Graduation. The culmination of years of hard work and dedication. A time of joy, celebration, nostalgia and new beginnings. Early in my college career, I envied my older peers that were finally crossing that stage, diploma in hand.
When it was finally my turn, there was a confusing knot in my stomach. This was supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life. So why in my cap, gown and Delta Gamma stole was I struggling with the sadness that I felt? I was torn between the pride and excitement of walking across the graduation stage and the sadness that I felt knowing I was closing the door on my collegiate experience.
Just a few weeks before I had handed in my last final exam, held my sisters’ hands and cried as our last chapter meeting together and gathered with the local alumnae group to be officially welcomed into alumnae life. My undergraduate experience defined so much of the woman I am today. Countless leadership experiences in both Delta Gamma and the Panhellenic community shaped me and for a moment I feared that I was losing one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. The next moment I reminded myself: this experience wasn’t over entirely, only changing.
“I knew that I would need to work harder than I had in the past to maintain a sense of community and find opportunities to involve myself outside of my daily work responsibilities.”
Before I graduated, my older brother warned me that the first few months afterward would be difficult and there was a significant adjustment period. Something that some psychologists label as “post-graduation depression, ”an understudied phenomenon common among recent college graduates entering the workforce. I knew that I would need to work harder than I had in the past to maintain a sense of community and find opportunities to involve myself outside of my daily work responsibilities.
I kept reminding myself, my sorority experience was not just four years, but for life. This notion guided me towards the local alumnae chapter in my hometown, where I was returning for a job after graduation. I knew that one of the best ways to combat stress during this time was to try and maintain as much of my previous routines and interests as possible. By reaching out to the alumnae group, I was confident I would be able to find ways to continue my involvement in Delta Gamma beyond the four collegiate years.
In addition, I was fortunate enough to be employed by another University that had a chapter of Delta Gamma. Since I was already going to be present on campus five days a week, I decided to seek opportunities to volunteer with the collegiate chapter as an advisor. Shortly after starting full time, I was welcomed onto the advisory team as the membership education advisor. The first few weeks after I began, I was meeting with collegiate advisees who were excited to have a new advisor. The campus community was quite different from the one I had experienced. I was excited to see all the ways this chapter lived their ritual and practiced our values in a different Panhellenic community.
Creating New Memories
The months seemed to speed by and a new school year was there before I knew it. While I was sad on the first day of classes watching my younger friends return to their academics and the chapter house, I still had exciting things to look forward to in my advising experience. This chapter held fall primary recruitment and instead of feeling like I had lost my connection to Delta Gamma, I found myself at a house with our letters helping get things ready to welcome new sisters. Rather than dwelling on the fact I was not at the first chapter meeting of the school year, I was able to focus on the excitement that came with preparing for recruitment.
This welcome distraction helped ease me through what had previously been described to me as one of the hardest periods after graduation. I was connecting with new women in unexpected and exciting ways. The head of the advisory team had been on the advising board when my own chapter of initiation had been founded fifteen years prior, one of the members of the chapter management team was the younger sister of a high school friend, the director of rituals was a woman I had helped a week prior at my job on campus. I had always been a history buff, frequently the person sisters referred to for fun chapter facts and organization history, and now I had an entirely new chapter history to dive into. Rather than feeling adrift in my new professional environment, I felt reconnected and invigorated by my new experiences.
I won’t pretend that I still wasn’t experiencing an adjustment, there were good days and bad days. Some days when I wished I could turn back time and return to my senior year. Days when the polish of social media appearances made me feel isolated in my experience. My alumnae connections and my advising experience gave me something positive to focus on when I began to struggle. When people asked me if it felt weird not returning to school in the fall for the first time I could answer honestly. Yes, it felt weird, but I was still involved in a campus community and I was enjoying my new routine. Many of my sisters from my member class have also connected with their local alumnae groups, sharing a similar excitement for the new people they would connect with and the support systems they would find in new cities.
It can be a challenge to have such a large part of your life change so quickly, but sororities provide unique opportunities for lifelong membership to support you through this tumultuous time. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to connect with sisters across the country, wherever I may find myself while I’m adjusting to my new normal.