A life update

I haven’t posted on this blog for a good while, mainly as I haven’t really had much to write about. Looking at the blog, it would appear that the last post aside from “more annoyances” was the sad news that I’d lost my last job. Good news though…I’m employed again!

It all happened rather quickly. Just under three weeks after the last job ended, I got offered a temporary admin job through an agency. Was offered it on the Monday, registered with the agency on the Tuesday and started work on the Wednesday. I had reservations at first, simply as it all happened very fast and I had no idea about the place I was going to work for. Plus, it was rather a long commute. Anyhow, I must have done quite well at the Admin side of things, as they offered me a permanent job in their call centre. Of course regular readers of this blog will find that quite odd, considering the spectacular failure the last time I attempted a job in the call centre. Thankfully this time I learned from my mistakes, and got through the training unscathed. I think it helped that it was a bigger group than just me and two others, so I was able to blend in more. There were a few tests that I was rather nervous about but thankfully managed to get through them unscathed.

The biggest challenge came with the test all new starts have to do, which is take ten calls, with a team leader sitting alongside you, without making any “fails” or “criticals”. A fail is simply a mistake, for example not confirming a postcode phonetically, something like that. A critical is something that could put the company or the customer at risk, for example not doing data protection. You have to do ten correct calls in a row. Do nine perfect calls and forget to do data protection on the last one? You’re back to the start. Now in training, we’d gone through practise calls and I’d been fine. Yet as soon as I took the first call, nerves took over, and I was a complete wreck. The first attempt was a disaster and I had to stop for the day as I was so stressed and was in no fit state to make any further attempts and was sure I would be let go. Following a second day which involved a missed bus (it was two minutes early, and meant I was two hours late) and hours of listening in to other people, I resumed on the third day with another team leader, and improved slightly. However one good call would be followed by one bad one and I wasn’t really anywhere further. The next day, I was paired with another team leader (number 2 I believe was away) and managed to string together three calls. Finally, a week after my first attempt, and on the fourth team leader, I managed to put the ten together and was let loose on the phones. It showed the difference in quality between this place and the other place. This place actually saw I had potential and was merely a little nervous and anxious and persevered with me and I managed to prove myself.

Now getting this job meant another very big change in my life. Since the job involved shift patterns, it meant commuting from home would be impossible. So I did something that always felt like something of a pipe dream. I moved out. I didn’t sort it out properly until I’d passed the ten calls, not wanting to move into a house then promptly get sacked and have a three or six month contract with no decent income. The first two houses I looked round were not all too impressive, and I did a bit of budgeting and worked out I could afford something better. And the house I eventually chose, I think I made the right choice. It’s in a really good location. A short bus journey into the city centre, with plenty of shops and pubs nearby. Living in the city, and in the same place as my work colleagues means I am able to have a more active social life.

On the subject of social life, it’s pleasing that I seem to be connecting with my work colleagues on a social level. I have some I can now consider friends, and who I socialise with outside work, which hasn’t been the case in previous jobs so that’s something that means a lot to me. Even the little things like being part of a group chat on whatsapp.

Financially it can be quite tough. When you’re living away from home you keep having to spend money on stuff like food, and toiletries, and bills of course, meaning I have to be slightly more disciplined when it comes to spending so my wages can last me comfortably for the month.

Probation is up in three months, and from what I gather, providing there have been no problems or concerns raised, which there haven’t, I should be OK.

Driving is going quite well too. I’m quite decent at the three point turn, and am getting to grips with the reversing around a corner. My main issue tends to be moments of stupidity like forgetting to indicate when stopping or forgetting to do my mirror checks.

All in all, a lot has changed in the last few months. I’ve gone from being unemployed and living with my parents, to having a permanent and relatively secure job, making friends and becoming more independent. Of course it did mean that the plan to be a piano tutor has had to be put in a box.

It may sound really big headed, but I’m actually very proud of myself with how far I’ve come in the last year or so. I’ve had setbacks, but I’ve come out of it a stronger person.

To quote lyrics from a song by my favourite band New Found Glory:

These troubled times awoke my strength so watch my resurrection.

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More annoyances

Don’t you just hate it when you sign up for something and it sets all sorts of rules for your password? “Your password must be at least 10 characters long!” “Your password must contain a number!” “Your password must contain a number and a symbol!” If I want my password to be a 6 letter word, then let me, it’s my own problem if someone then guesses it.

They also make you do those tests that prove you’re not a robot which are always nigh on impossible. “Type the letters that aren’t surrounded by pictures of cats, starting with the last and ending with the first, and then solve this quadratic equation.”

Now I’m unemployed again, I’m reminded of one of the most annoying things a jobseeker can hear. “I got a job within two days of losing my last one, it clearly isn’t hard, you’re not trying.” Well good for you! You clearly find the process of obtaining a job very easy. Some do, some don’t. Some people are fortunate that the job they’re perfectly matched to will come along and they have good interview skills, while others may live in an area where jobs aren’t quite as easy to come buy, or get plenty of interviews but freeze up due to nerves. It took me two years to get a job-I thought this was quite poor but when I went to workshops I met people who hadn’t had an interview in that long. It’s a bit like me saying “I learned that New Found Glory song on the piano in about 5 minutes, it can’t be that difficult.” No, it probably isn’t-to someone experienced at playing the piano. I should stretch this to anyone who thinks that because they found something easy then it must be for everyone else too.

Then there’s those job applications that are so long winded you almost want to give up. I remember doing one where I had to fill in all my work and education history while thinking “this is on my CV anyway!” Then they insisted on having an electronic signature which seemed to take an age to sort out. After all that, I didn’t even get an acknowledgement, which as a matter of fact is another thing that annoys me. Is it so hard to send a simple email saying “your application was not successful”? Even just a generic one if you’re incredibly busy. I’ve made the effort to apply for the position the least I should expect is to know where I stand

Now I come on to trains. Firstly, the way the prices keep going up but the service doesn’t improve. For the price we pay we should expect luxury carriages but often you’ll have people standing in the aisles packed in like sardines. The way you’ll go on one train that will be all but empty but have about eight carriages, then you’ll go on one that will have two carriages but there being no room to swing a flea due to the amount of congestion. And furthermore, in the stations, they have the audacity to charge you for the basic human right of using the toilet.

I probably said this in my last one of these, but those posts you see on social media where someone has posted a screenshot of someone sending them messages with the caption “think he needs to take the hint.” You’re clearly posting that picture to brag about how popular you clearly are. You could just block the person who is evidently causing you so much annoyance but you let them periodically say hello then publicly humiliate them. The messages are usually quite spread out so the sender probably thought “well, she didn’t say hello last time, maybe she was busy, I’ll see if I can strike up a conversation again.” There’s obviously a difference between that and sending messages like “Hey sexy, ur fit lol x” over and over again  They’re (the screenshotters) the sort of people who love to show off the 80 unread text messages they have on their phone.

Also, people on twitter who have “No DMs please” in their bio. Such blatant humblebragging. “Oh look how popular I am! I clearly get far too many unwanted messages!” Most people probably weren’t going to message you anyway, and if they do, just don’t reply. All it does is make you look like a snob.

I think that’s just about everything.

Unemployed again-a beginning not an end

My job lasted 5 months then. Considering my first aim was to be there for longer than two weeks I did alright. The parting of the ways wasn’t my fault (and I’m not saying that in a “I’m never in the wrong” kind of way), it was simply that the work dried up, which was always likely to happen. They were pleased with how I’d done, and thought I was a good person to have around the place but you can’t employ someone just because they’re good to have around the office.

I did make one mistake in this job and the lesson I learned from it is one to take with me into future employment. I got a ticking of for tweeting about work and it could well have been worse. Of course I’d heard the stories about people getting fired for tweets but I had always thought it was if you tweeted something really bad like “my boss thinks I’m ill with meningitis but I’m on the train to Dagenham with a 6 pack of beer and a shitload of coke the gullible prick” or “I’d love to blow up the office and everyone in it”.

I didn’t tweet anything overly bad, just things like moaning about the lack of work. The problem however is tweets like that still reflect badly on the company. Complaining about a lack of work may not be meant in a malicious way but for anyone who sees the tweet, it can make the company appear shoddy. Even tweets you wouldn’t normally give a second thought about could have an impact. Let’s say for example that someone who works in a restaurant tweets “can’t be arsed with work today.” A thought many people will have once in a while, a ten a penny tweet. However someone reading the tweet might see where that person works and think “well if the staff at the Black Panther can’t be arsed to go to work today I don’t think it’s a restaurant I want to go to.” It’s probably best not to tweet about work at all. Well maybe something really inoffensive like “someone in the office told a great joke today” might be OK, but any doubts, don’t risk it. I know I’m being hypocritical here writing a blog about something that happened at work which I will post on twitter but I THINK I’m safe seeing as I no longer work there. If anyone from work is reading this…I hope yo don’t mind but I’m just imparting a life lesson on my blog readers.

As for what happens next, I’m back to applying for jobs but I’m also attempting an exciting venture. At the weekend, I was asked whether I would like to take on one of my dad’s piano pupils. I was unsure if I’d be able to do it at first but was persuaded to accept and I have more pupils in the pipeline. If that goes well, I’m hoping to start my own piano tutoring business.

At the moment I can only teach from Grade 1-4 level because I’m only Grade 4 standard myself, so what I plan to do is take on beginners, and take my remaining grades as I teach them. So by the time they’ve done Grade 1, I’ll have done Grade 5 and so on. That said, there’s no rule that piano pupils have to take grades. Some pupils may just simply want to learn the piano and not want the pressure of exams.

My aim is to make piano lessons fun. One of the reasons I stopped lessons was because it felt like a chore, having to practise songs I had no interest in. I wanted to learn and play songs I wanted to play, in my own time. I want pupils to look forward to lessons, to be excited for the next one. I was thinking of doing a kind of “pop piano” thing where pupils can learn popular songs, things like Rihanna and The Script. Once they’ve learned the basics, stuff like Three Blind Mice, they can bring in songs that they want to learn.

I would need about 18 pupils to make the same amount of money I did in my last job, which is rather a lot. Of course it would be nice to earn the same in 9 hours teaching piano (half an hour lessons) than in 40 hours working in an office, but I’d be an idiot if I thought it was easy. If it was, anyone who can play the piano would be jacking in their job and doing it. The likelyhood is I’ll get a handful of pupils and have to find a part time job. With the experience under my belt, I feel a lot more confident in getting one than I did five months ago.

Feeling positive.

The problem with Christmas songs

Do you know what the problem with Christmas songs is readers? It’s that it’s only socially acceptable to listen to them for around month or so a year. For some Christmas songs this isn’t a problem, the likes of Last Christmas and All I Want For Christmas Is You are somewhat cheesy and it’s good to put them back in the box for a good 300 days. But some songs that are considered Christmas songs are genuinely good songs, regardless of the subject matter. Fairytale Of New York for example is a very good song. If I were to put it on in mid April, people with me would think I was going mad.

As the title says, that there is a song by my favourite band New Found Glory called Snow. Now some of you will agree and some of you will not, but I think that’s a fantastic song, but again according to society’s rules, for at least a year, I can only listen to it in secret. I am keeping it on my work playlist and I imagine that if it were to come on while I was in command of the music someone would say “a Christmas song?! But it’s January!”

You wouldn’t only play songs relating to the summer between the months of June and September, so it seems a bit silly that songs relating to Christmas should only be played in December.

Politeness

I consider myself to be a very polite person. I hold doors open for people, I say please and thank you, I say “thank you for having me” when a guest at someone’s house, I make sure to thank people for lifts. I remember going out one night just after Christmas a few years ago and having rather too much to drink. I got a lift back with a friend. Now I had clearly unlocked the door, locked it behind me and put my coat, hat, scarf and gloves away. Yet I had no recollection of doing this. I also had no recollection of thanking my friend for the lift. I pictured myself having simply got out of the car, shut the door behind me and walked into the house without so much as a “see you later” or a “cheers mate”. I was so worried by this potential rudeness on my part I texted him to check I had thanked him and thank him again just in case. It turned out I had and was very polite.

Sure I can be accidentally rude at times. One New Year’s Eve we all got champagne before midnight, and I simply gulped mine down before 12AM was upon us, not remembering that we were supposed to wait until midnight and drink it then. I was quite drunk in my defence, manners tend to go out of the window somewhat then.  I also remember getting out of a car and shutting the door just as someone was getting out. It was a two door car and it was really more an instinctive thing as I’m used to 4 door cars and just shutting the door behind me. But still, whenever someone like that happens I feel mortified at myself.

I think because of this it bugs me more when people are impolite. Just things like not thanking you after holding the door open for them, or doing something for them. My biggest peeve I think is when you say hello to someone and they just blank you, even though they blatantly heard you. I don’t know how people can do it. If someone says hi to me it’s instinctive to say hi back. I didn’t much care for this guy I used to work with, yet whenever I walked into the office I’d say hello to him and ask him how he was. I would go as far as to say it would have felt awkward if I hadn’t. Same as when you pass someone on a quiet street, you just can’t not say hi, even if you don’t have any desire to.

Another thing I personally see as somewhat impolite is when people arrange something in front of someone without including the other person in it. Well….it’s acceptable in some scenarios, like if it was a couple discussing their honeymoon, I wouldn’t expect to be invited to that obviously. But if two people are talking about going to a cricket match later in the month and no one says to the third person “you fancy it?” that just seems really harsh. If I was with two friends and there was something I wanted to invite one of them to, I’d probably wait until the other person wasn’t around to discuss it with them. I even feel a bit awkward talking about holidays that happened when people who weren’t on said holiday are around. After all, imagine how they feel hearing all these stories that they weren’t a part of.

Another one….when two people have a conversation across you. Perhaps it’s happened to you in the past, maybe at school or at work. You’re sitting in between two friends and they’re leaning across you to talk to each other as though you’re some kind of fence and not an actual human person.

The world would be a much better place if people were polite.

Asperger’s and Dyspraxia

I thought I would write a blog post where I talked about my Asperger’s and Dyspraxia in detail, rather than just touching on them slightly.

I was diagnosed with Asperger’s when I was about 5. I’d been having fits when I was a tiny tot and from what I recall following the treatment I came down with Asperger’s or something along those lines, I can’t quite remember the story. But in my first year of Primary School I was a bit troublesome, things like not responding to the school bell and going off into my own little world quite a lot, being unable to colour inside the lines and the odd temper tantrum, so someone was taken in to monitor me. Due to the fact I had “helpers” throughout school-someone who’d sit with me and just offer me support and guidance- I realised there was something different about me so aged 10 I asked my parents and they told me about my Asperger’s.

Asperger’s is a form of Autism, and Autism comes in various levels. There’s more extreme cases where the person needs round the clock care and is notably different. I remember going to some kind of do as a kid and there was an autistic boy there and I remember him casually peeing on the floor, and I think he tried to bite someone too. Then you get High Functioning Autism, then you get Asperger’s. ADHD, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia kind of fall into the same category I believe.

Some of the common traits associated with Asperger’s don’t apply to me. For example, many people with it don’t like change, for example if a child with Asperger’s comes home to find their room has been tidied up and things have been moved around, it may freak them out. I notice change, I’ll notice if a restaurant has a different layout than the last time I was in but it won’t affect me negatively. A lot of people with it don’t like being touched-you get a lot of mothers of people with it having to come to terms with the fact that they may never get to hold their child, but I’d consider myself very affectionate. Another common trait is lack of emotion, yet I was the sort of kid who’d cry when the teacher shouted at me. Of course this doesn’t mean I don’t have it, there are probably some traits I show that others don’t. No person with Asperger’s is the same.

One trait I do have is an obsessive trait. People with Asperger’s develop a passion about something and will develop an almost encyclopedic knowledge of it. I’m like that with football, and with New Found Glory. As a kid, I’d talk to anyone about football, regardless of whether they liked it or not. I know pretty much everything about New Found Glory, I could probably name all their tracks off each album in order, including the bonus tracks. If I could go on Mastermind and do New Found Glory I’d ace it. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that other people can’t see how catchy their songs are, but in reality it’s just differing musical tastes.

I also have difficulty sleeping. I’ll often not go to sleep until about 3AM and then will wake up in the night, which apparently is another Asperger’s trait.

I said earlier about not lacking emotion, and while I don’t I do struggle at times to display it outwardly. In job interviews for example you’re expected to smile, but I can’t fake smile to save my life, and unless I’m genuinely happy, the best they’re going to get is an awkward smile which looks painfully forced and not warm at all. Sometimes I don’t give off the right signals that I’m interested about something, even though inside I know I am. You have to remember to say things like “that’s really interesting!” and make sure you don’t sound sarcastic.

Dyspraxia in simple terms means being clumsy and tends to come as part of the package with Asperger’s, at least in my case. People with Asperger’s are said to have difficulties in opening jars (check) riding a bike (check-well I can, but I wouldn’t say I ever feel comfortable), they move awkwardly (check-I have flat feet too), an odd or bouncy gait or posture (check) poor handwriting (check) or problems with visual-motor integration (check).

As an example, if you gave me a piece of paper and asked me to cut out identical squares, I simply could not do it. Practical, fiddly tasks are a nightmare for me. Incredibly cumbersome. It also effects my voice and means I don’t enunciate or formulate words very well, which means I tend to mumble or speak too fast so people can’t understand what I’m saying and I have to repeat myself. Part of the reason why I don’t like speaking much, because I hate the sound of my own voice.

When playing the keyboard, I’ll often hit the wrong note by mistake, and the iPhone keyboard is a complete nightmare. In some cases it will take me an age to type something into Wikipedia because I’ll keep hitting the wrong letter.

Handwriting is another thing, I sometimes can’t even read my own writing. I’ll write a note, then about an hour later will be unable to tell you what it says. If I write for more than a few minutes straight my arm starts to ache.

While Asperger’s can’t be cured, it can be managed in my view. Take the football obsession for instance, as I said earlier, as a kid, I’d witter on about football and probably drive people crazy. Now I know that some people aren’t really keen on it and that there’s other stuff to talk about. Of course I’d still mention it briefly, for example if a friend asked me how my weekend was I’d say “I went to watch Cheltenham, we won 1-0” and might mention if there was something particularly interesting like “there was a pitch invasion” but I wouldn’t start saying “and then in the 62nd minutes Mark Yates made a substitution which I thought was a good decision”. Also, people with Asperger’s tend to be blunter. A kid with it might say to an overweight person “why are you so fat?” because they don’t realise it’s an inappropriate thing to say. Usually in time they’ll realise that it’s not an appropriate thing to say and be able to hold back. It’s not like Tourette’s where you simply can’t fight the urge to shout something out, certain aspects of it can be phased out, in my view at least. Or get less pronounced/severe as you get older. I mean, that kid at the party, he’s probably about 20 now. While he’s probably still seen as a bit different, I doubt he starts casually peeing in public or biting people. I hope not, anyway.

Sometimes yes, I do wonder whether I have it or not, and others I’m certain that I do. I consider myself very socially awkward for example and often don’t know what to say and will be silent for long periods which to people will look like I’m not interested when in reality I’m listening intently, but then I’m sure that can be the case for people without it. Loads of people are shy and somewhat awkward. My Asperger’s to my belief is milder-I definitely have some of the traits, and consider myself “different” but I’m able to blend into society reasonably well. I can go to various places on the train, go into pubs on my own and have a drink and as far as I know not stand out as any different. I can hold a conversation with a bit of hard work. I think in my case I know I’m more self aware and realise pretty quickly if I’ve said the wrong thing and will think to myself “what on earth did I say that for, what an odd thing to say, barely even made sense.” I definitely have the dyspraxia traits that’s for sure. Maybe I swing more towards the physical side of the “disorder” than the mental side.

I must apologise this has turned into some kind of mini dissertation. I think that’s all for now, if anyone wants to ask me questions about Asperger’s/Dyspraxia then feel free to leave a comment or tweet me or something like that.

Bye for now!

Real Life VS Electronic Communication

I’ve always found it easier to communicate with people electronically. I can hold a conversation perfectly fine over whatsapp, facebook or whatnot, yet if I have to speak to them face to face or over the phone, I come over all mumbly and awkward and can never think of anything to say so blurt out something like “warm today isn’t it?” I’ve always wondered why this is. Surely if I can say the things I do typing on a keypad, I can say them with my mouth?

One of the reasons I think on a personal level is that my speech is far from my best asset. One of the symptoms of Dyspraxia, which I’m pretty sure I have, is difficulty to formulate sentences. Individual words I’m fine with, and relatively short sentences, but if you asked me to read this blog post, for example, out loud, my enunciation would be all over the place and sentences are more like one long word. It’s kind of like how people sound when they’re drunk-so you can imagine what I sound like when I’ve had a few beers. I may as well just not speak.

Generally, I think a big difference is the fact you can have pause for thought when replying to a message. Someone asks you a difficult, probing question, you can take minutes, even hours to reply. If someone asked you the same in a face to face conversation you couldn’t exactly stand there in silence for ten minutes or just walk away, that would just be downright rude. You can also think of a change of subject if the conversation hits a bit of a lull. I also think it’s simply a little more nervy when the person you’re talking to is actually standing or sitting right in front of you.

Another thing I struggle with personally is showing my emotions. For example, in a text conversation if someone tells me they’ve got a new job, while inside I’ll be delighted for them my voice won’t sound enthusiastic. In a text conversation I can put a few exclamation marks and maybe an excited face emoji just to convey my excitement.

Another advantage of texting people, is that you can just open a conversation with a funny picture, or restart it if it’s hit a bit of a lull. If you’re on a date in real life and you run out of things to say, taking out your phone and going “hey look at this really funny picture I saw on twitter the other day”

Another advantage is that what you say is always heard. If you’re talking in a group in the pub, if you’re not the type to dominate a conversation and perhaps aren’t the best at making yourself heard, your excellent point or hilarious joke can get lost in the ethers. Via electronic conversation, you won’t have to worry about speaking clearly and whatnot.

Of course one disadvantage is that it’s very hard to convey sarcasm, or not to appear sarcastic by text. For example if you write “that’s just brilliant, really appreciate that! :)” you’re thinking “does that sound sarcastic?” Or when you’re actually being sarcastic you have to inform the person you were actually being sarcastic when you said “great start for Cheltenham” because they’re actually 4-0 down after 30 minutes.

I often think I should just treat the two as the same. Sure, sometimes I might put my foot in it, say something inappropriate and I might make the odd person dislike me, but that’s the same for everyone. What’s stopping me having pretty much the exact same conversation I’d have with someone over Whatsapp or Facebook message in real life? Really, it’s all in the mind.