Two days into my senior year of college, I sat in the empty hall of a classroom building and signed a series of papers finalizing my decision to drop out of my sorority. For two years I belonged to a nationwide organization that boasted an unbreakable bond of sisterhood, ritual, and exclusivity -- and in less than three minutes I gave up the sisterhood forever.
This is no exposé, and I have no scandal to contribute to the negative press about sorority life. There was never any hazing or maliciously targeted bullying. In fact, many of the women I was surrounded by were genuine and interesting — but I felt more alone there than the handful of times I sat by myself in the cafeteria in the seventh grade.
At the beginning of my sophomore year, I went through formal recruitment to be more involved on campus. Although I had a core group of girlfriends that I'd met in my dorm freshman year, I was still shy and thought joining a group of outgoing women would be the shock therapy I’d need to dispel my social anxiety.
I never pictured myself in a sorority -- which, OK, everyone says until they go through with it -- but I was persuaded that I, like so many others, could find my truest self there. Attending university in Chicago means the chaos of city life keeps fraternity and sorority life from reaching the overly zealous level that state schools are infamous for, so I thought I could handle it. I got a bid.
From the start, I missed out on a lot of social opportunities and felt I had fallen behind the rest of the sisters. Apart from a few women, I couldn’t manage to make friends. I suppressed the bubbling doubt that this wasn’t my environment, and kept myself involved. I saw the friendships around me, and I wanted those too.
I tried to be vulnerable, and told sisters I didn’t feel like a part of the sisterhood: once in a cupcake shop, twice in a circle of sisters, and once as I cried to members of the executive board after my first anxiety attacks kept me from attending a weekend of events.
I didn’t want to admit that this wasn’t for me -- because why shouldn’t it be? -- but I was always struck with a menacing feeling of alienation on my way to any sorority event. Besides, I had amazing friends and roommates I'd always rush home to talk to. A year into being a sorority woman, I met and fell in love with my boyfriend.
I finally dropped out after I realized I would miss my best friend’s birthday party because of a sorority commitment. Something so arbitrary as going to a karaoke bar and singing One Direction covers made me evaluate how I wanted to spend my final year of college. I couldn’t sacrifice any more memories with my true friends to be in a room full of faces. A lot of women can strike a balance between sorority and “outside” life, but I couldn’t. I underestimated how draining it was (financially and emotionally) -- and then couldn’t justify paying to be lonely.
As for life after a sorority, I’ve found a certain kind of freedom. I’ve exorcised an anxious weight. My memories as a sorority woman are blurred like a fever dream. I still enjoy the rare times I grab dinner with my (ex) Big. I get fewer Facebook notifications and fewer Instagram likes. If I’m in a class with a sister, I feel a bit like a traitor. They say the sisterhood is forever, and at first I felt so guilty for throwing away a future promise of unconditional, long-lasting friendship -- until I realized I had that, just with others.
It’s not bullshit when the sorority says you’ll be a part of something bigger than yourself. It’s special to belong to an exclusive society, to be unconditionally bonded to a staggering number of confident women who all share the same moral base. While sororities can be impactful organizations, not everyone needs letters to define them. This is what I sacrificed. I quit because I wanted to be happy.
There is a strain of pride that is lost when you quit, but I had to chase my chances for immediate happiness. I learned that it’s OK to step away and eradicate situations that make me unhappy. I was afraid I’d be a defeatist if I quit, but really, I took possession and authority over my individual happiness. Quitting doesn’t always warrant shame, nor is it the easy way out. If a relationship, friendship, or situation only feeds negative vibes, then cast it aside. Now, I have time to embrace a lot of things — my loved ones, my passions, and myself.
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