This upcoming May, it will have been two years since I graduated college. Two years since I last stressed out about an exam or took part in the majesty that is Fireball Fridays at the dingy college bar I loved so much. Two years since I last stretched out on the soft blue rug in the TV room, studying and laughing, watching movies and gossiping about boys. This May it will have been two years since I stood in front of the chapter and took part in a ceremony that ended my time as an active member of my sorority.
It has been two years since I left my chapter behind — and it’s not like anything I thought it would be.
We’ve heard it a million times before, and said it as new members joined our ranks: it’s not four years, it’s for life. But as you’re standing in front of your chapter, talking about your favorite moments or reciting words over a hundred years old and putting out the candle of your membership, you wonder if it was true. How will your chapter stay with you? How will this sisterhood, that was such a part of your college life, follow you postgrad? Is it even possible or is it just some feel-good bullshit we say to make ourselves look good? Sure, you’ll still rock the occasional lettered tank at the gym, and you might have some pictures of your Greek family at your cubical. But other than that, is all of it really still a part of you? Is it just a selling point? Is it just something we tell ourselves as we say goodbye to our littles and head off into the big, bad, real world?
That’s for you to decide. But for me, I realized it just last night.
A few days ago I got a Snapchat from a girl in my chapter. “Getting ready for farewells!!!” she said, as she pushed a shopping cart full of decorations, “grad” glasses, and alcohol. Shiiiiiit, I thought, as I hastily pulled up my text messages. In the world of salaried jobs, working 9-5 (more like 8-6), and going to bed at a reasonable time most nights, I had completely forgotten about graduations. I typed a hasty message to the two girls in my chapter with whom I was still close, my adopted little and a girl I had preffed during recruitment.
“Guys! When are your farewells?!”
In our chapter, senior farewells are big. In most chapters they are. Whether you call it Senior Wills, Farewells, or Senior Sendoffs, it’s basically a night (or nights, depending on how big your chapter is) where all of the graduating seniors get the chance to stand in front of the chapter and say whatever the hell they want. Sometimes it’s funny, most of the time it’s sentimental, and every now and again it’s lowkey bitchy. All of the graduates go out beforehand for dinner (read: they get drunk AF), and then they come back to the house and receive piles of presents, sit on thrones, and gush their hearts out. Tears are not only expected, they’re encouraged.
My sisters responded with the date of their sendoffs, and after ordering flowers for each of them, I made sure to block out that night in the calendar with enough time beforehand to get appropriately wine drunk.
And last night, it happened. Two of the girls who absolutely shaped my time in the chapter I loved so much moved on. The last two girls whose time overlapped with mine as an undergrad, and the two younger girls who I felt the desire to look over, care for, and always love where no longer actives. They were no longer my “in” into the undergrad life. They were saying goodbye to the chapter that brought us together, the chapter that made us friends. And I wasn’t ready for it.
I asked my glittle to Facetime me when it was her turn, and in the meantime, I ignored my boyfriend while shoveling down cold Chinese food and obsessively checking Snapchat for updates from other sisters. I poured more wine, I stalked Instagram relentlessly and then, she called.
My heart pounded as I clicked “accept” and was immediately transported back in time. Tears pricked my eyes as she swept the camera around the room. The chapter room. My chapter room. It was just how I remembered it. The tan couches pushed to the walls like we always did when we were having some sort of sisterhood bonding event. The curtains covering the snack closet and the composites displayed proudly around the room. The chevron pillows I had passed out on plenty of times and the sound of a voice in charge shouting “LADIES” — trying to get the event started, a customary fifteen minutes late.
I settled back in my king bed, purchased after getting a big girl job, and sipped my wine as a goofy smile spread across my face. I watched as two girls I’ve loved for years, two girls I rushed and preffed and welcomed home on Bid Day said everything the chapter meant to them. Everything it had meant to me. I saw how mature they had become, and watched as younger girls, girls I didn’t even know, showered them with love and adoration.
Tears quietly slide down my face as these women shared their favorite moments of being a Greek woman. My grand-little switched the phone angle back onto her face and whispered “you’re crying” while a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. I laughed, and she turned the camera back around, in time to hear my name mentioned. I beamed as the story of how I preffed them was told (I confessed that I wasn’t wearing underwear and talked about penises most of the time) and how girls who didn’t know me laughed with fondness.
In a mere fifteen minutes, I was reminded of the strong bonds a sorority creates. It sounds lame as hell, right? But it’s true.
It’s not about the parties or the presents, the socials, or the fancy events. As I saw girls in pajamas and yoga pants, wearing no makeup and rocking messy buns, I felt the love from over a thousand of miles away. Sure, that part of my sorority experience is over. I don’t get to skip into the house between classes and pile my plate high with delicious meal plan food (how I miss you). And I don’t get to wear themed outfits on Thursday as I dance onto a bus with a fraternity. I’m not a part of our quiet, beautiful rituals and I’m not there to see new sisters get initiated or complain about my feet hurting during recruitment.
But I’m still there. And my letters are still with me. Being an alumna isn’t how I thought it would be. It’s better. It’s real.
The way sisters who move to my area come to me asking for advice. The random messages I get, sharing a funny link or wanting résumé help. Hanging out with my gbig, who lives a few minutes away from me now. Texting my sisters when something reminds me of them, or always buying the home decor that proudly features our mascot. Your letters are no longer about college. They’re about the strong friendships you made. The girls you make sure to catch up with every few weeks, or always like their pictures, no matter what. The ones you send ugly Snapchats to, no matter how much time has passed. And the girls you think of when you plan your dream wedding or a fun vacation or just need someone to vent to. The ones who have been by your side through it all.
Becoming an alumna is bittersweet. It’s confusing and scary and reminds you again of the life you’re leaving behind. It’s hard to imagine a world outside of your house’s walls, a sorority outside of your house’s walls. But it’s there. In the bonds you made and the memories you created. So as you say goodbye to your active time, just know that this isn’t it. Being an active was just the preparation of what’s to come. Whether it’s joining an alumni club, moving in with your big, or just keeping in contact with a few sisters — this is what being Greek was all about. Not the four years, but for the rest of your life.
Welcome to the other side, alumnae. It only gets better from here..
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