Mascara coated my eyelashes, weighing my shadow-painted lids down. The girl in the mirror was a made-up, ideal version of myself, dressed up for sorority recruitment and ready to be a bubbly, excited potential new member.
I thought the formal recruitment process would be easy for me.
My father attended my university and was a brother of one of the top fraternities. His composite photo still hangs on the wall of the fraternity house. I had grown up excited to forge the same relationships and memories for myself. Participating in Greek life is an expectation.
In preparation for recruitment, I asked my father’s friend, the founder of a prominent sorority chapter on campus, to write my letter of recommendation. The letter itself read as essentially a ticket in, as well as my third-generation legacy in another chapter on campus.
While my friends were uncertain, I was confident.
Following the first night of cuts, the list of chapters that asked me back did not include the one I wanted so desperately, the one where the campus founder had written just one letter of recommendation previously. Without giving it much though, I assumed the letter she wrote for me was my golden ticket.
I crumpled the sheet in my hands. My back became hot; tears welled in my eyes. The excited remarks of girls around me sounded pitiful.
I wanted so badly to cry, but I had put too much time and care into my makeup. I had to compose myself for the long night of interviews ahead.
The chapter where I am a legacy, where my grandmother was a sister, had invited me back. Even if their reputation scared me, I needed them to accept me. In no way did I see myself fitting in with those girls. They seemed like cookie-cutter versions of each other with perfect makeup and long, flat ironed locks.
But I felt so caught up in the status.
When that chapter cut me on the third night, I allowed myself to break down. I locked myself in a bathroom stall, the stalls on both sides of me also occupied by distraught girls. Our cries rang almost rhythmically through the room. My mascara stung my eyes, but the worst pain remained: the sisters that I wanted did not want me. I did not feel not good enough for them. I took the recruitment process so personally, allowing my dwindling invite list to lessen my personal worth.
I ultimately “prefed,” or signed a form stating my desire to become a sister, a chapter that kept me throughout the process. I sniffled as I signed the binding document tying me to the sorority.
That night, I spent an hour nestled into a corner on my dorm hallway’s floor talking to my father, plucking at the fuzz on the carpet. My eyes stung from a day full of tears and a week full of makeup.
My head buzzed with thoughts, all circling back to my value. The chapters I thought I would end up in did not want me and cut me despite my leg up from the other girls.
What appeared so wrong that they cut me?
I conveyed my disappointment to my father. I felt embarrassed at my failure, especially speaking to the man who inspired me to join Greek Life. I thought he would think less of me for struggling with a process for which we both had been so confident.
In a soft voice, my father said, “This has no bearing on your life.” In the moment, those words did not seem to hold much truth.
On Bid Day, I dawdled until the very last possible minute.
I felt most surprised at how welcomed I felt into the crowd of girls cheering and singing their chapter song. I began to realize that these women wanted me, and before this moment, I had been closed off to the idea of any other sorority. I acted so closed off that I diminished my own worth by ignoring those who wanted me and blindly pursuing a chapter based on the idea of them I had created in my head.
Finding my sorority made me re-examine my personal worth.
I needed to be open to this chapter to learn what it means to be valued and wanted. These women wanted me, and I was previously so caught up becoming a member of a “top” chapter that I ignored that.
That being said, I often struggle to relate to many of the women in my chapter. We are not cookie-cutter versions of each other. Instead, we come from diverse backgrounds and represent many different values. However, I did find my close friends and ultimately a home.