“I don’t even want to do this anymore” I sobbed to my mom as I stared at my schedule.
It was preference night, the most important round of recruitment. I was standing in the tent with my PNM group when my advisor handed out my sentence. I hadn’t been worried. I was naturally outgoing, relatively attractive, and felt like I had aced all of recruitment. Until that day, my schedule was always packed. As I watched my friends head home defeated after being cut from houses, I breezed through the experience with invites back to my favorite chapters every day. I was cocky. I felt like I had a right to be.
So when the senior girl who was guiding me through “the process” handed me a sheet of paper with a sad look on her face, I wasn’t too concerned. It wasn’t until I scanned my schedule that my heart sank. The house, my house, wasn’t on there.
“There must be some mistake” I sputtered to my leader, hoping she could fix this. “I haven’t been dropped from a house yet. They loved me. I don’t get it.”
She looked at me with an infuriating mixture of pity and understanding.
“I know it’s frustrating,” she started. “But visit these houses and give them a chance. You might find that one of them is where you’re supposed to be. Trust me.”
Trust her? Ugh. She didn’t get it. No one got it. None of these houses were better. Why was’t I good enough? What went wrong? I tried to gulp back my tears as I furiously dialed my mom’s cell.
“Mommmm. I got cut from my favorite house. I don’t know what to do. This is so dumb. Why didn’t I rush as a freshman?”
I yelled at my mom for a few minutes before I was once again approached by my advisor. The parties would be starting soon. We had to get going. What did I want to do? Drop out, or keep going? I started reaching for my purse, and thought about my college career without Greek life. I was a sophomore, and for the past year, all I had wanted was to join a sorority. And now that my dreams were so close to coming true, everything went wrong. As I glared at the sheet of paper that crushed my dreams, I tried to think straight. Would I be happy somewhere else? Could I be? Just as I was about to give up, I stopped. What the hell? I thought. It’s better than going back to my dorm room alone.
So I wiped my tears, took a sip of water, and agreed to keep going.
The first house was awkward. I had never met the girl who perched besides me on the beautiful couch in the gigantic living room. Well, one of the gigantic living rooms. As she showed me her intricate scrapbook, I glanced around. Everywhere I looked there were pretty girls having mindless chatter. Some looked like they were having the time of their lives, while the others looked like they were getting root canals. I looked like the latter. As a sophomore, I knew plenty of people in Greek life. Friends, even. But as I sat in this huge house filled with pretty girls, and watched some of my dearest friends walk past me, waving and shooting me winks, I knew: this house wasn’t for me.
I walked out of there feeling worse than ever. As girls beside me were squealing that they had found “their home” I stared straight ahead, trying not to let my emotions show.
We arrived at the second party. It was a modest blue house with a porch swing and a single story of bedrooms. I had liked this house during the previous rounds, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted a mansion. I wanted prestige. I wanted to be top tier. With a deep sigh, I once again crossed this little cottage off of my mental list before I walked through the door.
As I stepped into the foyer and my eyes adjusted, I was greeted by a familiar face. It was the same girl who had rushed me the day before. During the entire time we were supposed to be “getting to know each other” we had been giggling about our relationships, talking about exes, and giving each other advice. She was the reason I had been sad to cross this quaint house off of my list.
“Hi Rachel, it’s Kelsey,” she whispered. “I’m so glad you came back.”
She flashed me with a warm smile, and for the first time all day, I felt comfortable. As she took me into the house’s small living room, I glanced around at the dwellings. It was much tinier than the previous home, and it lacked all of the flash and wonder of the mansion I was dreaming of. I felt myself deflating again as she opened the first page of her scrapbook. That’s as far as we got. I can’t tell you what her pages held, because I was too busy telling her about how sad I was that the house I wanted dropped me, how relieved I was to see her, and how confused this whole thing was making me.
Instead of trying to quiet me, shut me up, and finish her agenda of talking points, she did something amazing. She comforted me. She assured me that everything would work out as it should. She acted like a friend. Then she led me into the chapter room, where I got to experience her sisterhood for the first time. That’s when things started to change. The girls standing around the room were beautiful, but it wasn’t just that. They smiled at me like I could be one of their sisters, not just a retention number. As songs were sung and stories were told, I glazed around the room at the women who shared these letters. They were hugging each other, waving across the room, holding hands like it was effortless, and beaming at us with pride. I glanced at Kelsey and watched as she wiped her eyes and smiled back at me.
For the first time since recruitment started, I really felt comfortable.
As the ceremony ended and Kelsey came over to see me out, I felt scared to walk away. When we reached the door, she said the classic “it was nice meeting you” line. The look on her face, however, made me feel like I had found someone important. Some place important. I reached out to hug her, and I finally understood.
I finally found my home.
And it wasn’t the top tier palace that my heart had been set on. It wasn’t the chapter where most of my friends rushed. It wasn’t the flashiest, hottest, or most expensive house on the block. But it was the one for me. After a final preference party at a house I don’t even remember, I raced back to my group to fill out my list. My heart started pounding as I handed it, and my future, into my advisor.
The next morning was terrifying. I woke up early, or maybe I didn’t even fall asleep, and walked slowly to the hall where we would receive our bids. After being heartbroken the day before, I tried to prepare myself for the worst. What if no one wanted me? As my recruitment advisor gathered us around, she passed out thick, sealed envelopes to all of us.
“Congrats ladies” she smiled. “You did it! Now here are your bids. Welcome to your new homes.”
With shaking hands I ripped open my envelope, heart in my throat. The last time I had checked a piece of paper like this one, I was being told that the Greek organization I wanted didn’t want me back. What if it happened again? I took a deep breath and pulled out the bid card. As I saw the same letters that were printed on the modest blue house I had fallen in love with, I immediately burst into tears. I did it. I made it. I had found my home. It wasn’t in the ornately decorated mansions or the house I was set on all week. It was the place where I had finally felt comfortable. The place where I could be myself. The place that felt like “me.”
I raced into the arms of Kelsey, the girl who had preffed me, and sobbed as she told me how happy she was that I ran home to her. That week, that day, and that roller coaster was just the start. Since then, she became my big sister, my mentor, and one of my best friends. The sisterhood became a safe place. The women became real. I can’t help but be thankful that my original “first choice” house cut me. Because of that, I found an organization where I could truly be myself. A place where I didn’t have to change to fit in, but was pushed to always become better. Pushed to follow my dreams. Pushed to be the absolute best version of myself. And for that, I am thankful. No matter where life takes me or what happens, I know that I’ll have my sisters, my home, and my letters, to guide me..