Friday, September 7, 2012

A Stroll Down Memory Lane - Expressing Gratitude

I have been having a bit of a tough time hoping that it will pass just as quickly as (I feel) it came.  But this tough time is also an opportunity for me to hold on a little tighter to the things I have that are important to me and to express how grateful I am for them.  So that's what this (fairly long...) post is about.  Expressing gratitude for those things in my life right now that don't suck :)

Many years ago I made a choice.  It was a very big deal to me at the time.  I had no idea the impact it would have on my life. I was (then) a sophomore in college. I never saw myself “going Greek.”   I had been through a whole year away at a big school, away from home, family and high school friends, and I had done just fine.  Done well, really.  Made new friends, found my way around campus, excelled in my classes.

But something was missing.  

I made the choice in the fall of my second year at college to join a sorority.  Despite some of the flak I have caught for it over the years, even some of it for my continued involvement with my organization post-college, I feel so good about that decision I made so many years ago for so many reasons.  

To this day, I vividly remember the experience of going through sorority recruitment.  Meeting so many young women in such a short amount of time, my face sore from smiling, bored of saying the same things about myself over and over again.  I knew from almost the get go the place I wanted to end up at...and I truly lucked out and got a bid to that very chapter.  On my Bid Day, I remember running towards my new “home away from home” with so much excitement, trepidation, anticipation and awe.  I knew my life was changing that day.  I had no idea then how profound that change would be.

I made the most of my undergraduate years -- in every way I possibly could.  I met wonderful people, I took interesting classes, I tested my limits, I HAD FUN, I learned who I was (going to be) and what I was capable of.  And a big piece of that, was my sorority membership.

Through experiences I had within my sorority and as part of involvement in a campus organization, I began to think higher education administration may be my calling.  On not much more than a whim, I submitted an application to be an educational consultant for my national sorority.

I was honestly shocked that they selected me for an interview.  I thought if nothing else, I would get to see our headquarters and have a good story to tell.  I truly never thought they would pick me.

But they did.  They wanted me to go on the road the year after I graduated and assist our collegiate chapters. I think the day I got that call was one of the happiest I have ever had. I still have the pic someone snapped of me taking that phone call where I got the happy news.  I really can’t describe in words the sheer joy on my face.  But I can remember the feeling; sometimes, I feel it like it was yesterday.

I spent the year in between undergrad and my first year of grad school working for my national organization, travelling around the country visiting collegiate chapters and helping them with everything under the sun.  Leadership, scholarship, name it.  I went to New England, the Northwest and everywhere in between.  I also got the unique and wonderful experience of helping to re-open a closed chapter.  To this day, it is one of my favorite experiences of my life, and a small space in the middle of the Midwest will forever have a special place in my heart because of it.

I look back on that year now with almost a disconnect.  I am in awe and barely remember the young girl who did all that.  Did it all in an era before wifi, cell phones and facebook.  I know it was me...but damn, I get tired just thinking about it all.  Still cannot believe how much I managed to cram into that short year.  To this day, I wish I had taken more pictures.

After that year, I entered a graduate program for something other than higher education.  Just what I felt was best for me at the time. And, in turn, took a bit of a sorority hiatus. I was focused on my coursework, and, after that, finding a job and getting my “grown up” life established.

And years passed with no involvement with my sorority.  It wasn’t was

I spent many years “climbing the ladder”; working my tail off trying to advance myself, pushing for better, bigger and more.  The work I took on was increasingly high pressure and intense.

As if someone up above knew I needed it, a few years ago the opportunity arose for me to volunteer as an advisor to my collegiate chapter.  I was a little hesitant, but knew I should do it.  So glad I accepted the offer and can’t picture my life today without it.

Now I have some years under my belt after getting back into the swing of things. Many years since I criss-crossed the country as a consultant with unbridled enthusiasm.  More years than I would care to admit since that bid card fell into my hands and changed my life forever.  

And I am me.  A better me than I ever could have been without this experience.

I have my sisters from college who made my undergraduate years worthy of reminiscing over and these are the ladies that have grown up with me.  We’ve been together over many years, through boyfriends, jobs, weddings, cross country moves, babies, and more. These women have known me and supported me for nearly half my life.  I cannot imagine my life without them or their families.

I have sisters I consulted with.  We had our own sorority within a sorority and I feel forever grateful that I got to be a part of it.  I can email with these women like I was just sitting with them yesterday.  We developed a bond that was based on our shared sisterhood and grew into so much more.  They taught me what it meant to be a part of the “bigger picture” and I am proud and thrilled of all they have accomplished in the years since we travelled.

I have the sisters I was always meant to have.  That’s how I like to think of the women from my organization that I have met as an adult.  They words.  Many days, they keep me from crying at my desk.  They can always be counted on for a laugh or some neded words of encouragement.  I have no doubt that God knew I needed them in my life and that’s why they are there now.  We are all so different, yet so complimentary of one another.  

I am blessed beyond words.  

I still get my fair amount of teasing and questions about why a grown women is spending so much of her free time helping out some sorority girls.

To me, it’s pretty simple really.  To those whom much is given, much is expected.

I got more than I ever thought I would when I signed that bid card years and years and years ago.  Trying to give back and help others realize their potential and the value of their own membership is just the right thing to do, to show my appreciation for all I have been given as a part of my own membership.