When I graduated high school, I cried. A lot.
Now, these were not your typical, “I’m so thankful to be out of this place” happy tears—they were dramatic sobs of, “This is the last time I will ever sing in the choir/swim in a meet/open my locker/eat chicken nuggets from the cafeteria,” and, “I think I’ve peaked.”
In the midst of my hysteria, I solemnly vowed that I would never join another club as long as I lived in hopes of sparing myself the inevitable heartbreak that would ensue when my time in the organization came to an end. So naturally, I came to college, joined a sorority and within moments of setting foot on the grounds of the Delta Zeta sorority house, I texted my mom and said, “I think I might want to be president of this someday.”
Famous last words, amiright?
Towards the beginning of my year as chapter president, I had a conversation with one of my relatives about the goings on in my college experience. After all but convincing him that I was a successful, studious quasi-adult, I mentioned I had just been elected president of my sorority. Cringing, he replied, “Oh, you’re just doing that to boost your ego.”
Exactly—just like I pay for my friends, too! *eye roll*
While I’ve enjoyed getting to speak in front of our chapter every week during our meetings, shake people’s hands as they walked through our doors during recruitment and lead our organization through almost every form of turmoil imaginable, serving as chapter president has given me so much more than just an ego boost.
Here are just a few takeaways from my year as sorority president:
I Learned to Embrace the Mental Breakdown
I’m fairly certain that even our founders didn’t suffer from as many anxiety dreams as our executive board collectively experienced throughout the year (including one nightmare that came true when our house’s fire alarm went off the first morning of recruitment!). In fact, there were about 55 instances throughout the past year when I thought I’d never live to see the end of my term—most notably the time when I collapsed to the ground in the middle of work, sobbing when stress of crisis #26 finally brought me to my breaking point.
Dramatic? Yes. Justifiable? Absolutely.
While it took me until month ten in the position to have the epiphany, I finally came to the realization that I can’t prioritize every problem—members will disagree, emails will go unanswered and the tablecloths might not all be the same shade of white. And the world will go on, regardless of whether I spent my time worrying about the issues or sleeping.
I Got Creative
If I’m being honest, the vast majority of these fiascos were actually situations that I had exactly zero knowledge of or control over—shockingly enough, becoming president did not automatically turn me into an elevator repair person, a Wi-Fi technician, an accountant, an interior designer, a therapist, a mind reader, a detective or a realtor.
But that’s not to say that people didn’t come to me at all hours of the day thinking that I was.
I often wondered what kind of life-altering, resume-boosting lessons were hidden within each of these crises; yet, in the midst of every challenge came growth and opportunity. Along with the many problem-solving skills I picked up throughout my term (“Have you tried switching it on and off again?”), every, “She looked at me!” complaint increased my patience, and every lengthy email to Nationals and long-winded diatribe to the chapter strengthened my communication skills.
Take that, LinkedIn.
I Understood the Meaning of Sisterhood
The stress of holding a leadership position often tests a person’s relationships, particularly in a sorority where friendship is the organization’s overarching purpose. While I went into this role bracing myself for a mass exodus of support, I instead found myself gaining and strengthening friendships, both in my chapter and across the country.
To the rest of the executive board for making me laugh during every catastrophe (and every advisor who reminded us that it wasn’t the end of the world), every member who bought me coffee during recruitment, every friend who put up with my stress, and my parents who pretended to understand/care about my day-to-day drama, thank you.
All the heads-up pennies in the world wouldn’t make me as lucky as I am to have all of you.
I Remembered Why I Signed Up for This
By the time you’re a semester or two into your sorority experience, odds are you’ve established your core group of friends—the roommates and future bridesmaids promised in every “you’ll get out of it what you put into it” conversation during recruitment. While it’s easy for some to kick back and coast through their upperclassman semesters, I’m a firm believer that the reverse of this sentiment is also true: You must put back into the organization what you’ve gotten out of it.
It takes more than just a president and executive board to run a successful organization; it takes an entire chapter of highly-motivated, determined women who enthusiastically commit to making it better. Over the past 365 days, I watched as women voluntarily sat by people whom they otherwise didn’t talk to, used their talents to lead different aspects of the organization and decided that just because something has always been done one way, doesn’t mean there aren’t better ways to do it.
After every heart-dropping email and adrenaline-rushing phone call, I traded hours of sleep for cups of coffee and watched as members dropped and joined, panicked and persevered. But throughout my year as sorority president, I can only hope that I’ve been able to put back half of the love, energy and growth into the organization that it has given to me.
And now, my boosted ego and I are going to enjoy a well-earned nap.