If These Walls Could

photo by Matt Cornelius
photo by Matt Cornelius

What a Rush!

They say we only get 18 summers with our kids. If that is the case, I have ten summers left with my daughter at home and 15 with the brothers. I realize that statement is not a fact, but I appreciate the awareness it has brought for me to soak up the days my family is all under one roof. One of these days, Lord willing, I will be packing cars full of boxes and sending my babies off to college.

High school was good to me. Really, all of my grade-level school was good. My childhood anxiety showed up like clockwork every night before the first day of school because I was worried I would forget something or get lost in a school I knew well. Luckily, every year of school got better. Thank you, Pleasant Grove ISD! And while I did not soar academically but sat comfortably in the upper-middle portion of my class rankings, I thrived in involvement. I was a Showstopper, in Student Council, Yearbook, PGTV, Keyettes, and Leadership. You name it, and I was likely in it. And I had the very best time being that involved.

My decision to attend The University of Arkansas after graduation was easy. My parents are alumni, and I grew up going to Fayetteville and calling the Hogs. I never felt pressured to follow in their footsteps; I was excited to make my own memories and leave with the tradition of having my name on the sidewalk amongst the rest of the graduates. I started my freshman year living in the same dorm as my mom had and enrolled in courses for a degree in broadcast journalism. The University of Arkansas is heavy in Greek life, so with my natural preference for a sense of connection, I decided to go through rush and pledge a sorority. Because my mom was also in a sorority, I was considered a “legacy” in that particular one, therefore having some sort of “foot in the door.” However, Momma made it clear she wanted me to go through my own process and find a home that was best for me, even if that meant not pledging the same sorority as her. So, I joined hundreds of other girls on campus, going from house to house all week, meeting sorority girls passionate about their sisterhood, philanthropy, and placement on the University of Arkansas map.

I will be the first to admit the process of going through rush, now called “recruitment” in Greek-life lingo, can sound incredibly silly and rather judgmental. Those going through it are hoping to make a good impression and find their place in a home full of girls who have studied you the weeks prior. The sororities know your name, your hometown, your reputation, and, unknowingly to you, may have even been looking at posters of you plastered on their bathroom mirrors or eating cookies with your name on them from your hometown’s alumna group during “work week.”

At the end of every day, the girls going through rush make decisions to narrow down their preference sheets, therefore “cutting” those sororities with whom they felt less comfortable. At the same time, the sororities are making their own cuts to narrow their list down to girls they want as potential sisters. The two lists are combined to determine the next day’s round of visits. The optimal situation is for preferences to align and for girls to be invited back to their chosen sorority houses.

Unfortunately, it does not always work that way. Girls are not always invited back to the sorority houses they liked, and the sororities find out one of their favorite girls chose not to come back. Feelings get hurt, and depending on the passion one may have for their sorority, I have seen relationships significantly fractured, even damaged, by this process. As the week goes on, the lists get smaller, and ultimately everyone is crossing their fingers that who they like likes them back. Bid Day is the “big day,” and at The University of Arkansas, all the sororities, potential new members, family, alumnae, and others gather at the Chi Omega Greek Theater. Girls open envelopes to find out which sorority has offered a bid asking them to be a part of their sisterhood forever.

I will never forget the BCBG one-shoulder green poncho I wore on the first day of rush. My emotions stayed on the highest roller coaster for the entire week, and I was thrilled and a little relieved to receive my bid from Chi Omega on Bid Day. Even though only one other girl from Texarkana lived in the house at the time, I listed Chi Omega as my preference because there was something about the girls there that made me feel at home.

Over the next four years, I went from not knowing anyone in my pledge class to serving as Pledge Trainer and later Chi Omega President. One year during Chi Omega’s work week, I set up tents throughout the sorority house to “Go CAMPing with LEAH” so my sorority sisters would remember the name of my top hometown girl going through rush that year (Leah Camp Orr). Pets were not allowed in the house, but Mom Sylvia, our house mom, always helped sneak in my boxer Palmer when my boyfriend, now husband, would come to town. It did not take long for me to change my degree from journalism to psychology, and I walked across the street to campus every day for class with my best friends. Chicken finger Friday, Ms. Margaret’s banana bread, and a whole lot of growth sprinkled with laughter happened at 940 West Maple. I remember seeing a quote once that said, “If you think I paid for my friends, I at least got my money’s worth.” And let me tell you, I got my money’s worth. My sorority sisters are some of my favorite and closest friends, and I have Chi Omega to thank for that.

I recently talked with a friend whose daughter decided to undergo recruitment at the University of Arkansas this fall. Naturally, she is a bit nervous for her daughter and wants to protect her feelings from any potential hurt. Her daughter is incredibly smart and kind, not to mention beautiful, with the world at her fingertips, but as a mom, I get it. It takes courage to be vulnerable and try to find your place in a new chapter of life. As I encouraged my friend about the excitement ahead, I realized I could be in her shoes before I knew it. If my daughter grows up and decides to pledge a sorority in college, I will support her all the way. And if she decides it is not for her, I support that, too. I have ten more summers to instill all my wisdom and goodness in her and her brothers. It’s a great big world we live in, and I have a big job to do.


 

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