I get quite a few different reactions when I first tell people I participated in Greek life in college. I don’t, by any means, fit the “sorority girl” stereotype, and honestly, that wasn’t why I even joined in the first place.
As someone who has struggled with their mental health since childhood, the first year (or two) of college were – metaphorically, of course – a blur. I struggled to find my way, my place, my group, and myself. After sophomore year, I made what most Indiana citizens would call the ultimate betrayal and transferred from one state school to the rival one. Although I had some acquaintances here and there, I still craved my niche.
Fortunately, I eventually found it at the Alpha Gamma Delta house.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. We’ve all seen the movies – the toga parties, the infamous “sorority squat” pose in photos, the high-pitched scream when encountering a sister at the union in between classes. And while some of those things may be accurate now and then, there is much more to Greek life than meets the eye.
In a slightly serious yet mildly comical way, here are some things that Sorority life taught me:
Matching outfits are a good idea.
While my daughter may disagree with me on this one in approximately fifteen years, this lesson had to make my list. Something about wearing a matching outfit with someone says, “I love this person, and I am willing to stand side-by-side through it all with them.” It held true when I walked with a sister past her less-than-ideal ex-boyfriend at the football tailgate, and it holds true today when I hold my baby’s hand walking into her first day at a new social gathering amongst other toddlers. I got you, girl. Let’s do this.
There is always something to celebrate.
There is an ongoing joke in Greek life that, no matter the occasion, a t-shirt will be designed. By my senior year, I had t-shirts for events I did not even attend. Did I still wear them? Yes. However, this is not just about shirts! It is about life. It is easy to get caught up in “those days” in motherhood, and although I do not plan on creating a family t-shirt for it, I will celebrate that my daughter ate the new recipe I tried for dinner. Or that she blew me a kiss from the staircase before bed after having one of “those days.” Those small moments? Yep, they’re worth it. In sorority life, they’d be considered “t-shirt worthy,” I’m sure. So, go ahead and celebrate them, Mama.
Dance parties can be the best medicine.
After the first date with my now-husband, I thought I had blown it. Bummed, I sat in the dining room with my head held low. One of my sisters reassured me that everything would be fine, and even if he was not still interested, it was his loss. I shrugged. She pulled me up and said, “Come on, let’s go.” She instantly drove to get breadsticks and cheese sauce: every college girl’s comfort food. We drove around campus for what seemed like hours. We sang, danced, and laughed like we didn’t have a care in the world because we didn’t. The upcoming exams we had could wait. At that moment, my feelings were a priority, just as they should be when big feelings need to be felt.
Although this may not seem like a huge ordeal, it made all the difference. Even in motherhood, I find myself blasting “Run Baby Run” and even, yes, “Baby Shark” for random kitchen dance parties when my daughter and I are struggling to get through some big feelings.
Leaving your comfort zone isn’t so bad when you have people on your side.
The greatest thing about my sisters was their ability to push me out of my comfort zone. “Apply for that study abroad!” “Ask him to our spontaneous dance!” “Let’s go play in the dodgeball tournament!” I knew that, even if I were smacked in the nose with a ball, my sisters would be right there on the sidelines to help me back up – and probably laugh it off.
While the thought of sending my daughter to do anything new or unfamiliar sounds terrifying to me, I know that it will make her stronger. I know it will help her grow. I know it will make her wiser. I know this because that is what those experiences did for me. Not to mention, I’ll always be there on the “sideline,” cheering and waiting for her.
The more, the merrier!
With the last item on my list being said…
One common misconception about sorority life is that it is “cliquey.” In some cases, sure, that may be true; however, sorority life allowed me to reach out to people I probably would not have otherwise. From philanthropic events to other sisters in our organization, I constantly interacted with people I probably would not have otherwise.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that making “mom friends” is difficult. I feel like I’m back in the age of awkward first dates and “What does this text mean?” moments. However, in the short time I’ve been a mom, I have obtained a small yet mighty group of mom friends. We bounce activities, potty training tips, recipes, and even a few vent sessions off of each other, and honestly, it’s incredible.
I value my “mom friends” so much in this season of my life; I know how important they are to my progress as a mother each day. Therefore, I will gladly make a bigger circle whenever I notice a mom needing that same support.
Sometimes, you do get to pick your family.
Two sisters once picked me up with my car when I was stuck on campus. Although I am not nearly old enough to say that cell phones didn’t exist when I was at Purdue, I certainly did not need one when they arrived. My car alarm blared for the entire drive from our sorority house to my class building. I mean it, guys, blared.
However, with smiles as wide as can be, they pulled up. I climbed in and immediately showed them how to unlock my car properly. The story’s moral is that there are truly amazing people out there to whom you are not blood-related. That’s okay. You can still, and should, love them like they are. More importantly, let them love you and your kids too.
I just hope, one day, my daughter finds the people who would happily pick her up – even in what appears to be a stolen vehicle – just when she needs it most.
Themes. Always have a theme.
Halloween costumes for the family? Theme. Birthday party? Theme. Snack plate during Shark Week? Yep, you guessed it: theme.
Anyone who knows sorority life knows that there is always a theme. Themes encourage creativity, togetherness, sharing, and – well, they make things more fun!
So, while the Panhellenic system may get a bad reputation, being in a sorority undoubtedly claimed a significant chapter in my journey. It’s how I met some of my very best friends, who were a shoulder to cry on back then and now. (Another Indianapolis Mom discusses the lasting impact of her sorority sisters in this post!) It’s how I met my husband, who is also now the amazing father of my child. It’s where I found the support I needed most to get my first degree, which allowed me to find my passion in education. The list goes on and on.
Really, though, it’s how I became the woman and subsequently, the mother that I am today.