Monday, September 21, 2015

Once, Always

Can I tell you guys a story?

4 years ago, in August of 2011, I moved myself 400 miles away from home to attend college in Southern California at Chapman University.

Two weeks prior to moving, my father passed away.

In that short span of time, I not only lost him, but moved far away from my remaining family. I was completely and utterly alone. Not to mention, I had transferred, therefore I did not have a solid group of acquaintances like anyone who came in with Freshmen Orientation had the benefit of having.

To say that my first semester at Chapman was miserable would be an understatement.

I had 2 friends, and after only a couple of months of school, I wasn't even friends with one of them. I drove myself home as often as I could, at least once a month if I could manage. But it became hard because I was also struggling to support myself. I had no job, no money, no family nearby, and what family I did have was struggling to pay off my father's medical bills and grappling with his lost income.

By the end of my first semester, I was looking for school's to transfer to the following year. Again.

I went home for Christmas and was able to spend 5 weeks there, constantly dreading having to move back to school and what would await me there.

In late January of 2012, I moved myself back to SoCal, hoping that somehow this would be different. As soon as I arrived back, my roommate and only friend greeted me, and told me she wanted to go through recruitment to join a sorority. And my heart immediately fell because I knew what would happen. She would join a sorority and become so involved with her sisters that I would once again be left all alone. And so I decided to take a big step and go through recruitment with her.

In the beginning, I was thinking of joining the same sorority that she wanted, Alpha Gamma Delta. The first few days of February, we went to Open House, where we had the chance to meet girls from the 3 sororities doing Spring recruitment. I trudged myself around to all the different tables, and gave each of them the chance. And then I walked up to the last table belonging to Phi Sigma Sigma.

The girls at this table immediately greeted me with immense kindness. One of them made a comment about my Harry Potter shirt I was wearing and it was instantaneous love. We discussed Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Disneyland, and studying abroad, all things that I considered to be a major part of my existence. This girl worked at Disney. This one studied at University of Glasgow. That one wrote Harry Potter fan fiction on the same website I had when we were 12 years old. I spent over an hour talking to these girls and they practically had to pry me away from the table at the end of the event.

After 6 months at Chapman, I finally felt like I knew where I had to be.

And so I went through Recruitment, which involved going to several events over the next few weeks. Each time I got an invitation to all 3 houses, and each time I would go for just a few minutes to the other 2, only to come running back to Phi Sig with open arms. I love the girls there and they loved me.

It was no surprise when I got my bid to join them. And I cried with happiness for a moment and then excitedly signed my bid and ran off to celebrate with them.

Just a few days later, a group of us went to Disneyland together, and I felt so connected to these girls so soon. We ran around the theme parks, talking about our past and our future, likes and dislikes, and why we were happy to be where we were.

Of course I got the negative comments. The idea that I paid for my friends, only to try and defend myself and tell the haters that joining this sisterhood only gave me the opportunity to meet 100 wonderful women that I otherwise probably have never crossed paths with. No one understood why little nerdy, quiet Chelsea would join this group of girls who was seen as only something that wore matching shirts and sang songs.

But there's just so much more to it.

While in your new member phase, they pair you with another girl that is like your Big Sister or Mother. Bigs and Littles. My big and I were an amazing match, and she brought me to her Big and Grandbig (therefore my Grandbig and Greatgrandbig)'s apartment. We all sat together doing homework and watching How I Met Your Mother and Doctor Who together. Other girls would come over and we would do the same thing. We would go to Disney together, hang out at school, go to the beach, all kinds of things. We were honestly a family.

At the end of that semester I wound up moving into that apartment with my Grandbig and GreatGrandBig and it was the best living situation I could have ever imagined. We all went to school together and would sit together on the carpet of our apartment for hours on end talking to one another.

At the beginning of the next semester, one year after I had moved out to Southern California, we did Fall Recruitment, where we had a new group of young girls join our sisterhood. They were a small class, but I guarantee you to this day I could still tell you all their names and my first impression of them all. Amongst them was my future Little (who then became my best friend and then my roommate). She and I were an amazing pair, and she felt the same way that I did about Phi Sig.

It was like a family. For the people who really didn't feel like they belonged anywhere on campus.

It was home.

And our family has expanded. From the line above me to my little to my grandlittles, we are always a close knit bunch.

It has been just about 4 years since I met Phi Sigma Sigma, and in that time, I have not only made some of my best friends for life, but have graduated with so much love and support, and have now been to 2 weddings for my sisters and I intend on attending many more.

I graduated in 2014. But the sisterhood has never left.

Amongst my group of friends in my small sisterhood, I have girl's that I know will be in my life forever. In fact, if I were to get married, almost every single one of my bridesmaids would be from my sorority. Frequently I still get together with these girls I spent so many sleepless nights with doing homework and singing and anything else you can think of. We have group text messages. We get together for Wine Nights. We go see movies together. Go on adventures to the fair or to the city.

Currently I live with my little, who is still an active member of this sisterhood.

And this is where the struggle comes.

Because yesterday they made the announcement that they would be closing the doors to our chapter, and having them step peacefully off campus, never to accept a girl who feels like she doesn't belong on campus again. And it breaks my heart because I have a whole family who feels the same way about joining Phi Sig as I did. We poured our hearts souls into something that we cherished, welcoming girls who really didn't feel like they had ever belonged, and showed them that they had a home.

I have a sisterhood of at least 300 girls that I have met through being a part of this sorority. And in the blink of an eye, they will be gone. And there's nothing that I can do about it. And that makes me so angry and frustrated.

We have a saying in Phi Sig that goes something like this.

"Once a Phi Sigma Sigma, always a Phi Sigma Sigma."

It is a part of our creed, and we constantly say it to one another, whether graduated, disaffiliated, or just going through a rough patch. It means that no matter what, our sisterhood will always be together, and we will always stand up for one another.

And now it just makes it even harder to say. Because yes, we will always have each other.

But what about the girls that will never have us? Even if we were never the biggest chapter on campus, we always were a family, and there were always girls who grew into wonderful, successful, beautiful women because of this sisterhood. And now some of those girls will never know what it's like to have such an amazing support team. Those girls will never know what it's like to belong. To have a family made of those who are not just blood.

They will never know what it's like to be a Phi Sigma Sigma.

Not just once, but always.

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