First Impressions of University
Refuge is defined as the state of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or difficulty. It is a place or situation providing safety or shelter. I personally define it as a Smoking Area.
I spent my first hour at Hope huddled in a corner near the back of Lecture Room C, not the timetabled Lecture Room F as F stands for Foyer – apparently. I sat silently sucking blood from the mortal wound on my finger which I had obtained when I sliced it open on a broken umbrella whilst powerwalking through Childwall in the pouring rain. The girls behind me spent the hour character assassinating every other Fresher in the room such as the girl who’s eye shadow was “a show” due to the fact she had been out the night before and was still “rotten Dot Cotton”. I kept my head down and my back turned, fearing being labelled as ‘Blood Boy’, then fled the room as soon as the session was over and sook my sanctuary. My smoky sanctuary.
Here I thought I was to find some like-minded peers where we would bond over Lambert and Butlers and maybe share a lighter or two. I tuned into the conversation of my fellow smokers just in time to hear one of them announce, “I spent 400 quid on Ket at the weekend” and another proudly proclaim ‘I was in Heaven till 7 this morning and now I’m just too gay to function”.
The illusion of a smoking sanctuary shattered before my eyes as I realised he may have been in heaven till 7, but I was in hell until 4.15.
From the day I was born until the day before my 21st birthday I had only ever lived in Speke, Liverpool, same street, same house. I’m not going to lie Speke has nothing to offer other than an airport to escape and a retail park for when you can’t be bothered getting a 45-minute bus journey into the city centre. Speke Hall is quite cute, it has wooded areas and a huge Tudor house – I built a bird box there once, it got infested with bees and my dad had to smash it up.
Not being the type of person to do things half-heartedly, when I finally made the decision to leave Speke I didn’t make the typical transition to a nearby area like Allerton or Childwall. I jumped on a plane then a train and then another train to Manresa, Barcelona.
I got a job teaching English in a school and spent the first week doing those cliché introductions, ‘Hi I’m Michael, I was 22 this week and I’m from Liverpool’. The children weren’t so clued up on Liverpool, they just understood it was in England and asked me how many members of One Direction I knew. The Adults on the other hand all had the exact same reaction, ‘The Beatles’. I hate the Beatles. I understand the whole ‘they changed music’ thing and I’m all for a phenomenon – Pokemon Go is amazing and I saw Twilight ten times in the cinema, but I am so over meeting someone outside of Liverpool and having to feign interest in a boy band that is two members away from extinction. Let it be.
Liverpool really benefited from being Capital of culture in 2008 but my personal highlight was when the topiary tree of Ringo Star in the South parkway was beheaded.
I never really felt influenced by males. Maybe it’s the lack of realistic homosexual characters in the arts, maybe it’s daddy issues, maybe it’s Maybelline – who knows? Tragic, beautiful, blondes have always captivated me – The Marilyn Monroes, The Edie Sedgwicks, The Brittany Murphys. Unique women who project this special glow and warmth – kind of like a flame – that everybody just wanted to reach out and touch. Women who felt the burn of their own flames and ultimately let their insecurities, pain and men extinguish it.
Through coming to terms with my own insecurities I sought out more empowering women, in life and in art. Powerful women who feel the heat of their own flames but don’t allow themselves to be engulfed – The Buffy Summers’, The Blair Waldorfs, The Beyoncés.
Two of these strong women are actually strong characters, leading me to discover the men behind them. Joss Whedon changed the TV game, creating one of the first prime time series with a female lead and queer relationships at its core. Ryan Murphy has created Scream Queen Chanel O’Berlin and tackled many issues faced by the LBGT community through his shows Glee, American Horror Story and Scream Queens.
Stephen Chbosky created Charlie and Patrick, central characters in his novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Through them he explored mental illness and homosexuality. For the first time the male leads lured me in more so than the strong female Sam. I felt so grateful to finally be presented with relatable male characters that I wrote him a three-page letter to thank him for his accurate representations.
My main influence today is Jennifer Hollis, the Edie Sedgwick to my Andy Warhol, without who I would not be studying here today. Literally – thanks for doing my UCAS. Thanks for the constant encouragement, support and reassurance. Thanks for being my companion. I promise to never get you addicted to heroin and abandon you.
Also special mention to the rise, fall and return of Ms. Britney Spears who proved no matter how hard you hit rock bottom, you can always pick yourself up and lip sync your way back into people’s hearts. If Britney can make it through 2008, then there’s hope for us all.