Lately, whenever I look on the national news, Buzzfeed, Facebook, etc., all I see are stories about racist fraternities and how the Greek system is a stain on American universities. I am appalled at the actions of these certain fraternity CHAPTERS…not the actions of fraternities nationally. I attended a university where I most certainly did not agree with the actions of certain chapters but, as a whole, our Greek system was supportive of one another, our campus, and our community. I am proud to call myself an alumni of the Greek system and of my organization. Being a member of my sorority is a defining characteristic of who I am as a woman, not because I am someone who can’t let the “glory days” of college go, but because of the values and beliefs that my sorority instilled in me. I live my life steeped in values and, among those, are friendship, personal growth, loyalty, and service. The values of Sigma Kappa. As I was looking through documents from my undergraduate days, I came across a letter that I wrote to new members initiating into the mystic bond. Even now the words that I wrote bring tears to my eyes because it reminds me of what my letters gave me. They remind me of the positive power that lies within a healthy Greek organization. Below is the letter that I wrote…hopefully, as you read it, you can see that not all Greeks are bad. Don’t let a few bad apples ruin the bunch.
“Over fall break, as I was sitting on my Orlando-bound Delta flight waiting for it to leave the gate, I began reading an article posted by a fellow sorority woman. It was entitled “What It Really Means To Be In A Sorority”. Initially, I thought it would be a cookie-cutter explanation of a girl’s experience in her respective Greek organization, but after reading past the first few lines, this article began resonating with me much more than others have. Your time in Sigma Kappa will be one of the greatest blessings of your life, but with the ups come the downs. There will be times when you question everything about the organization that you have joined, but that is when you turn to your sisters and they will help guide you through your confusion. That’s what this article conveys: the reality of sorority life and how it changes your life. Let’s start at the beginning…
“If you were anything like me, the beginning of your sorority experience was both incredibly exciting and awkwardly confusing — you were making so many friends and getting invited to VIP parties and you were a part of something at this new school that sometimes felt overwhelmingly large to you. But at the same time, you wondered if it was natural that you had spilled your deepest, darkest secrets to women you had only met hours earlier at Bid Day, where you were all forced to stand really close to each other and take pictures with your letters even though you were actually feeling really nervous and had no real understanding of what joining a sorority would mean.”
When I came into Sigma Kappa, I was extremely skeptical of everything that Greek life was: what it stood for, the stereotypes it exacerbated, and its overall purpose. I was the girl who made friends easier with guys due to my sarcastic, assertive personality and joining an organization full of women terrified me, but I am not one to shy away from a challenge. I really struggled finding my place within Sigma Kappa at first…was I really supposed to be here? Is this where I would flourish and grow the most? These questions were answered in one simple way: by turning to the individuals who shared my letters and my ritual with me. The women I have been in this chapter with…they have taught me so much and helped me grow in ways I could have never imagined. Was I best friends with all 90 of my sisters? Absolutely not and anyone that says they are, is probably not being completely truthful. However, every single woman in this chapter has taught me something about life regardless of how close we were. They’ve taught me how to not take myself so seriously, how to live for the moment instead of planning out every single detail, and how to embrace life without second guesses. With that being said, value each and every one of your sisters. They all have something to teach you and those lessons could very well change your life.
“You might’ve taken a Little, and were so grateful when all of your housemates stayed up until 3am with you the night before Big/Little reveal to help you repaint your crafts for the fifth time because you wanted them to be perfect. You didn’t even care that there was paint in your hair and you were breathing in the fumes, or that you were painting little wooden shapes that were, really, quite useless, or that you’d just spent $500 bucks on a girl you had only met about 3 weeks ago. Crafting with your sisters was your bonding time — making fattening snacks and promising to go to the gym together the next day, making ridiculous videos of you dancing to some tween-pop song, or talking about how you were scared you’d never love someone again after the breakup you’d just gone through. And as ridiculous as “crafting” sounds to anyone else, you thought that it was nice you were doing something totally pointless for someone else, just for the fact that it was going to be exciting for them.”
One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give you is to cherish your sorority family. Among the blessings that I have been given through Sigma Kappa, my Big/Littles/Grandlittles, etc. are the biggest. My Big and I did not know each other well when she first became my Big, but she quickly became one of my best friends. She listened to my anxiety-ridden meltdowns over academics and freshmen problems during our nightly dinners on campus. She encouraged me to become more involved in the chapter and take on multiple leadership roles that helped me mature into the woman I am today. I did not know her long, but the impact she made on my life was profound. I can only hope that I have had the same impact on my Littles and taught them to be uplifting and compassionate Bigs, like mine did for me. Once I became a Big, Sigma Kappa and its role in my life intensified. I was now serving as a role model for these new members and I wanted to be a member they could be proud to call their Big. I’m not sure if I succeeded in being the best role model I could be, but regardless, the women that I call my Littles are some of the most inspiring, devoted, and amazing people I have ever met. They constantly teach me lessons, challenge me, and love me in spite of all my shortcomings. I cannot begin to explain how proud I am of these women and how grateful I am that they changed my life.
“Finally, it was your turn to cross-over from sister to alumna. You felt like you were in a daze, like you’d just watched your Big and Grandbig go through the same ceremony. You looked around the room and realized this was the last time you’d ever see some of your sisters again. You knew that this was one time in all of your lives where you were aligned, shared the same experiences, and now you were all going to branch out in different directions on your own paths. You donned your sorority cords or stoles over your graduation gown, and remembered the first time those colors had ever been attached to you — at your pinning ceremony. You thought of the girl you had been when you first walked into the house, and realized that you had grown into a confident, smart, mature woman because of all that you had learned through this organization.”
The 4 years that I spent as a member of Sigma Kappa flew by faster than I could have ever imagined. I still remember meeting one of my pledge sisters on our bid day, talking about whether this was the right fit for us and if we saw Sigma Kappa in our future. Little did I know that 4 years later, she and I would be crying together during our Order ceremony, reminiscing on our experiences and feeling as if we were leaving home forever. Because that’s what Sigma Kappa became for me: a home. It was somewhere that I could retreat to when life got hard and I couldn’t cope. There were people that understood my quirks and loved me because of them. They pushed me to achieve more than I thought possible and, with graduation quickly approaching, I can look back at my undergraduate career with absolutely no regrets. The sole reason I stumbled so fearlessly into adventure is because I had my sisters by side. I have achieved everything I wanted to during these past four and a half years and I wish the same for you. Do everything you could have ever dreamed of. Fall in love. Find your soulmate, whether it be a guy or a group of amazing friends. Travel abroad. Take random road trips. Call up your sisters for a GADS run to take a break during an all-nighter. Become the person you have always wanted to be. But, above all, cherish Sigma Kappa and everything it has to offer you. It has the potential to change your life and I pray that, when that change comes, you embrace it with everything you have and everything you are. I wish you well on your initiation day and welcome to the first day of the rest of your life.