Tag Archives: sororities

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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Woo hoo!

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Me finishing my first 5K at the Midwinter Cruise in Park Forest, IL. Hugely inspirational coach Misty Chandos is on my right, and Jen Ryman is wearing the lime green jacket.

Color me purple and white: I am faithful unto death.

Yup, that’s right: I joined an alumnae chapter of my college social sorority, Sigma Sigma Sigma. I joined Tri-Sigma at Indiana University in the late eighties. During that spending boom, every young woman wanted to join one: When I was a freshman, talk of boys and parties died during rush, replaced with endless obsession about what house had what reputation.

By the time I graduated, I rolled my eyes at all the clapping and cheering—and now that I’m a mom, with my own Tri-Sigma legacy, Madeline—I realize all the clapping and cheering was seriously awesome.

I’ve written before that our culture is based on discontent. So adults come home and, after cooking a five-course, gourmet meal, your partner says, “That was good.”

Good? There are people in this world living on a handful of rice a day. That meal was great!

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.

Humans need to belong; we’re social creatures. Without support from others, we die. Individuals as a whole aren’t particularly smart—it took me 42 years to eat more than three servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Our species isn’t the strongest or the toughest. Without medical care, we don’t live very long.

Our survivalistic advantage comes from the ability to adapt and form emotional bonds.

Being a pastor’s spouse is extraordinarily lonely and difficult. We usually live a day’s drive from family and childhood friends, and new acquaintances rarely want to share their Friday nights with us when they’ve already established all the friends they need or their family lives close. Or maybe they’re busy on the one night off a pastor gets.

Most folks apologize for cursing, or they apologize for perceived faults, which is totally hilarious because we’ve heard it all and are more tolerant than anybody else you know. We spend so much time in our congregations, it’s hard to make friends outside them. Yes, we do make friends within our congregations, but it’s still different because those friends need us to be clergy first.

I got used to the loneliness until I took part in a 5K race in Illinois a couple weeks ago. People, I ran the whole race in 56:51—the nearest finishers had already walked inside by the time I was done.

The FleetFeet coaches clustered around me as I neared the red arch over the finish line. They cheered me the whole way. And then something happened that took me a couple weeks to digest.

I turned to my coaches and said, “Oh, no, I’m going to come in last!”

The team’s Jen Ryman promptly said, “No, you won’t. I’ll come in last.”

And she fell back behind me to cross the finish line.

Now, I doubt she’s thought about that incident twice, but yesterday, I realized what a sisterly, noble act it was. Jen is a true athlete, a trained runner who has probably never even contemplated finishing last.

For it to even occur to her to finish behind a runner who must seem frustratingly slow to some was a truly sisterly, noble act. I had accepted I would be late, so her thoughtfulness gave me a dignity I’d already accepted I wouldn’t have.

Now, I’ve talked to Jen a lot, and I know she’s a product of the Greek system—she’s a Kappa Delta—good job, KD!—and in the past few days, I realized it was exactly the kind of thing sisters would do for each other.

Yes, I get the stereotype of sorority sisters being shallow snobs. Sometimes it’s true, but only at the start. Sisters see each other get fat, get sick, and eventually, get old. The only person I keep in contact with from college is my sorority sister, Caroline Nietert.

Yesterday I sent an e-mail to my key alumna introducing myself, and before I knew it, I had all kinds of e-mails in my inbox signed, “Sisterly love.”

There’s nothing wrong with being a joiner, only with being a mindless conformist. People, our winter has been super hard this year, bitterly cold and super snowy. More than ever, we need to cheer each other on.