Once upon a time you were a lowly underclassman, nervously walking up the front stairs of various sorority houses into a crowd of women who were most likely a) all wearing matching t-shirts b) singing c) clapping d) smiling too big e) all of the above.
Even if the groupthink mentality freaked you out, you still wanted to “branch out and meet new people,” ”get more involved,” or maybe you were going through a breakup and needed something totally new to focus your energy on (with a whole new pool of frat guys on the side). Whatever your reasoning was, you jumped through all the recruitment hoops and finally made it to pledging status.
If you were anything like me, the beginning of your sorority experience was both incredibly exciting and awkwardly confusing — you were making so many friends and getting invited to VIP parties and you were a part of something at this new school that sometimes felt overwhelmingly large to you.
But at the same time, you wondered if it was natural that you had spilled your deepest, darkest secrets to women you had only met hours earlier at Bid Day, where you were all forced to stand really close to each other and take pictures with your letters even though you were actually feeling really nervous and had no real understanding of what joining a sorority would mean.
Over the next few months, you found out that it meant you had a home away from home. You had a place you could go when you were bored between classes. You had 100+ girls to text when you didn’t want to go to the dining hall alone. You had other girls who had been through shittier things than you could have ever imagined going through, and so you learned from them.
You made friends with girls who had grown up in totally different religions, cultures, and worlds than you (because contrary to popular belief, there are actually sororities that are comprised of more than just your average rich white girl), and you liked learning about things you’d never experienced.
You took note of the girl whose parents had gone through an ugly divorce when she was young, and wondered how she ever got through it. You met the girl whose best friend had died in a drunk driving accident in high school, and you were amazed at the way she had channeled her energy into preventing others from experiencing the same fate by speaking at school assemblies. You met the girl whose parent was dying of cancer, and you didn’t reprimand her or judge her when she dealt with it by blacking out on a nightly basis. You just tucked her into bed and sat with her while she sobbed and realized your heart could ache for one of your friends as if the pain was your own. Your sisters had opened up to you and you to them, and by finals week you were panicking about having to say goodbye to them for break.
You got involved. You might have taken a position or been in charge of a committee. You might have gone with your sisters to visit elderly people, or served soup at a homeless shelter, or visited a child who had cancer at the hospital, or cleaned up the campus’ trash and litter on a Saturday morning (when the only thing that got you all through it at those ridiculous early hours was finding remnants of the night before, like a used condom on the sidewalk or someone’s shirt strewn on a front porch). You tutored that sister who was in your major and was struggling to keep up her GPA.
You got close with different sisters and bonded over things that ran deeper than just what outfit you were going to wear to the bar later, and when people made comments about how sorority girls were shallow and fake, you just shook your head knowing they could never understand.
You might’ve taken a Little, and were so grateful when all of your housemates stayed up until 3am with you the night before Big/Little reveals to help you repaint your crafts for the fifth time because you wanted them to be perfect. You didn’t even care that there was paint in your hair and you were breathing in the fumes, or that you were painting little wooden shapes that were, really, quite useless, or that you’d just spent $500 bucks on a girl you had only met about 3 weeks ago. Crafting with your sisters was your bonding time — making fattening snacks and promising to go to the gym together the next day, making ridiculous videos of you dancing to some tween-pop song, or talking about how you were scared you’d never love someone again after the breakup you’d just gone through. And as ridiculous as “crafting” sounds to anyone else, you thought that it was nice you were doing something totally pointless for someone else, just for the fact that it was going to be exciting for them.
Then you probably went through a phase where you were all, “Fuck this sorority, everyone’s a fake bitch.” “They told me not to talk about drinking or drugs at recruitment? How dare those bitches stifle my identity! OH HEY POTENTIAL NEW MEMBER WANNA BLAZE WITH ME?” The new Executive Board sucked and you and your best friends were not going to let them think they could control you, especially if they looked down on you for having so much fun while they were hard at work being obsessed with control. Maybe you were on the Executive Board and you were in that awkward pull between trying to make responsible decisions for the chapter and realizing that everyone else on the board took it wayyyyy too seriously.
You had found your “group” within the sorority and the other 85 sisters probably either annoyed you or were “just there.” (With the exception of a random few that you were close with outside your group of friends — the sister who you always sat next to in your Psychology class, the sister who you always called when you were in the mood to smoke, the sister who lived by you at home so you always hung out on breaks…)
You and your besties got an off campus house together and grew incredibly close. You were upperclassmen by this point, so you just didn’t give a damn about impressing the executive officers, going to all of your chapter meetings, or attending study hours. You were friends with some of the people in positions, so they helped you out and covered for you here and there — because you were 21 now and you had more important things to do than attend a sisterhood retreat, like be extremely hungover and shake and vomit off the side of your bed until 12pm.
But if one of the girls who was pledging dared miss study hours you’d exclaim, “DOES SHE EVEN CARE ABOUT THIS SORORITY?! WHEN I WAS PLEDGING WE WEREN’T ALLOWED TO MISS STUDY HOURS!”
Then it came time for your senior year. You went back and forth between feeling that you’d outgrown your sorority (it had changed sooo much since you first started, anyway) and panicked that you were doing everything for the last time. The last homecoming tailgate with [insert frat here], the last 6am setup for Spring Recruitment, the last Initiation Ceremony.
You had moments where you would have uncontrollable anxiety about finding a job, only to have your Big call you (from that far-off place known as “The Real World”) to calm you down and remind you that you were going to be just fine, not to stress. You trusted everything she said because — duh! — she had just been through it one year earlier and understood everything you were saying.
There were times when your best friend came upstairs and sat on your bed and sobbed over not getting into her top grad school. You calmed her down and offered to edit her personal statement for her other applications, but not before you both headed to your favorite bar to get some drinks and food and take your mind off of things.
Finally, it was your turn to cross-over from sister to alumna. You felt like you were in a daze, like you’d just watched your Big and Grandbig (or, Big-Big in some chapters) go through the same ceremony. You looked around the room and realized this was the last time you’d ever see some of your sisters again, and it made you sad even though most of them pissed you off at one point or another or you weren’t super close with some of them. You knew that this was one time in all of your lives where you were aligned, shared the same experiences, and now you were all going to branch out in different directions on your own paths.
You donned your sorority cords or stoles over your graduation gown, and remembered the first time those colors had ever been attached to you — at your pinning ceremony. You thought of the girl you had been when you first walked into the house, and realized that you had grown into a confident, smart, mature woman because of all that you had learned through this organization.
For the rest of your life, when people made rude comments upon finding out you had been in a sorority (Mimicking things like “OMG let’s all take a picture doing our hand signal!” or responding, “So basically, you were a whore.”), you would just laugh and tell them they could never understand, and you wouldn’t even try to explain because they never would.
- When you aced that interview for your dream job and accredited it to everything you had learned during Recruitment…
- When you had stellar time management skills and knew it was because you had balanced school work, a part-time job, an Executive Board position, another club you’d been involved in, AND having fun during college…
- When you knew how to respect your superiors at the office but also had the courage to leave if they were abusing their power (because your chapter prided itself on a no-tolerance policy when it came to hazing and you would never be anybody’s bitch)…
- When you were 27 and your sorority sisters all got together to attend the first of your pledge sisters’ weddings and you rocked out on the dance floor like the old days…
- When you were 35 and your Big called you to tell you her husband had cheated on her and she was broken and you drove 3 hours to her house that weekend to help her figure it out…
These are some of the times that you will quietly smile to yourself and truly understand the value of your sorority.
These are the times when you will thank yourself for having been the lowly underclassmen who decided to embark on a journey by way of the sorority house front stairs.