Oh, hello. Well, I’ve finally got round to it. It’s over 2 years since I last had any sort of serious online presence. Mind you, FABland wasn’t really about me anyway. Actually I’m not sure what it was about: not that the three people who read it cared that much.
I registered roberthampton.me.uk in a fit of insanity last year, but didn’t really have any idea what to do with it. Recently, though, things have started happening to me; things which have had me thinking, “I wish I could write that down.” So, like every other disaffected twentysomething with a ‘Net connection, I’ve started a blog.
I’m starting with this stupidly long entry, partly by way of introduction for anyone who might be dropping by for the first time, partly to answer that question that people (well, two people) keep annoying me with, namely: “What the hell happened to you?”
Well, it’s a long story, and I’m not entirely sure where it begins. So let’s pick a convenient watershed event instead: a sunny afternoon on April 2000, the last day of the school Easter break. Story so far: I’m 17 years old and the previous summer I sailed through my GCSEs with straight A grades (well, a C in Religious Studies, but who cares about that?). Since then, things have been going less well: I’m doing OK with my A-Level course, but after six months I’m finding the work unappealing. More than that, a deep unhappiness is eating at me inside and has been for some time.
That day, I sat down to finish my homework. Staring at the unfinished chemistry homework which I had been procrastinating on for the last fortnight, something snapped. Not a primal-scream-inducing type of snap, but a snap nevertheless. There and then I decided that something had to change. The next morning I set off to catch the school bus. I never reached the bus stop. Instead I found myself on a Merseyrail train heading into Liverpool city centre, joining the throng of skiving schoolkids who hang around the shopping precinct all day.
And so I carried on for the rest of the week. As far as my family were concerned, I was in school. As far as the school was concerned, I was ill. Two or three days in, concerned friends started e-mailing me, asking when I’d be coming back to school. I replied almost without thinking, “probably never”. For some reason, once I was committed to that path, I found it very hard to change my mind.
And indeed I didn’t. Despite the best efforts of the teachers to persuade me otherwise, and against the advice of family, friends and just about everyone, I dropped out of Merchant Taylor’s Boys’ School, one of the most prestigious schools in the North West (it says here), with no real plans for my future. Dad, as ever, was pretty blasé about the whole thing. Mum was in tears. And at the time, I just didn’t care.
I’ve just realised that this all happened nearly three years ago; it really doesn’t seem that long. And at the risk of sounding like an especially preachy Saved by the Bell episode, dropping out like that was, hands down, the stupidest thing that I ever did. I thought that the unhappiness would disappear, but it didn’t. Simultaneously, I’d severed all ties with school, and school was pretty much my entire life at that time.
If you’re a family member, friend or former teacher of mine who advised me against leaving school, you have permission to feel smug at this moment. Go on, smirk just a little, you’ve earned it. OK, you can stop now, no-one likes a gloater.
Anyway, three years later and its time to answer that other question people have been asking: “what are you doing now?”. Up till now I’ve frustrated them by deliberately dodging the question. My reason for doing this is simple: the answer is: nothing
That’s right. For nearly two years since That Fateful Day, I lost all interest. I stopped updating my web site and eventually just took it down. To keep my parents quiet, I applied for jobs, but wasn’t too bothered about passing the interview. For months I didn’t even bother signing on for Jobseeker’s Allowance; it seemed a bit dishonest to describe myself as a Jobseeker. Then I suddenly recognised that money was good.
Joining the dole queue was a revelation to me. It was not fun having to queue up once a fortnight alongside various scallies and benefit fiddlers to receive a tiny amount of money from a disinterested civil servant. The end result: in February 2002, I finally started work. A crappy, boring office job, but work nevertheless.
But anyway, I’ve stopped dodging the question now. I’m ashamed that I spent two years just doing nothing, but I don’t mind admitting it now, because I’m pushing my life in a new direction. And now things are going to start getting interesting…