27: Living among Greeks

27: Living among Greeks

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

Living among Greeks

The person who has lived the most is not the one who has lived the longest, but the one with the richest experiences.

~Jean-Jacques Rousseau

When I was visiting colleges I had several important criteria: I wanted a small school at least a couple of hundred miles away from home, I wanted coed everything (I had been in an all-girls school for the last six years), and I wanted no math requirement. At the time, this seemed to cover all the important bases. Whether or not a school had a gazillion sports teams was of little importance to me. Greek life I could take or leave. In my book it was fine if they had it, just so long as I didn’t have to do it.

Half the kids at the school I ended up attending were involved in Greek life. This was a lot, but since the other half of the student body was not Greek, I assumed I’d be fine.

In high school I had always been the shy kid and while I was determined to shed that image in college, I had never envisioned being part of a sorority. I wanted to be involved in campus social life, but not that involved. Not as involved as the girls in high school who had chosen their colleges and sororities in conjunction with one another. No, I was certainly not one of them. In fact, I had no specific knowledge of Greek life other than what I had seen in the movies, which wasn’t particularly flattering.

Why I signed up for rush is still a mystery to me. Call it peer pressure if you like. During the first few weeks of school I had made a handful of friends I liked and respected. They talked me into it.

“It’s a good way to meet upperclassmen,” someone said.

“The rush parties are kind of fun,” another noted.

“You don’t have to pledge if you don’t want to. Just see what happens.”

Therefore, on some whim of oh-why-not-everybody’s-doing-it, I went to the student center and filled out the rush form.

Me, in sorority rush. It was so absurd it had to be worth a try.

What I didn’t know was that rush would be the single most ego-stroking social event I would ever participate in. The whole process was very formal and organized, with rushees sorted into groups with exact schedules and leaders who answered questions about the process and led our tours. In each house we were serenaded and welcomed by the active members, who feted us with cookies and juice. Without exception, the sorority girls were friendly and seemed genuinely interested in meeting us and telling us about their house.

I met lots of upperclassmen, as promised, and also made friends among my fellow rushees. Overall, it was everything it had been touted to be — a great way to meet lots of people. I had never felt so good, so in the middle of everything, in my whole life.

Subsequent rounds of parties cut things down a bit, but I was asked back to all my favorite houses. I remember being overjoyed and completely enamored with the whole experience. To a shy girl fresh from a high school career marked by relative obscurity, feeling so welcomed — so “in” — was simply beyond any expectation I had of college life. The sorority girls — in all the houses — were not like any stereotype I had ever known. They were just genuinely nice girls. From this side of the mirror I couldn’t possibly see how it could be a bad thing to be included.

On pledge day, rushees were instructed to wear white and report to a cafeteria while the bids were distributed. We all knew we were in somewhere — those who had not received bids had been told ahead of time — but I can remember being overwhelmed and nervous as I sat there with my friends, waiting to see what my Greek fate would be. It is one of the defining moments of my college career. Like arriving on that first day, there was the sensation of being in a plane hurtling down the runway, not quite knowing whether the wings would support your weight. It’s that moment between commitment and action, where you know you can still turn around, but to do so would be supremely bold. Like leaving your groom at the altar. Or walking away from a million-dollar job. And, of course, we didn’t — none of us — although I suspect many of us had pause. I wondered if I was really doing the right thing for me.

With all the usual shrieking, jumping, hugging and fanfare, I became a Kappa Kappa Gamma that day. Kappa had been my first choice and I was thrilled. In my pledge photo, my face is round and red from smiling so hard for so long, and it was truly sincere. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

I think I was a good Kappa and I initiated with my pledge class the following January. The ceremony was moving and secret — an experience I will never forget. Admittedly, I also loved the party invitations I found shoved under my door like little Christmas presents all that first year. I became a sophomore, then a junior, making me a big sister to incoming pledges. I also participated in Kappa’s philanthropic projects, and, as sisters, we encouraged each other and our new pledges to succeed academically.

It would be wrong to say that things went bad at some point. They didn’t. It would also be wrong to imply that Kappa, and Greek life in general, are less than wonderful opportunities for college students. They are. However, even though I was proud to be a Kappa, the attachment never quite felt right. Many of my classmates became officers and progressively more involved, while I felt my own interests drifting elsewhere. As the months and years passed, I learned that the shy girl I had hidden under Greek letter sweatshirts and prodded to chapter meetings was still underneath. I had liked being her. I was still her, and she hadn’t wanted to be part of all this. I began to wonder if maybe, after all, the shy girl was right. While Greek life was good, it wasn’t me.

I left Kappa after rush my senior year. My friends told me I was crazy. Why leave just one year shy of graduation? But I was becoming jaded and it wasn’t about them, it was about me. In three years I had learned a few things. I had been wrong about sororities, but right about myself. I learned that, in college and in life, so many things are good and worthwhile, but very few things are right for everyone. The tricky part is figuring out which ones are right for you and giving those everything you have. I am extremely thankful to Kappa for helping me learn who I am. I am also grateful for my Kappa sisters who understood my decision to go and supported me. Without them I would not have known that I had the confidence to be exactly who I am, and decide it was time to go it alone.

~Christina Kapp

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