A few years ago, I got the chance to participate in a young writer's workshop. I was beyond excited; five days spent with other kids that were just like me: passionate about words and stories and making people feel things. It was the best thing that could have happened to me.
Now: imagine me, a tiny, insecure 13-year-old walking into the seminar room, bursting with ideas. The desks in the room formed a U, the bottom of the U on the opposite side of the room from the door. The first thing I see are three gorgeous girls sitting at the bottom of the U, and the first thing I think is "Shit." In my world, the pretty girls are mean. That's what media's taught me, that's what society has told me, that's what I've experienced one too many times. All my hope for the next few days to be awesome and full of like-minded people shattered right there, right then on the dirty carpet and I prepare myself for a horrible time.
Fast forward: it's New Years eve. The empty wine bottle with the firework falls over in a narrow street. My hands reach for the person next to me. We try to make ourselves as small as possible when the firework explodes less then 20 feet away from us. Red and golden sparks fill the street and then it's over and everybody's okay and we laugh into the crooks of each others necks. My arms are around the waist of one of the girls that sat at the bottom of the U just a few months back.
It's july. We're staying at the summer house of someone's grandparents. I make pancakes for lunch and everyone loves them. We're laughing, a group of girls huddled around a table that's definitely not made for that many people. We're cooking for ourselves and if one of us wakes up way before the others even try to blink away the sleepiness she gets up and prepares the breakfast table. We walk about three kilometres to McDonalds at midnight just for the sake of it and eat ice cream. The girl that invited us all there sat at the bottom of the U almost a year ago.
Less than a week later I wander around old buildings and castles with two girls and we find beauty and laughter in every flower, every bridge, every stained glass window. We sit on an inflatable boat and eat Swedish biscuits and I am fascinated by the river locks. I fall asleep at night with their hands in mine and we sit in bathtubs bigger than any I've ever seen and plaster our faces with masks that make us look like ghosts. One of them sat at the bottom of the U.
It's december again. We're in a cellar at the gig of a band I've wanted to see for months now but somehow never got the chance to. We're cheering and clapping and dancing and singing. The lead singer looks gorgeous on stage and her voice is so beautiful it makes me shiver. Next to me is a girl that clings onto my arm and laughs in my ear and I am so in love with this moment and these people. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. The girl on stage and the girl next to me both sat at the bottom of the U more than two years ago now and they're two of the dearest friends I have. Now I know so many people in the town they live in that I feel some kind of "I'm at home" as soon as I step out of the train and hear them shout my name from the other end of the train plattform, as soon as I run towards them and hug them.
As much as they've taught me in the now almost three years I've known them, the most important lesson I've learnt was when we sat at a tiny desk in their room at the workshop, pens in hand, trying to rhyme "shit" with something: your prejudices could keep you from making new friends. Don't trust your brain with what it wants you to believe when you meet new people, get to know them. Most of the time, they're bloody amazing.