At first I thought this week was going to be all blaarrrrggghh, then I thought it was going to be ehhhh, until I realized it was shaping up to be sort of “Well, OK then.” I guess what I’m trying to say is that my week was all right, but I thought it was going to be the worst.

Every year, the senior class at my school takes a trip to Florida. The girls in my class spent the month before the trip ENDLESSLY talking about how they were dieting or how they felt like they were too pale to go on the beach yet (“No, I’m paler than you, let’s compare arms”). I’m pro-diet if that’s something that you like doing, but also pro just getting through a school lunch without someone talking about how fat they feel. That is fairly annoying. Also, because I have a contract with myself that says I have to feel sorry for myself 100% of the time, I would randomly mutter things to myself such as, “I don’t even know who I’ll sit by on the bus, let alone hang out with on the beach,” or attempt to crush someone’s excitement about the trip by saying things like “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SAND THAT GETS IN THE CROTCH OF YOUR BATHING SUIT.” I was being a total Debbie.

Saturday morning, I randomly chose a bus, let out an exasperated sigh, and looked for a seat. Seemingly all were taken. Then, all of the stars aligned and the gods and goddesses of friendship decided to give a sister some help and a magical rainbow of ACCEPTANCE pointed the way to an empty seat. I was more than thrilled when the voice of the girl I’ve had the biggest friend crush on ever was all, “You can sit by me, Katherine.” That sounds like a really lame and common thing to quote, but to me, it was as if Harry Styles were serenading me with “What Makes You Beautiful” whilst offering me a baby kitten. We spent the next eight hours on the bus quoting Parks and Recreation, being obnoxious, and pretending to be Scarlet and Savannah, two southern women who judge their self-worth by their attractiveness to men, ability to reproduce, and wealth. We were stupid and loud and it was honestly just fun to have a normal interaction with THE COOLEST FUNNIEST GIRL EVER. I’m not creepy or anything. She’s just the Ann Perkins to my Leslie Knope and I may have told her I loved her on the beach the final night of our trip. Whatever. I just think she’s so cool and I want to be friends. SO BAD.

Anyway, the trip was just fine. I got to talk to people I always wanted to be friends with, even if it was a little too late. I hung out on the beach and was actually happy to be with my grade at some points. I also may have told one of my former high school crushes that it burns to pee in the ocean, but it’s whatever because there were bananas on his graduation party invitations, and he called Bridesmaids “just a chick movie.”

There was one night when the dean of students gave this really scary speech where he said that there were six or seven seniors he would not be seeing in heaven. He said that he could list those six or seven, but he wouldn’t. He told us that although God wouldn’t punish us, he would let terrible things happen to us until we believed. He said that eventually we would become too tired, and we would turn to the faith. He also told us that we were too young to be able to know whether or not there was a God, and that because we had so little experience we had no right to question the faith of our fathers.

Obviously, my friends and I were furious. I was angry that he told us that we were essentially too stupid to make decisions about anything. I was also mad because I know no Christians who think that you should never question any aspects of the faith or that God lets bad things happen to nonbelievers, but that nothing bad happens to Christians. Those who believed felt misrepresented and scared, and those who didn’t felt frustrated and scared.

When we returned for the final assembly of the year, the school was beginning a renovation. As I walked down my hallway, I watched a worker sledgehammer the wooden cubby that is my locker. I watched it splinter into pieces and I felt like I was being set free. I can finally let go of all my frustrations of this past year. I don’t have to think about teachers trying to save my soul, deans giving terrifying death-and-damnation speeches, or chapel speakers randomly stopping in the middle of a speech to tell us that believe that being gay is a choice—the worst choice you can make. I can find other people’s faith beautiful again, because I won’t feel crushed by the negative aspects of religion. I can let go of getting stood up, dealing with school-dance drama, hiding during pep rallies, and facing narrow-minded teachers. I can hold on to the memory of my religion teacher, who encouraged me to continue to speak in class discussions, even if the kid who sat behind me called me a bitch and a baby killer.

I don’t think I’ll ever return to my school for a visit, but I don’t want to spend forever hating it. It’s in the past; it can’t hurt me anymore. And it wasn’t so terrible. I never had to deal with bullying or major family problems or any other issues that plague high school kids in general. It sucked, but it was all right. ♦