Why I Do What I Do

So this whole Keaton Jones thing has had me thinking a lot recently. Mainly because it’s been an up and down roller-coaster of a journey with different things coming out each day. But I won’t comment too much on that anymore because we all know where I stand on bullying. All I want to say in regards to the issue is that if Kimberly Jones has created some elaborate hoax or scheme to get gifts and money then there’s a special place in hell for people like her.

But, and keeping with a similar theme, I want to lay my motivations on the table. Think of this as the end hand of Poker and for a long time you’ve been wondering why I’ve been making the moves I’ve been making and doing the things I’ve been doing. Now this is the moment I lay down my cards and tell you.

I do what I do in the hopes that somebody will give me an opportunity. In an earlier post, If Merle Would Sing My Song, I mention how easy it is for one person to change your life. And so I write and record in the hopes that somebody somewhere will want to help me change my life. I’ve reached a stage where I don’t know what to do anymore, I can’t do it on my own and I’m struggling, and so every time I write, publish and/or share, it’s more of a cry for help. I am drowning in the sea and I don’t know what to do anymore, do you call somebody selfish if they ask you to throw them a Lifebuoy to stop them drowning?

But, and here is where I think I differ from the alleged reasons of Kimberly Jones, I don’t want money. I don’t want 55k put into a GoFundMe account in my name. That’s not what I ask at all.

I ask for an opportunity. I ask for a celebrity to share my work because they have a larger following than I do. The doors that can open is huge. I ask for help improving my job opportunities; internships or work experience. I ask for practical life help.

Unashamedly I once wrote to Ellen Degeneres. I could have fabricated any sort of elaborate lie and gone along with it for attention and money and adoration. The fact is that I didn’t. I simply wrote and asked her to consider me for an internship or work experience because that was what I needed at the time and it would have boosted my career prospects monumentally.

I did the same when I tried to contact some YouTubers for interviews. I wanted to get some interview experience and so I got in contact with them. This wouldn’t have been easy for me, it could have meant long drives and stays in hotels, meeting new people and stepping out of my comfort zone, but it was something I was willing to do for the experience and because it meant so damn much to me. As we can guess I heard nothing back, but it didn’t stop me trying.

Why? Well because I truly believe I’ve done as much as I can do on my own. I haven’t made the connections most people make during their teenage years and University days. I don’t have friends in high places that I can call up for favours. It would be great if I could phone up a radio station and say “Hey, remember that time I did work experience for you? Got any work going?” But I can’t. The only work experience I have is two weeks working in a bank, a week working in a shipping company, a month working overseas in Canada (in a castle) and three years of retail.

You see when I was growing up everything was academic. I wasn’t sporty, I wasn’t social and so my way in life was through academics and education. It sucks that we’ve reached a point in life where education barely gets you anywhere anymore and it’s considerably more in favour of practical experience, something that my mental health has prevented me from getting a lot of the time.

This is why viral videos actually hurt me so much and cause me anguish. It is other people getting opportunities that I am trying so hard for. I don’t want to be viral, I just want the opportunity. I saw Calum McSwiggan doing a radio show or interview the other day and I got jealous because he’s been given an opportunity that I wish I had. Why? Did he study journalism to a University degree level? I don’t know but his videos have helped garner him the connections and experience he needs to do what he wants.

And so, now I’m being a bit more clear about things, this is my way of asking for help.

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It Gets Better?

“Stay strong, Keaton. Don’t let them make you turn cold. I promise it gets better. While those punks at your school are deciding what kind of people they want to be in this world, how would you and your mom like to come to the Avengers premiere in LA next year?”

So these words were tweeted by Captain America himself, Chris Evans. A great gesture from a character whose sole purpose in creation was to help boost morale with the suggestion that anything is possible. Captain America itself is about a bullied and unfairly treated youth who gets genetically experimented on with the results being that he comes out buff, chiselled and awesome. The origin story itself is the embodiment of the phrase “It Gets Better”.

I get that we have to be supportive and understanding. These are kids we are dealing with, the people that are told they are “too young to be depressed” because they haven’t reached that stagnant point in their life yet. As a child or teenager your everyday should be filled with possibilities and the future should be unknown to anyone and everyone. You haven’t reached your full potential, you’re still growing and you’re still coming to terms with everything. Both biologically and socially you still haven’t reached a stable point in your life and so there is forever the idea that it gets better. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with telling this mantra to children because in a sense it’s true.

There is something bleak about life after your teenage years. This is because your transitional period stops. You are expected to get a job, to find a partner, to settle down, to have a family or to focus on your career. The whole idea of being an adult and living is rooted in the idea of stability, you need a stable job and life in order to earn the money to live. The first question people ask you when they meet you is “so, what do you do?” because everybody is supposed to be at least partially on their way to this long-term ambition.

The part I take exception with in the mantra “It Gets Better” is that it doesn’t address those of us for whom it didn’t get better. It doesn’t account for those us in a dead-end job with no future or career prospects who struggle to leave the house when they relive bullying from years ago in their minds every single day. It doesn’t understand that as a child you are encouraged to be your best and reach your pinnacle but as you grow up you’re expected to settle more and more with each passing year.

My job wasn’t supposed to be long-term. It was supposed to get me away from the job centre whilst also giving me time to focus on writing. As it happens I am coming up for three years at the job with a future that doesn’t seem to change. Why? It can get better, get another job. As a teenager I would have no problems with leaving the job in hopes of a better one, as an adult I know the realism. I know that I’ve spent three years unemployed before this job and who knows how long I’ll spend after it. I know I’m pushing thirty and still living with my parents with absolutely no financial future of moving out. In this instance it doesn’t get better. It either stays the same or it gets worse.

I also know I’m crippled mentally from school. The bullying I experienced didn’t go the way that they tell you in the story. Bullies are alone in dead-end jobs with dull and miserable lives while you skyrocket and become yourself to the fullest potential, surrounded by the best people life can give you. That’s not how it worked. That’s not how it works for ninety-nine percent of the people who experience bullying either. Instead I can’t form a relationship because I’m so paranoid about the way the other person perceives and treats me that it leaves me barely able to leave the house while one of my bullies just has to take his shirt off to make friends.

So what is in store for people like myself? For those that are old enough to understand how life works and know that life doesn’t always get better? Those of us that are realistic enough to know that the good-guy doesn’t always win and the bad-guy doesn’t always lose. Those of us for whom bullying has forced us into a corner and we’re being held there by societies expectations and the threat of joblessness, homelessness, bankruptcy, or a future forever alone. What pearl of wisdom do we get that encourages us to put down the knife or the bottle of pills and actually continue on with life?

Self-Harming

This one is actually quite difficult for me to talk about and should definitely come with a warning that it is in regards to some serious mental health issues and any thoughts of this nature should be discussed with a professional.

So I’ve never really talked about self-harm before. That’s because I didn’t do it until I was about 25. I was never a teenager who cut themselves with razor blades and has the scars to prove it. My way of coping, because self-harming is some people’s way of coping with things, was to get lost in fictional worlds of computer games and books. It wasn’t until I was put into a situation where my stress and anxiety levels were through the roof and I had no escape that I did it for the first time.

My first time was at work. Having been unemployed for three years I was having a difficult time adjusting to working and not having as much free time as before. This was compounded by the feeling of insignificance that I felt doing the job and the fact that the overtime felt pressured rather than offered. So, being at work and having to work with customers all of the time, you don’t have half an hour to disappear somewhere for a sleep, video game session or to get lost in a book. You’re stuck. So I started scratching. We’re not talking just a little scratch here and there, I would scratch until my arms bled and there would be friction burns up most of my forearm.

The reasons for this are many-fold and I don’t think self-harming can be specifically boiled down to one particular reason, I think it’s a culmination of a lot of things.

Firstly I felt insignificant and so I sort of felt like I deserved the pain that came with it. I felt like the lowest of the low, with no friends, no future job progression and basically like my life had come to a standstill. For a twenty-something year old I felt like I was a failure because I wasn’t successful (you can see this in other posts about YouTube and Celebrities that I have written).

The second reason was that I was doing it for attention. Not in a “look at me” kind of way, just in a way where I wished somebody would notice and stop me, or take me to one side and talk to me about it. Nobody ever did though. But that was what ran through my head sometimes, that I wished people would pay more attention to me and notice how much pain I’m in.

Another reason was that I felt helpless. With overtime feeling forced it no longer felt like my time was my own. I was permanently paranoid that I’d be called into work and it nagged at my mind. Even when I was at work, the idea that they would approach me and ask me to work overtime felt like they were taking away my free time. My way to respond to this, to have control over something, was to scratch my arm until it bled. It was a strange feeling because it was something I could control, nobody else could make me start or stop, that choice was down to me. It reclaimed a little bit of the freedom that I felt like I had lost.

I must tell you to prepare because this is where my mind gets a little bit warped.

When I was unemployed I would look for ways to be more selective in the kind of jobs I could take. I still wanted a job, I just didn’t want them to be able to send me to work nine-to-five at a dump for zero pay (which is something they actually threatened). And so, along the lines of self-harm, I did consider something more serious than just scratching; I actively considered physically hurting myself until my life became confined to a wheelchair.

Now, this is where it gets warped because I know being in a wheelchair isn’t something to aspire to, but in my head it was. It got me sympathy and the attention that I craved but it also meant my options for work were limited. I could still do stuff I wanted to do, like writing and journalism and stuff, but it meant my range was restricted down a bit more. It was, in a sense, a control issue. If I put myself into a wheelchair then it meant I could control where and when I got a job, and I could make sure I took a job I was happy with, I had legitimate reasons to turn down certain jobs.

It also comes with a little bit of self-pity. If we circle back to my romantic life for just a moment, the idea of being in a wheelchair gave me a reason (in my head, remember) for why I would be eternally single. It would be my excuse for why nobody found me attractive, I had something I could blame rather than the current confusion of not understanding what people don’t like about me.

To show you how fucked up my mind is sometimes, I also considered self-blinding. Yes, a small part of me hoped that like Daredevil I would be great at martial arts with massively enhanced senses, but that’s sort of the child in me still wanting to believe in everything being possible. But no, it gave me a talking point. I’ve spoken before how, outside of being “The Intelligent One”, I don’t know where I fit in, but this gave me a place to fit in. I didn’t have to fit into that box because the blindness would give me that box.

Also, both of these things would give me the ability to provide my mind with the excuses for why I wasn’t rich and successful. It wouldn’t nag on me any longer because it would understand that opportunities are restricted and the chances for blind and/or wheelchair bound people are lesser than an able-bodied person.

I don’t mean to make light of any disabilities, that never was or is my intention, but in my messed up head sometimes I don’t always clearly see the negatives. This is the truth about what went through my head on the occasions I considered it and shockingly enough the negatives were never something I thought about until my mind was in a more sane and healthy place.

If I Ran The School

So it’s probably no secret that I had a hard time at school. The environment at my school, at least through my eyes, was toxic. By the time it came for me to leave secondary school the place had gone downhill with teachers either too afraid or flat out refusing to do anything about any sort of bullying. I once had a chair thrown at me in a classroom where the teacher was watching and all he did was tell the student to “sit down”. That was the extent of the punishment in my school.

We did have these things called conduct marks. Basically you had ten conduct marks each week and every time you misbehaved or broke the rules the teacher could take one away from you (I can’t remember if they gave them out or took them away, but either way it was a tally system). At the end of the week, when you got your Planner signed by your tutor, the amount of conduct marks you had (or had lost) would indicate your punishment; detention or meeting with headteacher usually. The problems here were that tutors were far too lazy to check Planners and so a lot of people got away with misbehaving and no repercussions.

So this is where the title comes in. If I ran the school I would make some changes.

First and foremost everybody would be treated equally. I know teachers try to do this but I’m talking on a wider scale. The drama kids are treated the same as the sporty kids, the same as the arty kids or the DIY kids. It’s all the same. If any achievements are to be celebrated then all of them will. At my school it was far too obvious that sports were favoured over anything else. The assemblies always had sports awards and sports news and stuff about the school sports teams. It was horrific for anybody who wasn’t interested in sports. Do away with that and make everything fair. You talk about the local sport success in assembly? Then you also talk about the viewing for students’ artwork or the auditions for a school play.

The major change I would make is to discipline.

You have three chances in the first phase basically. If somebody puts in a complaint about you misbehaving, breaking rules or bullying then they need to be investigated. If the investigation proves you have misbehaved or broken rules then these are the three-step punishments to be followed.

Step 1 – You receive a warning. (If a severe punishment is needed then you receive detention). (Offer help if the infraction may have been due to a mental health issue or biological problem).

Step 2 – You receive a detention (If a more severe punishment is needed then you receive a suspension).

Step 3 – Suspension.

When you return to school after your suspension then your three chances turn into two.

Step 1 – Detention.

Step 2 – Expelled.

These cover most of the infractions within school boundaries. Bunking off school? Refusing to listen to a teacher? Non-Physical bullying? They are all classed under this scheme.

However, there is an alternate scheme for serious infractions. This category is for use in the case of physical violence (of any sort) or carrying a weapon and other serious issues.

Step 1 – Expelled. The Police will be involved if it would be considered a criminal offence, had it been outside of school property.

Zero tolerance. This is what zero tolerance looks like. It’s expelling people when they need to be expelled.

Follow these rules and the school will be a much better place for those that do want to be there.

But, I hear some people say, these people who were expelled will suffer down the line when they leave school with no qualifications. To that I say “So?” If you cannot be a civilised human being in school towards other students then I have very little sympathy for you. What school doesn’t do now is reinforce consequences. Nowhere will take you if you’ve been expelled from every school in the area because, and rightfully so, you will be seen as trouble.

This is brought on by the fact that I witnessed an awful lot of physical bullying in my school. Not just towards me, although that is the stuff I remember most vividly, but across the entirety of the school. And guess what? Probably only between 1 and 5% of these cases were ever treated seriously. Some of them weren’t reported because they knew teachers wouldn’t do anything and those that were reported were mostly just dismissed after a meeting with parents (which is considerably unhelpful for everybody involved).

Parents don’t currently take it seriously. If this rigid guideline were in place then you know the severity of the infraction because it relates to the punishment. Parents would have to take it seriously when physical violence is seeing their child kicked out of all schools within the area. They will need to take action instead of claiming excuses for their child. Because that’s what we need more of, more action and less talk.

A school needs to start being treated like a workplace. I know that the rules I have suggested are the rules that my company obeys. As such we have zero physical violence, I’m not afraid to go in there in fear of being assaulted and because we understand there are consequences to actions. If we seriously broke rules then we would be looking for another place to work, the same should be said for a school.

Your Success Is Determined By Other People

It’s sometimes difficult to decide what to write on here, given that this is an open forum and it’s read by people who both do and don’t know me. But, I do have a rule that if anything makes me feel suicidal or exceptionally depressed, if it plays on my mind so much that I can’t sleep, then I have to write it down somewhere.

I joined the company that I currently work for in March 2015. After a year of being in the role of General Assistant I decided I wanted to be a Supervisor. Now, I know as well as anybody else that a Supervisor isn’t just a job title you decide you want to be and then voila, it happens. I knew there’d be a lot more to it than just changing the job title. Since a Supervisor’s role wasn’t available, because you have to wait for a current Supervisor to leave before that happens, I wanted to take the time to learn everything a Supervisor does so that when it came to it I was ready to step into the shoes. There was also a time here when a current Supervisor had to go home sick and they had nobody to cover the role, I decided then that I wanted to be the kind of person that could fill the role if a Supervisor ever came down sick.

So they agreed. My manager agreed for me to learn some more things and to run things when Supervisor’s went on their break. This was a big step because it was essentially a brief fill of the Supervisor’s shoes, and it meant they trusted me enough to look after things while the Supervisor had their break. All of the Supervisor’s agreed to this too – we have five – and agreed to show me some of the things that their jobs entail.

Around Christmas 2016 a woman (who shall be known as Sam) joined the company as a replacement for her friend who had moved to a different department.

By this time I was already basically doing what a Supervisor does whenever a Supervisor felt confident enough to leave me in charge. There were certain aspects I wasn’t allowed to do, legally, because they were reserved purely for Supervisors and since I wasn’t technically one yet then I didn’t have the power to do some of their job. But for the most part I could do a lot of things a Supervisor could do.

So I was, in pretty much everything but name, a Supervisor. It actually gave my job a purpose. I was no longer just a simple replaceable cog in a machine, I felt important and like I could help people find solutions to their problems.

Well, over the next few months I found out that Sam had passed an assessment which allowed her onto a Management Trainee scheme. The way the company works, in the most simple way I can put it, is a three-tier system;

  • Manager
  • Supervisor
  • General Assistant

There’s some in between those but for the most part that’s the hierarchy of the company right there.

So Sam was on her Management Trainee scheme and I have to say that I didn’t resent her for being ambitious and going for it. I had become good friends with her and worked with her a lot and she did take on a hell of a lot of workload so it wasn’t like she didn’t try hard. I also didn’t feel threatened either, what with her being on a Management Trainee scheme, this meant she was looking for a job above me anyway and she’d need to transfer stores to do her placements and such. None of this would impact on my progression into a Supervisor role.

Only, as you can probably guess, it did impact it. It’s impacted it a lot. But, and this is very important, I do not blame Sam.

Once the Supervisor’s found out she was going for this role then she became, in essence, the Star Pupil. She was suddenly the one covering breaks and running the show whenever there was an available time. She was being shown all the things I had been shown and I didn’t have a problem with this, it would have been nice to have somebody who could help me out if I ever did step into the Supervisor shoes on a more permanent basis.

Well a few weeks ago I noticed that she had been given power over and above me. She was now able to do every aspect of a Supervisor role, even those things I was told that legally I wasn’t able to do. Even though she didn’t have the job title, and she was still a General Assistant like myself, she was able to do anything and everything a Supervisor would do. And they didn’t mind this. They were willing to show her things that had previously been off-limits to me because I wasn’t important enough in the company. It wouldn’t be uncommon to see a Supervisor say “Sam, can you do this.” Despite the fact that she technically shouldn’t have had the power to do so.

So this carried on for a while and, whilst my role wasn’t growing exponentially, it wasn’t getting any smaller. I still had my borderline Supervisor role and was still called upon to run things from time-to-time (although not as often as Sam, of course).

Well this week one of the Supervisors decided that too many people had Supervisor Numbers (basically the power that I had) and that she would need to go through and cull everybody that didn’t need them. I didn’t worry, as somebody being trained up to be a Supervisor, I was assured to keep my number the same.

Nope.

Within seconds I was down to a mere peon in the company with no more power than somebody who had joined that very day. In fact there were people who have worked at the company for less than six months that were allowed to keep their Supervisor Numbers.

I do actually resent this. As somebody who had spent over a year training to be a Supervisor, I was now back to square one all because the Supervisor’s had decided that too many people have too much power (a fact that they are ultimately responsible for, yet we get punished for).

So now I can’t do half of the things I was able to do. No more running things when they are on their breaks because I don’t have the power. I don’t have the authority to overrule certain things on the computer system because my number is basic and only has basic powers.

Things get a little bit worse now because twice Supervisor’s have gone home sick and Sam has been asked to step in and take their shift in running things. That was what I was training for, what I wanted to be able to do. But now, not only was I having my power redacted, I was also being overshadowed by somebody who hadn’t been training as long as I had. The only reason she was able to do it was because it felt like they had devoted more time and effort into teaching her than they had teaching me. Teaching me was “if we have time to teach you” whereas because she was on this course it meant that her teaching was “we will make time for you”.

And so now I’m back to square one in the company with this taste of bitterness in my mouth from where I tasted the champagne of the next floor up, only to have it snatched away and be kicked back down in favour of somebody else.

I don’t honestly know what to do any more. When I found out she was running things tonight I was seething with anger because  I had been kicked down and she was being raised up. I felt useless and pathetic, like why bother even trying with things when your life, and your success in life, is in the hands of other people. Now, if a Supervisor position comes up, Sam will get it. Not because she’s been training longer than me, despite the fact I’ve got almost a year and a half on her in the job, but just because her training is “official” and they’ve devoted more time and effort to training her and helping her. Some people may be thinking “don’t worry, she’s going for Management, she won’t go for Supervisor when it comes up” but this suggests she can’t go for Management if she goes for Supervisor. She can and she will. And she’ll receive all the help she needs to get there.

(Oh, and before you say “why didn’t you get yourself on a trainee scheme”, I was already being trained up before the scheme came around and nobody told me it was management trainee, it was just advertised as “giving you options”).

A Rose By Any Other Name

On November 9th Miranda Hart posted to her Twitter “Still don’t understand the concept of ‘celebrities’ writing books and being admonished for it. If I do a play am I celebrity not an actor just because I have some recognition?” and it’s been playing on my mind a lot, especially after my post Pretty People Have It Easy.

What I want to explain, to all celebrities who write books, is that it’s not a personal thing, nobody admonishes you for writing the book. As an actor, musician or even sports star, if you choose to write a book to expand your creative curiosity then that is completely fine with us. Likewise if you choose to do it purely for a financial reward. We understand that the world runs on money and people do what they do to earn a living and so to admonish somebody for making money wouldn’t be right. If you are doing it out of pure curiosity, to see whether you’re any good at writing a book, then this is also acceptable. In fact, there’s no reason a celebrity can’t write a book, it’s the same for anybody on the planet.

Yes, some people do see celebrities writing books as having not earned their craft, but it’s the same way any overnight success is viewed. If, having never acted in my life, I went into an audition for a blockbuster movie, got the lead role and became a Hollywood A-Lister then yes, some people would view that success as unwarranted. This is because I would be making it big in an area that I have neither studied nor worked in for any period of time and as such that can rub people, who do study the field or audition every other day, the wrong way. But that’s more to do with the person admonishing them, rather than the celebrity.

But there is a problem that arises when we talk about publishers. The problem here is that publishers will willingly accept a submission from “celebrities” over your average Joe. It’s probably ten times harder to get published when your name doesn’t already attract an audience.

If we go back to the original quote – “If I do a play am I celebrity not an actor just because I have some recognition?” – Well the comparison here would be, did the casting director hire you based on your acting ability or based purely on your name? Were you a fantastic actor or were you “okay, but people will want to come and see Miranda in the play”.

I speak as somebody with a degree in Creative Writing, somebody who has studied Literature and Writing for their entire adult life, and so I don’t write this with any intended malice. But, I would have to work probably ten times harder than a celebrity would.

Put me up against…I don’t know…Brad Pitt. A publisher gets two manuscripts on his desk; mine is perfectly set out with immaculate spacing and the most perfect font style and size. The story is engaging, funny and witty and the characters evoke emotion that you have never before seen on a page. (Yeah, I’m a bit full of myself sometimes). Brad Pitt’s manuscript is only half as good. It has occasional typos, the story is good but it’s not going to win the Nobel Prize any day soon, and some of the characters are a bit two-dimensional. Now, the publisher can only publish one of these books. Who do they choose? The writer inside of me hopes they would choose me but the realist knows that Brad Pitt has almost double, if not triple, the chance that I do of being published.

But why?

Because of his name. It’s much easier to edit a book than it is to sell a nobody. His book will require some editing and re-editing and may take a few weeks or months, but that’s nothing compared to the investment in publishing an unknown person and that investment not reaping the benefits when people don’t pick up the book because they don’t recognise the name on the cover. The payback on the name alone will be worth the time and effort put into editing it.

If I handed you two books now; one has the name Joshua Jace written on the front and the other has Brad Pitt, based purely on the names alone, you are probably more likely to pick up the book by Brad Pitt. Now this doesn’t always work, some people do prefer unknown names, but the majority of people are more likely to pick up a book if they recognise the names on the front.

And this is how publishers make their jobs easier, but also how the world gets flooded with dross. Zoella hires somebody to ghost write her book, considering it’s a fictional book that essentially mirrors her success it seems absurd but she does. She doesn’t write it, she simply slaps her name on the front of it and suddenly a publisher is a hundred times more likely to buy it because of her celebrity status. And the fact that it’s ghost written is supposed to be kept hush-hush because we must all believe she wrote it (the fact that it didn’t stay hush-hush is another story). And so that is a prime example of publishers going primarily on the name rather than the content. It could have been written by anybody, who cares? It’s got her name on it.

And we see this a lot, especially with YouTuber and these Social Media Celebrities in the modern world. A lot of books are half thought out, basically written by somebody else and it’s more of an afterthought than anything else. It makes the celebrity money and I don’t blame them for doing this, I blame the publishers for looking at it and thinking “yeah, it’s going to sell” rather than “yeah, it’s good”.

Pretty People Have It Easy

A while back somebody asked me the question; is the world easier or harder for better looking people? At the time I didn’t know how to answer. After all, not everybody wants to be judged on their looks and sometimes typically attractive women have found success in their male dominated fields, only for their success to be overshadowed by their appearance. My feelings are very much not the same as they used to be.

I have spent the last couple of days looking up plastic and cosmetic surgery as a way to improve upon my appearance. Not that I hate my appearance because I don’t, I just dislike it and think some things could do with improvement. This is because in my head, I don’t know where or when the wires got crossed, but improving my looks would increase my chances of success in life.

Woah, woah, woah. Did he just say that? Yes.

Let me give you some facts to begin with. I have made videos for YouTube for a long time now. Most of the views for these videos are a slow trickle; starting off with maybe sixteen or seventeen in the first few days and then dropping to one every other day before completely stalling at a relatively low number (usually just under thirty). (I’ve been doing it longer than my channel suggests too. I deleted a lot of videos when the view count stalls and I begin to contemplate suicide). However, I have seen much less impressive channels – less charisma, worse production and sound quality etc. – that have 10k+ subscribers. I currently have less subscribers than I do actual videos on my channel, that’s how bad it is. The only difference I can see between my videos and their videos are that they are pretty.

Let me give you an example and we will use ASMR videos for this. The girls are usually front-runners in ASMR given that most of them these days just pan their camera downward so it focuses primarily on their breasts and voila, you have views. To get a lot of views you just have to be young, innocent looking and be prepared to sex yourself up. By this I mean forget the main focus of ASMR being all about the sound production, just make sure you look sexy in whatever you’re doing and you’re a hit. For guys genetically blessed it’s also not that hard. Clear skin, good hair and a slender or toned body gets you views regardless of your quality. If you wonder how to get popular as an ASMRtist then just take a picture of PJ Dreams, FredsVoice ASMR or ASMR Darling to a cosmetic surgeon and ask to look like them. This isn’t even a reflection on them (because I try to put my personal views of a person aside when talking about their videos) but the comment section on their videos is THIRSTY (modern day talk for overly sexual and desperate). It’s quite clear that a lot of these people only watch them for the eye-candy.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like eye-candy myself and some of the people I watch happen to be pretty, but I’m not going to comment on their videos about how gorgeous they are because technically it has nothing to do with the video. It’s also never the main reason I watch a channel or a video, it’s always usually just a plus point and never something I take into account when considering to subscribe or continue watching.

Okay so this is just ASMR so far. But look at the famous Vloggers. Zoella, Caspar Lee, Joe Sugg, Davey Wavey, Joey Graceffa, Shane Dawson, Tyler Oakley. None of these people are unattractive and the primary reason people watch their videos is because they’re attractive. I will admit that in my younger years I was enamoured with Davey Wavey because he was hot. He’s still hot but I find myself caring more about what comes out of people’s mouths than how they look without a shirt. But these people earn a living looking pretty and it’s reinforced by those who buy Zoella’s £50 advent calendar or watch Caspar Lee go on some stupid road-trip. It’s absurd. Can we even look at some people who have received viral attention due to their “videos” which should be down to the message portrayed but ends up just being about how pretty they are (I’m looking your way OliverVlogss and The Rhodes Bros).

And this idea makes other people feel bad. It makes other people question their own life’s worth. I have considered committing suicide half a dozen times in the last week just because I hate how I look when compared with some of the people mentioned above. I know it’s not their fault, but it’s how I feel about things. The suicide aspect comes in because I feel so ugly and insignificant compared to these people that I honestly don’t believe my life is worth living, given that the only thing people appear to value in life is how somebody looks. If we’re giving Zoella enough money to buy a £1 Million house based on how she looks (which, let’s face it, is her primary brand) then it makes me question what monetary value (if any) would be placed on my appearance.

So do pretty people have it easier? There’s no easy answer because as I know from experience, anybody can suffer mental illness, but if you want success on YouTube or in the media then it definitely helps to get rid of the double chin and get those man boobs liposuctioned.

 

Employment, Mental Health and Sexism

So as I sit here and write this there is a sore on my arm that has bled and now scabbed over. This particular sore is from work where I was so depressed during my job that I took to scratching off layers of my skin, causing an open and bleeding wound and a friction burn down a large part of my forearm.

If there’s one thing I have learned throughout my life it really is that companies do not care about the individual. When I first joined my company I had to leave after three months because of suicidal thoughts/problems. Rather than transfer me to a different department – to a department I actually wanted to work on – I was told that the only option was to leave. This caused all sorts of problems and was not helped by the unwillingness of certain members of the company to do what was best for my own health, forcing me to leave.

So I left and then jumped through a hundred different hoops (three months later) just to get a job in the department I wanted to work on. I was helped by a wonderful woman who went over and above her duties to help me get the job, knowing how much it meant to me. Basically she was my anchor and my support while working there because I knew, if I had any problems, then I could go and talk to her and she would try and help me as best as she could. She recently left the company because a better job came along (and she has to do what is best for her and her family) and so it’s left me afloat in a company that doesn’t seem to respect mental illness.

I was recently called into the office of the Store Manager who told us that he was looking to move more people on my department into the evening shifts and that it shouldn’t really affect me because all my shifts are evenings anyway. He asked if I would be happy moving my shifts and I explained not really, my routine has taken a long time to get used to and I like that I do four days working and then get three days off. He said he would take this on board when working out the new rotas. He didn’t. He moved one of my shifts to a Tuesday which completely messes up my routine and means I don’t have the smoothness of working I am used to. It’s start and stop and very juddery which doesn’t ease my mind.

The only problem is, what do you say? This is the Store Manager, you can’t say no to him. One person tried to explain that the shift she was moved into wasn’t ideal for her and he basically said “I can change your shift with 28 days notice. This is your 28 days notice.” Which is basically his way of saying “I do what I want.” Now he openly said in my interview that he “doesn’t mind making people do something they are uncomfortable doing.” Which, of course, speaks volumes for a manager.

I’ve had these conversations before, where I try to explain that for my own mental health it would be best if I didn’t change shifts, and the reply is always “this is a business, we have to look at this like a business. I’m running a business, we have to do what is best for the business.” Because the bottom line, ultimately, is that your health is less important than the business.

Despite having worked three months on the shop floor and having to leave due to suicidal thoughts, they still see no problem in making me go back onto the shop floor to stack shelves. Now this isn’t a millennial “I don’t wanna do it” kind of thing, this is a “when I’m doing it, I actually want to drink bleach or slit my wrists” kind of thing, because I feel so insignificant. But that doesn’t stop them from making me do it. And why do they make me do it? Because it’s a business and it’s what’s best for business.

Also, other people can’t work on the shop floor for medical reasons – bad backs, heart conditions etc – which I respect but at the same time the company needs to respect that mine is a medical condition and not a preference. But in a list of things that a company respects, mental health is right down the bottom.

A company will slap up pictures and slogans saying they like to help with mental illness and your mental health means a lot to them but in reality, when it comes down to it, if your mental health interferes with their job and gets in the way of running a business then it’s the business that takes priority, not your mental health.

I have explained that I find it hard working on the shop floor and the response is “You’re a young lad, there are things we expect you to do.” Which sounds an awful lot like judging a book by it’s cover.

And this is because my company is also rather sexist.

Be a woman and they’ll accept any medical condition you have. Seriously, one woman has a rash on her leg and they don’t put her on the shop floor because of it. I suffered from vertigo and the second my doctor’s note ran out they had me on the shop floor without even so much time to get a second.

Just some examples in my company;

“We hired you because we couldn’t have a girl working on the shop floor lifting the heavy bottles of pop.” – Said when I was first given the job of working on the shop floor.

“Didn’t they have any men’s costumes?” – When I turned up to a Halloween fancy dress day as an Evil Queen (for which I won best costume, thank you very much).

“Nice to see you dressed as a man today.” Said by the same person when he next saw me at work.

(If you need any explanation as to why these things are sexist then I would be very happy to explain it).

Now two of these things were said by my Store Manager who is very condescending and so they come across as offensive rather than jovial. Let’s not mention I don’t often joke with the Store Manager, he makes me uncomfortable, and so these comments do just come across as sly digs more than anything else.

Also, while we’re talking about the company I work for (who for legal reasons, because I am still an employee, I cannot mention the name of it) we’ll end this with a comment from my boss that I’m not sure whether to be offended by or not.

I had explained to him that I wear a design on my badge in support of the LGBT community and it represents being Out At Work. Well, he proceeds to talk to me about Australia and the recent marriage equality vote, but what really got to me was that he then said “don’t worry, I’m not just going to talk to you about gay shit.” This was hardly the professional manner I had expected from somebody who was in charge of running an entire store.

What Would You Do To Be Famous?

My dad said to me the other day “you wouldn’t want to be famous though, would you?” after I made a joke about what I’d do if I were famous. He outrightly believes that I would not want fame and the hassle that comes with it.

His thinking behind this is pretty sound; I’ve got depression and social/general anxiety. The social anxiety means I struggle in large groups of people and that I have trouble in social situations and so I tend to avoid them. General anxiety also gives me huge fears of simple things like finding a parking space or ordering a drink at a bar. Simple things that send my mind into a vortex and just basically have me saying “I’d rather stay home and do nothing than actually go out and do what I want.” I don’t have a lot of control over it, it’s what my mind does.

However, that’s just sort of the shell that I give off. It’s easier than admitting that perhaps I’m a little fame-obsessed. But here I shall lay out the truth for you. I have a problem with social situations, unless I am the centre of attention. If I am the centre of attention then I love the idea of all eyes being on me and the feeling it gives me. I don’t get it very often, although it is one of the reasons I love Karaoke despite not being a good singer. This is very often misunderstood though and people can very easily convince me that something “isn’t my thing” because it’s so difficult to explain this concept to somebody. My parents don’t believe I’d want to be an actor and so I don’t even entertain the notion, mainly because it’s easier to say “you’re right” when they say “you don’t want to be an actor, do you?” than it is to try and explain the workings going on inside my head.

But please don’t get me wrong. I’m not a fame-whore. I wouldn’t do ANYTHING to get famous. I want to be famous for something I’m good at, or something I enjoy doing, and currently I’m trying to establish myself for my writing (check some of it out over on The Creative Write Blog), but that doesn’t mean I’m going to sell out and compromise all my morals just to be well-known. Do I want more Twitter followers? Yeah. More views on YouTube videos? Yeah. More comments on my Tweets? Yeah. But would I do something debased and debauched just in the hopes of becoming viral and being an overnight sensation? No. This is the difference between fame-hungry (the desire to succeed to fame) and fame-whore (the desire for fame no matter who or what it costs).

But I do want to be famous/well-known. I’ve written before in a blog titled Chasing The Likes that my self-esteem is routed in how other people perceive me and so having a large following wouldn’t affect me negatively. I want to be one of those people who is invited to poetry readings rather than having to trudge through thousands of webpages to find an open mic night that is within distance and at a time when I’m not working. I want to be one of those people that people WANT to talk to.

And something that is grinding my gears recently is people who question the fame and celebrity they receive, even though they go out of their way to gain it. Shane Dawson spends $1000 on a pizza and has over 10 Million subscribers, yet he complains that Hollywood looks down on him and other YouTubers. Yogscast Hannah, who plays games for a living, frequently utters the phrase “What am I doing with my life?” Just a figure of speech but difficult to stomach when, as a viewer, you actually wonder if anybody cares you’re alive and whether life is worth living.

 

 

(I hope nobody takes this personally because it isn’t their fault. It’s my mindset that warps this perception of seemingly innocent statements into something a lot more sinister and evil. Also I’m a huge fan of both Shane Dawson and Yogscast Hannah and would hate to do anything to have them think otherwise).

 

Waterstones; How They Went From My Dream to My Nightmare

When I finished University I spent the following three years unemployed. I won’t for one second put all of the blame on other people. I was not in the right headspace to move to London to pursue a journalism or editorial job (given that my degree was in Creative Writing) and so my options were limited. They became even more limited when I moved out of East London and further into the countryside (my parents moved and as I was unemployed I went with them).

My list of jobs that I could do became considerably smaller given the rural area I was now living in. I was overqualified for the factory and cleaning jobs that were the mainstay of the area, in fact with a degree I was considered overqualified for most of the jobs in the local area.

But I want to tell you a story of a time when my ideal job opened up for me. It was working in a bookshop. More specifically it would have been working at Waterstones. For those that don’t know Waterstones, it’s possibly the largest book retailer in the UK (I’m unsure of it’s status outside of the UK). At face value you would see this as just another basic retail position, and in essence it is, unless you actually love books like I do. To be surrounded by books, to have people come in and want to talk about books with you, it’s a dream for me. There’s just something about books and literature that I can’t quite explain to people who don’t get it.

So, back to this job opportunity. The briefing said “must be knowledgeable about books, confident to give recommendations and talk about books” and “have experience in a retail environment”. Tick and tick. I had both of those given my three years studying literature to degree standard and my six months retail work before University. I was a shoe-in for this job and I actually spent an entire day tailoring and crafting my opening letter and CV because I was that excited about working in the store.

I submitted my application and waited. It wasn’t long before I got a reply.

“We’re sorry, your application has not been successful.”

Not my first rejection letter but definitely the first one I couldn’t understand. Did you mean to tell me I hadn’t even made it to an interview? On paper I was the perfect candidate for this job yet I’d been turned down. Thus I pursued the company and followed up with them, phoning them to find out just why I had been turned down without even an interview.

After waiting on the phone I got through to the department that would have deemed me unsuitable for the job. I enquired as to why I was rejected at such an early stage in the process, given my experience, and they couldn’t offer me an explanation. We spoke on the phone for a while and then they told me they would try and find my application to see what exactly happened.

I waited while they searched.

“Oh yes, here it is. You don’t have any retail experience in a book sales environment. That’s why you would have been turned down.”

Hold up. Hold up. So I couldn’t work in a bookstore because I had never worked in a bookstore before? It was a horrible circle that wasn’t all that strange to me, I’d encountered a lot of these “must have specific experience AND specific degree” adverts before (journalism being one of the worst culprits for it). But I had a Literature degree AND retail experience. Surely a three year degree could fill in for the “spent time around books” section. And who is more comfortable and confident talking about books than a Literature student/graduate? Nobody.

Now, I’ve been in Waterstones a lot both before and after this application. The people I have encountered (not naming names or stores) aren’t exactly passionate about books, they aren’t literary enthusiasts and they probably couldn’t tell you the difference between The Divine Comedy and The Odyssey without looking it up on the computer.

So this is what I took away from this experience; two weeks work experience in a second-hand bookstore is more valuable and appreciated than a three year literature degree.

It still makes me sick to my stomach that Waterstones rejected me based on that stupid and juvenile criteria. I want there to be an investigation into every single Waterstones employee and anybody who didn’t have book sales experience before they joined should be let go because they don’t fulfil the criteria for which I was apparently being judged.

It’s a sickening state of the world when companies can give honest and genuine people the runaround when all we are trying to do is find a job we are comfortable in. Literature has always been one of the most important things in my life as far back as I can remember, but because I’ve never worked in a bookshop apparently I can’t work in a bookshop. But add on top of that I’m not experienced enough to go into journalism or editorial positions (because like hell are they giving people a chance these days) and it sort of makes me feel like my entire degree was worthless.

No wonder I find myself disillusioned in this world when companies are more willing to take a sixteen year-old school-leaver with no love of literature who has done two weeks work experience in a bookshop over somebody who has lived and breathed literature for most of their life and studied it to a degree standard.