I was told everyone in college is gay. I was told the campus would be overflowing with eccentric, adventurous, young people who live in the moment and will do almost anything to feel alive. High school sucked. High school was like being locked in a fish tank full of beautiful red and blue angel fish while being the only orange and white striped clownfish.Three months into the mystical adventure of higher education, I found myself a part of many different friend groups from math nerds to track stars, from burnout potheads to Bible thumpers. Everyone found common ground with everyone else. It no longer mattered what your interests were or how much money your family had. Most people found something good in all different types of people. Most people. Remember the Bible thumpers? In my experience, these were the exception to most people. This was the group of people that were fully content with living in the fish tank surrounded by only more of the same angel fish. Being a part of the ‘Bible Belt’, I had accepted that the overly religious were completely unavoidable. The two worlds of my world and the Christian world collided quite often. It only became a problem when the gay thing arose. Unfortunately my excessively religious companions looked at homosexuality as a personal attack against their lifestyles and everything they stood for. Personal opinions aside, I had found myself lodged in the middle of the biggest Christian organization on campus.
During the first three months of college, I had introduced myself to everyone as a proud lesbian. I was out and proud! That is, until I was invited to a Bible study. At this point I had discovered that people of different views and morals could coexist peacefully in college. I had no reason not to go to the Bible study and reject this particular group of people. I did go to the Bible study and many more after that, and I enjoyed it. I met an abundance of welcoming and interesting people to form connections with. I decided to keep the gay thing a secret.
In fact, I decided to keep a lot of things about me a secret. From past experience, I knew the best way to interact with a Bible thumper without confrontation was to just hide as much of myself as possible. At first, I didn’t think much about this. It had become a defense mechanism I had developed from so many years in the wild Bible belt; my key to survival in this God eat Devil world. After time, though, I came to realize that hiding who I was in attempt to ease tension with somebody was totally backtracking. I was out and proud, right? Was I proud? Hiding the gay ting was like time-hopping back into high school. But I was proud of who I was, who I am. So it was time to make the decisions that made me happy. One of those decisions included parting ways with the Christian organization if it meant I had to be ashamed of who I am. Because I had met so many people during this time, I had other friends to spend time with. The math nerds, the track stars, but more importantly, the pot-heads!
Of all the wonderful friends I had made, the stoners were the most welcoming. They held no judgement, no distinctions, no expectations of me. They were the complete opposite of the Christian friends. The more time I spent with the offbeat smokers, the more subgroups of the stoners I found. Within the category of pot smokers, there were also groups of math nerds, track stars, musicians, writers, and even Christians. The possibility of living a Christian lifestyle while smoking weed and living a life true to oneself opened up a whole new world to me. I had never had any major qualms with the Christian faith other than the oppression of free will and inability to accept people who are different. Of course, the gay thing was the big problem. However the stoners introduced me to the notion that I could embrace the positive aspects of Christianity while also doing things that make me happy and loving people that I want to love.
Instead of being in an auditorium full of people telling me they would love everyone as long as everyone fit the list of standards written out by a man in the sky, I found friendship in small dorm rooms surrounded by a
few people who just wanted to smoke a bowl and talk about philosophy. These people didn’t care that I was gay just as much as I didn’t care that they were straight. They were more preoccupied with making each other laugh and discussing their opinions on how to make the world a better place than trying to make every person on earth have the exact same opinions as them.
Throughout the duration of college, I never strayed too far from the stoners. Because people from so many different walks of life smoke weed, I was able to find representatives of every societal subculture within the stoner community itself. I could smoke with the math nerds and study for exams or smoke with the athletes and go skateboarding. I could also smoke with the Christians and discuss how we could be spiritual while also encouraging others to follow whatever type of religion fits their needs. Because I connected with these stoners, I fell in love with people. I no longer held hatred for groups of people who made me an outcast. I learned to understand that differences are what make people beautiful. I could live my life and be proud of myself without hating anybody else. To this day, I thank the stoners for fully accepting me and teaching me to accept others. Not every clique has to exclude every other clique. There is some overlap and we can respect each other’s differences.