For a moment there, I lost myself

Before you start reading, click the play button. I feel like this one should have a musical accompaniment.

All settled in? Good.

Well, this week’s been interesting.

I spent Monday at an event finding out about a new government initiative for digital forensics people – both companies and individuals. Throughout the day, we talked about current challenges in forensic investigation, industry ethics, and lots more.

I caught up with some people I haven’t seen in a while – a few from Teesside Uni whom I met at TDFCon this year, a couple that I’ve met at other government/industry/academia joint events over the past few years.

And I made some new friends, which was nice too. Specifically, an academic who’s interested in working together, and a brilliant lady who completely understood the dilemmas I have when people ask me basic questions such as “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?”

We chatted for a while about what it’s like to live a multifaceted life, discovered we had a shared sense of humour and a load of shared interests, and hugged at the end, to bemused looks from fellow forensicators.

Well, why shouldn’t there be hugging at business events? Maybe it’d make it nicer.

(Anyone who knows me irl is staring incredulously at the screen at this point – I am not normally one for physical contact. But, you know, there’s a time and a place. Like in a business meeting on a Monday morning.)


On Thursday I heard some big news about a company I used to work for.

At first I was like


then I was like


Honestly, it feels wrong to even joke about it.

But I wrote a proper blog post about it here (which includes some thoughts on living ethically in general, as well as in my current job), and it’s Sunday night, and I’m not in the mood to get all heavy and philosophical.

So instead I’m going to focus on the positive bits in this post.

Because, on the whole, it’s been a really nice week. And actually, this horrible, disgusting news was one of the reasons why.

Because like I mentioned in my previous update, I realised that I’m completely happy with how my life is. I might not have much money, or go on lots of expensive nights out, or be able to shop in the non-Basics range of the supermarket, but I feel like I am myself.

I realised that I really do not give a fuck about having any more money than I actually need to survive. And I’d always thought I felt that, and said I felt that, but I wasn’t sure, when the time came, whether I’d actually feel it.

Does that make sense?

I know who I am. I know what I stand for. And I know what I don’t stand for. And that feels great.

So I had this deliriously happy moment at some point on Thursday, when I stood in my living room and just felt wonderful. Which was very nice.

On Saturday I decided to go for a walk and see what happened if I introduced myself to people and took whatever opportunities they offered me. I used to do this when I was a teenager, and I often ended up doing really fun stuff, but at some point I stopped.

So, I restarted.

I found some people who work for a local child protection charity, and offered to volunteer with them.

Then I found a local fair, and went up to a lady who was running a stall and got chatting to her. I mentioned that I was looking to make friends in the local area but wasn’t sure where to start.

“Are you a singer, by any chance?” she asked
“I am, actually.” I replied.

She told me that a local church was having a gala performance of Fauré’s Requiem and that there weren’t any auditions, you just had to turn up to the rehearsal and sing.

“It’s on now!” she told me. “Go on! Off you go!”

And she gave me directions, and off I went.

I hovered outside the church for a good five minutes before I summoned up the courage to go inside.

It was brilliant. We did RequiemJerusalem and Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. While we were singing Jerusalem, the sun started to set, and suddenly a shaft of light burst through the stained glass window and illuminated the church in rainbows and gold.

© ©

It was one of those perfect confluences of elements that create something that, for a moment, seems almost magical.

The evening rolled around and the gala began. Most of the first half was taken up by two pianists playing a duet of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

They were absolutely brilliant, but all I could think of throughout was the possibility that Bill Bailey might be inside the piano playing it with spoons.

And then it was our turn. We sang the Requiem and Hallelujah. Then the conductor asked the whole audience to stand and join us in singing Jerusalem. It was beautiful – there’s something about a huge number of voices rising together in harmony (especially in a building with brilliant acoustics) that’s really special.

As you can see, I enjoyed myself.

But the title of this post is “For a moment there, I lost myself” for a reason. And it’s not just because I don’t know the lyrics to a Radiohead song (yes, I know it’s “minute”, but it’s my blog, so I make the rules 😉 ).

Ever since I was about 21, I’ve had this feeling that I’m slipping away from myself. That I’m not who I was before – which is only to be expected, of course, since people change and develop with each passing year, as well they should.

But my disquiet came from somewhere else. It came from knowing that I wasn’t doing what I wanted with my life – more’s the point, that I wasn’t doing things I even agreed with. And that I definitely wasn’t doing things I really cared about.

I’ve tried to explain this to countless people over the years (so if you’re my friend irl, sorry for my constant banging on about it and thank you for listening), and a few have understood, whilst others have assumed it’s a misplaced nostalgia for my teenage years.

Trust me, I have no desire to relive those.

But I did feel like I was slipping through my fingers somehow. Like I’d become caught up in the world and lost myself in the fray, forgetting what actually mattered to me and being swept along like some piece of flotsam on the tide.

I found it hard to articulate quite what I meant by this. I just had a general sense that things weren’t right. That I’d lost the things that were important.

And I wasn’t sure how to get them back.

This week, I was suddenly swept away by the feeling that I’d refound myself again. After coming up with an idea for a computer program, I spent Wednesday night playing with algorithms, which used to be one of my hobbies until life* got in the way.

*well, ‘existence’ really. This is life.

On Thursday, after going for dinner with a friend I haven’t seen in a few years, I stayed behind in the pub when he left and played an impromptu piano set. I met a homeless lady called Tiger who briefly sang with me, and at the end of the evening we swapped numbers.

On the way home, I went into Quinto Bookshop on Charing Cross Road and stood among the tall shelves, breathing in the smell of well-loved paper and digging through the Philosophy section (an experience I recommend wholeheartedly). I hadn’t done that since I was about eighteen.

And then of course, on Saturday I did the singing thing. And this morning I voluntarily got up at sunrise and went for a walk in the fresh pre-autumnal air.

It’s as if for a few years I forgot what was wonderful and important about life.

Instead I turned into some kind of automaton.

Now I’m back. Tight budgets, algorithm obsessions and all.

And you know what?

I’m fucking loving it.

So, how’s your week been?

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