Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sororities and Solo-hood

Wow. I feel like it’s been ages since I’ve written anything. There’s definitely some pressure as part of the reason I came here was to write – and I’m not talking just emails. But, I’m trying to go with the flow and find some sort of rhythm within that flow.

I’m a productive person by nature. Coming to Mexico for a month, I had to have a mission. I, of course, had several. The first being writing, of course. I told my friends, Daphne and Julia at our final lunch together in New York, that I was “looking forward to being a writer every day.” (Insert audience laughter here.) Though, I must say that what I know about writers, they are always looking for a reason not to write. Tulum is a wonderful place to lose yourself. It’s also a great place to distract yourself from writing. There’s so many things to blame!

The beach, is first and foremost – the sand is so fine, who wants to get the computer all full of sand? Best to leave it at home and save the writing for later. Then, there’s the heat factor – which is only good for about May/June through August/September. “It’s too hot to write or do anything or that matter. Maybe it will cool off tomorrow. Until then, I will sit in the shade and bear the heat.” I’ve also been using the “adjustment” mode excuse this trip thinking that I need some time to adapt to my new environment, so what’s the point of writing? Yes, better to write when I’m feeling more acclimated.

And lastly, there’s the connection factor. This is probably the trickiest of all for me in that I need a certain amount of interaction to feel comfortable and inspired. I travel alone a lot and mostly, I like it very much. There are ups and downs, but, my motto is this – until the downs outweigh the ups, I have no problem tackling new things and places on my own.

I’ve been traveling alone since the late 90’s. Officially, that is. Unofficially, I was back in High School and all of my friends chose to go to college either locally or with others from the town in which I grew up. I flew solo from the get-go. I don’t think I was aware of my innate wanderlust at the time, though, looking back, I find it interesting that I didn’t apply to any of the schools my friends were applying to – hence my break from the nest, I guess.

I fought it though. The total immersion in college life. My first college, Quinnipiac College (spell it and you’re in!) was only about an hour north of my hometown. Though I loved my college friends, I was still tied to home and would travel frequently home, just to get a manicure. (HEY!! It was still the eighties!!) In spite of my attachment to “home”, I was determined to prove my independence as well as quench my thirst for new and different experiences.

I’d always wanted to live the stereotypical college life of fun parties and football games – just like the movies. And at 20 years young, knowing yourself is still an exercise in experimentation, so I figured if I went to one of the big schools, I would then, live a big life.

Enter University of Miami – a cinematic dream of American college life. Sprawling campus complete with palm trees, an outdoor student café with music piped in and a lovely manmade lake running the length of the walkway separating the campus from the dorms. I transferred in as a Junior, but was put in freshman housing. My roommate was obsessed with joining a sorority, something I’d never even imagined. In the end, she talked me into participating in Pledge Week - a week designated for potential new recruits to visit each sorority, get a sense of whether it’s the right fit and most importantly, impress the “Sisters” – the existing members of the sorority and secure a “bid” which is an invitation into the sorority at the end of the week – on Bid Day.

My participation in Pledge Week was mostly detached. I cared less about being in a sorority than I did about meeting people as I knew no one at this school. In the end, I was more attracted to the Catholic-driven sororities – a direct result of my upbringing. Though I was raised Jewish, we were never influenced in my family to only stick with “Jews”. Plus, all of my friends in my hometown were Catholic so naturally, I was attracted to the Catholic sororities in which I felt most comfortable.

“Bid Day” arrived and my freshman roommate was anxious about her hope to be accepted into her first choice – Delta Phi Epsilon – aka “DeePhiE”. Me, I was hoping for a bid from Delta, Delta, Delta, aka, “tri-Delt”, but in truth, I wasn’t all that invested. I guess I saw life outside of the Pan-Hellenic world. I was just looking to connect with some people. Belonging to a sorority was secondary.

On Pledge Day, each Pledge writes down their top three picks for the sororities for which they’d like to be chosen. A half hour later, each pledge receives notification of the top three “bids” they have received from all of the sororities. In my case, the irony was this – I had no bids from any of the non-Jewish sororities which happened to be my top choices. The final kicker was that I received a bid from DeePhiE! I was mildly thrilled thinking that at least me and my roommate would be together, so I accepted their bid and prepared for the welcoming ceremony.

In the interim, I searched for my roommate to give her the good news only to find that she didn’t receive a single bid – except from AEPi, who supposedly bids on everyone because they are so unpopular. I was conflicted. Being in a sorority meant nothing to me. I did it mostly as a goof and an act of participation because my roommate was so into it. However, I am human and being chosen felt good. I struggled with the idea of banning the whole Bid Day and standing in solidarity with my roommate against the whole process of being “chosen”. She insisted that I go forward and in truth, I didn’t argue that much. I cared less about belonging than I did about finding some people that I could truly call friends.

Months later, after I transferred to NYU, I got a letter from my former roommate letting me know that she had finally gotten into DPHiE. Though, through my experience, she realized that she didn’t have to become someone that she wasn’t and that in the end, she was grateful for the time it took to be accepted – now she could enter with a sense of self, as I did and for that, she was grateful.

I never really vibed with the whole sorority thing. As a Junior, I wasn’t all that interested in kissing ass or pretending to be someone else just to win approval from the Sorority Sisters. Strangely enough, that catapulted me into a place of honor and individuality, excluding me from bullshit pledge duties and creating an instant equality with my sisters. My Pledge Sisters didn’t love this pseudo popularity of mine, but I was less about the popularity and more about the connection, so I didn’t mind.

How this relates to Tulum, I’m not so sure…Certainly there are no sororities here! However, connection is important to me. A great conversation with a stranger can carry me for days. But there’s a fine line between being open and being desperate to talk to anyone just for the ake of talking.

Tulum’s certainly shaping up to be a different experience than I’d imagined. Though unnerving at times, I have faith in the fact that whatever it has in store for me will serve me in the end. The biggest challenge of all is remember this very thing each day.

Hasta Pronto mi amigos!

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