My main philosophy in life is, and has always been, to let things go. Things that hurt or sting in the middle of the night, things to which I’ve become too attached, all the damn things that I must realize I will never control: let them go. This has always been ridiculously hard for me, though maturity makes this easier. Because of this philosophy, I have never been competitive, because, lose or win, the outcome is just one more thing I shouldn’t allow myself to hold on to.
So Sorority H made sense to me when I joined—it’s been an incredibly chill experience so far. We’re considered a “good” sorority, a status about which I also try to maintain objectivity, but we don’t have to try too hard. Sweet, man, works for me. But as I wander a little farther every day into the meat of my membership as an H, I realize it’s something I shouldn’t be so neutral about—I should apparently put in effort to maintain our “good” reputation.
Pledge-ship and initiation now passed, the sorority expects a lot from us, which is okay, because I expect a lot from them—breakfast, lunch, and dinner in our formal dining room, badass social functions, T-shirts, jealousy from the excluded girls, etc. The sorority now asks of us as members that we maintain grades, standards of behavior, and other generally intimidating standards.
Grades aren’t hard for me. Well, not yet anyway. My classes last semester were ridiculously, embarrassingly easy, and I often took up to three naps a day while my friends and pledge sisters were studying. I achieved grades standards easily, but plenty of our 120 freshmen did not.
Social standards aren’t hard for me either, though they’re a little bit tougher than grades. With the exception of a few particular formal exceptions, I’ve pretty much been on my game and behaving extremely appropriately (except for the recent night where I was incredibly crazy and rude to bank account boy and he told all his friends “just ignore that, she’s a _writer_”). A lot of us are not as well-adjusted to responsibility and representing a whole, though. And not all of us have the excuse of being a writer.
But what has been hard for me, embarrassingly hard among the simplicity of the requirements, has been becoming my sorority’s version of well-rounded. It is a requirement for us, because we are a “good” sorority—I don’t know what isn’t a good sorority—to participate in more activities than just those of our Greek community. We are mandated two outside involvements, “extracurriculars” to be approved merit-wise by specific Sorority H officers. When we’re told this in a chapter meeting, I shrug it off. I have an interview lined up for a prestigious position in one of Ole Miss’s finest organizations, and I have plenty of talents and time on my hands to figure out a second activity. Yeah, hell yeah, no sweat, let’s get out of this meeting and go to the bar.
My interview for the Ole Miss Ambassadors program creeps up on me. In my only business casual outfit, which I bought for a funeral last semester, I pick at my cuticles, unsure what in the hell the process will be like. Ambassadors give tours, host Q & A’s, basically do anything to encourage prospective students that the University of Mississippi is more than the University of Mississippi, that it is instead Ole Miss, that it is home. And over this past semester, I’ve fallen in love with the place, no matter how lofty and refined my real aims for college once were. So now I have this legitimately passionate goal of convincing other pretentious prospectives that this is a wonderful and weird and entirely adequate alternative to anything.
Being an ambassador is an awesome opportunity. But I blow my interview. I’m a ball of untamed, unfiltered energy, and I’m cracking jokes like I own the fuck out of this place. It doesn’t work. The Mary on paper, well-composed in essay, who scored me the opportunity, is not the overdressed Mary in the office, not good at speaking without over-thinking.
My feelings aren’t hurt. I didn’t expect to be selected—but at the same time, for the life of me, I can’t even believe that I applied. I don’t like competition. I like to win, sure, that’s cool, but I don’t like to see anyone lose. I like being able to let things go, even when it’s hard. I like that people know this about me, that they recognize this ability, sometimes admiring it. So I let go of the loss of the ambassador position; I mean, there’s always next semester. I’ll know campus better by then.
So, still short on extracurricular credit, I turn to something that can’t really be screwed up: service organizations. My grades earn me the opportunity to join an honor society with intense ties to community service, so I’m pumped. One down, dude, one to go! I hit up the information session for joining this apparently honorary group, and once ready to commit, the sponsor asks for my $75 commitment. Whaaaaaat. I’m collegiate. I can’t pay a hunk like that on a whim, just for a three-Greek-letter label to pop on a résumé. Out of luck again, I get a little more eager and concerned in my activity browsings.
My friends join intramurals—I’m really bad at sports. My friends join service clubs—my evening class conflicts with meetings. My friends tutor at a local elementary—I’m too busy getting tutored in biology by a hot pre-med frat star. My life is so hard.
So, desperate, I look to what I am good at. The writing center on campus only hires tutors from straight out of the Honors College, which I never could have joined because of my very late college application. But there is more than to teach in the field of English, there is to inform! The Daily Mississippian is constantly ranked among the nation’s best collegiate newspapers (#14 this year by the Princeton Review), and our communications and journalism departments just aren’t even a bit shabby. So hey, you know, I consider venturing forth until I realize I’ll have to switch my major to actively participate. Not happening, never will. Onward!
Dwelling on my lack of versatility—by this I mean sitting on the futon in my dorm room trying to get said pre-med frat star to come watch a movie with me—at some point I realize I need to shrug off all of my indifference, all of my neutrality. I need to harness every tiny enzyme of anything even remotely competitive in my body, and I need to make myself a place, find a program to which I belong and that I will impact, then find a second one and do the same.
What I enjoy pushes me to pursue other language-related ventures. There is more than to teach or inform in the field of English, there is to entertain! There are two newspapers on campus (unaffiliated with the university) that do not discriminate by writers’ majors.
One is notoriously maintained by GDIs and features columns on the best ways to avoid imminent arrest, recipes for frito burritos or other munchie satisfiers, pictures sent from iPhone to iPhone of which groups of girls had the most fun this weekend, and a centerfold of the week’s bar specials all around Oxford. The other is composed by members of sororities and fraternities, features recipes for hangover cures, interviews with a fraternity president of the week, and suggestions for how to work yourself into appropriate spring break shape.
I want to apply to the second one. As a freshman, I don’t know the bar specials. (MOM, I MEAN IT, I DO NOT!) The first publication probably wouldn’t hire me for that reason alone. I want to put myself out there on campus, saying, “How the hell are ya, my name is Mary Marge,” through a weekly installment about how to best be a sorority girl or get a fraternity guy. But, application completed, headshot from the Grove uploaded in jpg format, I decide not to submit. Evidently, it’s not my scene. Lots of freshman English and journalism majors want to write for the newspaper, about topics more straightforward than mine. My roommate asks why I’m giving up… she thinks the stories I’d write would be funny, unprecedented. I know they’d probably be stupid. Plus, I don’t want to deal with the process of interviewing. I never get it right. I don’t want to have to prove myself to anybody.
I ask around—what’s a good way to get my mandatory extracurricular? No one has some easy answer in hand, or hidden behind their back in another hand, no suggestion for a purpose I might find. I’ve got to change my class schedule in order to be involved with service, or I’ve got to change my perspective, get a little bit competitive, give half a shit about something other than myself and maintaining my trademarked objectivity. It’s too late to apply, it’s time now just to fold myself up on my futon and take one of my famous naps.
I want to represent my sorority well—we are smart, we are pretty, we are well behaved and balanced. And I do so far, but not in all the ways I can. I write a $75 check, which my mother will probably reimburse, and I join the honor society. One down, dude, and one more to go. It isn’t going to be that hard to find another. It won’t be hard to align myself with a bigger purpose, just like I did during recruitment. And if it is, if any of it is, I’ll just let the difficulty, or the disappointment—or maybe the joy of fulfillment—go.