A very smart friend once told me, "College gives you an education in professional skills and a bunch of other things that only matter when you graduate. But the best thing you can get out of these years is an education of yourself."
As a stubborn, lighthearted freshman, this quote flew in one ear and burrowed itself deep in the dormant lobes of my memory, where it stayed until a few nights ago, when I had the typical chronologically-induced attack that everyone faces when they realize their college years are diminishing by the second. As I reflect on my time spent at CBU, these words have suddenly resonated with me and taken on a completely reformed meaning. Believe me when I say that I have come a long way since I peered through the brick arches for the first time as a timid, awkward, and terrified freshman.
Since graduating from high school, I've become more self-confident, a stronger leader, a better friend, and an even more devoted student. Looking back, I've realized that the leading force behind all of this can be traced to one source: Alpha Xi Delta.
Now, before you exit this article, let me just say that this is not another hollow, silly article about how an organization has totally transformed my life—I think it's impossible for one, sole thing to do that on its own. Instead, I'm aiming to explain why I've given Greek life the time of day, and moreover, why Greek life has made college the time of my life.
When people who knew me before college find out that I'm in a sorority, I can accurately predict what they're going to say that I can usually recite it with them: "Really? You?"
When I first joined AXiD (Alpha Xi Delta), people whom I had known my entire life started acting differently towards me, as if becoming a sorority girl was some satanic crossover to the dark side. No one in my family had ever gone Greek. My parents are weird hippies who disapproved of my decision to join because they didn't want me to be a part of anything that was "socially exclusive." For all they knew, I was paying my way into a world where party themes and agreeing on alcoholic mixers are the biggest conflicts at hand.
If I’m being real here, I can't say that I blame them.
After all, ever since the first day that I discovered what Greek life was, I had made fun of the people who hinted at any interest in rushing.
These negative thoughts about Greek life certainly weren’t put to rest the day I opened my AXiD "bid." I was still really skeptical about the idea of 50 new girls calling me their "sister," and I definitely did not like the idea of these girls "bidding" on me in the first place. (Side note: Greek life lingo is like a foreign language to potential new members; it can be a little deterring and difficult to understand.)
Every time I tell this story, I cringe a little because I know how corny it sounds.
My new member period as an AXiD was awful—I only had three friends in the chapter for the first few weeks because I was entirely too shy and self-conscious to talk to anyone, so the time we did have to spend together was painfully awkward for me. I felt like no one in the chapter really knew who I was, and I was worried they would never find out. But as the semester continued and I spent hours on end with my pledge class, things started to look up. Once I was more comfortable with the girls my age, I slowly and gradually began to poke my head out of my shell. Before I knew it, I found myself crying and laughing in a room full of…dare I say it…sisters. And, for the first time, I finally felt what all of the cheesy quotes about sororities were trying to say: once I moved into a 19/12 square-foot dorm room, I felt at home.
There's a quote floating around on the internet somewhere that’s laden in a hot pink, retro comic sans font that says, "From the outside looking in, you can never understand it. From the inside looking out, you can never explain it."
But like most of these worn out, overdone internet quotes, I don't think its meaning is necessarily true. Being in a sorority isn't some sort of exclusive, unique experience that no one else has ever felt. Having sorority sisters is kind of like having team mates, or…like…ya know, being in an all-girls honors program. Naturally, our activities set us apart from other organizations. But the foundation of sincere friendships, team work, and sharing a specific goal is something that all organizations have in common.
So, if that's the case, then why do sorority girls catch so much wrath and disdain from the general public? And why should I feel embarrassed to say that I'm a part of something that has so positively impacted my life?
Since the first sorority was founded over 300 years ago, a multitude of women have been involved in Greek life. Somewhere along the way, we became notorious for being shallow, blonde, party girls who have no concept of the real world around us. And while these kinds of girls are definitely still present in some sororities, it's really frustrating that so many people are still under the impression that they make up the bulk of sorority women. Essentially, we all have the similar core values of service, sisterhood, and a dash of Christian faith. If you ask me, these values connect us to one another much more firmly than parties or mixers or other steryotypes that sororities are most often associated with.
While my sorority's ritual and values are something I will always revere and keep close to my heart, I can't truthfully say that they're the only things that have kept me around as an active member for the last three years. Like every other commitment I've made in college, my journey with Alpha Xi has definitely had its ups and downs. When you put so much time and energy into a single organization, you're bound to get frustrated with some part of it; whether it’s your sisters, competition with other organizations on campus, or the rules enforced by the executive council. But what you get out of your experience is more than enough to compensate for the bumps in the road.
When you're in a sorority, there's an unspoken rule that you at least have to try to get along with your sisters, and, in doing so, you find that you begin to look for their best qualities that you might not have noticed initially. I'm sure that this probably seems a little twisted, but bear with me. When you're encouraged to genuinely get to know and love the people around you, you'll notice that, eventually, the act will be reciprocated. Once my sisters got to know me, they brought out my best qualities, the qualities that had been quietly hiding in the shadows of my self-doubt. I’ve learned that I’m actually capable of doing so much more than I had ever dreamed. They've pushed me to do my best in school, to go after leadership positions and jobs I would have never dared to pursue before, and, most importantly, be proud of who I am. They've given me the opportunity to grow as a healer, a helper, a listener, a friend, and a sister. That is who I have finally learned to accept that I am.
Also, before I was in AXiD, I had no idea what it was like to be a part of something that I actually liked. I'm the least competitive person you will ever meet, until it comes to my sorority. Not because I'm dying to defeat another organization or anything like that. More so, I'm fueled by the fact that my sisters are some of the most amazing people, and I know they deserve nothing less than success and victory. But being an AXiD has taught me how to represent something much bigger than myself with pride.
Another thing I've taken from my sorority experience is learning how to tolerate, appreciate, and collaborate with people I may not naturally be compatible with. When you're part of a group with so many different personalities, you aren't going to necessarily see eye to eye with everyone. Clearly, this has the potential to create a lot of tension and disagreements, but it has an even greater potential to help you learn to work with a melting pot of people. Because I've interacted with so many different personalities throughout my time in AXiD, I'm not expecting to always get along with the people I come into contact with. However, I now know that it's possible.
I would have never in a million years guessed that I'd be where I am today, but I can assure you that it is exactly what is meant to be. Without AXiD, I don't think my college years would amount to all that they do today. I wouldn't have gained to confidence to go forth with so many seemingly impossible missions. I wouldn't have had the immediate support system to lift me back on my feet after falling flat on my face (literally). And I definitely would have never known it was possible to foster so many deep connections with such a large variety of people. These girls have seen me at my very worst; moments in which I’ve worn the same clothes for 2 days, bawling my eyes out every time “Drops of Jupiter” comes on, and so much more that I am entirely too embarrassed to share with anyone. Still, they’ve yet to stop loving me. And if I'm good enough for them, I must be worth something. So, AXiDs, if you're reading this, thank you. For everything.
Morgan Harper is a Junior English for Corporate Communications major at Christian Brothers University and a staff writer at the Galleon.