A gay indie boy living in suburban South West London recounts his trials and tribulations dealing with sex, sexuality, growing up and getting older

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Looking back, looking forward, living now

Seeing as I've been updating my PhD blog a lot recently, I took a look at this one the other day and was incredibly saddened by what I had written. I can't believe for so many years, I was in a really bad place. Whether it was quarter-life crisising or something more sinister, I really don't know. Another thing that cheered me, though, was actually the humour that was still there despite everything.

I turn 30 in three months' time and I have to say I have such incredible perspective and I am the happiest I have ever been in my life. Or perhaps that is an over-statement, but I certainly can recognise things for what they are. I think – at this stage in life – you can really see the true beauty and sadness of your younger years. I think about being 17 with Kat Fiction and driving around and having the time of our lives. We drank... A lot. And we also dreamed a lot. And to think back on the times, even the crazy arguments and conflicts, makes me smile now. We were having the time of our lives, but we didn't recognise it. And now I think of me in my early 20s, so desperate to achieve and be someone. So desperate to be famous... I wish I could go back to him and say, "Allan, relax... And take more drugs."

Hahaha... I only add the last bit because I was actually so uptight and so scared of losing control, and it was the time of my life where I could afford to lose control the most. I worried about silly things like looking cool, or whether other people would think I was a slut for sleeping with too many people, or whether I looked stupid when I was drunk. Now I think, "Who really cares?" I didn't appreciate the true power of my youth and beauty, but what makes it so beautiful is that exact thing. However, I wish I'd listened to myself and not the people who I felt were cool. Discriminating what is cool and what isn't is merely a way of covering up one's own insecurities and projecting them on to other people.

I think I feel the best about myself than I ever have. I know myself well and I know how to enjoy myself. I don't judge the man in the mirror – I accept that he is a positive, confident guy who likes to laugh the loudest and wear the most ostentatious shirt in the room. I never ask what's wrong with me – I am actually okay. I now recognise that the way people react to me is not to do with me – it's totally to do with them.

One of the most monumental changes that has really helped me was a complete change in lifestyle. There was luck involved - for which I am extremely grateful. I was offered the chance to do my PhD, including fee waiver and small bursary at Falmouth University. Achieving a doctorate has been one of my life's dreams, but I always thought it would be when I was 40 or 50 and saved up enough money to do it, but I had been trying since 2008 to get funding. It took 4 years and I ended up being supervised by a completely different department than the one I thought I would be (photography rather than performance), but in doing so, it has challenged my limits and let me learn a new skill. And what's more is that I'm progressing well: I have thought to myself that I have always been able to write, but I could never paint or draw. Perhaps photography has provided a medium through which I can express myself visually without having to rely on paints or pencils.

I also landed a part-time job at Immediate Media – the new company that has just purchased all the BBC titles – as Creative Solutions Editor. I work 3 days a week and make a liveable, but not extravagant, wage. I work with such a great team of people it makes it so much more bearable. I genuinely like coming to work and for the first time in my life I know I'm doing a good job without having to be told. And what's more is I feel like it's working for me, rather than me working.

People ask me how I am flippantly in conversation and some days I just want to say, "Amazing. I'm great. I don't think I could ask for anything more." But I usually respond with, "Good – everything's really good right now" and I try not to follow it up with too much more decoration, for fear of sounding smug or like I'm rubbing it in. For the first time in my life I feel like I'm 'on track', and there's no aspect of my life that I would change or substitute.

I could say that I wish my social life was better, but actually it feels like I am more accepting of the transient nature of friendships and I know that I will always make friends. I am not evil at heart and people find me positive and sociable – that's all you need to get by. I could say I wish my love life was better, but I really don't. Typically, I sacrificed a lot to work hard to get to this point, but I have always been an 'all or nothing' kind of guy – either I love you or I don't, and I can't really settle for anything in between. I'd rather wait for the one I love than love the one I'm with.

In the Mary Poppins novel (this is not in the film), at one point the children ask her, "What do you wish for Mary Poppins?"

And she replies, "I never wish for anything, children. I'm perfectly content with everything just the way it is."

What a wise woman she was.