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Graduating? You need your sorority more than ever

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My legacy

Graduating? You need your sorority more than ever.

Sister, I was a senior too, finding excuses to miss chapter meetings, rolling my eyes and wincing as we clapped and cheered during rush. Twenty years later, I realized the clapping and cheering were seriously awesome.

I was one of 125 women who colonized Indiana University for Tri Sigma in the late ‘80s. Many did burn out—while finding our way, we often had five-hour chapter meetings. (Now I have four small kids, and I call the chance to sit for five hours “the spa.”)

After graduation, I moved thirteen hours from home to St. Paul, Minnesota. I didn’t know the grocery store’s name, let alone how to get there. The five parties a week I took for granted in college dwindled to none a year. Those clusters of purple-and-white balloons I didn’t glance at in senior year would’ve looked incredibly festive to me.

I endured depression for two years until my mother suggested I connect with Tri-Sigma’s St. Paul alumnae chapter; I also joined the Junior League of St. Paul. Suddenly, I had an instant anchor, women whose family had lived in the area for 150 years—women who knew how to show a newcomer a good time.

The same thing that drove me crazy three years before—women expecting me to show up—brought me career satisfaction and personal happiness. When jobs returned me to Indiana, I missed—and still do—those women and the Minnesota they taught me to love.

After graduation, you might move thousands of miles to someplace you know nobody. You will be a blank slate. Few will know your name; nobody will know your values. Some things you take for granted—money, perhaps, or the emotional support of family and friends—will disappear as you learn some people aren’t good at long-distance relationships.

Even if you return home, people will only know the old you, whereas you know your sorority sisters better than you think. Recently, I had drinks with a pledge sister two years older than I—so I didn’t know her well—and I heard her laugh for the first time in two decades. I was stunned to recognize the same laugh and the same whimsical sense of humor.

The moment you graduate, the carrots-on-sticks stop: no more honors, awards, or grants. If you marry or have children immediately, you will be taken for granted. Babies can’t talk, and the most ardent boyfriend turns into a husband who comes home at night too exhausted to talk.

I’ve written before in my blog at http://www.wormsoup.wordpress.com that our culture is based on discontent. So after you cook a five-course, gourmet meal, your partner says, “That was good.”

Good? Some people in this world only eat a handful of rice a day. That meal was great!

But still I didn’t understand the value of cheering until I took my toddlers to Kindermusik. After every activity, we adults cheered, even if our child spent the whole time in the bathroom. We were celebrating progress, however small.

I’ve learned support, encouragement, and cheer are the underpinnings of every sorority relationship. No matter your walk of life, you need that: The world is full of people who tear down others, perhaps because of their own unhappiness, perhaps because they don’t know any better.

Because of our consciousness, every human has an identity, and after you leave your university, you’ll re-establish yours, whether you realize it or not. Now you need your sorority most: One inescapable part of your identity is your sisters once saw and accepted the unfinished you and realized your potential and how special you are. If they saw it, you must see it.

If you uphold the bonds of sisterhood you promised to uphold forever, you’ll cement your confidence to uphold other forever bonds, like marriage and children, and you’ll have access to women who can help you.

Contact your national office, and find your closest alumnae chapter. If you can’t find one, start one—I am, and it takes an average of five minutes a day, every day. (And yes, this is a shameless plug for Northwest Indiana Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma.)

I’ll be cheering for you.

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