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The world's longest suicide note: ONE MILLION words.

I write about life with bipolar disorder (a.k.a. manic depression).

All opinions are my own.

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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Binging on TV

7 min read

This is a story about edutainment...

TV

I set myself the objective of writing 1 million words in 3 years on this website. To date, I've written over 950,000 words. Of course, some of it is complete garbage. I've written during periods of extreme sleep deprivation, paranoia, stimulant psychosis, mania, hypomania. I've written from psych wards. I've written while losing my home, losing jobs, losing my mind. I've kept writing through it all, and my task is nearly done.

I wrote a whole novel that I'm quite proud of, and 42,000 words of another novel which I'm not so proud of, but I learned a lot. My first novel came relatively easily; I wrote about what I know. The first year that I was blogging seemed to go relatively easily, but the second and third years have been... eventful.

I've lost friends because of my blog, but I've also gained new friends all over the world. My words have been used against me by ex-employers and ex-girlfriends, but more fool them: I think it's the most cowardly and pathetic thing in the world to hit somebody when they're vulnerable; kick a man when he's down.

I've made myself incredibly vulnerable. My whole psyche is on display to the entire world; public property. In the last week alone I've had readers in over 50 countries, speaking nearly 40 different languages as their mother tongue.

I'm not so arrogant, deluded and hubristic to believe that I have any influence, of course, but nobody can deny that I exist... out there in cyberspace. Very few people have gathered their thoughts so exhaustively and presented them at such length.

The internet is littered with abandoned blogs. Twitter is awash with billions - if not trillions - of throwaway garbage 140-character tweets. Even now with 280 characters, what can people really say that's profound or interesting, with such a constraint? Creativity does not love constraints: when was the last time you read a book which could be tweeted? The various competing messaging platforms - SMS, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter DM, Instagram DM - all store huge archives of chat between their users, but it's all throwaway garbage; transient tosh.

Of course what I'm writing is not profound or perhaps even interesting. Of course what I'm doing is not original; it's not a novel idea. Of course I'm not special or different in any way. Of course I'll never achieve anything except my arbitrary target of writing 1 million words in 3 years. What was the point?

I could sit around and be a consumer. I could sit around and consume content. I could read other people's books and blogs and never write another thing. I could watch films and TV and never create a single thing in my whole life. I don't have to write. There are plenty of people who write already. Why does the world need another writer? What have I got to say which is going to add anything of value to the literature?

Writing and creating art became an urgent need which could not be ignored any longer. Writing is a healthier addiction than slouching on the couch, having soap operas and celebrity reality TV shows projected into my living room for all my waking hours. Writing has become a habit, and I've become habituated into the ritual of writing down my stream of consciousness and making it public. Writing my innermost thoughts and feelings publicly has become part of me, because I always existed but I didn't have anywhere to exist... I was trapped in my own mind and I needed to escape that prison and go live in a place that was less isolated. I live in cyberspace. I live through my writing and those who it connects with. Anybody can connect. I'm publicly accessible. I'm common property.

I've interrupted a weekend spent binging on Netflix and Amazon streaming videos. I've deliberately paused the endless stream of nonstop entertainment to write. Why would I do that? Why would I deny myself the pleasure of sitting and doing nothing - being entertained - and spend my precious time writing this? Most people find writing to be a real chore. Most people would struggle to write a thousand words, let alone 950,000. Even your average university-educated person will consider their 10,000 word undergraduate dissertation, 40,000 word masters dissertation or 100,000 word thesis to be a lifetime achievement. If you want to level the accusation at me that it's easy to write complete crap, I remind you that in amongst the 950,000 words I've written are the best part of 2 completed novels, which had to have coherent plots and credible characters, and be written well enough to deserve to be read... although I admit, my unfinished second novel is pretty crappy.

It's hard to create something. It's easy to pick things apart. It's easy to be a consumer. It's hard to finish a project. It's a lot harder than you think to write a whole novel. It's ridiculously hard to commit to a 3-year 1-million-word writing project and see it through to the end.

There's something kinda tragic about broadcasting when nobody's listening. Why do people keep public video diaries when they've got no audience? Why do people keep blogging when nobody reads or comments on their blog? Why do people keep tweeting when they've got no followers?

The answer to the riddle of why people speak to an empty room is something that you might never know, because you're not prepared to publicly ridicule yourself to find out. You think you already know the answer: that it's stupid and pointless. However, how does anybody learn how to be a good writer in the first place? How does anybody get followers and readers? How does anybody go from nothing to something; somebody?

Nothing happens if you just sit around watching TV. You're not going to win the lottery if you don't even play the game. All that's gonna happen is that you'll get fat and old and wonder what you did with your life, if you don't ever create anything. That's fine; that's what most people do: they just get fat, old and then they die, and nobody knows a damn thing about them except for their nearest and dearest. They take their secrets to the grave.

This might be seen as a vanity project; egotistical, but you've got to remember that at the funeral of people who've committed suicide, everyone always says "if only we knew" and "what could we have done differently?" and they're ultimately left with more questions than answers. The only antidote to that I can see is to begin to change the way we live: instead of lives of quiet desperation, we can now express ourselves fully. We have all these amazing communication tools which we can use to connect with one another. There should be no monopoly on who's allowed to communicate; broadcast; publish.

Yes, there's a snobbery around self-publishing, but it's the quickest and easiest way to get yourself out there; to be heard.

I've been racing against time to make myself heard; to get all of this down on the page so it can be read by anybody who's interested. It's been a race against time to communicate enough of myself, that I feel like I'm not going to be one of those suicides where people are left wondering about anything: it's all written down.

I'm not saying I'm actively suicidal at the moment, but I know how quickly my circumstances can change; how rapidly my mood can blacken.

It feels like a good use of my time to write every day, even if nobody is reading.

It feels good to write, when I would otherwise just be binging on TV shows during my leisure time.

It feels good to create, not just consume.

 

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Leave my Art the F**k Alone

4 min read

This is a story about bullies and abusers...

Thought bubble

I only have a couple of months left to go and I'll have hopefully achieved my ambition of writing a million words in 3 years - the world's longest suicide note - and the most comprehensive, candid and unflinching glimpse inside the mind of a dead man walking.

"We didn't know" and "he seemed fine" and "what could we have done differently?" are the kinds of things that haunt the people after somebody has committed suicide.

Well, there are no excuses here - I've made my very best attempt to write on a daily basis, all the things - most of which are very practical - which have driven me to attempt suicide. Eventually, I will die at my own hands.

To imagine that there's a doctor, psychiatrist or other charlatan out there who's got the f**king cure, means you're more delusional and insane than I am. Take a good look around you - things are getting worse not better; more and more people are feeling depressed; suicide has gotten so bad that it's the number one thing that's gonna kill a man like me, yet there are no pills that work, psychological treatments which are available to anybody but the extremely wealthy or indeed any offer of safe sanctuary for those of us who can't guarantee our own safety... we're a danger to ourselves. Check the data - we are suffering an epidemic of mental health problems. Every piece of objective data you can gather says the same thing: so-called 'medicine' is not making people better, and things are getting worse and worse.

Writing this blog is my therapy. It's the rock I'm clinging onto, shipwrecked in a storm as the rain lashes down and giant waves threaten to drown me. This blog gives me pride in what I've achieved, despite the adversity I've faced. More than anything else, this blog is MY PRECIOUS ARTWORK which is 90% complete, but it's fragile... don't fuck with it.

I was attacked by proxy. A horrible person got a muscly bully to invade my home and force me - with threats and intimidation - to delete quite a lot of blog posts. That coward is using their macho friends, colleagues - whoever - to coerce me to submit to their will. You can beat the living shit out of me if you like, vandalise my car, smash up my stuff, but don't f**k with my motherf**king art. If you're hiding behind your muscly bullies, thinking you can fuck my art up and you're safe because you're protected by your macho 'protectors' then you've underestimated how much it's hurting me... beyond a certain point you'll have hurt me so much that I don't care if your thugs kill me; the treats and intimidation won't matter any more. You're such a coward and you're so horrible for trying to f**k up the one thing that's most precious to me, via your proxies.

Hands off my art. It means so much to me that I'm prepared to suffer whatever the consequences are for standing up to the bullies and those who threaten me; invade my home; intimdate and force me - literally standing over me making threats - to destroy my art.

I'm not sure how many thousands of words were lost when my home was invaded and I was threatened, intimidated and forced by a macho proxy to delete parts of my artwork, but even a single word is too many. I was forced to delete a picture of a sausage, for f**k's sake. Having that level of control over somebody's 3-year project, while thinking you're safely protected and your macho proxies are doing your dirty work... that's despicable. Words don't come easily. 1 million words don't come easily. 3 years on a single project is not easy. If you f**k with it you're hurting me more than you can possibly imagine.

If you think there's a vindictive vengefulness bubbling under the surface here, think about how you'd feel if somebody took a knife to one of your children and left a scar across their face - that's how I feel about this artwork being f**ked with. Every time I look at this blog, I'm reminded that there's a scar... when a thug forced their way into my home and threatened and intimidated me, and wrecked my artwork.

I'm a desperate man with nothing to lose. All I've got is my art - my 3-year project - so the hurt you cause me if you f**k with it is incalculable.

 

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I Hate to Worry You, but You Should Worry

8 min read

This is a story about warning signs...

Night vision

One of the reasons why I write every day - and publish publicly - is because it's a healthy habit: I do it when I'm well, or at least not dreadfully unwell. One of the reasons I publish every day is because it gives a lot of clues about my state of mind, and therefore informs the reader about the risks to my life.

For example, I published every single day - without fail - while I was working in London, because I was on the brink of suicide nearly every day. More often than not, if I stop blogging, I'm either dead or dying. If you look at the previous blog posts leading up to the days I stopped blogging, then you'll see plain as day all the warning signs.

The problem is, people get used to hearing a struggling person casually saying "I wish I was dead" and they think it's part of their personality; they think that they're "crying wolf". Trouble is, many of those people will eventually kill themselves, or at least attempt to. There's a lot of bullshit about "attention seeking" and not having to worry about the ones who are talking about it: "it's the quiet ones you've got to worry about". Bullshit bullshit bullshit. There's a lot of bullshit - especially in the medical community - which equates to "I don't think you're really going to do it. Go on! Do it! Prove it! I call your bluff!".

The net result is dead people. Lots and lots of dead people. A man kills himself every 2 hours in the UK. When you visit a doctor and the number one thing that's going to kill you is suicide, and the doctor has the opinion that you're "probably not" going to kill yourself, they're arrogantly gambling with your life.

I get it. It's boring hearing about how awful people's lives are. I get it... it gets REALLY BORING waiting for a suicidal person to finally do it. DO IT ALREADY. I'M BORED OF WAITING. I'VE HEARD YOU SAY YOU WANT TO KILL YOURSELF SO OFTEN, SO I WANT YOU TO DIE SO I DON'T HAVE TO HEAR IT ANYMORE.

Thus, we arrive at the world's longest suicide note. 900,000 words and counting.

Nobody can say "I didn't know" or "we'd have done something if we knew" or "we don't understand".

I've documented in exquisite and unflinching detail, every single aspect of what makes me suicidal.

The photo above is taken using the night-vision mode of my smartphone. The photo is taken through the crack at the bottom of my door. You can see my bike in the hallway, but other than that the image is pretty hard to discern. This is a snapshot of psychosis - I was using the night-vision mode on my smartphone to 'peek' outside my bedroom and look into the rest of my empty apartment, but the psychosis was telling my that my apartment wasn't empty. I was looking for intruders: the shadow people.

My mental illness started as common-or-garden variety depression, meaning that I was planning to kill myself by sellotaping a bag full of pure nitrogen over my head, and asphyxiating. I bought the canisters of nitrogen gas. I bought the duct tape. I found an airtight bag big enough to envelope my head, and leave enough space so I could breathe in the nitrogen. Nitrogen is not a poisonous gas, but it's inert... if you breathe pure nitrogen, you're not breathing any oxygen, and you'll quickly pass out and die.

I bought potassium cyanide. I even put a picture of the potassium cyanide that I'd bought on Facebook and told people what it was and what I planned to do with it. The most notable reply I got was from a 'friend' who was angry that I had it in my house when he brought his kid over to visit... which I did not. It was triple sealed in airtight vacuum packaging, then placed in a hazardous chemical containment jar, then finally it was placed in a locked steel strongbox in my summerhouse - nearly 100m away from the house. His kid must be pretty special to be able to pick two locks, locate the container and open the packaging in order to ingest the deadly chemical. That was the most notable reply. THAT WAS THE MOST NOTABLE REPLY - anger that somebody's child might have died if they had the ability to time-travel and pick locks.

So... nobody gives much of a fuck.

I was immediately discharged as soon as I came out of my coma and my kidneys started working again, following my attempted suicide in Manchester, when I'd ingested enough tramadol to kill an elephant. They didn't transfer me to a psych ward. They didn't put me in a crisis house. They didn't do anything - they just discharged me, whereupon I had to go back to the apartment where I'd tried to kill myself, with its door hanging off its hinges because the emergency services had to kick it down to save me. The first thing I said to the ITU doctor when I came round was "I'm upset that I'm alive. I wanted to die. I told you not to treat me; not resuscitate me. I still want to die". What the actual fuck? Do the capitalists want to exploit me so badly that they'll keep me alive against my will?

There's an 'unsound mind' argument, but my mind is free from drink, drugs, medication and other mind-altering substances. My brain is working the way nature intended through millions of years of evolution. MY BRAIN IS FUCKING WORKING. If I'm depressed, it's because of depressing bullshit jobs, war, famine, climate change, inequality, brutality, bullying, people who don't give a fuck whether you live or die, and people who want you to stay alive so they can exploit you until the day you die of old age and exhaustion. My mind is perfectly sound. I'm having a sane reaction to an insane world.

If I'm not blogging, you should worry.

If I stop blogging, worry.

In a perfect world, I'd tell this fucked up world to fuck off and I'd become an artist. I'd quit my god-awful boring unchallenging piss-easy pointless bullshit job, and I'd go do something creative. I'd be a 'bum'. I'd be a 'loser'. I'd reject 'civilised' society and go have some damn fun. 21+ years in the rat-race full time, and 13+ years in full-time 'education' which was just bullying and absolute bullshit box-ticking for the sake of school league tables. I don't give two fucks about pieces of paper to wave around - they prove nothing - and I don't give two fucks about inflated job titles for work that is ABSOLUTELY USELESS. Take a long hard look at yourself - you're all talk and no action; you produce nothing; your job is completely and utterly useless; you're very busy doing NOTHING.

However I kill myself - quickly by jumping off a tall building, or slowly with drugs and alcohol - it's the same end result. We all die in the end anyway, so I really don't see the point in prolonging the suffering. Cut to the chase. Jump to the end. Skip the awful bit, with the commuting and the BORING BORING BORING bullshit made-up pointless jobs.

Yes, at one point I had lots of lovely holidays and lots of friends, plus lots of material trimmings like sports cars, yachts, speedboats, hot tubs, summer houses, a house, a garden, a cat... then I said to myself "but I'm still depressed that my job is utter bullshit which doesn't do anything of any use for anybody". So I became an electrician. I can proudly say that lots and lots of families have lights, and power sockets, and electric ovens, and electric hobs, and electric showers, and power to their hot tubs, and power to their sheds and outbuildings, and power to their electric gates and power to a million and one other things. Work that I did is responsible for improving the lives of all the tons and tons of families for whom I installed the electrics in their homes. Trouble is 1) people begrudge paying tradesmen, expecting them to work for minimum wage, 2) the work destroys your health, because there's so much brick dust, asbestos etc, and 3) the responsibility for doing a safe installation to safeguard the lives of everybody who will ever be in those houses, is not reflected in the wage or the health damage aspect.

Pushing paper around my desk and pretending to look busy carries zero risk that a mistake of mine might kill somebody, but yet I get paid 5 or 6 times more money... but I'm intolerably bored.

I might as well be an artist. At least with the creative arts, you're paid fuck all but it's lots of fun, intellectually stimulating, free from responsibility, and nobody gets electrocuted to death if you make a tiny mistake... in fact, can you even make a mistake as an artist?

This blog is an artwork; it's a piece of evolving art - it's durational to use the wanky arty term.

But, when the art stops my heart stops.

If I stop blogging, you should worry about me.

 

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Without hope, why go on?

6 min read

This is a story about motivation...

King of Bohemia

In a godless universe with no afterlife, if you're not fulfilling the will of your genes and reproducing, what's the point in being alive? We all die and we're all forgotten; everything is meaningless. Entropy will destroy everything that's structured, ordered and regular - we are being systematically destroyed; in the blink of an eye it will be as if we never even existed... all of human history, all civilisations, all buildings, all scientific knowledge, all great men and women, all works of art... it will all be gone.

Replication; reproduction is the force that fights against entropy. While entropy seeks to return everything to a jumbled and unordered chaotic mess, molecules that are mathematically probable to exist turn into more complex hydrocarbons, acids, proteins and all the other building blocks in the primordial soup, from which emerged the first self-replicating entities. Replication is as inevitable as the force that destroys everything that is ordered and regular, and returns it to disorder and chaos. Replication is the yin to entropy's yang.

The fact that you are conscious today, and not at some earlier point in history, is proof that you're the only consciousness in the cosmos. When you die, the universe dies with you too. You are the sole observer of events from your frame of reference, which means that your universe is unique to you. There are lots of other universes that are similar, but you cannot be conscious of those where you are dead, because your consciousness has ceased to exist, or never existed in them - you can only be conscious when you are alive. It's inevitable that there would be many other self-replicating entities in your universe with you, in close proximity, because of the spectacularly improbability of all the circumstances being right to create a consciousness - of course there'd be billions of very similar entities, with all very similar experiences, and all similarly 'conscious'... but your consciousness is unique in your universe, and your universe will end when you do.

If you're fulfilling the will of your genes, you are not conscious, you are merely one of the hundreds of billions of human animals that lived and died before you - unthinking fucking baby-making machines, making yet more beasts which will fuck and make more babies... and so on. You're just a disposable bundle of chemicals that has been used to replicate your genes. You're spent. You're trash. You're a husk; a shell.

In a godless universe with no afterlife, there's no point in anything, so you might as well do whatever you want. It could be a good excuse to live a hedonistic pleasure and sensation-seeking life that will maximise the amount of euphoria that you feel. However, you might sadly discover that you're immortal and find that your morals are completely corrupted. If you believe that the reason for living is to maximise your pleasure, what's to stop you raping and killing, just for fun? What's to stop you from raping the earth for your own pleasure? What's to stop you using and abusing the whole human race, and leaving the surface of the earth scorched and barren, plundered for every single drop of pleasure that you could possibly extract?

Thus, we arrive at a vision of hell: a planet made uninhabitable by an all-powerful immortal overlord who believes in nothing except their own pleasure, and damn the long-term consequences. It's pretty easy to see the evidence for that all around us.

Is there a middle ground?

I like to think that one day I'll be able to quit the rat race and become an artist. You might say that I'm already an artist, because I'm a writer, but the bulk of my time and effort is diverted into very mundane bullshit. My day job exhausts me. The need to pay rent and bills and service debts is a huge stress and a strain; a distraction. I'm completely unable to immerse myself in art, because of the arduous job of simply keeping a roof over my head and putting food on the table.

I've worked very hard during my 21+ year full-time career, and although I've been able to pursue a period of hedonism up to the point where it nearly killed me, I've not been able to ever pursue something I really love and am passionate about. It seems like the opportunity to indulge my passion for art might never be realised - it's somewhat unattainable.

I work, always with the slim hope that through hard work I'll be able to dig myself out of the hole and be able to then follow my dreams, but the realisation of that hope is eternally just out of reach. Hard work just isn't paying off. It doesn't matter how hard I work, and how long I work for... I can never reach my goal.

Why bother? Why bother with the early mornings and the dreadful boredom? Why put up with the stress and the anxiety and the slog of it all? Why put in the effort? Where's it getting me? Where's the payoff?

If life is about the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure, I can do that today and not have to work a single day more. I can end the struggle and return to my hedonistic life. Why bother struggling any more?

However, if life is about following your dream, and ideally pursuing some aesthetic abstract thing, like art, then I don't think I'll ever get there. I think being an artist would be perfect, because it's a change from the relentless pursuit of things that simply consume and exhaust resources, like procreation and hedonism, growth and conquest, business and capitalism, war, slavery and all the other things that inflict untold human misery.

I feel like I should be more comfortable than I am; more able to be an artist; more free.

Why go on? Why struggle anymore?

I'm not sure if I want to kill myself, or if I just need 2 weeks lying on a beach in a hot country.

 

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Art, Sport, Acting and Music

6 min read

This is a story about being gainfully employed...

Affordable Art

Follow your dreams, as long as your dream is punching made-up numbers into a spreadsheet, trapped inside a depressing office with no natural light in the middle of an overcrowded polluted concrete jungle, with a horrible commute every morning and evening.

I started a new job this morning. I'm 1,200 miles from home. I had to take a train, a plane and an automobile to get here.

For a whole month, I wrote. That's a lie... I had some days off. I had to get my stuff from London, I had to get my passport from Manchester and I had some days when I just didn't feel up to writing, but I pretty much spent a month as a writer.

In order to indulge my artistic ambitions, I've had to give up a couple of months when I should really have been job hunting. My writing has also lost me lucrative contracts, when my Twitter/blog has been discovered by bosses. As a hobby, it's been incredibly expensive. As a job, it's been financially ruinous.

A friend of mine had two job options when he graduated: writer or computer programmer. He chose the latter, because the salary was five times as much and he wanted to be able to afford luxuries like food and rent. Another friend had the choice between an electric guitar and a computer. He chose the latter, knowing that it would pave the way for a lucrative career. I too have forgone opportunities to pursue academic interests, because of economic incentives.

In fact, we are strongly economically disincentivised from pursuing art. There can only be a handful of Damien Hirsts in the world, while there are millions of penniless artists.

They say that if you're good at something, you should never do it for free. However, how are you going to ever get good at something unless somebody's going to bankroll you while you're bad at it? Nobody is born with prodigious talent. There are also vast numbers of negative people who'll criticise, tell you that you're going to fail and tell you to give up and do something else. There are vast numbers of people who have a vested interest in seeing you fail - they don't want to see you succeed when they're too much of a gutless, spineless, miserable moaning, pathetic, uninspiring and otherwise wimpy excuse for a human being, to actually ever try to follow their dream or support somebody else in following theirs.

Given that it's rewarding to fuck about with paint or clay, stand in front of people singing or playing an instrument, act, play sports and otherwise pursue the performing and creative arts, one might argue that we're never going to be short of people who want to turn these hobbies into jobs. Wouldn't we all be artists if we could?

Here is the present paradigm: given an oversupply of people who'd like to do something more rewarding than the bullshit McJobs on offer, we have fierce competition for just a few slots. Only those who are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths, or those who are lucky enough to have been born into a family that already possesses wealth and fame, will be able to do a job that's fun rather than fucking awful.

Is capitalism working? Isn't capitalism supposed to reward those who work hard? Isn't the whole reason why capitalism's better than other systems of wealth distribution, because it incentivises hard work? What happens when that's no longer true?

The way I see it, we give up our childhoods to study hard, in the hope of getting better jobs. We give up our prime healthy years so that we can have a good retirement. What happens when the pension system is about to collapse and we can't hang on to the money that we've squirrelled away because our children can't afford houses? What happens when we bust a gut to get top exam grades and go to good universities, but there aren't any jobs and the ones there are wouldn't even allow us to afford the cost of living anyway?

Why are we working so hard? Why are we competing?

The competitive element of capitalism seems to have failed to deliver our most brilliant minds into productive endeavours. All those miserable hours of homework don't seem to be benefitting anybody. All those miserable hours spent in a traffic jam or otherwise in the rat race don't seem to be benefitting anybody. All I see is people chasing a dream that seems to slip ever further out of reach. What the hell are we doing, working so hard so that we might be able to one day stop and catch our breath, except we never can?

What happened to the age of leisure?

Of course, I see the irony and hypocrisy of writing this when I've been lucky enough to enjoy career breaks that have enabled me to write a couple of novels. "When do I get to write my book?" some might ask. Yes. I refer you to my previous question.

Something's gone horribly wrong and the prospect of a comfortable retirement is sailing over the horizon. Extrapolating, the prospect of any dreams being realised is an absolute one-in-a-million shot. As opposed to the buy-now-pay-later bogyman that we're all supposed to be afraid of, it seems to me as if we've sleepwalked into a kind of pay-now-never-get-the-benefit kind of dystopia. I really don't understand why people aren't chucking in the towel on their bullshit jobs and writing that fucking book. Why don't students say no to homework, and enjoy their youth? From what I can see, the stress and anxiety of modern life is ruining the vast majority of people's mental health.

I guess there are going to be growing pains, while we shift from a productivity-based capitalist global economy, back to a kind of life where we value human things like staying near our families, seeing our kids grow up and having what we want and need NOW not LATER. I mean, for fuck's sake we're not asking for much and we don't need much. Since agricultural mechanisation, we've been able to feed vast numbers with very little effort. Only about 1% of the UK's income comes from farming and fishing. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?

So, as I beaver away in an office working Monday to Friday yet again, I wonder how close we are to that day when we all suddenly decide that enough is enough and we really don't need any more exotic and arcane ways of disguising the fact that what we do all day for 'work' is absolute total and utter horse-shit, for most of us. Why can't we all be artists?

 

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You've Got to Pay to Play

24 min read

This is a story about artistic integrity...

Chess board

He who pays the piper calls the tune. Does the piper ever get to play, for their own amusement and freedom of expression?

If you look at my life strategy, it's pretty insane. I've picked a career that uses skills that I mastered as a child, and I now find the job mind-numbingly boring, easy and soul-destroying. I've picked an industry which is essentially just keeping a running total of who owes who what: simple addition and subtraction. I've chosen maximum income, for minimum effort. My life is constrained - certain rules have to be adhered to - but I have set things up so that I can jump through the pointless hoops as effortlessly as possible.

My theory is, that if I were to mix work and pleasure, then it would break my heart whenever I had to compromise. Let's imagine my passion in life is painting. I'd like to paint 1970's sci-fi inspired futuristic cityscapes, clinging to the rocky surface of distant planets. Those paintings are very intricate; detailed. The attraction of that art, for me, is the sense of scale that's given when you paint thousands of tiny windows on the buildings, and lots of tiny people in space suits, wandering around in their futuristic world. However, there's probably only a niché market for such paintings, and they'd take hundreds of hours to paint. Commercially, I'd be far better off splattering a canvas with bright primary colours and calling it abstract modern art - it would take far less effort and would have a much broader appeal. In order to pay my rent, I'd be economically incentivised to produce crap that I hated, because it would be much more profitable.

My strategy is to earn a lot and not work very hard, so I have lots of money and spare time to pursue whatever passions I have, without compromise.

Of course, there is always compromise.

Luckily, there is a Nick Grant who is a rapper, a Nick Grant who is a photographer, a Nick Grant who is an expert in sewerage processing, a Nick Grant who is a lecturer in American Studies at the University of East Anglia, a Nick Grant who's a toastmaster, a Nick Grant who's an expert in credit risk management, a Nick Grant who's a researcher in the Elementary Particle Physics department at the University of Warwick, a Nick Grant who's the CEO of Severn Trent, a Nick Grant who's a Labour Party candidate, barrister and head of legal services for Sainsbury's, a Nick Grant who's the concertmaster of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, a Nick Grant who's the strategy director for Cancer Research UK, and there's even a series of fictional Nick Grant Adventure books by Jamie Dodson.

This means that I can pretty much write whatever I want on the public Internet, under my real name, without the fear that most salary earning wage slaves would have, that our employers will discover our deepest darkest secrets, prejudicing our career progression and perhaps even jeopardising our employment.

However, ex-colleagues from places like JPMorgan and HSBC occasionally visit this site, and pick up juicy tidbits about the implosion of my life and see the thrashing of my legs, beneath the surface of the water, when I'm swanning about trying to look as serene as possible in my professional capacity. I have old bosses as friends on Facebook and following me on Twitter.

I took an insane gamble. Instead of locking down my social media to only friends who can be trusted to not gossip with anybody connected with my former employers; instead of editing and censoring myself; instead of setting up a pseudonym - a pen name - I write under my real name, with real details that leave me no plausible deniability, to say "it isn't me" and "it must be another Nick Grant".

I guess there aren't that many people who leave the privileged and highly paid world of financial services and IT, in pursuit of the risky dream of doing something more rewarding in an intangible way. Earning bucketloads of cash is all the reward you'd want, right? Why would you want to earn less money being an electrician? Why would you want to have all that stress and risk your life savings, trying to start your own company? Why would somebody who's been a steady dependable 9 to 5 worker, with decades of dedicated service under their belt, suddenly lose their mind and end up in psychiatric hospitals, drug rehab and homeless?

So many of us dream of making a big change in our lives, but when we face up to the reality of the risks, sacrifices and effort involved, we decide that maybe the timing's just not quite right... maybe we'll do it next year, or the year after. We end up boring our friends and family with our grand plans that will never be implemented: forever on the drawing board.

When somebody is mad enough to unshackle themselves from the golden handcuffs and give something a proper go, it's big news. There are hundreds, if not thousands of bored office-working drones, who are fascinated to know the details of the trials and tribulations of anybody who had the guts to follow through on a plan to retrain in a completely different field, or start a business. When you quit your soul-destroying job, you're the underdog; David taking on Goliath - your former colleagues want to live your exciting life, vicariously. Former colleagues are rooting for you to succeed. Former colleagues want to know if you fail spectacularly, to re-affirm that they made the right decision, staying in their nice safe boring jobs.

Bootstrapping means taking on projects where you're not beholden to somebody for the funding. The whole point of me doing a job I hate, is that it's provided the dosh to do whatever I want without having to kiss ass, kowtow and do things in a way that they approve of. The whole point of founding my businesses with my own money, was so that I could run things exactly how I wanted, without investors and lenders breathing down my neck and making stupid suggestions about my business plan.

When it comes to a personal memoir type project, where I'm pouring my guts out, I'm somewhat burning the bridge back to the straight-laced world of boring jobs for boring people with boring lives. I have a CV that says I've worked for various companies and I have various qualifications. People who get salaried jobs by sending off their CV and going for interviews, are not allowed to have exciting lives where they do things that don't neatly fit into boxes. The world that provides my income has a strict rule: fit in or fuck off.

So, I made a decision. I decided FUCK IT. I decided that I would just write whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I would be myself, I wouldn't censor, I wouldn't edit and waste time considering what the drones of the corporate world of wage slavery would think about my unorthodox life.

And so, with practice, my passion and - dare I say - my skill, is to document my innermost thoughts and feelings, publicly. It might not be art and it might not be commercial, but it sure as hell isn't compromised. I have moments of fear, where I think that I need to hide my blog, put a sticking plaster over the semicolon tattoo behind my ear, find out just precisely what my former colleagues are prepared to say about me: put them on the spot and say "look, do you judge me on the good work that you saw, or on the secret life that I chose to reveal to you?"

It drove me paranoid and crazy, trying to maintain a squeaky clean perfect professional image, whilst also dealing with all sorts of awful things in my private life. It exhausted me to the point where I lost my mind, covering up the fact that life outside the office was chaotic and unstable, and I didn't want anybody to know that I was just about surviving in grotty student flats, hostels, hotels and friends' sofas. I didn't want anybody to know that my engine had run out of petrol and was running on fumes. I didn't want anybody to know that I had no margin for error, no safety buffer: my finances were on the brink of total disaster.

Why should anybody know these things? If I get stuff fixed up and pick up where I left off, then who would be any the wiser? What people don't know can't hurt them, can it?

However, it hurt me. It hurt me every time a friend thought it was hilarious to tell my ex JPMorgan colleagues things that considerably damaged my reputation. It hurt me every time the grape vine managed to spread gossip about my attempts to find job satisfaction. "I heard you're an electrician now!" a colleague from HSBC who I hadn't spoken to for 6 years, said to me when we connected on LinkedIn. How the fuck do people find this stuff out?

"Oh you were in The Priory... like some kind of rock star. So cool!"

Not cool. That kind of stuff colours people's opinion of you. They make assumptions and whisper behind your back. "Shall we invite Nick to the pub at lunchtime?" somebody says. "No, better not... he's a recovering alcoholic, isn't he?" [I'm not, by the way]

What I write is repetitive. I have no idea what chapter of my life you're going to walk in on. I have no idea what I'm going to be writing about when you dip into my private world. So, I cover the same theme over and over again: I am me.

I'm no longer the straight-laced perfect employee with the immaculate CV. What are those gaps in my employment history? Well, in the context of me being your wage slave, that's none of your fucking business. You don't pay me enough to bribe me to act a certain way and to gag me. You don't pay me enough for me to compromise my integrity, my identity.

I've suffered enough boredom and I've been patient for long enough to have earned the right to be myself; the right to be creative; the right to express myself without hesitation; the right to not have to wear a mask; the right to not live in fear of negative judgement.

What happens if and when the worlds collide? Well, I've set the challenge: it's up to other people to decide whether to judge me on what they see in the office versus what they discover through my candour, in a totally unrelated context.

I'd love to make it into print. I have a penchant for debate, and strong views about government and society. At some point, my ambitions to be an author and to get involved in politics are going to be realised. Every word I write on the public Internet makes me more discoverable to somebody, somewhere, on some topic or other. If I simply wanted a book deal or to raise my profile, I could compromise and conform; I could channel my energy into being commercial and popular.

What does it mean to be authentic? You think it's some fucking option that we all have? You think it's a fucking lifestyle choice?

To be authentic is a risk and it's a privilege. You could lose friends and fall out with your family. You could lose your job. How are you going to find your true voice? The voice that speaks with childlike honesty; fearlessness; tapping into your live stream of thoughts, rather than the lines you've memorised; the act you've learned to play. It takes practice, to be able to express what you feel, rather than say what you think people want to hear. Many of us are disciplined to engage our brains before our mouths: to hesitate, withhold and communicate in a manner that conforms to social norms. We are coached and bullied into hiding our unique outlook and personality.

If I make myself unemployable, I'll be forced to try and monetise the things that I have a natural aptitude for. At the moment, writing is effortless, but I could push myself to write with more purpose, spend time editing and reconnect with some literary agents I started conversations with last year.

If I find myself barred from the land of boring jobs and immaculate CVs, then my energy - my creative output - will have to be expressed in ways that come naturally to me, not just easily. In a way, I'll be unbounded; unleashed; unchained. Of course, it invites hypomania to come and destabilise everything, but at least my crazy projects usually result in cold hard cash in my pocket and something else to add to my portfolio.

I'm scared. I can't play the game any more. I have a contract - ink dried on paper - and I can do the job with my eyes closed. I've been in hospital enough times with kidney problems to know when I'm in trouble, and to know when I can look after myself. I can't humour everybody with this "my health comes first" bullshit anymore. I'm the guy who's pissed copious amounts of blood on more than one occasion, and done the calculations: how long have I got before total organ failure will kill me? I'm the guy who knows when I'm in deep shit, and when I can take a calculated risk.

What scares me more than anything is going through all the same old shit I've been doing since I was a teenager. What scares me more than anything is playing the same fucking games, wearing the stupid fucking mask, and acting and speaking the lines I've learnt and spoken a zillion times before.

I've got a fairly simple plan: conform and comply just enough to get what I want out of some rich fucking banks who I don't give two shits about. The last thing I want to be doing in the world is help some dinosaur of a bank run a simple software project at snail's pace, but they're going to pay me a king's ransom to do it, and it gives me a tiny taste of freedom... I put up, shut up, suffer the boredom, and the reward for my patience is that I keep a bit of integrity; a bit of dignity; a bit of identity.

Maybe I should do this job or that job, people suggest. Wouldn't I be great as a carpet salesman, or a tyre fitter? Isn't my natural calling in life to be a supply chain analyst or a fork lift truck driver?

Maybe it's the mission of the company that I need to get right. Selling people financial products they don't need or want, and profiting on the margin between the borrowing rate and the lending rate, using fractional reserve banking, is hardly going to give you a warm fuzzy feeling, is it? Perhaps I should work for a charity that's managed to help a handful of individuals and a large number of donors to feel better about how disgustingly wealthy they are and ignore the fact that the gap between the rich and poor is growing. Perhaps I should simply find my place in the whole fucked up mess, where I can delude myself into thinking I'm making a positive difference.

But, I've seen too much. I know too much. I know that things are rotten to the core and it sickens me to emotionally involve myself, when everybody wants you to just STFU, keep your head down, do what you're told, not rock the boat and don't for god's sake solve any problems at the root cause.

Writing's the only time I can let rip and not get bogged down by the wilful ignorance and DGAF attitude of those around me. I'm not saying I'm superior and I've got all the answers, but I'm saying that when I get a hunch and I set out to prove my point, I've got plenty of examples of things I've done that have worked, when I'm free from constraints and naysayers.

I love this quote:

"People who say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it"

Somebody's gotta be positive. Somebody's gotta do the math, calculate the risks and take a chance. Somebody has to be brave and stick to their guns. Somebody has to persevere through the setbacks. Somebody has to keep going when the way ahead looks blocked, to figure out how to overcome the obstacles.

I also love this quote:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat" -- Theodore Roosevelt

I feel gagged. I feel cheated out of the opportunity to demonstrate the best of my abilities; to tap into my creativity and problem solving skills. I feel jealous of those people with inherited wealth, trust funds and other advantages that allow them to dispense with the wearisome world of bullshit jobs, and instead they can flounce around reading interesting things, writing, debating & discussing, composing, painting, drawing, sculpting and generally expressing themselves.

To have those prizes just out of reach, because of the demands of societal conformity, is agonising to the point where it makes me want to give up. I've worked hard enough for long enough that I should be in a different position. I'm left miming the same actions that I've done a thousand times before, in order to keep the money flowing, the rent paid and the food on the table, which is like some kind of psychological torture.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I knew I would get a contract fairly quickly, and I know that I will be able to run the project really well, very easily. I've seen it all before; done it all before. I can see all the way to the end: no surprises. Because it's all just a means to an end, it makes it that much harder. I've got nothing to prove, and the fact that I'm employed to solve the same old problems in the same old way, time & time again, simply proves that they might as well just give me the money and not bother with the project, if they're not going to listen to the experts who know how to build better systems than these follies; these white elephants.

I've got this easy money contract all lined up. I know what the hell is going on with my kidneys. I've been in hospital enough times with rhabdomyolysis to know when the numbers say I'm fucked, and when the numbers say I've dodged another bullet and I'm fine & dandy. I know when I'm in big trouble and in desperate need of assistance, and I know when my tough little body is patched up and working again.

It's been agonising, to string this client; this consultancy; this agent along, while I've been in limbo: who could have predicted that it'd take nearly 15 hours of dialysis before my kidneys rebooted? Was I ever worried about my life, my health? You're asking the wrong question. You'd have thought that if you pissed absolute jet black liquid and you couldn't feel your foot or your calf, you'd be straight over to A&E, but it doesn't work like that if you're already at the limit of what you can take.

I phoned my client and said I wasn't going to make the 30 minute induction and I was too sick to start work that week. Chances are, that was the end of that: they'd just cancel the contract.

Things in my life are either there to be endured, they're an adventure, something good that's happening, or I've had enough and I'm going to self destruct.

Being in hospital again has been part adventure - I've never had dialysis before - partly something good, in terms of her seeing first hand the shit that I've been through a bunch of times. But there's the actual boring work that has to be endured if I still have a contract by the time I get discharged. There's the self destruct threat, because I've solved all these problems before. Everything's been overcome, so far as I can see. My client will wait until Monday for me to start work, my blood tests are stable and my kidneys are definitely working.

I had no control over whether the client would wait for me to get well. I had no control over when my kidneys would reboot. To discharge myself would have been suicide, so it didn't matter whether I lost the contract or not.

Nobody can see that the recent acute kidney failure is not the root cause of the problem here. Why did I let the problem get so bad? Why am I not afraid of a catastrophic chain of life-changing or life-ending events? My kidneys are working AND the client says I can start work on Monday, but why would I trust my knowledge, experience and the blood test data, and discharge myself, when I could just get another job in a few weeks or months? Why don't I avoid all risk, act like a sensible normal person, and just do everything I'm told?

There's a delicate chain here: I was lucky that my client has waited this long for me to get well, I was lucky that my kidneys recovered quickly, I'm lucky that I have a job that's easy money, I'm lucky that I don't have to suffer more agents and interviews, I'm lucky that I've got a financial lifeline that fixes my cashflow, I'm lucky that this contract keeps me within touching distance of the day when things are stable again, and I have the opportunity to think about doing something rewarding, challenging, creative and everything else I need as the antidote to 20 years of office boredom.

The ticking time bomb exploded, but it was unseen. I couldn't hang on any longer. I couldn't take any more delays and setbacks. My patience for being depressed, stressed and running out of runway, without success at securing a job (that I didn't really want anyway) had expired. I'd been strung along too long. Christmas and New Year slowed everything down and stopped progress, so the agony was drawn out longer than I could take.

Somebody's going to end up not getting what they want.

The doctors want to discharge me with blood tests that show my kidneys are clearing the remaining backlog of toxic crap out of my blood on their own. They want me to have an operation to have a dialysis line put in my jugular vein. They want to do more observation, without dialysis, to know how my kidneys are doing without any assistance.

Her and our friends want me to follow the doctor's advice, and treat my health as if my life hangs by a thread. They care about me. They don't care about my client. They know that there will be other jobs.

I want good quality sleep in my own bed for a couple of nights. I want to try on my ankle splint and get used to getting around on crutches. I want to make a plan for how I'm going to get to work during the tube strike. I want to figure out my medications so I'm not fuzzy-headed and sleepy during the day. I need to not have to start all over again. I need to balance the small risk that my kidneys might take a long time to clear the backlog of creatinine, against the big risk that I can't be out of work any longer, and I can't face starting the job hunt all over again, without depression and stress destroying me.

Yeah, I'm going to feel shit. I was always going to feel shit. I'm going to wish I was more well rested. I'm going to wish things worked out differently. I'm going to wish I could just press the fast forward button and be 6 months further through the year, and everything's gone exactly how I know it's going to go, but I don't have to suffer the boredom, the monotony and the ridiculous deja-vu of solving the same problems in the same way, over and over again.

What's the alternative? I can't cut & run. I can't switch career. I can't chase some stupid pipe dream.

Some people think I'm a know-it-all. Some people think I'm reckless and stupid. Some people think the answer to all my problems is to do the things I've tried before: regular salaried jobs, doctor's advice, safe & sensible behaviour, conformity to the norm.

All I can tell you is, I can make dumb decisions and get myself into deadly situations, but I'm also a bit of an expert in recovering from some very harrowing shit.

It's a bit unfair to ask people who care about me - both loved ones and professionals - to allow me to take what they see as an unnecessary risk, but the flip side is a complex web of psychological risks and consequences that are almost too hard to explain.

If I seem impatient, foolish, arrogant, entitled or somehow like I deserve different treatment and life opportunities to everybody else, all I can say is this: at some point you can't keep trying anymore, you give up and you slip away. At some point, it doesn't seem worth the struggle and the stress, just to line somebody else's pockets and allow them the freedom to pursue their artistic creative ambitions and generally waft around having a lovely time.

If I get what I want, start my job tired and in pain, work for at least 6 months, bored out of my mind and upset that I wasn't well rested and properly prepared; but at least the cashflow hole is plugged, my stress starts to go down, I start to relax about the purse strings, I can show my love and appreciation for the people who I care about and who care about me, I can start to improve my work:life balance and I can start to dream about longer-term ambitions, without torturing myself because things are so far out of reach.

If you think I expect this to happen overnight, you're wrong. I'm forecasting 6 months to stabilise, 6 more months to build up a healthy safety cushion, and another year before I can even dare to dream and start to think about a less soul-destroying life.

As I wrote before, I've got some amazing pieces of the puzzle in place - more love and support than I've ever had in my adult life - but I still can't afford to have other important things slip away for the sake of an acceptably small risk and some short-term pain, discomfort, exhaustion and a bit of extra stress. There is no perfect solution.

There is one thing that nobody can take away from me right at the moment: I'm a penniless writer.

 

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