I spent my summer preparing for what started this week, the last year of my degree. I read a lot of books, set plans in motion to gain relevant experience, researched and took photos. In hindsight, what I did to relax and forget about the world made me feel more prepared than anything else. I spent a few hours on the sofa watching RuPaul’s Drag Race.
This is the part where I unleash my inner hipster and say I was there for the start of Drag Race. I used to work nights in a supermarket in my mid-twenties when I had no clue what to do with my life and to escape the existential pain, I listened to podcasts. RuPaul did the queer podcast circuit, talking about this show that was a little Project Runway, a little America’s Next Top Model. I downloaded the premiere episode by grey moral means and I enjoyed season one. By the time Season Two came around, I was a little bored. Of course, I dipped out just as the Drag Race star ascended, and I missed the fabulousness of Season Four. Silly me. All the way until this year, when we were invited to a Season Nine viewing party, and I got to see the production values had come a long way. Thus, my summer of drag. I had a few years to catch up on.
In particular, I felt some kinship with Season’s Six’s Jinkx Monsoon. A little strange, a little obscure, a touch spooky. Obsessed with Grey Gardens and Old Hollywood. Oh, hello. The odds seemed stacked against her, but she persevered and won the season.
What does a drag queen competition have to do with an English and Creative Writing degree anyway? Well. There are a few things I learned from that show, earnest as they may be. You have to turn up, you have to put the work in, and you have to keep going. There is no moment on the show where you are forgiven for saying “oh I didn’t know how to sew.” There is no moment in my degree when I will be forgiven for saying “I know what I’m talking about, I just rushed my essay.”
I feel like I’ve come a long way from when I was eighteen. I’ve definitely come a long way from four years ago. Sometimes I catch myself waking up at 4 am to get ready for work on the weekend, a detailed list in my head and in my diary about everything I need to do, books I need to read, people I need to call, stories I need to write. I’m proud of myself in those moments, and I allow myself to feel proud because, to me, it is an achievement. I am juggling my degree with part-time work, exercise, being a partner, finding space in there for friends and family and for myself. I’ve also decided this year to pursue tutoring, I am volunteering for a children’s charity, I am going to an essay writing course in the evenings. I’m not saying these things for anyone to feel pity for me, or to think I have it hard. I’m just highlighting the fact I am busy, and all these busy moments are leading up the future I want to have. I want to leave absolutely nothing to chance. I am here to win.
My first lesson of this year was on Tuesday, and after a couple of months of serving coffee and washing dishes, I was eager to step back into the classroom. I have a wonderful, enthusiastic lecturer who gave us a pep talk on our last year of our degree. He told us to put the work in, to show up, to forsake your social life and let your work take priority. He said that moment you step onto the podium, whatever grade you get, you can at least look in a mirror afterwards and say you gave it your all. All he needed was a two-foot wig and a ballgown and he was RuPaul to my Drag Race finalist.
This is the attitude I choose to have. These next twelve weeks are when the bulk of my modules are happening. I hurt my knee in an unspectacular fall at Pimlico Station yesterday morning and the only thing I am glad about was that it was 5am and nobody saw me take a crash. It just meant I had to take a pause yesterday and today. It made me feel bad, I had an image of everything spiralling out of control and suddenly my careful plan comes apart. But I just had to take it as an opportunity, turn it into something positive. I kept reading and preparing for school, I re-scheduled commitments I had to cancel. Tomorrow, I am getting back out into the world.
I made a playlist on Spotify for those moments when I feel it gets too much, those dark cold mornings when every fluorescent light and commuter armpit stink doesn’t feel worth it. It’s called Year 3 Motivation Realness and I am adding to it as my year continues. As Mama Ru (and my lecturer) says, if I fly or if I fall, at least I can say I gave it my all.
I’ll keep you posted.