Growing up, my parents would always tell me stories about the great experiences and memories they gained from being a part of Greek life in college.
Because of this, the first thing on my mind when I got to college was rushing. I always knew I wanted to be in a sorority and I had many expectations for what I hoped to get out of one. I did not want to rush because of concern for my status, making friends in college, or so that I could spice up my Instagram bio with letters, which are the many common stereotypes that get placed on those who go Greek. I wanted to rush because, as cliche as it sounds, I wanted to be a part of something uplifting, selfless, and greater than myself. I was always very involved in high school and figured that joining a sorority would open up many doors and opportunities for me in college, which it actually did. It's just that the negatives began to heavily outweigh the positives.
While going through recruitment as a freshman, I was very optimistic and hopeful to find a house that would be the perfect fit for me. I was determined to find a group of girls who shared my values, standards, and interests, and to build friendships off of that. Recruitment was both fun and exhausting, but the one thing that was consistent was the positive vibe that was seemingly contagious throughout the week. The sorority girls welcomed us into their houses with open arms and the whole idea of Greek life came off as very genuine at the time.
After an entire week of dressing up, visiting many houses and talking more than my throat could handle, I received a bid to my top house. The first couple weeks were absolutely amazing. New members were showered with gifts, taken care of by the older girls and most of all, respected. I felt like I was on top of the world. It wasn't until about a month in that I started questioning if I had made the wrong decision in going Greek.
It didn't take much for me to realize that the sorority did not practice what it preached. We were told that our academics were important to them, we deserved to have a healthy balance between the sorority and our outside lives, they understood that we had other priorities and so on. One of my earliest memories of being in a sorority is deciding to stay in one night to do homework. I had not been taking freshman year seriously at the time and had a lot to catch up on. Many other girls in my pledge class decided to stay in and do the same. Not long after, we were bombarded with GroupMe messages from the older girls yelling at us and calling us "pussies" for not going out. It was also made apparent to us that by choosing homework over partying at the frats for one night, we were making the sorority look bad (because all that matters in life is what frat guys think of us, am I right?). We never got hazed, as that is a very serious matter at my school, but they might as well have hazed us.
This soon became a pattern. Every weekend it was a battle between what was more important: being well-liked by the older girls in my sorority or focusing on getting by in school. We were yelled at and belittled every time there was a fairly low turnout of our pledge class at parties. We were told that any opinions of our sorority being lame were our fault. Cliques started to form, girls' true colors started to show and my love for the sorority started to decline. The amount of mandatory meetings and events we had to attend was taking over my entire life and I found myself rarely having time for anything else. These things had the potential to be fun bonding experiences and moments to look forward to, however, because of the way in which we were threatened to attend things, it made it all seem like a task. It made people dread going to things. If anyone tried to get excused from something to focus on schoolwork, it was unacceptable. Even an internship was not a good enough excuse for me to get out of recruiting my sophomore year, and in turn, I had to quit my summer internship. The only way that we could get out of things was for weddings or funerals, otherwise, we would get fined (because it's not like we were already giving enough of our money to the sorority).
After I started to become unhappy with my experience, I turned my doubts into determination. As a freshman, I ran for a position and ended up being elected. During my sophomore year, I was elected to another position. I used my leadership roles as ways to maintain enjoyment in the sorority. When I dedicate myself to something, I put my all into it, so I knew that if I was going to be in the sorority, I wasn't going to be in it half-assed. I never missed chapter or any other mandatory events. I worked above and beyond in my positions to do great things for the chapter and the people in it, however, it was rarely appreciated and, most of the time, criticized. People were constantly wanting more. I felt like no matter how much time and dedication I gave to the sorority, it was never good enough. I realize that in order to be a leader, negativity from others is expected, and I am prepared to tough through it with future careers and problems I encounter in life. However, the sorority was supposed to be the place where I could escape all of that and be reassured. It should by no means be the place that made me feel insecure and like I would never be good enough. There were very little girls with leadership roles who ever felt respected.
At this point, every inch of confidence I ever had was gone and I had very low self-esteem. I felt trapped in something that continued to push me down. I felt like a puppet, succumbing to a life that I had no control in. There were many rules that were supposed to be implemented to the entire chapter, however, they were not applied evenly or fairly. If you were friends with or on the exec board, you could pretty much get away with anything. It was hard to respect the people implementing the rules when they were only applied to certain people. Everything was a facade, there was constant drama and gossip but at the end of the day everyone would put on an act to avoid getting on others' bad sides. Sisterhood seemed to be a non-existing factor.
There were many other incidents which made me feel completely discouraged, disrespected and disgusted with the sorority, however, I will not get into them. It's not that I don't have thick skin, but when you spend all your time around the same group of people and rarely have time to venture out, the negative things can really get to you and get to you fast. There were many different occasions where myself or others would go home crying because of how bad they were made to feel about themselves. I will never forget the time that I had to leave class and drive straight home because a family member was passing away in the hospital, and instead of showing sympathy or sending good thoughts to my family, all I received was a text message attacking me for not completing my house chore that day. There was constant talk about girls "not being pretty enough" or "not fitting in" and I was shocked at how I could be so blindsided to this stuff when going through recruitment. It made me wonder what was said about me when I was the one going through recruitment and it built a sense of distrust in me.
As if that wasn't enough, there was so much bashing amongst different sororities, it seemed like a pathetic attempt to make your own house look better. There's supposed to be this thing called Greek unity, but it's hard to acknowledge when it all just seems like one big competition about who the top houses are. We were constantly being told which houses we "didn't like" and we didn't really have a say in that. What even makes a house considered top? How the members look? What's the point? Can we all just get over ourselves? Who cares if your new members are "hotter" than their new members?
Within the sorority, problems were rarely addressed and very often ignored until people were pushed to their limits and had enough. As a junior, after being in the sorority for two years and living in the house for one of them, I had reached that breaking point. After yet another night of returning home from chapter feeling terrible about myself, I knew that I needed to drop. For a while, I was scared of what people would think or how they would treat me, but eventually, I realized none of my concerns were worth remaining part of something that was the opposite of what I stand for. For being the girl who won an award at formal for showing undying love and dedication to the sorority, I sure didn't feel like a valued member. It became a matter of either staying in the sorority or saving my mental health.
The day I dropped my sorority was the day I became myself again. I instantly felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Even if people did have opinions about my decision, none of it mattered to me because I realized how ridiculous it all was. For the first time in so long, I felt free again. Free from the constant criticism, free from the drama that surrounded me even when I was not directly involved in it, free from paying money to be told how and when to live my life. I had control over my own life, decisions and, most importantly, my identity for the first time in so long. I finally felt like I could focus on the more important things like finding a job, bettering my academics, and pursuing things that were in my best interest, things that would help me grow rather than defeat me. I also learned who my true friends were. Shoutout to the people who didn't shun me from their lives after I dropped (and the people that can still look at me in the eyes and say hello even though, God forbid, I'm not wearing the same letters as you anymore).
Now from the outside looking in, I still hear about the constant drama and reoccurring problems that are taking place within the sorority. I see and hear from so many girls who feel the same way I did but are too scared to quit because of what people will think and because of wanting to keep the sorority girl title and alumni status. Far too many people identify themselves based on what sorority they're in and it saddens me because they are wasting the perfectly unique individual that they are capable of being. After college when you can no longer identify yourself solely based on your sorority, what is going to define you? Who will you be? It is unfortunate seeing people who are so unhappy in Greek life but feeling like they don't have any options. It was a big step for me finally deciding to leave, but I haven't regretted it for one second. From the outside looking in, I also have no clue how I survived two-plus years of living like a robot, singing those creepy songs and engaging in even creepier ritual chants.
Growing up, my parents would always tell me stories about the great experiences and memories they gained from being a part of Greek life in college. Because of this, the first thing on my mind when I got to college was rushing. I can't say that I regret my time in the sorority because it's taught me a lot about myself, others and life in general. It gifted me with so many great opportunities to build my leadership skills as well as make some of my lifelong friends. I also realize that not all sororities are like this and everyone has a different experience with Greek life, like my parents. Growing up, my parents also taught me to be true to myself, to follow my heart, and to never conform if it meant sacrificing my happiness and/or well-being.
Lucky for me, I followed their advice.