I am a sorority girl, but you may not be able to tell upon meeting me. I rarely wear my letters, and I am about as bubbly as three-week-old soda. Before entering college, I never gave Greek life a second thought. It was about as foreign a concept to me as chemical engineering or pole-vaulting- something I never had any interest in pursuing and didn’t really fully understand. However, my first semester at my small university made me realize how difficult it is to make friends when you’re (1) almost completely introverted, and (2) not involved with anything that requires you to show up to the same room at the same time every week (besides, you know, class). I decided to rush on a whim the day before the beginning of recruitment, and I basically dove in headfirst with no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know what any of the terms surrounding Greek life meant. I had no idea what a Rho Gamma was, I didn’t understand the concept of bids night, I felt slightly uncomfortable at the prospect of referring to 100 people whom I had never met as my “sisters.” I was in a recruitment group with girls who had planned to rush since high school. I was with girls who could name every Greek organization on campus, who talked about how excited they were to get a big, who already had a preference to which sorority they wanted to join. But there I was, completely out of my element, alone, unsure if I even wanted to go national or join one of the smaller local sororities at my school.
Although, of course, I was nervous about the obscure prospect of the H word that most people immediately think of when they picture Greek life, it wasn’t my biggest fear. I knew that I would be able to recognize if I were being treated badly and I trusted myself not to allow that to happen to me. If I am anything it’s proud, and I would never subject myself to something so pointless to be a part of something I had only just considered the week before. No, my biggest fear was that being a part of a sorority would change me. I worried it would strip me of my individualism, make me into one of the stereotypical sorority girls that make appearances in movies like Legally Blonde. I liked who I was, and I didn’t want that to change. And I worried I wouldn’t be able to recognize if it was happening. I imagined joining a sorority would be like putting myself onto a potter’s wheel, allowing dozens of hands to shape me until I was finally made into some identical bowl with the same design as the hundred other bowls on the shelf. Maybe I wanted to be a freakin’ vase, okay?
Despite these trepidations, I continued with rush, and eventually decided on the sorority that seemed like the best fit for me. Admittedly, even after accepting my bid, I worried whether I had made the right decision. Everyone I met in my sorority was great, but I was overwhelmed with the suddenness of it all. All at once, I was a part of this exclusive group that not everyone gets to join. I was entrusted with secrets, with ritual, with the expectation that I would contribute to the group and make it better. I had immediate friends and people who loved me just for being in their family line. I had all these responsibilities that I never had before. It was, in all honesty, very weird.
Despite this, being a part of a sorority didn’t meet any of my other (negative) expectations. With the way Greek life is portrayed in movies and in the news, I feel like it’s difficult to go into it with a completely open mind. Even now, when I tell people I am in a sorority, the first question they always ask is “So, you were hazed?” Not about how being a part of Greek life has made me into a more confident, motivated woman. Not anything that actually applies to my actual sorority experience.
And the identical bowls turned out to not be identical at all. There are girls I pledged with who are far less stereotypically “sorority” than even I am, there are girls who prefer to stay in and watch movies than go to parties and do keg stands (not that there’s anything wrong with going to parties and doing keg stands), and there are girls who I would vote for for President of the United States if they were to run today.
And being in a sorority did what I feared most, it changed me. It taught me the importance of looking outside myself. It gave me experiences I would have probably never had otherwise. It made me a better friend. It held me accountable for my actions and made me more responsible, more self-aware, more dynamic. And I will be the first to admit, it hasn’t always been easy. There have been those days where I feel disconnected from everyone around me. But in the end, I know for certain that I made the right decision.
I have changed a lot since I first stepped foot on campus almost four years ago. And maybe I am unrecognizable, I can’t say. But without change there can be no growth, and I am grateful for my sorority for giving me the opportunity to grow in so many amazing ways.