute and from an unexpected quarter.
  • Variety! Shorter term contracts have been great; I’ve gotten to learn new tools and environments, work across different sites and with different people. As a convenient comparison, before going freelancer I spent 6 months working on a site that’s still not gone live, and in the 6 months since I’ve had 6 projects go live!

I’ve definitely enjoyed it, but I can’t ignore that between pushing hard on workdays and spending restdays preoccupied with finding more workdays, my photography has slowed to a trickle and I’ve stopped blogging altogether. I don’t what to lose that, so when an opportunity to go part-time at a programmer-heavy, in-house, product and prototype lead place with a great ethos I had to go for it, for all those reasons. If I can find a new balance with more places to do part time or small bits of work it could be the best of both worlds.

Besides, the main reason I went contractor in the first place is to expand my horizons, speed up my learnings and eschew the comfort zone, so I’m pretty excited about starting at Metabroadcast tomorrow. To celebrate, I’m blogging and putting up photos for the first time in 3 months! Feels good.

Welcoming 2014

Dear diary Recaps

It’s that time of year again: reflection, resolutions, annual report cards.

2013 was pretty good! Did most of last year’s aims, found an awesome flat with Scott and Bob, improved physically (then threw it away over christmas), went on holiday to Florence, got a new camera and built up a flickr stream I’m fairly proud of, learned a heck of a lot at VML London and over a dozen conferences, workshops and meetups,and rebuilt this site from the ground up (AGAIN) with new technologies and in half the time of the last refresh. The only aim I failed was saving money! Oops.

Aside from the obvious of improving social, financial and health, other things I’m looking forward to working on in 2014:

  • Professional: I’ll continue going to conferences (already got a couple lined up), but the big change is I’ll be crossing over to contracting! I handed in my notice yesterday so I’m pretty excited about it, especially getting to see how more agencies and web people tick.
  • Writing: An unexpected twist of 2013 has been that these self-reflection posts are now in the minority, instead I’ve been writing up web conferences and ordering my thoughts on the dark place where front end dev meets entrenched agency process. One of my posts even got taken up for guesting elsewhere, which was nice! More to come.
  • Photography: I’d like to learn more about portraiture and simple studio stuff, pap the Edinburgh Festival and maybe Glastonbury, and try to add gigs, festivals and new clubs to the stuff I already do. It’d be great go to a photography workshop too, if there’s some webconf crossover

It’s going to be (another) interesting year!

“Owning”

Dear diary

For the longest time I’d been stuck in the comfortable rut of a job that paid OK but wasn’t going anywhere. I could only afford the odd shiny if I didn’t save, so the idea of buying a flat seemed ridiculous, unreachable, totally irrelevant. New year, new job, new outlook?

Given the relatively comparable incomes, the difference in wealth between someone that rents and someone with a mortgage and a lodger is indefensibly stupid. If I can jump that fence I totally should. In search of salient insights I’ve been scouring the web for nifty sites like Rentonomy, Mapumental and where-can-i-live as well as some shameless window shopping on Rightmove etc.

It’s still London of course, where the global filthy-rich dump their spare millions into property and the buy-to-let market is out of control, so prices remain crazy inflated. I’m not 100% sold on shared ownership schemes ostensibly designed to help someone like me get a leg up: Full buy needs too much deposit and part-buy needs too much salary. Still, with some saving I might be in a better position in a year or two, and that’s quite exciting.

But that’s in the future, today the search begins in earnest for somewhere to rent next month!

It’s ridic isn’t it? Tell me about it.

Dripping electrics

Dear diary Photography

Last week I went to the kitchen just before bed to find myself unexpectedly paddling. It was disorienting getting dripped on in the dark in your own flat, but I flipped the fuses, Scott laid out towels and pans and Lewis went upstairs to shout at the idiot neighbour with the leaking bath.

It wasn’t so bad in the morning once it had all dried up, though the rips in the bathroom wallpaper were a lot bigger and the light switch had a funky but unwanted new “strobe” setting. Also I got a couple of interesting snaps of water in places you don’t normally want water to be.

Moving out in a month. Tweet me if you’ve got an amazing, cheap 3-man flat going spare somewhere from Dalston to Old Street! :-D

Yesterday I had an apple for lunch and popcorn for dinner. Apparently eating very little for two days a week is a thing, so I thought I’d give it a shot for a month or two.

Normally I’d just eat less daily but that’s tricky when Dom cooks ridiculously tasty (not to mention healthy) food so often. Like this quinoa fritter thingy from Sunday! It was one of eight and they were all delicious.

Working in the city, ish.

Dear diary

I currently live near the east side of “The City” and the new job at VML is on its west side, so I walk across the whole skyscraper-studded banker-infestation at least daily. It’s fun passing under the new Leadenhall Building AKA the “Cheese Grater” or the “Walky Talky” on Fenchurch Street and seeing the giant skeletons rising. It’s also a bit weird seeing these ostentatious temples to Mammon go up against the backdrop of economic doom and gloom – here ‘austerity’ is something that happens to other people – but I guess that’s pretty standard. Yay capitalism.

This odd commute will be short lived though: work is moving to Mornington Crescent next month and I’m supposedly moving to somewhere in the very vague vicinity of Canonbury. I don’t know the north side of town so well but presumably I’ll no longer pass 3 Sainsbury’s, 4 Tescos and 5 Boots on the stroll home. Woe.

Looking forward to 2013

Dear diary

Happy new year everyone! Also happy hangover and pyjama day!

New Year’s resolutions are deathly prosaic but I regret not writing them up last year: they show whether I’ve made much progress or I’m just going round in the same circles like a good little worker drone.

Even so, 2012 was pretty sweet! The only fails were putting on some weight and moving in with someone who stresses me out (by reminding me so much of my father, oddly). So the big aims for early 2013 are: get myself physically back to where I was a couple of years ago (more or less) and find a new place, preferably with awesome people. The former’s all up to me but the latter you can help with, please let me know if you hear of anyone looking for flatmates! Two more months at the current place…

Smaller aims for 2013 are:

  • NO MORE TAKEAWAYS (after today)
  • keep things moving professionally
  • be a better boyfriend
  • keep going to and papping fun things
  • go away somewhere new and exciting on holiday
  • maybe a music festival?
  • some heavy deposit saving, like the grown-up I am