Monday, November 21, 2005

Expanding self-awareness

Name (how important is it to you?)
My name has always been important to me, as far as disliking it. The nicknames that may be derived from it and the connotations, for example: Dick or Dickie, have always offended me, because I term them as a put down. This stems from school and the obvious cruelty of other children. However, my grandfather always called me Richard Dick, and he was the only one who ever got away with it. Also in school, the use of my proper name became something I dreaded because of when I was naughty I didn’t like its use to identify me and make me stand out. Certainly, in my previous job, hearing my name called by my boss was a grating experience, but these days I am more aware of how its use can show how relaxed other people are in my presence: Rich, Ricardo, etc.

Gender (are you satisfied with being who you are?)
As a male I believe that I have it easy: the world is still a predominantly male controlled environment. However, I have often found myself in a predominantly female environment; either being the only male or one of a few. I have a strong effeminate side ‑ as a pre-school child I had a dolly (Thankfully mum wouldn’t allow me to have a pram) – and have always been relaxed in the company of the opposite sex – my first memory of interaction with a girl is from playgroup when I would pretend to be this girl’s dog; also I had my first girlfriend in my first year of primary school.

Body (are you satisfied with your physical appearance?)
I have grown into my body and am only bothered, these days, by my slowly swelling gut (but will I go to the gym?). As a child I was always tall (called: Lanky or Beanpole), and I had two large front teeth (Goofy), which required braces. I guess I was fortunate to go into secondary school with my teeth fixed and more people of my own height.

Abilities (what are you particularly good at?)
I am usually fairly good at picking up new things, able to see someone do something and mirror it – Tae Kwon-Do and French Jive. I was able to act my way through five school plays, my pinnacle moment being: Mr Bumble in Oliver, and through drama GCSE. I am good at writing, and put a lot of effort into developing that. And, I have an ear for music, though I cannot play an instrument and have lost the ability to sing that I had as a child. The one skill I most wish I had is the ability to draw, because it’s something that has always eluded me, and I believe would help me flesh out my story creations a lot better.

Mind (do you feel OK about your intellectual ability?)
These days I am content with my ability to pick things up and put my mind to certain disciplines. I don’t have the pressures of other people to make me feel or seem stupid in comparison. At school I was intelligent enough, or at least, applied myself enough, to be in the top-sets at school, though never truly grasped some of the concepts and never won any awards for achievement. It was frustrating to see other people constantly better me, but I’ll never know whether it came down to me not fully applying myself – I have now managed to put myself through university and come out with merits in computing for a HNC and a HND, and achieve a high 2:1 degree. I do sometimes doubt my own ability, and when presented with something I deem as difficult I will worry about whether I can do it or not.

Age (are you comfortable with the age you are now?)
From day to day, my current age (26) doesn’t bother me. When I think about it I realise how time is marching on and ten years ago I had already planned my milestones to hit by this age. I still feel so young, am only now getting over the fact society considers me to be a man, and wonder what ever happened to 18 or 19. Because I enjoy interaction with other people I tend towards joking around with them, and since the majority of my time is spent with women, some of the interaction, I am aware from the comments of others, can be construed as flirting. I do wonder how long it will be before I can no longer act in this manner, because my age will get in the way and people will begin to construe what I say or do as no longer light-hearted banter, but as some form of lecherous.

Birth (how do you feel about where you were born?)
I was born in Heatherwood hospital, Ascot. As a subtly snobby child it was a status symbol to have been born somewhere else (Ascot being quite affluent), though these days I have no feelings about it.

Culture (where were you brought up?)
I was brought up in Bracknell, Berkshire, my whole life, in what I believed to be a middle-class, white, English culture, very aware of the difference in how I spoke to that of the way many others at primary school spoke. My idea of the class system was based upon size and location of houses and behaviour; I had no idea about the real terms or meaning.

I was brought up to treat everyone with equality, be good, and polite. My parents didn’t christen me because they wanted to allow me the chance to make up my own mind about what I wanted to be. There was never any religious influence upon my life other than the introductions of it in secondary school, which didn’t really touch me.

I am not really mindful of any culture I may have, taking for granted my freedom, and freedom of speech or the fact that my passport will allow me almost unhindered access across the globe.

People (who influenced you most when growing up?)
My parents’ influence has been the driving force into moulding me, though I believe my brother has had the greatest influence on who I am. I have always been aware of his selfishness, his me-first attitude, his lack of friends, the bullying he was subjected to at school, the ease at which he gets aggressive, his inability to communicate with people without introducing some form of put down on them, his lack of self confidence, his ability to rub people up the wrong way, his over-protectiveness towards his belongings, the way, as children, he always made me play as the bad-guys so that he could be the good-guys, his need to be controlling and in charge, his inability to take criticism, his inability to show his true feelings towards things that worry him, his running away from things that bother him, his lack of applying himself, his saying exactly what he thinks, how frustrated I now get at his inability to take responsibility, and his belief and protectiveness towards the family.

I wonder if I would be the person I am today if I hadn’t had him as an older brother.

Parents (what is your opinion of your parents?)
Mum is a good person who says things how they are, gets involved in anyone’s issue (whether it is wanted or not) and a gossip.

Dad is an honourable man who advocates truth and justice, has a very funny sense of humour and is more than prepared to put himself out to help others.

I have the utmost respect for both, and, possibly related to my age and theirs, these days have a greater worry for their health and wellbeing than I have ever done before. I am closer to them now than I have ever been.

Siblings (what is your opinion of your brother?)
I have very little respect for my brother. He rubs me up the wrong way, always puts others down and takes no responsibility for his own actions. At present I feel that he is a burden upon me and my family.

Education (what influenced did it have? What would you liked to have achieved but haven’t?)
I was fortunate enough to be blessed with enough concentration to keep myself in top-sets and with good grades; asides from my A-Level results I have been consistent. My state schooling has forced me to interact with many people I wouldn’t have otherwise got to know, some good, some bad, but hasn’t really been multi-cultural. In every year group there seemed to be just one ethnic minority. For some reason, despite this, other cultures have never bothered me in any capacity.

By the time I completed my schooling I was part of a group of at least twenty friends who would attend parties and go on week long holidays together. There were times when we didn’t all get on, but I felt constantly supported by my peer group.

Employment (list jobs, people associated with them, and their overall influence on you)

  1. Local paper round
    · This taught me the importance of responsibility; I was lucky to be delivering papers to my own street.
    · I used to do it with my best friend, his round was a few roads away from mine and we’d cover each other when one was ill or on holiday.
  2. Local shop assistant
    · For the same company I did a paper round for; low wages and vastly repetitive work though it was good fun whilst it lasted and made me work for and with a range of people from across society.
    · Again I did this with my best friend.
    · I started stealing money from the till, by not ringing through some items, which snowballed, simply because I was on a low wage and saw how easy it was to do. In the end I couldn’t stop myself from doing it week after week. On my last Saturday, the store manager and area manager confronted me and I owned up straight away – ultimately I felt unburdened by being caught, was cautioned by the police and paid back £500 to the shop (I was lucky to have had a policy my parents had set aside for me mature. I never knew exactly how much I had stolen). I was thankful for getting caught and told the manager this (lucky that he wasn’t going to press charges).
    · I dread to think whether I would have moved onto bigger things if I hadn’t got caught then.
  3. Bakery Cleaner
    · From 6am to 1pm every Saturday, I cleaned a bakery, having specifically looked for a job that didn’t relate to money, so that I wasn’t tempted. It was disgusting, repetitive and lonely, but I stuck at it for the best part of a year and only quit when the two other cleaners, who moved onto other things, were never replaced and the boss put more and more pressure upon me to get more and more of the jobs done.
    · I phoned him up to complain and ask for more money if he wanted to work me in that manner. He told me that if I didn’t like it then not to turn up. I told him I’d think about it, and never turned up.
  4. Football Pools collector
    · Whilst doing the cleaning job, mum found me this job as well, and though I was afraid of the responsibility of money I took it on to prove to myself that I could do it and I was in control of myself.
    · It became a burden to have to go out every Wednesday night for three hours, come rain, snow or whatever and go from door to door to collect pools entries and money, but I did it for two years without complaint.
    · I proved to myself that I was responsible.
  5. Technical apprentice and bench engineer
    · My first proper job out of school was in a small company managed by ex-Hewlett Packard employees. We worked with HP servicing their equipment. I learnt a lot about responsibility, getting the job done, prioritising and training others.
    · Management, I realised, were only motivated by money and I was occasionally black-mailed into working weekends to clear outstanding jobs with statements such as: ‘Things are changing around here and trust me, it’s beneficial for you to work this Saturday and show your commitment.’
    · I was also sent off to work at HP to stand in for some of its other employees and I realised that although I didn’t like this part of the job, and had never agreed to it, I needed to be flexible in my working and adapt without complaint.
    · Because of my age I was often passed over for more interesting work and even field work which was somewhat galling.
  6. Helpdesk support
    · Working for the same company I was promoted onto the helpdesk and worked with a team of three others supporting the UK’s HP printing faults which was a great experience, felt more professional and taught me to work towards targets.
    · However, I still felt part of the team I had left behind and when I had my breaks with them, was told not to. There was a definite wish by management to keep the teams apart since the helpdesk team was treated better than the bench engineers.
    · When I quit it was because I’d had enough of the bullying, etc. I was demoted, and then two weeks before my last day I, along with two others, was escorted off site because I was affecting morale with my criticisms of management.
  7. Television extra
    · I joined an extras agency in London and appeared in two television adverts (one in which it was just me and a dog), the Bill (okay, well I was just off screen), and a photo shoot for Take-a-Break magazine.
    · I realised that I hated having to travel into London, work till late, find my own way home, and never get to build relationships with anyone. I also did several auditions, which I had to pay to attend, and never got called up, which I felt was a waste of time, and I realised that I would never get into acting this way.
  8. IT Technician à Network Administrator à IT Manager
    · I took over from a friend when he went to university and supported a computer network for a school.
    · Over my five years at the school I learnt so much about IT, but more so about interaction with other people, of all ages, and really felt part of something. I was involved in all facets of the school, from classroom support, to installing software and equipment, running discos, doing light and sound for plays and dance shows, going on school trips, befriending students who needed extra support, offering myself out for one to one tuition and being open and friendly to everybody.
    · Over time my boss’ grip on her own ability to do her job became too much for her, and her pressure upon me became great. Although she treated everybody beneath her in the same manner, I took a hefty brunt of it. At one point towards my last six months I had a meeting with her and explained that I didn’t appreciate the way she shouted at me, humiliating me in front of students. Her response was simply: ‘I only shout if I have a good reason.’
    · I made the foolish mistake of hiring my brother as a technician. His inability in the job and his doing things that I expressly told him not to do caused me extra stress and pressure: namely engaging in a relationship with a sixthform student despite my expressly forbidding it.
    · I resigned because of bullying, the ongoing changes in the school structure and my disagreement with the way in which support staff were being treated by management at a time when I was close to some emotional breakdown which had led to my fiancée and me having continual arguments.
  9. Contestant stand-in for game show
    · For a three week period leading over one festive season I assisted as a contestant stand-in for the Lulu hosted Saturday program: Red Alert. This was a real eye-opener for me to see the rehearsals and running of a live television show and all the technical aspects that are required.
    · More a surreal experience than a learning one: I did an impression of Norman Wisdom in front of Norman Wisdom, stood in the lunch queue with Bewitched, embarrassingly got the autographs of Steps on a Steps calendar (for a friend), met Lulu, walked thirty metres (towards the exit) side-by-side with Elton John, and sat, for once on the front row, some ten feet away from performing artists: Texas, Elton John and Mary J Blige, Jamiroquai, Andrea Bocelli, Steps, Bewitched, the Lightning Seeds, and of course Lulu.
  10. Actor
    · I was hired for two one off direct-to-video short films for a guy who used to direct for the BBC, is the best friend of Oliver star, Mark Lester, and who once one a Palme D’or for a short film that was shown in British cinemas in front of ET.
  11. ICT Apps Assistant
    · I currently work as IT support for the Library service, feel as if I am coasting since the work isn’t difficult and often I am bored, though with the continued pressures of my brother’s employment tribunal I need the space in which to heal myself.

Spouse (how has your spouse influenced you?)
My wife has helped to teach me to think before I act. She has been a calming influence on my often high-energy persona. She engages me mentally in ways that I don’t get from any other part of my life and has taught me to question the world around me and consider that there is always another side to an argument, another reason behind the actions of others. She has taught me dependence and responsibility and although I occasionally try to bend the constraints of a fair and equal relationship I have found unity.

Preferences (how do your sexual preferences influence you?)
I am always aware of the opposite sex, am a sexual person and because of that I sometimes dream of the forbidden fruit. I am happy in my relationship and to the notion of what a single partner means.

Although I am heterosexual and I joke about homosexuals, I am not homophobic and am comfortable in the company of anyone as long as they don’t try to come onto me. I have a friend from school who came out whilst at university. Though this was a surprise, the more troubling thing for me was that he was no longer a member of the conservative party.

Values (what values do you have, and what influence do they exert? Have you taken them over from other people without thinking about it?)

I will occasionally do stupid things, or bend boundaries, though these will burden me and I will be worried of the consequences. I am of the mind that we make our own decisions and we pay our own prices.

I prefer honesty and hate secrets, often unable to keep them, and used to put great trust in friendship – I value friends far more than I do my extended family. Lying is a burden. I treat everyone with the same respect, even those I don’t get along with, or who annoy me. I am always punctual, dislike putting others out and will often put myself out to help others.

My value system comes largely from my parents but encompasses those of my wife.

Beliefs (what are your fundamental beliefs? How did you acquire them?)
I am a humanitarian with very little faith in anyone who has sought and holds a position of power, since I believe anyone who does just that only does so for their own selfish agenda – absolute power corrupts absolutely, and for me this has been seen time and again both in my employment and in the world environment.

I have a desperate fear of death that extends to the ludicrous notion that everything has a beginning and end – paradoxically it has to – and that frightens me.

I am a spiritualist and have been a part of a spiritualist church and psychic circle. I have learned, witnessed and felt the presence of spirit, used psychometry and mediumship to deliver messages to people from the other side.

I believe that there has to some overriding God, but also believe that there is truth in Darwinism. I cannot put any faith however into an almighty being who needs or wants me to worship Him. To me, an almighty being who wants worship and prayers isn’t that almighty, and is more akin to a slave master. If worship is required to get into Heaven then I am not interested as I consider myself to be an independent freethinker. I am no slave.

I do not blame God for the state of the world since if he existed and had an influence on this world then there would be nothing for man to learn. Every time he made a mistake God would be there to sort it out – there would be no reason to be or do anything.

If God gave me the choice to enter into Heaven or to be cast into the fire of the second death then I would have a hard decision to make, since I neither want to die or live forever.

Religion (what influence does religion or the lack of it have on you?)
I believe that religion has a definite place, and that is to put upon the constraints of living by dictating the duties of men and women towards their fellow men and women. Without the fear of what religion describes as punishment the world would be a worse place than it is, though we are heading that way.

That said: religion is a corruptible tool used by people in power. It’s original purpose of controlling populations and influencing their decisions. It is used as a weapon against other cultures, beliefs and religions, negating the fact that one way or another we come from the same place and will return there.

It is useful in providing the lost with hope and friendship in their most dire time of need, but other than that, in this modern society of freethinkers, it has less and less of a place in society.

Without the influence of religion I have made several mistakes in my life, but because of the influence of my parents and my friends I have been nurtured to be a good person and to consider that the only thing I believe people are judged upon in death is the way in which they have treated others.

Experiences (what life experiences are significant for you and why?)

  1. I was never very good at sports day and in my first one at primary school, aged five or six, I came last in a race. I was confused and then embarrassed when I hadn’t won anything. Upset I went crying to mum who was embarrassed by my upset in front of everyone and told me off and told me to go and sit back down.Similarly, there was an occasion when I had no sports kit for a PE lesson. I was made to do it in just my underpants.Anything that makes me stand out in a crowd, be it to say something, making a mistake, standing up for myself, addressing a committee, or taking my turn to speak in class, makes my heart rate increase, makes me worry about what I’m going to say, floods me with adrenaline and makes my face red – which embarrasses me further.
  2. Despite this embarrassment reflex I have always been in school plays, productions and presentations. This has led to me being singled out for specific and special situations and for me to conquer this fear to get on with what is required of me.Firstly, in my last year of primary school I was asked to assist a lower year group in a fun day by role-playing as a sea captain and leading a group of thirty shipmates in an imaginary adventure in the drama studio.Secondly, for my last assembly at primary school it was down to my best friend and me to host and present the year groups memories of our time there.Thirdly, I was involved in all manner of presentations for my secondary school because staff had asked me to present. I also took part in Bar-mock trials in Oxford as a Barrister, presenting and arguing an imaginary case that led to my school coming third out of ten schools.Lastly, I have represented my brother in his disciplinary and appeal hearings against my own employer, having to overcome my fear of confrontation with a head teacher I had been previously unable to confront.
  3. Although I never went to university I did move away to Bourton-on-the-Water to join an acting agency that promised to turn me, and others, into rising stars. I moved away from the comfort of home and left behind my fiancée. I stayed a month, learning that it wasn’t to be what I had imagined. The guy running the agency, Keith, expected us to teach ourselves how to act. As payment he used us to administrative work and to assist in hiring more people to join his extras agency, which was still getting off the ground. It became quickly apparent to me and the other guy who had joined, Stuart, that Keith didn’t have a clue about what he was doing, despite his energy to put himself out there to get in the advertising and business. He was also a lecherous middle-aged man who boasted to Stuart and me about how he bedded young girls who joined his modelling agency and got too into the Boudoir scenes that they were shooting, and he often named the girl who went on to play Nurse Chloe in Casualty.Stuart and I had a great mistrust of Keith, and Keith’s wife didn’t care. In my last week, a young girl joined us, Esther. Keith made a big deal of keeping us apart, and Esther reported to me that one morning she woke up to him rubbing her back. I quit, advising Stuart and Esther to do what was right for them. Both of them quit as well.Two months later the Police contacted me. Another girl had joined the agency, to do the same thing. She had been seduced into bed by Keith and though she didn’t want to, he had raped her. The Police had become involved because she had tried to commit suicide. Unfortunately, the Police bungled the investigation and Keith got off, along with other charges brought against him, despite the physical proof they found in all his photos.I can only wonder whether if I had stayed on I might have prevented it from happening.
  4. My thieving from the local shop I served in led to the shame of being escorted from the shop by two Policemen (I had thankfully convinced them that I didn’t need handcuffs – pleaded with them in fact). I was put into a cell without my shoelaces or belt and left for an hour before I had my interview with the Police. The thing that sticks out most in my mind now is that the two officers who dealt with me had been really kind to me. They were happy to talk to me about this and that. When we were in the interview room they both suddenly became professional police officers. It was a shock to me as to how they then treated me, and cross-examined me, making sure that I knew the severity of what I had done.The shame I experienced in front of my family, my girlfriend’s family and anyone else who had seen me or knew about it has so far been unrivalled in my life. When my brother first heard about it, he said that I couldn’t possibly have done that. It highlighted to me that anyone can do anything, that you never really know who a person is.
  5. When I was young a friend and I went to the local lake which is surrounded by wooded areas. We were taken hostage by three older kids, and I got so upset that I cried and feigned a serious migraine. The boys let me go and I walked away with my bike, leaving my friend alone.Shortly after he came running past me clutching his ear. They had hit him in the side of his head. I dropped my bike on the path and ran back to where they had been, realising how I had saved myself at the expense of my friend. I was prepared to fight them, enraged by my own cowardice, though I don’t know how successful I would have been. The boys had fled and I was able to rescue my friend’s bike.
  6. I have a fear of heights. I think it was induced when my parents used to hold me at the top of the staircase at home, one with my arms the other with my legs, and they’d swing me out over the stairs several times. Then a cub camp, aged ten, I was given the bumps by the leaders.Despite this fear I joined my family on a hot air balloon ride. Admittedly it is flying Wicker propelled by fire, though I contained my fear enough to enjoy it.

Health (how have any illnesses or accidents influenced you?)
I had a fall during Tae Kwon-Do that compressed three vertebrae and has led to me attending a chiropractor and physiotherapist for the past four years. It is a constant pain and discomfort that prevents me from involving myself in any sport, just in case I make it worse. Otherwise I do not let it encroach on my life or use it as an excuse.

Memories (what memories do you treasure and what memories do you try hard to forget?)

  • I try to forget any memory that makes me want to put my head in hands just from the embarrassment: getting caught stealing; the time I was demonstrating German with my teacher for the next year of students and got stage fright; the girl who stalked me; my McDonalds party in which mum told me to take my brother when I was invited to go behind the scenes, and I chose my cousin out of spite; when, in primary school, I wrote fuck on the wall, just because I had never written it before, and got caught by the head teacher – though he was very supportive and didn’t shout at or punish me.
  • I try to forget every memory from my experience list that has been difficult or, as I see it, shown my true negative colours, or where I have let others down by my actions.
    I try to forget the times that I was bullied by others because of something stupid that I did or said.
  • I would very much like to forget all my memories of working for five years as the IT support at the school, because none of the friends I made there are friends now; the bullying I was subjected to has made me bitter and vengeful, and my brother’s case has led to the last few friends I was still in contact with, to sever their ties with me. I want to forget the time at which I needed them the most and they told me not to contact them.
  • I cherish every memory of spending time with friends, especially the summer between GCSE’s and A-Levels in which my friendships with my oldest friends was cemented and we, seemingly, free of constraint.
  • I also treasure the time I wrote my first book, in my last year of primary school and teacher saw it, read it, and congratulated me on it.

Relationships (what relationships in the past are you glad you had, and what relationships do you wish you’d never had?)
Throughout school I always had friends. Even when I was pushed out of a group of male friends I had girl friends to fall back on until such a time as I was invited back into the other group.

There are no relationships that I wished I’d never had since they have all served a purpose in my growth and development, except for my first girlfriend in secondary school. Unfortunately shortly after we stopped going out, her father died and from then on she had a fascination with me because I was the closest thing that remained, that could be construed as a father figure. I only became aware of this as time marched on, and occasionally it became an issue with her wanting to go out with me again, or opening her heart to me. I wasn’t secure in my self to be supportive to her at the time and did nothing to help her get through the problem and let me go. She got a lot of stick and was upset a lot of the time because of it, and I feel some guilt towards my involvement in that.

Circumstances (what life circumstances, past or present, do you welcome, and which do you regret?)

  • I welcome all the times I have been offered to be a part of things: be that at school, in my learning or my work. I have been given so many opportunities in life that I know other people have never even thought about.
  • I wish I had never given my brother a job at the school, because then, when I left over two years ago, I could let it all go. At the moment, I cannot, and I cannot heal over how I was treated and how I feel because of it.
  • I regret stealing and the times I let my friends down because I was more worried for myself.
  • I regret that during my brother’s disciplinary and appeal hearings that I didn’t challenge the supposed independent investigator more than I did do, or challenge the hearing panels. I also regret that I never took out grievances or pursued the whistle-blowing policy before I left and saved fifty other members of staff the trouble of having to get other jobs.
  • I regret that my emotions, especially in regard to injustices, such as my brother’s case or how I was treated, now get the better of me, and how I wear them on my sleeve.
  • I wish I had been a stronger personality in every confrontation that I have backed out of, because now I am afraid that in trying to assert my own authority or position I may go too far.

Authority (who represents authority for you, in the past and now? What influence do these figures exert on you?)
In the past I have been very good, responding co-operatively with my parents and teachers. These days any person in a position of authority doesn’t have my respect because regardless of boundaries I know that they may know more than me, but aren’t better than me. I know that power corrupts and I have been treated like crap by too many people to take it on the chin.

I still tow the line, and I do what is needed, but that is all. I work to live, and am desperate to find away out of that loop hole so that I can free myself from the prison that is work. Nobody is above reproach and therefore nobody can hold an authoritative position above me.

Strengths (what are your major strengths?)
I am friendly
I am co-operative
I know when to listen and when to speak
I am a logical thinker
I am aware of personal space
I can’t tolerate injustice or lying
I am not motivated by money
When I put my mind to something I get on and do it
I’m not violent
I strive for truth and justice

Weaknesses (what are your major weaknesses?)
I find it difficult not to buckle under confrontation
I find it difficult to think on my feet
Sometimes I act because my emotions lead me to without thinking about the outcomes
I sulk, and hold grudges
I am less likely now to invest time to build new relationships
I allow other people to get on my nerves
I am reluctant to do things if I don’t find them interesting
If I am embarrassed I become defensive
I don’t like secrets
I get frustrated if I can’t help others or they won’t let me help, or they won’t take my advice
I can be lazy
I have no vices, only character flaws, such as occasionally not knowing when to be professional and when to stop annoying people with my jokey humour.

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