Christmas 2010 saw me at a low point referred to in work elsewhere, one which seemed to beat all the other low points I'd overcome. It was the only point I think where I have felt sorry for myself. A year earlier, I had found myself facing another work disciplinary, thankfully one of the last ones I'd find myself caught up in, at an office job I'd had to take following the evisceration of my TV writing career (my sacking from a TV pilot confirmed over a sea bass meal in north London).
I'd gone into the office job on the back of 4 bereavements in 14 months. I had a broken foot which wouldn't get dealt with properly for another two years and I was homeless too. Not for the first or last time. It's fair to say I wasn't at my best.
My then boss had gone into bat for me at the disciplinary which had come about after I slated a colleague over his Movember 'tache on the staff intranet. My boss was a terrific guy. Early fifties. Always wore a short back and sides, never letting the back of his hairline reach the collars and always clean shaven. He lit up an exceptionally dull work environment as he put the world to right every morning, despite battling with cancer. He didn't know that I knew his situation and I would never reveal to him that I did.
The job was awful but he was one of the most upstanding people I've ever worked with. I was sorry that I brought him so much trouble at work.
I hung onto the job. It was sheer luck that in addition to having my boss fight to retain my 'services', a girl on the disciplinary panel turned out to be an old classmate who had witnessed my second A Levels failure in the mid-nineties. It was the first time I'd seen her since my English Lit A Level meltdown in Putney in the summer of '94. Seeing the situation I found myself in fifteen years later, I think she could see, once she had recognised me (I'd had three nose jobs since we'd studied together) that my nose aside, I had made little progress.
Christmas Eve 2010 was particularly dark. I didn't know where I would be staying beyond Boxing Day having moved out of the hotel I was living in. I decided to email my old boss to thank him for what he'd done for me the previous year. I knew I hadn't been easy to manage. He had been aware of my situation and showed compassion in keeping me in a role he knew I was not meant to be doing. Five years on, I feel I'd like to paste his reply here because it is funny and humbling too in light of his illness.
We all need a bit of stability in our lives Dan. It's important to put some roots down at some point and stick with it. I knew you weren't comfortable with the job at ***** and I also knew you needed the money so I went with it and hoped you'd settle in. You didn't, but the job wasn't the most interesting so I wasn't really surprised. Even if things had been good for you outside of work, you didn't belong there.
Life is without question an uphill battle for most people, Dan and you need to stop beating yourself up. Absolutely everyone will struggle at some point in their life due to something that happens to them and you can be certain that something traumatic will happen to everyone. War, drugs, career, love, debt, illness, death, accident, take your pick, it's all there and more. Some people will never get over whatever it is that happens to them, others seemingly put it behind them and get on with their lives without missing a beat. The truth is that everyone gets a kicking from time to time and it hurts. Unfortunately there is no hard and fast solution. Some people cope better than others under duress, that's why psychiatric nurses can do a days shift at Broadmoor and piss off to bingo afterwards instead of doing heroin. Doctors dealing with life and death situations all day every day can end up writing their own prescriptions or touching up a patient when taking their pulse.
We all react differently to stressful situations and basically it comes down to how well you learn to cope mentally with your lot. Imagine living as a paraplegic being fed through a straw, fook that, kill me now. Stephen Hawking writes a book makes another million and pays a Thai bird to stretch his monkey for him. The one thing I have learned is that you only get one go at life and spending it lying awake at night is not the best use of the limited time we all have on this planet. Promise yourself that 2011 will be the year it turns round for you then do what you can to make it happen.
Enjoy the holidays Dan.
2011 certainly wasn't the year when I turned things around. There would be many more corners to turn and another eight flats to live in before there was progress on that front.
I never replied to that last email.I don't know if my old boss beat his illness. I was always too afraid to find out. I just liked to think he is still out there fighting the corner of the next hopelessly inadequate administrator it's his misfortune to line manage.