Marina Meltdown Explained

August 24, 2006

The other week when I appeared to have a meltdown, I didn’t actually have a meltdown, but it wasn’t my best day. Here’s what really happened.

The car was due its MOT (annual inspection) and needed a brake fluid change. This meant taking the car into the garage by 10am and wandering around Swansea for a few hours until they came to pick me up. I knew I had to be up early and, being such an owl, couldn’t get to sleep before things around here got really noisy, so I gave up and decided to just get the MOT done and go to bed afterwards.

I thought I would spend the time taking some photos, having lunch, drinking coffee, etc. I took the iRiver to record notes about any interesting photos but also because I suspected I might feel ranty.

My location was Swansea Marina. I’d covered some of this, photographically speaking, a few months earlier but decided to go back to an old haunt where I used to take photos for a photography course 14 years ago. Most specifically, this was around the promenade and the observatory area, for those that know.

The place has a lot of memories for me: people, events, things. Some of those times were just the greatest and others sucked; I hadn’t really been there for about 10 years and I’m in a phase where everything seems diametrically opposed to that era, yet strangely similar.

Back then I was a little more wild and had friends and relationships to match, along with all the extreme situations that come with them. I don’t see any of these people any more. Some I miss, some I don’t, mostly the friendships run their course while the relationships exploded into a million pieces. I was complex, and so were my friends and lovers.

So, this location was a huge player when I was growing up and so it was strange to return to it after a 10 year break and consider how my life had panned out since then. Obviously a lot has happened. It was around that time that I got a proper job and started travelling. I think I spent a year from the summer of 1996 working away, which probably explains the big shift.

After that time my career took off, I worked really hard, started earning real money, made new friends went lots of places and everything seemed great until the job started to take over. Then everything started to fall apart, including me.

I was involved with a project that seemed to keep me busy 12 hours a day, sometimes seven days a week, on call, in early, home late with a hectic pace and enormous pressure. I ended up on anti-depressants just to try and stop racing through life. When that wasn’t enough, I got a change of manager who made my life even worse (long story) and my body finally crashed and burned quite spectacularly.

After a ear infection, with pus pouring out my ears, rendering me mostly deaf with a fever that kept me off work for a month, and even then it was too soon to go back. Such ailments are typically a sign of being completely run down and my manager knew it, but it didn’t stop him making my life hell while not allowing me to move on.

The work calmed down, but I was now trapped in a job I hated with a possessive, yet cruel boss. It was really a case of what was sweet turned sour and the only way I could see to get out and be happy again was to do my own thing.

I saved the money, quit my job and initially worked with a couple of other people, which also turned out almost identically to my real job with me carrying the load, not having any control over things and getting more and more run down. I crashed again and had to take another month off so that I could try to recover – again.

It’s incredible to believe but I was so tired after the previous four years of hell, I had barely enough energy to get dressed and leave the house. It was like the getting dressed was all I could handle. And yet, I had to survive and I couldn’t see myself getting any kind of job soon. With enough money to last me a few more months, I started working on KIT and Reinvented Software.

And so I did, and I think it’s well-documented on my blog(s) and in interviews how that went, the status of things now, etc. Things are a lot better but the damage from those previous few years remains. Yes, I am physically and mentally in far better shape and yes, I am surviving financially, but I still have so much further to go. I might never make the same kind of money that I did when I had my old job but I need to make more to see this out in the long-term and that means many more mountains to climb.

So, back to the Marina. I’m walking towards the promenade and noticing, not for the first time, how much is changing, not just in the Marina, but in Swansea as a whole. In the Marina, all these new apartments are springing up. Hundreds of them, all sold out and somehow I imagine the average price to be £ridiculous. I remember when the cost of apartments in the Marina were well within my grasp and I always wondered whether I might live there.

These days, not a chance. Property prices are through the roof, my earnings are low as hell, not least because of the weak dollar. There seems to be a hell of a lot more money around (bearing in mind I’d just been at the Audi garage too, getting my 8-year old car serviced while surrounded by shiny new models) and I don’t have any of it. In fact, I felt like a nobody, totally left behind, minimum wage loser.

The irony is I bet a lot of these people just do their jobs to live, maybe don’t like them very much. Others might have the gift of the gab and work as the sort of useless, pompous managers that helped put me where I am. I love what I do and am amazed I can make a living doing it, but it’s hard work and the rewards aren’t remotely matching the effort.

And doing it on my own makes everything so linear. I takes months to make an app and even longer when you have to time-slice that between support emails, marketing, admin and everything else that just seems to come at you out of the blue. It’s infuriating sometimes that whole weeks can be devoured by things unplanned. You get used to it, but it doesn’t make you feel much better.

I saw no justice, no fairness; I felt tiny and lost. This summer’s day suddenly felt like mid-winter and to top it all off the promenade reminded me of some of the people I’d loved (or thought I did) over the years and how these days I just felt totally alone. I felt bitter, wretched, cheated and worthless. I poured my heart out to the iRiver, sort of.

On the relationships side of things, a lot of that was played out there, perhaps not so strangely as it was a place to go to escape the city. There I drank, got stoned, got fucked, had a laugh and some big arguments too. There things began and ended, often spectacularly.

Björk’s Violently Happy was playing in my head. I used to listen to Björk a lot back then, only picking her back up last summer. The lyrics to Violently Happy are totally apt for me in that place and era:

I tip-toe down to the shore
stand by the ocean
make it roar at me
and I roar back

A lot of my frustration had been building up for some time. I know life is never going to be all peachy and I know everyone has problems, some of my friends have had it much worse than me lately, but on that day the only thing I knew was how miserable I felt from this seemingly endless torture, wondering whether things would ever improve.

Well, they are improving. I have a lot to be grateful for. My problems are nothing compared to what I’ve been through but they are enough that on a bad day I want to scream and collapse into a heap begging, pleading for a time when I can finally feel like someone who is allowed something like a normal life. That can’t happen until I can get to the point where I can make a living without killing myself.

Update: In a weird timing thing, I just got a pingback moments after posting this showing me that John Ong played my “VentMix” on his Ongline Podcast. He asked if he could use it the day I posted it, but I didn’t know he would use it today. Yikes!

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4 Responses to “Marina Meltdown Explained”

  1. John Ong Says:

    Great Minds Think Alike.
    Thanks for the explanation. Long as hell you whore!


  2. […] Steve Harris’s VentMix “Marina” Interestingly, he wrote a post right at the same time of me posting my show, target=”link”>explaning his “meltdown”. […]

  3. Steve Says:

    It is long and after writing it I realised it’s only half the story too! I’ll spare the world the rest. 😀

  4. Andy Melton Says:

    Don’t spare the world the rest, make sure you write it down…even if it stays offline. Like you told me, “Doesn’t it feel better after you’ve let it out?” *hugs*


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