Has my weekly self-analysis helped avert the worst of middle age?


Welcome to my final Weekend column, guys. I was debating how emotional to get on this one. I have spent the last couple of days listening to Kanye West’s new album, so I am in quite a depressive mood. This column is my Donda.

Two years ago, I was tasked with writing in this slot. And every week I smashed out 600 words for your delectation, all about my ongoing road to self-improvement. There was the aim to spend less time on my phone, which has worked so effectively that I have already checked it twice since starting this article. There was learning how to DJ, which hasn’t progressed at all – and now I have a gig in October where I am expected to mix (I might end up being the first DJ outed for miming). And of course who could forget the year of weight loss and fitness training that led to a set of before and after photos that were essentially identical? That was the initial remit, at least. Some weeks, I would have a fully formed idea drop into my head, I would sit at my laptop for 45 minutes or so, and it would be done, and I would be happy. Other weeks, I would agonise over it, adding a sentence at a time, before eventually sending in a column with a covering apology and an offer to rewrite it completely.

Sometimes the column goes in, gets printed and I see it and think: “I have no idea why the hell I thought that was a good column.” That’s pretty normal for me – in fact, I think it’s fair to say that the day I am happy with something I have done, I will know it’s time to think about doing something else. When you do TV or radio, your social media is full of people telling you it’s good and people telling you it’s awful in pretty equal measure. The most I get from this column is somebody tapping me on the shoulder (figuratively speaking – I think if someone genuinely tapped me on the shoulder to get my attention, I would be pretty pissed off) and saying something like: “I thought your wife was right to be angry with you about that furniture delivery” or, “I prefer Tim Dowling but I do enjoy it when I sometimes read you.”

I’ll be honest: I can’t think of many life changes that have stuck, but I’ve realised that isn’t the point. The point is to keep trying things and failing at all of them, so that you can write a regular column about it. For all of the self-improvement challenges I have written about, the one I haven’t tackled would be time management. Even as I write this, I have just had an email from one of the editors, saying: “As soon as you can, please!” I don’t think in two years I have handed a column in on time. The editors are incredibly polite about it, so my inbox is full of emails saying things like: “Really getting tight on this one, mate!” and, “Sorry to bother you, but could really do with the column today” when actually what they want to say is: “Are you aware that you are creating a level of stress that is completely disproportionate to what you bring to the publication, you absolute prick?”

So I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to all of them, and to thank you for reading, if you did. I have a habit of leaning into anything I am criticised for, and just a couple of weeks ago somebody messaged me to say this column was navel-gazing rubbish. And so, what could be more navel gazing than a column about writing a column? GOODBYE FOR EVER! (I’m more than likely going to be writing for the Guardian again soon, but wanted a dramatic out.)