“Can you pass a basic religion test?” asked a preacher standing on the sidewalk on College Avenue.
It was a little past 11:30 p.m. on a Friday, and he directed his question at a group of clearly intoxicated guys.
Was I drunk? Yes.
Was my friend drunk? Yes.
I waited while my friend, Julie Koenig, sat on a bench to take off her heels. As I stood there I realized everyone who walked by us was either intoxicated or on their way to find more booze.
I used to judge people who drank. My whole life I was taught to follow the rules, and under-age drinking clearly broke the law.Why would you drink anything bad for you, I’d think. That’s stupid.
My freshman year, however, I realized that these thoughts pushed people away before I even got to know them. I had almost no social life. So when my friends asked me to go to a frat party with them one night, I agreed. I slipped on a tight black dress and heels. One of my guy friends commented, “Wow, you look hot!” That night marked the first time I had ever felt sexy in my life, and I liked it.
When we arrived, loud music blasted from speakers and bodies jumped up and down to the beat. I started the night off with a red solo cup containing a light blue liquid, and I found myself continuously returning to get more refills. Three of these mixed drinks swiftly removed the blanket over my social life. There’s no harm in letting go, I thought.
I watched as the cluster of guys approached the preacher. “Of course dude, I went to Catholic school my entire life. What’s the test?” one of the hammered individuals scoffed.
This caught my attention. I too had been brought up through the Catholic school system. I remember watching teachers yell at kids that didn’t behave. It scared me. In kindergarten, I vividly remember getting my friends to ask the teacher if I could use the bathroom. I felt terrified of saying the wrong thing, so I stayed silent.
Koenig, who is a Christian, eventually switched her shoes and stood by me. We observed as the preacher pulled out a $10 bill and clipped it to a dry-erase board. He looked at the drunken college students.
“If you can list the Ten Commandments in any order within three minutes,” he said, “I will give you the $10.”
I immediately thought, that’s so easy. As a minute and a half rolled by, I realized I was on the same level as the guys participating in the game. The whole group of them managed to list three commandments: you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, you shall not steal and you shall not take the Lord’s name in vain.
The preacher signaled to the guys that their three minutes ended. The crowd of friends immediately walked away from the scene.
Koenig and I stood there. We were both dressed in going-out clothes and swaying from the alcohol we had consumed. Koenig’s expression registered that of total remorse.
“That’s terrible, I can’t believe myself for not remembering them,” she muttered as she stared at the dry-erase board. She then reached into her purse and pulled out a $5 bill.
“Here, add this to the $10. Whoever can list all the commandments deserves it,” Koenig said as she handed the bill to the surprised preacher.
He probably wasn’t expecting a drunken bombshell blonde wearing sparkly gold shorts and a low-cut top to dish out cash to his cause. He accepted the donation and in return handed each of us a religious pamphlet. We said thank you and continued on our way to the Lion’s Den, a dance bar around the corner.
As the night progressed, I eventually lost sight of Koenig and ended up going home with my very attractive next-door neighbor. In the morning, I took a very short walk of shame back to my cottage at the Retreat. As I threw my keys and purse on my bed, the pamphlet the preacher gave me fell to the ground.
I thought about Koenig’s reaction. Like me, she was brought up in a very religious family, but I didn’t feel regret for failing a simple religion test.
My junior year of college, while messaging a guy I attended high school with, I mentioned to him how I really thought I had changed since my Catholic school days. His response? “Yeah, I don’t think I remember hearing you speak a word, like ever.”
The gravity of his words hit me. I had been living my life, but not really living. I was going through the motions of what everyone else around me expected. I used to think I needed to obey every single teaching they addressed or I would go to hell. That’s not living, and I realized that once I came to college. I’m pretty sure the Catholic Church would disapprove of most of my decisions throughout my college career, but I think I’m doing just fine.
You can’t please everyone and you shouldn’t let someone else’s opinions dictate how you act. Do the things you enjoy and say what you believe.
Sometimes you have to break the rules to get an understanding of why they were even put there in the first place.