When it came to sorority rush, I was hopeful. The little black book said Rush was a way to meet people, make friends, become part of a community. For me, it ended up being (d): none of the above. I rushed with the desire to join an Easy-Mac community: none of the work, all of the reward. But becoming a vital, participating member of a group took communication, hard work and effort — something I didn’t realize until I took several steps back from the pain of sorority rush.
While I had no shortage of friends three months into my freshman year, I knew I was missing something. My friends were disparate, separate, made at my dormitory and in classes, but they weren’t a group. Three friends on my floor had been placed in the same Weinberg seminar, a seminar seemingly pieced together by providence that bonded immediately. I was jealous. In Medill, we had no seminars, just Peer Adviser groups which interacted sporadically during the first week of school.
I watched the seminar group go out together on weekends and meet for coffee after class, bemoaning my lack of a community. For all my friends from Project Wildcat, for all the people I’d met in boring discussion sections, for all of my suitemates in Hinman, I was still painfully alone at college.
Once it came time for Recruitment, I set out single-minded: to find a group of girls who would like me and accept me as part of their community. Sororities, I naively believed, would provide me with an idealistic opportunity to participate in something greater than myself.
When rush failed, and I found no sororities with whom I truly “fit in” or at which I felt accepted, it was an immediate blow to my self-esteem. More painfully, though, it underlined my subconscious fear that I didn’t fit in here — that Northwestern was not for me.
Yet with all my idealism and imagined potential, I trod into Rush headquarters on Pref Night and signed a piece of paper ending my first attempt at joining a cohesive community. And for a while, I was despondent. Not only had I failed to integrate into the Northwestern social scene, but I returned to step one, with my new friends who I sincerely liked but who lived in separate worlds.
Shortly after rush, I wrote about my experiences for North by Northwestern, still smarting from the blow of perceived rejection. To be a freshman is to be surrounded by people that know your name, yet feel entirely alone. When searching desperately for your place in the new world of college, the lure of a pre-formed community is irresistible. Joining a sorority offers the opportunity to label yourself and become a member — not simply an observer — of a community. I hadn’t yet realized I would need to exert myself to belong.
Regardless of whether one pledges or abstains, I imagine the constant, tense feeling of “not belonging” lingered on in every freshman at Northwestern long past Rush Week. What I had failed to grasp was that no one is inundated with a sense of belonging once they open their envelope on Bid Night. Even if you’re accepted into a group, you have to work to belong. It isn’t instantaneous.
So while initially I felt rejected, I also switched focus to building my own á la carte “community.” Even my friends who had rushed and pledged felt uncertain whether they fit in to the group that chose them. And around mid-February last year, entirely incidentally, I fell into a group of people that made me feel, finally, at home.
Settling into my place at Northwestern didn’t erase the painful sting of rush memories alongside a return to self-conscious fretting. When a certain gossip-mongering website grew influential over the summer, there’s no denying it tore open old wounds, scratching at the surface of fears I had buried and ignored. I hate to be dramatic, but here was fundamental proof that, despite my love and adoration for many women I know in sororities, rush can have a tremendous and long-lasting negative effect on impressionable freshmen. A year away from rush, the pain that came with rush has been mostly eliminated: I’m involved, I have beloved friends and I am happy.
It’s easy to identify oneself by sorority: “I’m a Kappa.” “I’m a Pi Phi.” “I’m a DG.” And while I initially envied those who could tell others they belonged, I soon crafted my own labels: North by Northwestern writer, frequent diner at Dozika, big fan of eggs and pancakes.
Am I glad I dropped out of rush? Occasionally I regret it, usually when I’m eating food from sorority kitchens. But I found my place without the help of an RC or a sorority. For some, being in a sorority has become an irreplaceable part of their being; for me, I couldn’t imagine Greek life fitting in with who I’ve become at Northwestern.