Sooo…there’s something you don’t know about me. Something that….mayyy come as a bit of a surprise.
I was the president of my sorority in college.
Not like a coed business/service fraternity. And not a “faith house sisterhood” like they have at many christian colleges.
No. We’re talking a Lilly Pulitzer-obsessed, Sperry-wearing, Starbucks-drinking, toga-party-attending sorority. At a public university.
And I haven’t talked about it much on here because, well, it was not a great experience. And I’m putting that as mildly as possible.
This past weekend, my mom and sister-in-law were visiting me in NYC, and one night, at 1 am, over a bottle of wine in front of my fireplace in my apartment, the topic turned to my experience in Greek life. And specifically, would I do it again?
In order to answer that question, I’m afraid I’m going to have to rewind.
If you know anything about me, then you may be scratching your head, thinking that I don’t really fit the “sorority mold”…at least from what you’d deduce from my writing.
But you’ve got to realize, growing up, I was all about sisterhood. I was part of a singing group of 8 of my best girlfriends, and we sang together – every Monday – from second grade to senior year of high school. Two of which live in NYC with me now… This group was my rock, and I was so looking for a similar foundation at my out-of-state, far-away-by-plane university. So coming from the suburbs of Ohio, you’d better believe that come orientation weekend, little Caralyn heard “sorority sisterhood rush weekend,” and had to sign up! That and roughly 85% of the campus participated in Greek life…
But I loved that this sorority was founded on biblical principles in its “creed,” and I loved the sisterhood aspect. So much so, that I developed a book club that met once a week and went through the book “Captivating,” and broke down the “creed” line-by-line and linked it to the bible passage it was based on.
So when officer elections came up, the national president said that she wanted to use the materials I had developed as organization-wide “recruitment material,” and that she wanted me to be president…even though I didn’t run.
Anyway…long story short…the behind the scenes process was just…soulless.
The recruitment process…let’s just say that after the “rush open house parties,” the entire chapter would sit in a room where, on a big projection screen, a photo of each potential new member would be projected, and the national president — a 45 year old woman, mind you — would say things like, “Oh this girl’s looks would be a liability for your chapter. NEXT!” Or, “Not thin enough.” Or, “She didn’t dress well.” And just like that, this sweet little incoming freshman girl would get a letter telling her not to come back to the next day’s “round” of recruitment parties.
I could go on and on with other examples, -including that same wonderful national president assigning certain members to “work the kitchen” behind the scenes during the recruitment parties because they would “project a negative chapter image.”
It turned out that my desire to promote the ideals the sorority was founded on, and to serve my chapter by creating an environment that embodied sisterhood, seemed to be falling on deaf and even hostile ears. My time as president rocked the boat for many of the girls who were looking for…say…an experience that mirrored MTV Spring Break. Not all — there were a handful of likeminded girls.
But, looking back now, I can see the valuable lessons I learned from that poisonous environment. I have seen the directional shift my life took as a result, and the relationships (with true friends) it strengthened in its wake.
For you see, after that year, I didn’t return to that university. I moved to New York and finished my degree here. I “dusted off my sandals” and left that toxic environment behind, never looking back.
This experience has so deeply impacted who I am. How I see others – especially girls – and truly, how I approach beauty.
That afternoon during recruitment, watching a grown woman literally pick apart girls behind their back, based on their appearance, clothing, race, intellect, and “slut factor” — I was disgusted.
The outside is merely a shell of the beauty and dignity we have on the inside. Our hearts … that are capable of love, forgiveness, compassion, joy, courage, strength, empathy — that’s what is beautiful. And what’s more, is Who lives inside our hearts.
We have a beauty beyond bones. We have beauty that comes from Christ. And no hair extensions or spray tan can rival that.
Reflecting back, perhaps this blog is an extension of the “sister(-and-brother)hood” that I was so yearning for when I joined that sorority as a wide-eyed college freshman, looking for love and family, so many miles from home.
Because, really, no matter where we are in life, aren’t we all looking for that? Don’t we all need acceptance?
I’ll tell you what, it’s not going to be found at jungle juice ragers and all night toga parties.
It’s found in relationships where people know the real you, and love you all the same.
So, would I do it again?
That’s a tough question. Because, as a firm believer that God uses every experience – good and bad – to shape and teach us, and to prepare us for His will and His plan for our lives, I know that I endured that for a reason. I know that it has gotten me to where I am today. Learned things. Seen things. Grown to value honestly, loyalty, and authenticity.
But mainly, it has been a solidifying factor in teaching me where to find my self worth. Where to find my value as a human. It’s not in a senior picture projected on a pull-down projector screen. It’s not in my “recruitment score” that only factors in your looks, conversation skills and legacy eligibility.
My worth lies in Him. Just like yours.
So would I do it again? Sure. Only because I’m not going to second guess God. He allowed me to go though it. So I’m not going to doubt His process.
What about you? Did you participate in Greek life? Would you do it again?
**Disclaimer** (( I know not all Greek life experiences are like mine. I have many friends that loved their experience, and that’s awesome! I am not anti-Greek. This was just my sorority. So, please…take this with a grain of salt 🙂 ))
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