content warning: suicide reference,
When I went off to college I left all of my high school friends behind because I was determined to leave that part of me behind. In short, my high school years are not years I wish to reminisce on, and the people who were a part of those years weren’t going to be needed as I hoped to better myself. Starting school in a new state with no friends wasn’t going to be easy but I was determined for a fresh start. My first year was rocky and I wasn’t sure if I was going to go back after that year, but my best friend convinced me to give it one more try, and I did. I came back to USM* after a year of drinking and partying with a goal to find something else to focus my time on, along with my coursework. What I found instead wasn’t anything I ever expected. I found myself in a sorority.
definition: a society for female students in a university or college, typically for social purposes.
my definition: a place I found myself, my chosen family, a home I felt I finally belonged. The same place that took me in when I was lost, broken, and completely on my own and gave me a new outlook on life, a new purpose for my life. A life changing, life altering, life saving decision I am so thankful I made.
On November 24th, 2013 I crossed over* from pledge to sister of my sorority and it was easily the most memorable moment of my college career. I, along with five other girls, spent eight weeks of hard work, long nights, and plenty of fights and tears to get to that moment. When I was handed my first pair of letters I couldn’t believe it; I was finally a sister, and nothing could ever change that.
I loved my sorority for many reasons – our values, our ideals, the friendships I had formed, who I had become, who I had the potential of becoming. I quickly found a home within my black and gold lettered cotton shirts and the passenger seat of my pledge sisters’ cars. I was juggling a full class schedule, two work-study jobs, and Kappa events from philanthropies and fundraisers to planning rushes. I was so busy I couldn’t be self destructive like I was my freshman year. This was exactly what I needed. I had a support system I had been missing from my own family and my friends when I was back in high school. I had people around me that cared for me, who saw through my tough exterior down to who I really was. I never wanted to lose this. And I made sure to do everything in my power not to.
At times my chapter had 25 active sisters, other times we only had 12 but that didn’t mean we were all best friends. Contrary to what most people believe thanks to Hollywood’s version of Greek Life we weren’t either best friends who spent every waking moment together or backstabbing, boyfriend stealing bitches. For the most part, we saw each other once a week during business meetings and that was about it. The sorority was all about business, the sisterhood was where the connections were made. Some of us were closer than others but all and all only a handful of us could call each other friends which was kind of disheartening when I learned this early on. We shared this amazing bond, yet that’s all we shared. We would have never crossed paths if it wasn’t for Kappa but was this organization the only reason we stayed in each others lives? For some the answer was yes, and there wasn’t much other could do about it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have hands down met some of my best and closest friends thanks to my sorority, including one of my pledge sisters, my little, and a few of my pledge babies. There’s no doubt that if I ever get married the women who will be standing next to me (other than my future wife) will be mainly Kappa women. The people I most trust with my life, with my secrets and my goals are my sisters. They were the first people I came out to – all at once – because I knew no matter what they’d accept and love me, but like I said this doesn’t mean every one of my sisters are also my friends. It’s just not possible to be friends with everyone. The one’s I did become friends with mean the world to me however.
These friendships weren’t formed the same way any other college friendship is created; mutual interests. This is because we weren’t together due to shared majors or because we both were in a particular club or on a certain sports team. No, we were sisters. We were already supposed to like each other, even though we hardly knew each other. I lived with some of these girls and I barely knew things about them other than their hometowns and majors. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in being their friends, it was that neither part tried; we felt that being a part of a sorority skipped the getting to know someone stage any solid friendship is based on. Instead we became friends after one am texts saying I need to go for a drive but I need someone to come with so I don’t purposely wrap my car around a tree, or until I had a mental breakdown during a lock in and five sisters stayed outside my bedroom door to make sure I was okay and not alone or anytime we made the effort to get to know the woman under the letters.
I’ll never forget the nights that we spent one on one or in small groups really getting to know each other, sisterhood aside. The nights when we drank stale wine straight from the bottle on dorm floors while crafting shirts talking about our families. The afternoon drives to the middle of nowhere just to clear our heads after a stressful day, not really talking, just together so we wouldn’t have to be alone. The days, the nights, when we broke the wall between sisters and friends. I’ll never forget when we became both.
When I left USM and Kappa I wasn’t ready to leave either the institution or the organization, but I had to. I had spent four years at a university where I had the credits of sophomore (second year student). I had no interest in continuing my degree and didn’t know what I would do if I was to switch programs. I also knew if I was to stay and figure those things out that I would continue to dedicate too much of my time to my sorority and end up failing even more of my classes and allow my health to deteriorate even more. While on one level my sorority – my sisterhood – was the best thing to happen to me, it was also preventing me from growing. My time was up and I had to move on even if I couldn’t accept that. After I left I didn’t give myself enough time and space between my active days and my now alumna status. Hell, I didn’t give myself time or space at all. I left in the spring and by August I was the treasurer of our local alumnae association and liaison to the active chapter. Only months prior I was sitting next to some of these girls and now I was advising, educating, encouraging them. The first year I wasn’t as involved in the active chapter because I was focusing on the alumnae relations, but realized I didn’t quite fit in with these women who were all at least a decade or more older than me – some of them with children older than myself. I was missing my sisters, my friends.
Soon I started visiting USM and the active sisters more frequently. I attended business meetings, I taught classes on by-laws and Robert’s Rules of Order. I helped ease tension between sisters and became another support system for anyone who might have needed one. I monitored pillow talks, I gave advice. I was there when they needed a third party person’s input. I was happy to help because I still very much so wished I hadn’t thrown in the towel and gave up on both school and Kappa. I jumped in and became a mentor to this new group of girls so quickly that they never got to know me as anything other than that.
They respect me as someone who knows a lot about our history and our traditions. Theycome to me with problems that occur within the workings of active sisterhood. I can guarantee you at least half of them can tell you which positions I held, when I pledged, who I pledged with. They can speak of my legacy; who my littles and pledge babies are. They know me as a sister, a mentor, an educator, a role model, as someone they can look up to – to some, as someone they hope to be like someday but they don’t actually know the girl once the letters come off.
I know at least one of them didn’t know how old I was until a few days ago when she was shocked to find out I was a few years younger than her and not a few years older. Then another told me she never thought of me as a friend, never thought we were on the same level. It got me to thinking quite a bit. Out of these sisters that I’ve been calling friends, thinking that I was also there friend, how many of them actually felt the same way? Were we friends? Did they actually know me? How many of them could tell you why I have a eight inch scar running down my right arm? Does anyone know the reason I went to USM? Or that I am so afraid of my brother joining the Navy that anytime I think of it I start to cry and immediately have to focus on something else? Do I know anything about them?
Recently I had a conversation with one a sister, a friend, about fate versus choices; do we make choices, decisions, that have consequences or are they all a part of something much, much bigger. Simple answer – both. We all do things we are either proud of or wish we can take back, and everything has a reaction that leads to another choice being made but there is a bigger piece to this and that’s everything does indeed happen for a reason. Nothing in life just happens, there’s always a lesson behind it. Not long after this conversation I witnessed the Eta Aquarids meteor shower, need I say more.
I spent this past weekend celebrating 40 years of sisterhood for our chapter and I was hesitant about going after our convention* weekend two weeks prior and some stuff that happened during the time spent there. I am glad that I went because not only did I have an incredible time, I got to think a lot about things. I noticed how excited older alumnae were to see each other, and how happy they all were to be together even after being a part of Kappa for decades – some of them for forty years and I couldn’t help but wonder how. Here I am, drained and dreading coming to events and these women have been around for almost twice as long as I have been alive. How do they do it? I kept asking myself through out the weekend. How can they come back together after all this time. It hit me as I was getting ready to leave, watching them all say goodbye. They are all friends first. Friends. They didn’t spend every day, or week seeing each other. They were lucky if they saw each other once a year, but when they did get together they made sure they made every last second count. Maybe it was how they were pledged in, maybe hazing had something to do with it – while hazing isn’t something that is practiced now, it was back in the 80’s and 90’s when most of these women became sisters. Or maybe it’s because they focused more on the sisterhood and less on the sorority. Whatever it is, I want it. I want the joy they have when they link up.
I will always be Kappa, and I will continue to wear my letters with pride when I decide to wear them. I adore my sorority and still practice our ideals of kindness and integrity in my every day life. I wouldn’t be the woman I am if it wasn’t for this organization. Is this goodbye just a break? Is it a forever thing? I’m not sure. Kappa will forever be a part of who I was, who I am, who I will continue to be. But what I cannot be right now is a role model. I can’t be a mentor. I can do the 3am calls from sisters, but not if it’s to put out a sorority fire.
I know that I will never truly fly alone and I will always be welcomed home with arms wide open so while I am saying goodbye to my sorority I am not saying goodbye to my sisterhood, my sisters. I am hoping that taking a step back from the sorority that I will have the chance to create stronger bonds with my sisters as more than sisters. I am hoping that taking a step back from the sorority will allow me to become a friend to some of my favorite people.