Sunday, September 14, 2014

Iota Eta Pi

I wrote the following entry a couple of weeks ago and have been extremely hesitant to posting it.  It's a bit emotional and heavy compared to my normal posts.  I decided to put it out there because that's what this blog is for.  You choose to be here and read along with me and I appreciate that so much.  Sit back and relax and get ready for a little history lesson on Sarah.

University classes started Monday here at UF and that means rush week is upon us.  I was reminded of this when I drove past Sorority Row yesterday to go pick up a friend on the other side of campus.  Most people in my life do not know that I rushed before beginning my sophomore year at UF.  Most people in my life also do not know that I love writing as much as I do.  Whenever I’m emotional, I write.  Needless to say, I never entered a sorority and it was a pretty traumatic experience for me at the time.  Looking back, though, it hasn’t defined me in any way.  I had friendships with many girls in sororities and don’t harbor any ill feelings toward them or their institutions.  It honestly worked out for the best because I had such an amazing college experience.  My friends and I had a blast and they are some of my best memories and best friends to date.  Obviously, I wrote about my experience of being dismissed from rush a few months after it happened.  It’s included below (sorry for the length, I’m never short on words).  I don’t share this with you, dear reader, to change any opinion you had or make you feel sorry for me.  I just wanted to share one of the countless experiences I’ve had where my weight made people judge me.  Luckily, the sad girl who wrote that eventually figured out that she’s pretty awesome.  And finally, years later, she realized that she’s stronger than the opinions of strangers.

             I searched for the perfect outfit for these cute, pink buckle flats I had for weeks.  I decided on a matching pink polo and charcoal-colored shorts.  So what was this occasion that I had prepared the entire summer for? PANHELLENIC RECRUITMENT 2006 a.k.a. sorority rush week.  I’d decided to join a sorority during my freshman year at the University of Florida.  The whole year I’d felt like something was missing in my life.  Sure, I had a great circle of friends and a pretty moderate social life, but I wanted more, I needed more.  I wanted a place to call my home away from home, and I wanted to meet more friends to make the most of my college experience.  The sorority girls I had met around campus were always very nice to me and I even befriended a few through my classes and living in the dorms.  I was so excited for recruitment that I actually wanted to go back to school.  My feelings would be totally different if I had known then what I know now.
            I had shopped for the perfect outfits and matching accessories for weeks, and I had perfectly planned out my “best week ever” or so they called it.  The first official recruitment meeting was an introduction on the eve of day one.  This is where I met my rush group and my pi chis (group leaders and counselors).  Here, we learned about the week ahead and the dos and don’ts of the recruitment experience.  Reflecting back, I don’t remember much of this night except for the phone call I made afterward.  It was to my mother, my best friend and the number one on my call-history list during this upcoming week.  I remember not being able to contain my excitement.  I told her that this was going to change my life, and I felt like I had finally belonged.  I was going to be a SORORITY WOMAN.
            Day 1.  I decided to wear the pink polo with those pink buckle flats.  I had my over sized Vera Bradley bag packed with snacks, gum, bottled water, sunglasses, make-up, a change of shoes (which I obviously neglected as I had horrible blisters from these cute shoes) and a hand-held fan (my new best friend).  I was confident, ready and scared out of my mind!  There are 16 Panhellenic houses at UF, so today we were visiting eight of them.  Standing outside the first house I couldn’t stop smiling and in the blink of an eye it was over.  It was this big long blur of conversation, smiling and high-pitched girls.  I couldn’t wait to be one of them!  I was paired with a really nice girl and we had lots of things to talk about.  I tried to be myself and to keep the conversation flowing, but I was just so nervous.  I thought it had gone well, and I was at ease in the remaining houses because I know that I’m a great person. I felt something in my gut that this was meant to be.  Seven houses and a number of rainstorms later, I was exhausted physically and mentally.
            Day 2.  Basically a repeat of the day before at the remaining eight houses but at the end of the day I had to rank my top houses.  I weirdly wasn’t nervous.  I had no trouble sleeping that night.  I felt that I had good “parties” at every house and only a few were unpleasant.  The next morning I would find out who had invited me back for round two.
            Day 3.  Hair issues had me running a few minutes late so I called my favorite pi chi just to give her the heads up.  I rushed into the room with fan in hand and was just in time for them to pass out our schedules.   I knew she’d kept mine for last because she had skipped me in the alphabetical order we were always in.  My heart began to race.  She handed me my schedule and it only had three houses on it.  Out of 16 only three had asked me to return.  As I was staring at this almost blank sheet of paper I was confused as to why my pi chi was asking me if I was alright.  I didn’t understand.  What had I done wrong?  I was myself, I was friendly, polite and outgoing…all I wanted was for someone to explain.  The only thing I had on my mind was getting out of that room.  The walls were closing in on me.  I was suffocating.  I found a doorway in the building to cry against while my friend tried to console me.  I was devastated.  All I wanted was to understand.  After a bit of crying slash hyperventilating I got myself together and returned to the auditorium to find my favorite pi chi in tears.  That day I’d attended my three scheduled parties and had a great time, or once again, so I thought.  I was relieved to see my pi chis at the end of the day because they were the only thing keeping me in this.  We weren’t allowed to use our phones so the minute we were done, I whipped mine out.  On my phone was an awaiting text message from my crying pi chi, she too didn’t understand why I wasn’t invited back.  I think the reason for her tears is because she did understand but admitting it aloud would speak against sororities as a whole.
            I’ve been overweight for as long as I can remember.  Weight has always been an issue for me.  Diets, exercise and self-esteem have been the biggest obstacles in my life thus far.  Until a trip to a weight-loss geared camp in the 10th grade, I had no self-esteem whatsoever.  I was unhappy and just plain mean to people.  I was so angry at myself and the way I was that I took it out on others.  I thought this might all disappear with college.  I wouldn’t have to “fit in” like in high school. I wouldn’t have to impress people in my classes because I most likely wouldn’t know their names.  The only reason I hadn’t rushed the year before was because of my weight.  I was told by someone in a sorority that it wouldn’t be an issue.  As much as I want to believe that’s not why I wasn’t invited back I just can’t rack my brain any further for another answer.  If asked to describe me I’m pretty sure the first word to come to mind would be funny.  I love to joke around, and I absolutely love laughing.  I get this from my naturally sarcastic father who is one of the funniest people I know.  The one thing I’ll always remember from growing up is that we laughed…a lot.  I’m not going to apologize for the way I am and I shouldn’t have to.  I’m fat.  GET OVER IT!!!!!!!  It’s my issue, not yours.  You don’t have to deal with it every day.  You don’t have the constant reminder from the mirror every morning.  You haven’t had to deal with it for the past 15 years.  It has been an uphill battle that most people can’t even fathom.  The things I’ve experienced and the taunting I’ve endured don’t even measure up to how hurt I was by receiving a call from my pi chi telling me that I was released from recruitment.
            I got the call while checking the mail, I had actually missed her first call.  I knew exactly why she was calling and I was scared out of my mind to call her back.  I’ll never forget her words.  “I have a bit of bad news, you’ve been released from recruitment.  Do you understand what that means?”  I felt like saying no duh I know what it means, but I understand why she asked.  The tears were welling up and I thought I was going to pass out.  I ran to my room, slammed the door and called my mommy.  The whole conversation was just a haze, I still didn’t understand.  When we hung up the phone, I crawled under my desk, laid in the fetal position and bawled.  I got the nerve to call up my friends who also were going through recruitment.  They rushed over and helped me feel better for a little while.  That night, I cried myself to sleep thinking of all the things that I had looked forward to that I would never do now.  I wanted the socials, dinners at the house, football games, date-functions, etc.  Now, I’ll never know what it’s like to do any of that.
            The next morning was my first day of classes.  The sorority girls were everywhere, recognizable by their buttons that they had to wear to signify that contact between them and the girls rushing was forbidden.  The rush girls had to wear buttons too, but I of course didn’t have mine on.  Girls from my group questioned me not donning my pin and while I didn't want to lie, I was too embarrassed to tell them the truth.  I simply answered, “it’s just not for me.”  The following days were even harder.  In my closet hang the dresses that were meant to be worn for rush, still with the tags on.  Seeing the girls get bids to their favorite houses, seeing all the new Greek letter bags on campus, seeing them with their recruitment T-shirts.  I had the jealousy bug and I had it bad.  These girls had everything I wanted and didn’t get because of what?  If someone has a straight answer for me please speak up because I cannot waste anymore tears or time on figuring out why I wasn’t sorority girl material.  I feel like I had what it takes to be one of them.  I’m a human being.  That should be enough.  The only thing that put a smile on my face that day was a text message from my father.  He told me that I am a wonderful person who is funny, smart and beautiful.  He said that he was sad that they couldn’t see that and they were the fools for missing out.  I cry now at the thought of that text message and how it severely changed my feelings on the whole experience.  Hearing those things from him meant and still mean so much to me.
            So the scars on my toes from those pink flats were still noticeable for weeks after recruitment.  I wanted to believe that when they healed so would I.  It’s been four months now and the scars are almost gone, but my bruised self-esteem is far from recovery.  Anytime my memory is triggered to something dealing with recruitment or sororities I get upset.  I try to put up this front like it doesn’t bother me but deep down it always will.  I thought about starting my own chapter and inviting every girl back, no matter how they looked.  I was thoroughly depressed and had no motivation to come out of it.  I was at my lowest and I realized that I shouldn’t give them that satisfaction.  Letting them win this battle will only make the judging that they do okay.  I’m sorry that I wasn’t what you were looking for.  I’m sorry that I wasn’t cute enough to be a member.  Most of all I’m sorry that you missed out on meeting one of the greatest people I know…me.  Because even through all of this, and through all the pain and tears, I know that I’m a great person and that I will survive.  If this is the worst thing that happens to me in life then I’m one lucky lady.   To this day, I can’t help but feel sorry for the girls who were also dropped and that might never realize that about themselves.  To make someone feel like they don’t matter is the worst crime in the world.  In all honesty the saddest part of this story is that I still want to be a sorority girl.  Looking back I wonder if I’m right about my reasoning.  I wonder if it was something I did to make me not worthy enough.  Then I realize that everything happens for a reason.  Without having experienced recruitment I never would have realized that I’m fine just being me.  I’ve come to look past each moment and see that even in dark times, it is possible to survive.

2 comments:

Proud Papadopolous said...

Wow. I'm more proud today than I was then. And then I was really proud of you. Great post!

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks, pops! I'm proud of you, too! Mostly, because you figured out how to comment all by yourself. :)