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It is time to announce my retirement from the world of online dating

I’m surprised I didn’t call a press conference and/or issue a press release on this but I have actually had a few people ask me what the latest was with my online dating adventures that I have blogged about previously. Well there is news but the retirement is not because of any great success. I have watched many people that I know have success in the online dating world and that has been heart-warming. I have seen these people say they are the happiest they have ever been thanks to online dating. However things have not exactly been the same for me and a few weeks ago I threw the white towel in mentally and this evening profiles were deleted.

Now this of course isn’t me throwing in the towel of ever being in a relationship. It is more a concession that maybe online dating isn’t for me. I am one of those people who is better in the flesh than I am online or in photographic form. I’m not exactly what you’d call full of the old self-confidence but heck I have been known to look in the mirror whilst cleaning my teeth or washing my hands or having a shave or whatever and think to myself ‘not bad, not bad…’ and I don’t think I have ever thought that after seeing a photograph of myself. I am not photogenic. Which is a problem in the online dating world.

As for describing myself and making me sound interesting. Yeah… I work from home, live alone, have a fruit and herb patio which I am super proud of. I do hospital radio, commentate on football, blog my life and thoughts pretty publicly and have a rather large interest in politics. I don’t drink and I don’t exactly go out much. Heck looking at me on paper I wouldn’t want to get to know me. So maybe it is no surprise that I’m not ticking boxes.

At this point I’d like to point out that on the flip-side I’m a guy who most people who get to know me quite like. Whether they fancy me is of course a very different kettle of fish but most think I’m a decent guy. At times apparently I fall down in my ‘manliness’ as I’m a beta male and let other people make decisions. I can make decisions about myself easy enough but when it comes to others I’m very laid back. A lot of women I have ‘met’ or should I say communicated with prefer a guy who makes decisions and takes charge, which is a surprise as I thought women didn’t want that any more but in my years of attempting to date it seems the opposite is true. I think relationships should be equal with both members leaning on each other to get the most out of things. This might not be the majority view.

Most of all though the reason why I have retired from this is because I don’t enjoy it. I do not enjoy the dating game and when you can’t even get dates then the dating game is even less fun. This year I have not had what you’d call a quote/unquote ‘first date’ and it showed no sign of changing. Since I moved into my apartment just over two years ago I have had a grand total of four proper first dates. An average of one every six months. It really isn’t worth the hassle.

So online dating is now in my rear view mirror. If something happens with someone then it’ll either be through someone I already know or someone I meet via a different medium than internet dating. Everyone has a different piece of advice as for whether you should put yourself out there and look or it’ll happen when you aren’t looking at all. I am sort of been in-between the two for a long long time but now I’m moving towards the latter of the two.

Deep down I have always hoped that a relationship would be a natural progression of a friendship I had with someone. I think being friends first is a good platform for a relationship. I know others may disagree but a friendship forms a bond that goes beyond physical attraction. I have always – and I do mean always – said that the most important thing for me in a potential partner is to enjoy spending time with them. As a self-proclaimed loner knowing that I’d like to spend time with someone over watching a plethora of live sport says a lot to me. Online dating doesn’t really create those opportunities as it is basically if you/them don’t fancy each other from the get go then you/them don’t want to know each other.

To round-up my online dating statistics. I think I have had seven or eight dates although to be honest that sounds low so I may be forgetting one or two. These numbers do not include people I have met/dated from IRC as that would add a few names to the list or from other websites that aren’t strictly ‘dating’ websites. Out of these only two did I have more than one date with. Not an awful ratio but nothing stellar either. One of those two it should be pointed out I had a second date with the day after she met another guy who subsequently she dated for four years so not sure if that really counts…

We’ll see what happens but I’m happy I have closed the book on my online dating attempts. Deep down I hoped to just meet people but you forget that most other people are seemingly looking for ‘the one’ and I don’t think I was. Maybe that is why things didn’t work. So now I look to see what happens. Whilst my hopes of leaving the single world aren’t what I’d call going on the backburner but I’m not going to worry about it and just let life take its course. No more forcing it. Forcing (or attempting to force it) wasn’t working and wasn’t making me happy. It just frustrated me. Just kicking back and seeing what happens is the way forward.

I think the only thing I’ll miss is good blogging material. Now that bit I did enjoy…

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The problem with being a 29 year-old virgin and having a Facebook account for your sanity levels

I don’t like labels but sometimes facts are facts. I am 29. I am single and my dangly bits between my legs have never done anything that would result in a woman being worried about missing their period. It doesn’t bother me too much although at times it grates and usually when someone shows an interest I either think that they are clinically insane and/or they become clingy and scare me off as I need my space. However in recent weeks this attitude of mine is being attacked – by proxy – by Facebook.

At the point of writing I have 329 Facebook friends. Just using my memory I can name over thirty of them who have either given birth, gotten pregnant, got engaged or tied the knot in the past year. Five. Yes five of them have gotten engaged in just the past seven days. That is quite a run and that doesn’t include someone who got engaged then de-friended me the other day. I mean can’t a 29 year-old single virgin even go on Facebook without feeling as though life is passing him by any more?

Of course people on Facebook rarely put up the bad times so you always thinks that your life is all sweetness and light. Social media is a strange place as you rarely show off the side of your life that is bad but always extoll the good parts. Now not for one moment am I suggesting that people shouldn’t put whatever they like on social media and to be blunt no-one should give a flying you know what if some people reading about their good times think ‘bloody hell yet another person having an important life moment whilst I sit here and wait for Masterchef Australia to return to our screens in September because that is something I’m looking forward to,’ but it is a phenomenon that I have noticed. I would only say one of my 329 Facebook friends puts all his/her bad times and bad feelings up for all to read and it is even more unnerving than reading about the good times in all honesty.

So what is my point?

The point is society paints a picture of what it expects you to do. If you live your life from a different script all that happens is people think you aren’t normal. I don’t drink alcohol and that has caused issues in the past as some people have struggled to understand how someone could choose not to drink alcohol. To quote one of my neighbours I am ‘the only person who doesn’t drink that he trusts or likes’ and that is a genuine quote. Society expects you to drink and if you don’t then people will always want to know why and won’t just accept it as a fact.

Another thing society expects is for people to have relationships. Whether it be m/f, m/m, f/f, m/f/m, f/m/f or whatever. Society is slowly accepting all kind of relationships as perfectly acceptable (when really society should have accepted it a long, long time ago) but society is still struggling with single people – certainly those who don’t take every offer of sexual intercourse that comes their way. Certainly those who have essentially been single for a significant amount of time and couple that with not wanting to go out on the town on Friday or Saturday nights and heads explode. There must be something wrong with me.

It is something I have struggled with for years but in the past two or three I have essentially just settled down and realised that I have chosen my path in life and have accepted that as I personally am content. As for whether I’m happy well that is not as easy to say but I’m content with my decisions in life.

I hate social situations. I just do. I don’t know how to talk to strangers in social situations whether it be men or women or whatever. I very much have to be in my ‘comfort zone’ before I open up. I think I am terrible socially and when I try to be social most of the time deep down I am longing to be in the safety of my apartment. I know this and have tailored my social activities to suit. There are very few people that I am comfortable to be sociable around. However on Saturday one of my neighbours said that they thought I had bundles of confidence. Maybe I fake it well or more likely I’ve known her for over a year.

It is a far cry from when I’m sitting behind a microphone or in front of a TV camera or the like. Then anyone that sees me would think I am totally an Alpha male. That doesn’t phase me one jot so why do I hate social events? I don’t know but looking back at when I was say at school I was always the one who found a mate who wasn’t really up for the party and just hung out with them. I didn’t drink until I was 18 as I didn’t like the taste (the same reason as I don’t drink now) and I knew then that all the women in our social group didn’t like me so there was little point attempting to talk to them as they knew who they wanted to enjoy their social gatherings with – and it was not me I can assure you of that.

At university I think my lack of exposure to the opposite sex i.e, I knew most of them didn’t like me didn’t exactly help. I will always remember one girl in my third year telling me ‘you aren’t like what everyone said – you are actually a really nice guy’ those words will always follow me about. I remember exactly when they were said and for what reason. It also sums up how my life in general has been. People don’t really like me unless they get to know me where upon quite a lot actually do think I’m ok and not the awful person they thought I was before they actually got to know me. That should give me confidence however it doesn’t really as I still meet very few people.

Therefore we get back to what I was typing earlier about how I hate social situations. So I won’t meet too many people. I live alone and I work from home. So no joy there. I have blogged extensively about internet dating and the ups and downs of that but my towel was thrown in on that front a while ago. The problem is I don’t exactly look great on paper (or in real life – zing) so I’m not exactly going to excite people on the virtual world and as I proved in one of my pieces – girls get a lot of messages and have a lot of options in the virtual world. Yes most of them will be dross but still dross has the wow factor over me.

So anyway I was talking about this on twitter a good friend tweeted me about it and hit the nail on the head when I said about not following the typical society path of relationships, ‘And it knocks your self esteem so much when you feel like the odd one out. Life has all just fallen into place due to the happen-stance of being in the right place at the right time and yet you’re made to feel like an oddity because it hadn’t all gone the same way.’ Bang. Nailed it.

To sum up this pointless ramble I’m comfortable with what life has thrown at me. I’m comfortable with who I am. Would I changes things? Maybe but the problem is if you change one thing then you don’t know the knock-on affect of it. Relationship wise a long time ago deep down I understood that I’m not the type of guy most women want. I understand that and have I suppose dealt with it in my own way. There will always be someone better than me. That is the way it has always been and whilst it might not be the way it always will be I don’t see me going down the society preferred route of actually being in a relationship. I’m just going to be single – for a long time – and that is just how it seemingly is meant to be.

I’ll keep watching Facebook for all those dramatic updates from around my social network but as for me expect updates about Masterchef Australia (come September) and other such pointless non life-altering issues. It doesn’t bother me but you do sometimes think ‘what if?’ but then you quickly remember that it is not. I like sticking it to society that I’m different and not doing what society expects me to but damnit society makes it hard not to at least flash the odd envious glance that way.

Lastly I’m only 11 years away from being a 40 year-old virgin. If I make it I will want to star in the sequel of that movie.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

‘What day is today? It’s Neil’s birthday. What a day for a birthday, let’s all have some cake’

Well that headline is a lie because yesterday was my birthday but I have a tradition where I don’t talk about my birthday online on the actual day itself. I also wanted to use the birthday song from Futurama so I had to use the headline even though it was a lie. I also didn’t have any cake yesterday *sad face*

Well yes folks another circumnavigation of the sun completed and survival has been met which is the first thing I look at when reviewing that trip. I always like looking back and having a birthday in the middle of the year makes me it easy to do reviews on my birthday and at the end of the calendar year. So let’s look back at my 29th circumnavigation of the giant ball of fire that we orbit around.

Obviously there is only one place to start and that is the sad news that my dad didn’t complete his 71st trip around the sun. He passed away after a stroke earlier in the year and whilst it was extremely hard – what is harder – far harder is that his last resting place is still up in the air. He wanted his ashes spread in a certain place but for reasons that I’m not willing to go into in a public forum these wishes may not be carried out. That is hard and hopefully this can be overcome but I fear this will rumble on for many more months yet and that is painful.

Away from that sad note though my 29th trip around the sun was mainly a positive one. I achieved one of my biggest life goals by commenting on a live football match on radio. Something that I achieved in August 2011 by calling the Southend United v Leyton Orient Carling Cup match. I have subsequently done several more matches and I’m in line to takeover one of the commentary seats on all Southend home games whenever one of the commentators moves on (his house is up for sale and he’s moving out of the region to be nearer his kids/grandkids) so that will happen at some point soon. So that is something that I will be looking forward to going forward.

Last September in the wee small hours of a Friday morning I got a tweet asking me if I was going to Liberal Democrat Party Conference. I had no plans to but when it came out that I had the opportunity to interview Nick Clegg those plans quickly changed. I interviewed the Deputy Prime Minister and it was quite a surreal and interesting experience. Other notes from that weekend include losing four lbs in weight in just two days (didn’t exactly eat a lot and my hotel was a good two miles from the venue) and being accosted by a prostitute. Oh the hilarity. An interesting experience though.

Another interesting experience was running for local office. Seriously had you told me a couple of years back that I would be running for local office I’d have laughed. Laughed a lot. Laughed manically to myself and then been taken away by those nice men in white coats. However I did and despite finishing sixth out of six, it was an eye-opening experience and one that should stand me in good stead should I ever want to stand again (that decision is certainly up in the air).

Also in this trip around the sun I did what they all thought was impossible. Oh yes folks I only went and got myself a girlfriend (cue lots of whistling and hollering) but don’t worry folks it was not to last. After just a few weeks it was decided that the (un)lucky lady didn’t like me as much as she liked her ex-husband (or as it turned out – her still husband) and me in a few weeks hadn’t done enough compared to what he had in the best part of the decade. She kept comparing me to him and decided that the man who text her saying she wanted a divorce was a better man than I. Yeah the ego took a small hit on that one.

She said that it wasn’t me (*scoffs*) but it was her and she just had to sort herself out. Luckily for her she met someone else and suddenly she was fine. What a minute… and she is as far as I know very happy with her new man. Last time we saw each other she asked me if I would look after her cats whilst she went on holiday in August. We’ve not seen each other since. I suspect my cat-feeding services are no longer required and nor is my friendship. Ah well. Been there before and the old female not having single male friends (at least at the start of a new relationship) thing unless they are in the same social group rears itself again.

Of course there will be other people in my life in time. I have had a grand total of two offers of a date since but I said no to both. No wait actually three but the third was a blind date. I did actually have a couple of other dates late last year but one thought it was a booty call – yeah it really wasn’t and subsequently didn’t speak to me again and the other turned out to be my kryptonite in turns of women – clingy. Way too clingy. Clingy and Neil do not mix so that ended quick sharpish too.

I think one of my proudest achievements has been my new patio area that is now adorned with herbs and fruits. I am seriously chuffed about all this and every time a new fruit shows signs of growing I get a semblance of a smile across my face. I already have strawberries and peppers growing and I have gooseberries, winter squash, rhubarb, tomatoes and cucumber all in soil waiting their turn to make me happy. My herbs are also developing well and they are giving off a lovely smell out there although this new greenery has made my patio a new home for snails.

Lastly I have been approached to take on a couple of new writing jobs which is always nice. My ramblings here have been read by over 300,000 people in the past twelve months which I think is quite a staggering number and makes me happy. My radio stuff is still the same and is good fun with the football a huge added bonus.

Overall I’d say the past twelve months have been a success and I have made more progress towards being happy and diverse than I have in many years. In the final trip around the sun before I hit the big 3-0 I wonder what will come up but a lot of what happened in my 29th year wasn’t exactly on my radar this time last year. Also my first full day as a 29 year-old has started with a tax rebate from HMRC so maybe this will be a good one?

We’ll see and whatever happens no doubt it will be written up for all to see here…

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

The (quite) interesting and bizarre world of online dating

Ok so I’m single. I’m 28. I work from home and don’t exactly hit the town hard at the weekends. I am prime what you’d call ‘online dating’ territory. I have flitted about on some of these over the years to a varying degree of success. Well when I say that what I basically mean is in general no success at all but it has led to the odd amusing moment.

Last week some American guy was in all the papers because he kept a spreadsheet of all the people had contacted via Match.com and a lot of people berated and belittled him for it. One of the girls though was contacted by the Daily Mail and she was far more annoyed at the person who exposed it. She deemed it as sensible. So what do I have to say about online dating?

Well firstly the world of online dating is a lot colder than the real world of dating. Online all people see is a photo. They don’t really see a personality as so few people actually read a profile. Also it is a lot easier to ignore someone online than it is in real life. If you walked up to someone in a club and started talking to them and you had no interest in them it is harder to getaway without hurting his feelings and you could spend the rest of the night seeing him look at you. Awkward. Online you can get an introductory message and you can ignore it and you’ll never have to see or hear from them again if you ignore it. Awesome.

I was laying in bed last night and was planning this blog in my head (yes that is the type of thing that I do in bed – possibly an indicator for why I’m single?) but anyway I was trying to work out how many dates I had been on via dating websites. I think I worked out it was eight. So lets have a look at how they all worked out and see how successful it has been:

Girl 1: Met via Faceparty (is Faceparty a dating website?) it kinda was back in the day but not strictly. I am however counting it for the sake of this. Met in Ryde in 2004. Didn’t go well. She didn’t speak to me again but a few days later was drunk and called up wanting a booty call. That was never going to happen.

Girl 2: Faceparty again. Met up on three occasions but I wouldn’t sleep with her on dates one and two. She decided I wasn’t for her. Between dates 2&3 she met someone else. She wouldn’t speak to me for four years until she split up with said guy and promptly started talking to me again.

Girl 3: Bit of a gap here. 2010 is where we are now. Met up in town and it was ok but I knew there was nothing there. We had a second date planned but she cancelled saying – and I quote she had ‘washing up to do’ yes folks – not even washing her hair – just plain washing up. Not sure I could ever in my life top that excuse.

Girl 4: Here we get to the first I really had some sort of connection with. We had communicated for months. Got on well but there was another guy in the picture and she led me on for a long time before she realised she actually wanted other guy. We are still friends.

Girl 5: Girl was really into me online. We met up for lunch. She never spoke to me again.

Girl 6: A bit like Girl 5 but this has a more hilarious finish. We met up for dinner my one and only ever dinner date – there will never ever be another – never) and by the time I had gotten home she had deleted me from Facebook. Guessing she didn’t exactly have a great time…?

Girl 7: Guessing she thought it was a booty call and not a date. When she found out it wasn’t she disappeared saying ‘I’ll call you’ and promptly never spoke to me again.

Girl 8: I actually dated someone for a few weeks. Then she realised that she wasn’t over her ex and didn’t want to lead me on thinking it was unfair on me. Fair enough really. We are still friends.

So overall not exactly a great success but then we get to the really fun stuff that I look back on and just laugh.

A few years ago I was talking to a girl who seemingly liked me. She added me to Facebook and she saw my other photos. She remarked that I used to have a shaved head (which I did) and that she didn’t like shaved heads on guys. I said well I don’t any more but that wasn’t enough. I was promptly removed from Facebook and never spoken to again.

Not that long ago I spoke to someone and I realised I had messaged her maybe a year ago and she didn’t reply then. This time she did and said she’d add me to Facebook and we’d chat. She did but she never appeared on Facebook chat. I sent her a message a couple of days later to say I hadn’t seen her online and she ignored it and then deleted me from Facebook. So basically she had looked around my other photos and decided I was a bit too ugly for her and that she didn’t want to know me.

So I thought I’d just check again the type of guys she wants. Answering the question ‘You should message me if…’ (I wonder how many of you know what dating website that is from) she said thus:

You give good hugs and can make me laugh until I laugh so much I can’t breathe properly. Laughter is the best medicine 🙂

Now I’m not sure if you can tell who gives good hugs from an internet dating profile or from pictures. Also can you really work out if someone is hilariously funny just from one of two short introductory messages? I would contend that you can’t. What you can do though is looking at all their photos and decide ‘nah…’

These days I don’t think I’ll meet anyone online (or in real life – cue violins) but in a way I like to think of it as a game. I scan the profiles for girls who say that they either a) just like to talk and meeting new people no matter if its for dating or just to be friends or b) they just want a nice guy because they have been jerked around a lot and complain that there are no decent guys out there or finally c) those (and these are the best) who say they reply to everyone and/or have a codeword in their profile that if you use it’ll show you’ve read their profile and they guarantee to reply to you.

I do this as a personal test to see if they are just liars and what they really want is just someone drop dead gorgeous. So people who are happy to chat to anyone, those who just want a nice guy (which I contend I am) or those who promise to reply to all messages or have a codeword that ensures a reply. I have done this off and on for ages so I can’t give full numbers but I can do it for the past month. 28 people contacted that fulfil at least one of the above criteria. Amount of replies is zero. Yes zero.

Six of them are people who say they’ll reply to everyone – all of them have looked at my profile but decided their guarantee wasn’t valid for such an unattractive person. Five of them are people who just want to chat to anyone. Again all of them did check out my profile. Of the remaining 17 who just wanted a nice guy – 15 had at least looked at my profile.

So there we have it. A small experiment into the behaviour of people on dating websites. It must be pointed out that I am not Brad Pitt nor am I George Clooney. However I don’t think I’m exactly The Elephant Man either. I’m sure most people would ‘rate me’ at around four or five out of ten. Still a lot of people don’t say they are looking for the most handsome guy in the world. So maybe it is my personality where I fall short. Not sure you can really garner someone’s personality from a profile or one message unless they are being totally sleazy and I can assure you that is something that I am not.

If people said ‘look – I only want to talk to Greek Gods’ then you’d say fair enough but to say you’ll talk to anyone or just want a down to earth decent guy and then it turns out that you won’t or don’t then that is a bit off.

There was a profile I have seen before which had a hilarious blurb at the top of it but she must’ve deleted her profile as I can’t find it today. It basically said ‘look I know this is online dating but stop messaging me ugly guys. If I wouldn’t talk to guys as ugly as you in public then why would I online?’ and I would look at that profile all the time just to shake my head and laugh at her. She wasn’t unattractive but boy she wasn’t a young Audrey Hepburn. She just came across as ugly inside and she reeked of it.

To sum up. Online dating is an interesting beast. If you are sensitive then it probably isn’t the best place for you. It is easy to rack up rejection after rejection. If you aren’t then it can be a good laugh. If you are attractive then you’ll do a lot better online than in real life comparing it to less attractive people physically. In real life you see both looks and personality straight away. Online it is primarily looks and if you haven’t got them then prepare for a whole world of pain.

Update: I found that profile I was looking for earlier. She had changed her username. Cheeky so n so…

It amazes me where people get their confidence from on here… come on we all know roughly where we stand in life- just because you’re online it doesn’t really mean you can suddenly start messaging people out of you’re league. I don’t mean to sound harsh but the amount of people punching well above their weight seizes to amaze me. I sound like a complete ****… I’m really not just sick of time wasters 🙂

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Re-reading old diary entries

Today I looked through my old diary to check a date of something. Instead of just finding the date that I was looking for (which I was about two months out on) I scan-read some of my old stuff. The old style of writing I had and I could see the development both of my style and latterly my outlook on life and how I perceive myself.

Looking at what I used to say both about myself and my outlook say when I was at university it is a different person to the one sitting here writing this. The difference is so marked it is hard to believe I used to think that way. Back then my insecurities would be so pronounced I’m surprised I had any friends whatsoever. These day I wouldn’t say my insecurities have evaporated but they aren’t a defining part of me. I think this is because I have become more comfortable in my own skin and care far less about what others think.

I was told many a time that until you loved yourself then it would be impossible for anybody to love you. Now whilst I don’t exactly love myself I would say that I am not repulsed by myself, which I think it is fair to say I was for so many years. I’m don’t have model good looks but you know what that isn’t exactly the be all and end all in life. Looking back at my past witterings from many a moon ago it seems as though that was a large part of how I thought.

Also my style of writing has changed over the years. I use far less commas than I used to. I prefer short sharp sentences or adjective strewn flowing lines. The commas has all but become defunct in the way I write. My penchant for the flowing adjective strewn sentence though has grown. I like the way it adds an extra dimension to what I write. It injects more personality and I like that.

The other thing I like about the old diary is whilst many of the entries makes me cringe and shudder at how I used to think and act, it also records a few memories that I had long since forgotten. Just reading a few words can bring back a smile and memories and times come flooding back. For example this:

A few days after my birthday (name removed) & I were walking through the park after work on the way to the pub and she turns to me and says ‘So then…you and (name removed)…’ and does the old double eyebrow thing,

I’d forgotten that incident but the moment I read it I remembered it all. If you knew me at the time you’ll know exactly who I was talking about but this isn’t the time or place for talking publicly about others. Another fact I learnt following other people reading my personal thoughts in a public setting. Consider myself burnt on that one and the lesson well and truly learnt. Anyway that is another matter entirely.

These days this blog doubles up as my diary. I open up a lot in it albeit certain things aren’t recorded. My feelings are but my personal life is not because like…y’know…it’s…personal. I wish I used my private diary a bit more as I haven’t written in it seemingly since April of last year. I need to do that more to record memories and feelings but for now I’m just looking back at how much I’ve grown and changed. So much less angst and worry in my life. I suppose this is why over the past couple of years I have been more content with life than I ever have been before.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Reaching out for help and the funeral

I’m not going to write much about the funeral. I don’t feel the need or the urge to write about the pain that I have been feeling. After the funeral I walked away from my family and found a small brook within 400 yards of the Crematorium where I stood and thought. I threw plenty of twigs and sticks into the water and watched them not really do a lot. The brook was clearly flowing in one direction but the sticks seemed to be going in the opposite direction if moving at all. Bizarre. However that really isn’t important.

I have always found water calming. Certainly moving water. It was a peaceful moment in a quite horrible 36 hours or so that was extremely trying. I am a loner and I have dealt with my emotions very much gaining strength from my own thoughts. We all deal with pain in different ways but in general I have dealt with the whole situation alone. I was alone when the news came through and I sit here alone and didn’t reach out. I didn’t need anyone to tell me that everything was all right. I just needed to be alone.

That moment of peace was an isolated moment where I could think about my dad without feeling that my attention would be taken away from my thought process. I have always enjoyed water and I suspect I always will. If I ever won the lottery – one of my dads favourite sayings – I would certainly live somewhere with a small brook or stream flowing within the grounds. I would spend so much time there alone with my thoughts. I like to think I am a rather thoughtful person and moving water is what calms me down and allows me to think.

We have pieced together more of exactly what happened and it gives me great comfort that my dad had his stroke in his armchair and the doctors say he wouldn’t have felt a thing. He’d of been sitting there one minute watching TV and the next he would have gone. Instant and with no pain. For a week or so we had thought he’d had the stroke but been in pain and alone on the floor for 12 hours plus but apparently that wasn’t the case. My dad should be enjoying his retirement but he’s not and the greatest comfort is there was no pain and it was quick. You don’t know just how much of a comfort that is to me.

Another thing has been the way people around me have reacted. Being a loner I don’t exactly have too many people I feel I can rely on. I don’t just let anybody in and I reach out for help to far less. Those who reached out to me though really did help and it was interesting those that did. Not just a tweet or a comment on a Facebook update but proper messages, e-mails, texts etc… and to those people I give out a heartfelt thanks.

I didn’t exactly choose to reach out for help as I struggle with that but to those I did – in the main they were fantastic – including people I wouldn’t exactly say I’m close to or have spoken to much in many years. Some people are just genuinely good people and this has only re-enforced that. Those that really went beyond are people whom I’m going to make a real effort with over the coming days, weeks and months as these are the type of people who are worth a lot of time and maybe I have neglected them somewhat.

I’m never going to be someone with hundreds of close friends but I do know some really amazing people and it is nigh on the time I learned that and worked harder to be as good a friend to them as they have been to me over the past ten days – even if they don’t know just how much their support has meant to me.

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Some more thoughts on the week that was and the passing of my dad

I feel the need to write about the events from Tuesday morning through to Thursday evening as painful as they may be.

On Tuesday morning I was sitting here working and surfing the web when I came across a story in the Huffington Post. I have no idea why I read it but there was a photo with the story of an aircraft carrier coming into Portsmouth Harbour and in the bottom left of the shot you could clearly see the Still and West pub. This pub is right next to where the Isle of Wight car ferry docks and I clearly remember thinking to myself how long it had been since I had been on that ferry. Little did I know that within six hours or so I would be doing just that.

At just gone 11 on Tuesday morning my mobile went and the name ‘Dad Mobile’ flashed up. Very very strange I thought as he never rings my mobile and always uses the landline. A female voice was on the other end – one of my dads stepchildren with the words after she had introduced herself of ‘I don’t want you to panic but…’ and before those words had fallen from her lips I knew just how serious it must be for someone to be contacting me in such a manner.

My dad had had what was already deemed as a ‘major stroke’ and had been rushed to the hospital. I couldn’t get hold of any of my family at that time. Nobody was answering their phones. Around an hour or so later people started picking up their messages and within two hours we all knew. By this time I had spoken to the doctor treating my dad and when the words which I can still hear in my head – ‘how soon can you get here?’ dropped the bomb in my head exploded.

Initially I wasn’t going to rush down because I didn’t think I could get there in time but within half an hour I knew that had I not tried and I would have gotten there in time to say my goodbyes then I would forever kick myself. I grabbed a change of clothes and my phone chargers and jumped on the next train. As I got on the train my sister called and we worked out what the plan of action was to be. There were a few people on my carriage who would have overheard my half of the conversation and must have wondered what was going on. Then I got a called from one of the stepchildren again to tell me the latest and told me that there would be no animosity if my mum was there too. Straight away I called her to tell her this and she jumped on a train too.

My brother was an hour or so ahead of us so we knew he’d get there first. I remember sitting there on the train in this surreal world of racing against time to say goodbye to my dad as the world moved on around me. I can’t describe the feeling. I knew even if I had the perfect run I wouldn’t get there for five hours and I was just sitting there willing the train to speed up. As luck would have it I made amazing time through London and put us in with an outside chance of getting the five o’clock ferry instead of the six.

My sister picked me up at Havant and we went to pick up her husband en route to the ferry. He hadn’t picked up his voicemail messages and rang her to say he was going to do some overtime but we didn’t answer the phone. I rang him back immediately and when he heard my voice he knew something was wrong. I told him we were en route to pick him up and to make sure he was out dead on time as we were rushing to get the ferry. When we got there he rushed out of the door within 30 seconds and we got down to the car ferry port just in time and got on the boat.

The journey was so quick compared to how I remembered it. We got on to the Island and got to the hospital and found the Intensive Care Unit pretty quick sharp and got in there and my brother and my dads wife were there. We got the low down and my sister and myself went in to see him. He was on a life support machine and wasn’t in very good shape at all. My sister stepped down and I started saying my goodbyes. I don’t lie when I say I was in pieces. Absolute pieces. A staff nurse came in to see if I was ok which I clearly wasn’t but I needed to say my piece and that I did.

I walked out of ICU knowing that may very well be the last time I ever see my dad. I sat in the relatives room and just sat there in silence. I had totally zoned out. People were talking but I wasn’t listening. I was away with my own thoughts. My own feelings of guilt. My own feelings of hope. My own feelings of regret. The emotions that I suppose go through everyone in that situation. I remember my mum asking me what I wanted to do and the response inside of head and that which fell from my lips were two very different ones.

Inside I was screaming that all I wanted to do was go back 25 years or so to when I was a toddler or a small child and be playing with my dad on Wecock Farm Park. I know how much my dad enjoyed those times and I would have pretty much done anything to return to that moment in time at that current juncture. I think I just shrugged and said that I didn’t know. The doctors told us that they were going to attempt to bring him out of sedation but it wasn’t successful and they ere not going to try again until the next day.

There was nothing I or anyone could do there so we decided to go back to the mainland. I went in again – this time with my brother-in-law and this time I was far more composed. Deep down I knew he wasn’t going to recover. I knew that and this was it. As I wrote the other night I hope he heard what we all said but sadly I’ll never know. We got back to my sisters just outside of Portsmouth and I didn’t sleep very well at all. Maybe two and a half hours tops.

Then I made my way back here to Southend. I recall at West Ham station this Canadian couple were lost and weren’t sure how to get to Leytonstone. I heard someone telling them the wrong way so I stepped in and got them to where they needed to be as I waited for my train home. I cried on the train. I cried a lot. Not very loudly but tears rolled down my cheeks freely as I thought about everything. I still did my Hospital Radio Show in the evening as I needed to keep my mind off of things which really did help. My sister rang me just as I got there and said they had brought my dad out of sedation but the pupils and responses were extremely worrying. By the morning he would be back under after a coughing fit.

As some of you may know I’m running for the local council here and nomination forms have to be in by Tuesday at the latest. I told my agent of the situation and we needed to get all the paperwork signed off so I said lets get it done as quickly as possible as I had no idea how the next few days would shake out. He came over on Thursday afternoon and I got all my obligations done. Not a minute before he buzzed on the intercom though my mum had rung me to say that life support would be withdrawn that afternoon. It must have been extremely awkward for my agent as I was breaking up inside but had to keep it together for a few minutes whilst we got all this sorted.

I chose not to go down to watch him die. The staff at St. Marys ICU on the Isle of Wight – which I must say were absolutely brilliant – said that they wouldn’t switch him off until those that wanted to get there had gotten there but I felt no need to watch him take his final breaths. I sat here on Thursday afternoon and evening keeping my mind off things and caught up on so much television it was stupid. Anything to keep my mind off what was going on. I then started to write my previous blog and then the call came from my brother-in-law saying ‘I’m just calling you to tell you the news’ and that was pretty much it.

After we hung up I bawled my little eyes out. Not quietly this time but loudly. Oh so very loudly. I was sat where I’m sitting right now in front of my PC all alone knowing my dad had gone. Just a horrific experience. I pulled myself together and went to bed but everyone would ring within the next hour or so. I would sleep reasonably well but Friday was a hard day. I knew there were people I could turn to but in a strange way I wanted to be alone.

Saturday my mum came over and I had company in the evening which kept my mind off things and then today the first semi normalish day since Tuesday I suppose. I’m doing the laundry. I went to Asda to get some food as I haven’t had any food in the house since Tuesday and I’ve lived off of takeaway food. For those who have known me a long time you’ll know of the tale of the older nurse that I fancied for many years and I haven’t seen her in months but I saw her in Asda. I decided that it wasn’t the best time to go and say hello and some sense of normality has resumed.

On Wednesday there is the funeral and that is something that I don’t think it is a stretch to say I’m not exactly looking forward to. I don’t think that will give me closure in any sense or form but afterwards I suppose I can start the healing process. Life will never be the same again. My dad is meant to be happily enjoying his retirement and pottering around in the garden and cursing at everything and everyone. Sadly that isn’t what has happened but I take great comfort in knowing that he didn’t fear death in the slightest as he believed he had someone extremely special waiting for him when he passed on.

Personally I’ll heal and in time life will return to normal. No doubt there will be those moments where the pain returns but I hope in time the pain is replaced in the main with the memories. They say that there is no greater pain than when a parent outlives their offspring and sadly for my parents they have felt this pain. In a way I’m happy that my dad hasn’t had to face it again but I just didn’t think his time was up just yet. I wasn’t ready for it but I suppose few people ever are.

This is the first time I have been old enough/close enough to someone to really be hit hard by something like this. I won’t say I’m finding it easy but I will say that I know that my dad would not want his passing to in any way disrupt my life and stop me fulfilling whatever it is that I want to achieve in life and after the next few days I’ll start trying to get back to normal and get on with my life – that is the final thing that I can give him.

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We lost him.

I just have no idea what to say. I have written this blog post in my head so many times over the past 48 hours and yet this page has been open for many hours and yet nothing has been written. I’m sitting here in the dark waiting for my phone to go with the news that my dad has passed on. He had a major stroke on Tuesday morning and the decision has been made to turn off his life support. That will be happening this evening.

At the moment I’m holding on to two things but both of those are very tentative and I’m not sure how much I can rely on them to get me through. The first is that he is in no pain and passes away quickly and serenely. I couldn’t go and watch him die. I just couldn’t. The second thing that I’m holding on to was that my dad had faith. I do not. However my dad does and he has long believed that when he died he would be met there by his daughter and thus he had no fear of death. I think it might be strange for a person with no faith to latch on to that of another for comfort but that is what I’m doing and I’m doing it with every fibre of my being.

This post won’t be about my dad. He was a very private man and seemingly even more private than we knew so it wouldn’t be right for me to go on about him and his life but I need to talk about how I’m feeling. I can’t do that with my family because we are all hurting and I need to be strong for others. With you though – the anonymous readers of this blog – it is different. You don’t need to be strong. You can just read or not read at your pleasure. I don’t care but this is just somewhere where I can let my feelings out.

When I found out this afternoon that the next of kin had agreed to terminate life support it was both a relief and a curse. Even though I had already come to terms (to the degree that anyone can come to terms with such a thing within 48 hours) there is already that finality and that moment is coming up imminently. When I found out on Tuesday morning and having spoken with the consultant who uttered the words ‘how soon can you get here?’ I knew. I got the train down to the Island and said my goodbyes. I have no idea if he heard them. I’d really really like to think so, so I’m choosing to believe that he did. I wish my final goodbye was better. I wish. Oh god I wish that I had some acknowledgement that he heard it but sadly that is something I just can’t have.

I wish that I had spent more time with him. Kept in more regular contact. You always think that there is next week or another day. You are always too busy when in fact you are never busy at all. I hadn’t seen my dad since July 2010. I feel like the worst son that ever walked on the face of the planet. I live in Southend and he lives on the Isle of Wight and after I moved away from the Island for good I hardly saw him. I used to pop down a couple of times a year but I just haven’t. Ww didn’t even speak that much on the phone. We just never knew what to say to each other. We are both extremely private individuals and the conversation used to be the same. ‘Anything new son?’ ‘You got anything to tell me?’ sadly there was very rarely anything new or anything of interest to tell him.

The last time we spoke was after I’d interviewed Nick Clegg last year. He didn’t say very good words about him and isn’t keen on politicians at all. I can hear the words ‘don’t tell me you’re one of those liberals son?’ ringing in my ears from that phone call. I never even told him that I was running for council as I thought he’d think ill of me for doing so. Apparently this wasn’t the case because my mum had told him a few weeks ago and he had said that he was proud of me and even said he’d of voted for me as I am a good person. How I typed that sentence without any spelling errors is beyond me considering I can’t see out of either eye at the moment.

I wish that he had gotten the chance to see me happy and settled. He wanted grandkids but they were never going to come from me. I didn’t want kids so that ‘burden’ as it were falls on my brother and one of my sisters. However I never once introduced him to any partner of mine. Mainly because until a couple of months ago I had never been in a relationship. My longest string of dates was about five I think. On the rare occasion that I had met someone whom I liked and who liked me back there was always something in the way that led to things not working out. That is sad but the saddest thing was I never got to introduce a girl to my dad.

He took me in when my mum moved away from the Island in 2001. My parents had divorced a little over a year earlier. Of course I could have moved with my mum but at the age of 18 and really not knowing where my life was going – moving away from my friends didn’t seem like a great option. Money was extremely tight with my dad and I know I was a burden to some degree. One thing he was though was an extremely selfless man who worked hard to keep his family under a roof and with food their plate no matter the consequences for himself. There is a lot of him in me but in many ways I do think that he was a far better person than I can ever hope to aspire to be.

I remember – and this is arguably my biggest crumb of comfort right now – that as I got in the car to go to university in the autumn of 2002 after living with my dad for a year that it had been the best year of my life he was so chuffed. He told me how happy that made him that he had helped me both enjoy a year of my life but also find a path of sorts. I may have had a shit job but I was having a great time with friends. The poker school was great and the Compton trips with Baz and Pickle are times I look back on with so much fondness.

He was always about the little things. He wasn’t a big gesture man. He never was and I think that is something I very much get from him. I’m always about the little things. At the time I was a season ticket holder at Fratton Park and if it was cold and wet and/or Pompey had lost he’d always have a curry or a chilli waiting for me knowing I’d be cold and/or upset. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated those types of things. He’d see I had had a rough day so would bring me back a Chocolate doughnut from work. Going back to when I was super young I’d often wake up before school and see a note ‘Neil: Football on Tape’ propped up against the video player to denote he had taped from football from the previous evening to watch before school.

Those little things are the ones that stick in the mind. We didn’t have much money so big gestures were never going to be realistic but we grew up not wanting them because we were instilled with the value of money. To this end some people say I’m tight but I just know that creature comforts and fancy meals and posh holidays won’t bring me happiness. Sadly we all need money to get by in this world but even more importantly we need people that will go out of their way to make life that little bit more special. People do this and not material goods. Both my parents taught me this and that is a lesson that resonates deeply today of all days.

He brought up five children and all four of us who reached adulthood have degrees. Considering our background that is an achievement that should be laid primarily at the feet of both my mum and dad. They always told us that being from a council estate didn’t mean that doors wouldn’t be open to us. We just might have to work harder to knock down those doors but those doors would open and open they have. This is a testament to both my parents of course but sometimes I felt that dad didn’t get enough credit for how we were brought up because he was always the good cop to mum’s bad cop.

Dad was always better with coping with us when we were young. When we got to teenagers and had formed opinions and in some cases had learnt how to talk back then we weren’t as innocent any more. Those little things that used to make everything better didn’t work as well any more and at times he didn’t know how to react to things. When I was a small id and had endured a bad day at school then watching the football with my dad after he’d bought me a can of coke and a Mars bar solved everything. When I was a teenager and had coursework, puberty issues, self-confidence issues then sadly those things didn’t get solved so easily. I know he at times felt bad for this but I never did. I knew – and I do mean this – I knew that he always tried his best with all of us. If he found it troubling then that wasn’t due to anything he did as he did always do whatever he could. I think I’ve already wittered on about what a selfless man he was but he really was. He deeply loved us and was so immensely proud of what we all became.

As I finished that sentence I got the news.

He has passed away peacefully and in no pain and that is one of the two things I had hoped for.

I had more I wanted to write but I think I’ll end it there. Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers and I have no doubt I’ll write more. You are my outlet for my emotions and for that I thank you.

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Valentine’s Day.

Yep that’s all I’m going with in the title. Short but sweet (just how I like my women – oooooooooo).

Today I went to ASDA to get my upply of juice. Yes there are nearer stores but they don’t have the variety. If I want orange then I can walk over the road but if I want White Grape & Peach or Orange & Mango or Wild Blueberry then it is a longer trek. So I went there at lunchtime and walked in to see no fewer than seven women who worked there by the entrance around the flowers section. Helping men telling them what to buy. Walking past them I glanced to the self-scan tills and they were full of men – both young and old with flowers. I would say I was full of joyous emotion but it would be a lie.

Nothing wrong with romance says I but when society is forcing romance on to people then I think there is an issue. I have always been one of those people that doesn’t celebrate things when society tells me to. I don’t care about my birthday and I don’t care about Christmas. It doesn’t need Mother’s or Father’s Day for my parents to know that I love them. It just doesn’t. And yet society tells us that on those days we have to do something special to show that you care. Why?

The same comes on this festival that is going on right now. I’m single and I wonder if I was in a relationship how I’d feel about the situation. Would I be more focused on my hatred of being told how to feel and how to act or would my desire to show the person that I was with that I cared about them? I can’t answer that question straight out but I have an inkling as to which way I’d go and if you know me then you have the same inkling.

Valentine’s Day has just become a commercial day when we are told how to act and how to feel. If you are single then you get depressed. If you are in love then you are as happy as can be. If you are in love and your partner makes no effort then you feel anger towards them.

Maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe I’m just naive and don’t understand the ways that things work (a few people have called me naive recently) and maybe I just filled with resentment that I’m not all loved up. I’d dispute all three of those points but they are out there in case people want to believe it.

There is nothing wrong at all with being single. I get so saddened by friends who stay in unhappy relationships because they are scared of being single or of never finding anyone else. Both men and women that I know are in these situations. It’s like being in a relationship is a status symbol that we should all look up to. Well do you know what? It isn’t. I hate the idea of status symbols anyway. On days like these everywhere you look you are told that being in love is a great thing (which no doubt it is) but if you aren’t then you are missing something.

I’m 28 and as far as I recall I have never received a Valentine’s Day card from anyone serious (I have received some joke ones in the past) and it doesn’t bother me one jot. All I got through the letterbox today was the new Thomson Local. I personally do not feel any anger or resentment towards those in love but I do have anger and resentment that people are forced into doing things that they don’t want to do by society and the fact that that same society is making people feel lonely and depressed. Should we ever be in a situation where we feel bad because of who we are? I don’t think so.

Que Sera Sera and all that. It just makes me sad that this day and this occasion brings out such low emotions for so many people. I can see it in my Facebook friends timeline and on my twitterfeed. Many people saying they don’t care (but secretly do) and many who are genuinely gutted and feel like they are worthless. Society has told them that. That is rather a sad state of affairs isn’t it?

As for me I have no doubt my February 14th will be riveting. I have lemon and pepper southern fried chicken bits to put in rolls for dinner. I may go to the chip shop to get some chips n all. I have an episode of Storm Chasers to catch up on and I’ll be just fine. Not doing what society tells me to nor feeling what society tells me to feel has its upsides and today is one of them. I’m single and I don’t care. If someone walks into my life who’ll make me want to change that then good times but would I care if I was still single for the 2013 version of today? Probably not. I’m happy and content with my life with or without a partner and that is (in my opinion) a very good place to be.

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The endless struggle to find that feeling of belonging

Sometimes I sit here (or in other places – mostly other places like at the beach or on the loo – why do so many man think on the loo – I digress) and think about my place in the universe or more reasonably my place in my little world. There are two schools of thought that people should conform to the norm or be individual and I sit squarely in the latter. It is a choice I make because I’m more comfortable that way. However I note that it at times has made me feel left out and that I don’t belong anywhere. It is something I struggle with all the time.

The last time I felt that I truly belonged was probably when I was 18. I was comfortable with my social group and had been throughout high school and VI form. They weren’t easy times. Our social group was a mix of boys and girls and in all honesty I was the least liked of the boys by the girls. The reasons for this have never been made clear to me. I’m guessing there was a reason. If someone pointed a gun at my head and asked me to guess I’d probably guess right. I remember one girl at one point fancied every single member of our social group throughout those five years bar me. I’m not saying this upset me but it is something I remember noting at the time. You wonder why it is. You look yourself in the mirror and try to work out what is wrong with you. It hurts.

Still that was one part of it. The male side of the social group and myself were solid. We had good times. However when I went to university I would never settle back down on the Isle of Wight and you drift apart. I have not seen any of those people since a wedding in July of 2010. I hadn’t even spoken to any of them in about 16 months until the other day. My best mate at the time and his partner are expecting so I got in touch to say well done, good luck and you’ll be a great dad etc…

I don’t yearn for those days again. I have moved on but it did get me wondering about my place and finding somewhere where I truly felt I belonged. I didn’t at university. I had friends but I never belonged. There are many reasons for this but two of them are at the time I drunk but never ever to get drunk and I didn’t really enjoy going out much. These are two things that I have had to struggle with all my life. People not drinking is not normal and people think that there is something wrong with you.

Another issue is that of self-confidence. Now these days I don’t struggle from a chronic lack of this. I won’t say I’m brimming over with it but that isn’t an issue that keeps me awake at night any more. In my teens and early 20s though my lack of confidence was terrible. I couldn’t see that having a lack of confidence in itself put people off knowing me. It was a spiral that I couldn’t pull myself out of. Confidence is a strange foe. How do you get it when no-one gives you the opportunity to get any?

In the end on that front it was a charity shop that dragged me out of it. Volunteering and people actually thinking I was worth something. Who would have thought that seeing a Crimewatch reconstruction one evening would lead me to getting some self-belief and a sense of self-worth. Well that is what happened as there was a robbery on a charity shop and I hadn’t really thought about doing anything like that. All I was doing was moping about trying to work out my next step in life and there we have it.

I suppose you could argue that I kind of felt I belonged there. However I was moving out of the area and the two managers both left at the same time so things would have been different anyway. I suppose you could argue I feel like I belong when I do Hospital Radio. I have done it for so many years and with the same core of people that it just works. So maybe I belong there.

However that is but a small part of my life. I started this post by decreeing that I made a choice that I’d be an individual and I’d live by my rules no matter what. This has without a doubt led to some sad times and certainly many feelings of inadequacy. Not going with the crowd is tough when deep down all you want is to be liked and wanted by people. When you swim against the tide it is easier to stand out but you are also easier to dismiss.

It took me many years to understand who I am to the level that I understand myself now. I think it is fair to say that I have not been this contented in a long time. I have no more feeling of belonging than I did when I was in my late teens or early 20s but I have found that the need to belong isn’t actually that important.

In the past 48 hours I have had to sit down with a close friend to help him make an extremely tough decision with regards to his first proper relationship. I myself have also felt the sting of seeing my first proper relationship end with a surprising jolt as well as have someone else on the phone to me in tears as someone she loved had passed away. Not the most straightforward of periods but that’s life.

What it showed me is that people I care about come to me if they have issues. That makes me feel good as a person. I have always said that I have no delusions of grandeur and that if on my death bed I can look back and say that those close to me felt that their lives were enriched by having me in it then that is all that I can ask for.

So maybe I don’t belong anywhere but you know what? I think that is actually ok. Maybe one day I’ll feel like I’m truly wanted and that I belong somewhere or with someone. Until that day though all I can do is carry on down the journey of life. Where that will take me I have no idea. All I can say with any assurance is all I want to be is a positive influence on those close to me. If I can do that then I think that is good enough for now.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.