Two things that I am sure of about myself are the fact that I believe in my religion and I like to have fun. Contradiction? Yes, definitely. But, in my opinion, nothing is wrong with either of these things. Most people agree with those statements separately, but apparently the moment you try to pursue both faithfulness and fireballs on Fridays nights people think you are doing one wrong. It’s not hard to guess which.
In high school my faith became stronger as I grew up and I made decisions based upon the choice to follow God. Making those decisions was simple then. Not sleeping with my boyfriend, not swearing, obeying my parents, volunteering, going to mass every Sunday. I felt good about who I was; I felt as if the path I was on was a righteous one…and then I arrived in Madison, WI.
My freshman year at Madison was a surprising one. I had always been the “good girl.” Literally, one of my friends said he would pay me $10.00 to swear when I was 17 and I said no. But then I found myself in a world full of Burnett’s vodka jello shots, cropped tops, dorm rooms with no supervision and boys with no faith. It was a tricky place to be in when you wanted to straddle the altar and the frat house door jam.
When alcohol allows you to make excuses, to place the accountability on an empty bottle or a foggy mind, crazy things happen. This is not to say that they can’t be avoided. It’s simple– don’t drink, and don’t get drunk because that is sin. But having fun was never a sin before and our definition of fun changes as we grow up. At one point it was squirt guns, at another it was ding dong ditch, now it was any substance that decreased our accountability, and that so happened to be a sin.
The problem was that, while all this happened. I was coping with my choices only for an hour on Sundays. I had lost my everyday faith–that much was obvious–but the more disturbing fact is that I wasn’t wholly on either side. I was neither ready to let go of everything I believed in nor committed to giving up this strange form of enjoyment and all the things that came along with it.
After several tearful confessional visits and a whole lot of silent walks along the lakeshore path with my thoughts, I realized that I didn’t want to choose and that a lot of times the things associated with partying were what happened in conjunction with the alcohol–sex, theft, drugs, explicit language. These things were the sinful actions that my priest always discussed, and, while I did party, I had no intention of sacrificing my purity for alcohol. I just wanted to have a good time (don’t we all?).
It took almost all of my freshman year and quite a few mistakes to realize that I could have it both ways. I could go out on Saturdays and take communion on Sundays without a sick feeling in my gut that I was disobeying the word of God. I never let myself get too drunk, I do not go home with boys and I do not skip church on Sundays.
And so I am now a devoted Catholic party girl. It is a strange combination, one not many people understand and one that guys don’t really care to deal with, from either side. I believe that I am a strong, true, living example of my religion, but I am not a holy angel. I like to have as good of time as any other college student that comes along. It’s confusing, even to me, but maybe the more we talk about the reality of religion in present day 2016 without disregarding the commandments altogether, it could become easier for young people to understand.