I was always a worrier, about everything and anything. At thirteen years old I had more to worry about than most; my sexuality being at the forefront of my thoughts. The beginning of my teenage years was also important in the academic sense; it was time to pick options at school. At such a young age, I was expected to know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, electing subjects to study for the next three years. The forms were duly handed out to the class; it was time to decide our destiny.
As I sat there at my desk, my mind preoccupied, I drifted away to a better place. A feeling of despair was descending over me; I closed my ears, blocking out the voice of my form tutor Mr Campbell, not wanting to hear another word. Looking down towards the paper in front of me, I just saw a jumble of words, none of them making sense. In my head I was sat at the bottom of the school hill; it was green, the sun was out, shining brightly overhead. As I looked left, my cat Ben was jumping through the long grass; a faint summer breeze, blowing through his newly combed coat. In my hand, a cheese and Marmite sandwich, between my knees an ice cold glass of orange. This was my safe place, away from the troubles life always threw my way.
As a sufferer, the weight of the World was firmly on my shoulders; my emerging homosexuality, the threat of nuclear war, death and dying, the newly discovered AIDS epidemic and how to be popular at school, all areas of concern; no wonder I turned to cigarettes! Picking options was just another trouble to contend with and it was right at the bottom of a long list of difficulties. In truth I wasn’t interested in my future at such a tender age, I was too busy fighting my own demons. In my clouded mind, I didn’t have a destiny; not a good one anyway, so I might as well just give up now.
Looking around the class, there was feverish excitement in the air, as my classmates chatted to their peers about what they should do; their favourite lessons, the ones they never skipped and the subjects they never tired of learning about. Others wanted to choose the same courses as their best friend, not wanting to be split up or being seen as a bit of a ‘boff,’ exercising judgement that may be at odds with the mainstream. When you are in your teens, you don’t want to be seen as different, certainly not taking a module that would make others see you as ‘gay’ or ‘odd.’ So as a budding conformist, trying to blend in with the crowd, I chose the courses I felt would be most acceptable to friends and family.
Mum and Dad had said that computers and business were the future and I needed to get a good job when I left school, so I immediately picked ‘Information Studies.’ This was actually a decision I regretted over the years. It was the first choice I made, that proved to be disastrous for my eventual attainment. As a young boy, I was creative and wanted to express that creativity in writing. I enjoyed English language, but never felt satisfied with the lessons. I wrote short stories from a very early age, as I continue to do today. Back then I also wanted to be an actor and would have preferred Drama as an option; it wasn’t to be; far too ‘gay,’ for the likes of me. I wasn’t prepared to go through the last three years of school, suffering yet more bullying. The most important thing for me at age thirteen was to finally begin fitting in with those around me.
When I look back at this time of change, I am horrified at the way I acted. Had I been born thirty years later, I may well have made the correct selections for my future direction in life. As a young gay boy, growing up in 1984, I just didn’t have the willpower or desire to be who I wanted to be and my whole life changed as a result. If I had my time all over again, things would be very different; since I don’t have that chance, I must learn to become content with what I have; not keep thinking, what could have been!
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