I try to inspire young minds, but actually just travel through time and eat biscuits.
I went back to my old school a few weeks ago. Well, no. Actually I didn’t, because my old school isn’t there any more. They bulldozed it not long after my year left. Something about it not being suitable for human occupation, or something. Anyway.
So I went to the school on the site of where my old school was. Which was nice.
I was there for a reason, I didn’t just show up and be all like “Hello! Only me! I think I left my jacket in my locker twenty years ago, I’ll just pop in and get it!”
It was careers day, and the organiser lady asked if I’d mind popping in to talk about my ‘portfolio career’, which is polite speak for ‘faffing about and not getting a proper job’. So I took it upon myself to spread the message that it’s ok to not know what you want to do, and that you can change your mind at any point, and if you work hard, you can do pretty much anything you set your mind to.
I didn’t mention the fact that I have no savings, no pension and an impressive collection of credit cards. There are some things everyone needs to learn about for themselves. On an entirely unrelated note, patreon.com/probablytrue. That’s patreon.com/probablytrue. Help me, I’m poor.
Anyway. It was really weird being back there, even though it wasn’t really back, as it wasn’t my old school. Which is probably for the best. I imagine there would have been a lot of memories and trauma that I’ve since doused in gin and turned into stupid jokes that would have loved a chance to jump out and haunt me again. Some of them did anyway, of course, because we carry our ghosts with us. I can still remember everything about that old school. Or, at least, I think I can. Memory is strange, and unreliable. But I remember every classroom, every corridor. The way it felt, and the smells. Especially that one time Sid Cherry shat in a jar and hid it in a cupboard. That’s the kind of smell that is VERY hard to forget. And the stupid thing about reality is that that old building, the one that doesn’t exist any more is still real to me. I have only vague memories of polished concrete and wiry carpeted floors in the new school, I was only there one day, after all, but the old one…
Turns out that teenage kids love it when people come into school and swear a bit and talk about wanking and sex and stuff, which is great, because that is exactly where my skills lie. At least I was using my powers for good, though, as I had to sit with a group of six or seven of them at a time, and I found I could get their attention with a quick wank joke and then talk them through the brilliance of never really knowing what you want to do with your life, how it’s ok to be a bit unsure and all of that stuff that I wish someone had told me when I was their age.
I mean, I did what I wanted anyway, which is why I have a Batchelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Healing Arts. Because I had no idea what I wanted to do, and that one sounded more interesting than an English or Humanities degree, which was always the go-to from the teachers if you didn’t have a career in mind.
There was even a little quiz thing we all had to do that would help us think about careers. It asked questions like “How much do you like working outdoors?” and “Do you enjoy working with people?” and then after about 50 questions like that, the computer would spit out a list of really helpful career suggestions. Mine included funeral director. Which, to be fair, was not a career I had considered, so it worked, I guess.
During one of the breaks, I tweeted about how I was bonding with the kids over wank jokes, because I was excited and pleased with how well it was going. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and going back to that place as an out and proud gay man after leaving it as a confused and angry teenager was a big thing for me.
But then I got Taken Aside by a teacher. “We’ve just seen your tweet about telling wank jokes with the students. I know you haven’t mentioned what school you’re at, but I don’t think it’s very appropriate, do you?”
This was so weird. Being told off outside a classroom was not where I was expecting the day to go. I drew breath to say “I am a 36-year old man, not one of your students. I left this place twenty years ago (christ), and your hold over me ended then. I do not answer to you, and your school is not implicated in or necessarily endorsing my tweet, so no harm is done. Let’s leave the matter there, because you have no power over me. Now, be about your business, and leave me to the impressive selection of biscuits you have provided.” which is weird because what came out of my mouth was “No miss. Sorry miss. I’ll delete it, miss.” And in that moment, I was fifteen again, with my hair in over-gelled curtains, spots and the hideous red v-neck and tie they made us wear. I might not be able to travel back in time and go back to that old school building, but by christ, that was close.
There’s a lesson for me - never let the system get inside your head. It’s amazing how insidious it can be.
So, once I’d deleted the offending tweet, been allowed to gobble biscuits disgustingly again, and the flashbacks to my own teenage years faded a bit, we got back into the sessions with the students. I went round one of the little groups, asking them what they wanted to do when they left school. Some knew exactly, others had vague ideas, but most were in the shrug and ‘dunno’ camp. Keen to drive home my message of a fulfilling life, I said “Ok then, what are you interested in? What are you enthusiastic about? Because there’s always ways to make money doing something you love, although it tends to be a lot more work… There was a pause from everyone and, eventually, one of the boys said, with a stone cold poker face “I think we’re all pretty enthusiastic about pornography.” Can’t fault his honesty, I guess. So I rolled with it, and explained that yes, there are always careers to be had in adult entertainment, but it’s hard work, according to some of the porn stars I know… His eyes lit up. “You know porn stars?” He’d gone from being a disinterested shrug in a uniform to suddenly alert and hanging off my every word. It was great, until one of his mates saud “They’re going to be men porn stars though, aren’t they?” and BAM he was straight back to slumped and not caring.
I asked another group the same question, and this quiet, kinda shy looking boy looked at me for a second and said “I want to be a drag queen.” and in that moment my heart nearly burst. Actually, a lot of things happened very quickly in that moment, so I’ll break it down. First off, I was filled with admiration and joy that someone from my old, rough, school not only wanted to be a drag queen, but also was not afraid to say it out loud. Back in my day, that would have been enough to ensure that you were farting shoe leather for the rest of your school career. But here he was, unafraid and happy to talk about this in front of his peers and my god, that was a humbling moment. I’d never have had that sort of courage. So just as this wave of admiration for this skinny boy overtook me, a girl also in the same group said “Oh my god. Being a drag queen is all you ever talk about. You’re the gayest person ever.”
Have you ever seen a science fiction film or whatever, where a previously harmless-looking robot suddenly activates ‘battle mode’ or whatever, and a ton of weapons suddenly pop up and start making menacing ‘vwuuuum’ sort of noises? That’s where I was. Terminator vision. Five or six red sniper dots currently converging on this poor girl. I was about to say something devastating about how she could learn a thing or two about makeup from him, or something nastier that would have paid for her therapist’s second home, but before I could launch my bitch-seeking missiles, just as I’m in the middle of drawing breath after she said “You’re the gayest person ever”. He looked down at his nails, shrugged and replied “I try.” All my weaponry powered down as I burst out laughing and realised he didn’t need me to defend him, as he was more than capable of dealing with this sort of shit himself. He got a fistbump and a wink instead. At this point, my heart was full of admiration at this young’un who was much braver and capable than I was at his age, and joy that he was growing up in what used to be a pretty rough ex-mining village. I wish I’d had a friend like that when I was his age. I mean, I know I would have made it weird and tried to shag him, because I was a deeply strange teenager, but still. Having a role model like that would have been amazing.
If my young Drag Princess is listening, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he were, check out Cybil War on Instagram - she’s an amazing drag queen and future guest of mine, if she ever gets her cute little ass in gear. She will be more than happy to swap tips and advice if you message her, too. Because on top of being a spanking hottie and a fantastic dragh queen, she’s also a really nice person, even if it does take her months to find the time to sit down with me.
I had a great day, hopefully inspiring some of the great minds of tomorrow. Mostly I was glad to get through the day without soemone telling me their full name and me going “Oh, yeah! I shagged your dad!”