By Frances Marion Givhan
Well, a year has passed since my last article about Greek life, and I find myself in a vastly different place since then. A year ago, I participated in Shake Day even though I had mono and felt as if I could fall asleep at any moment. Despite that, I still felt this overwhelming positivity that made Greek life appear hopeful. Joining Kappa Omega coincided with my freshman year social life falling apart. In addition to mono, I had few friends and my ex-boyfriend was in the same English class, right after we had broken up. The KO girls gave me unwavering stability and helped me grow mentally stronger in the wake of all that. I feel the biggest gratitude toward them, and I do not know how I will ever repay them.This past Shake Day, though, I stood in a corner of Gamma’s house, observing as the guys and KO girls faced each other in beer pong, watched a football game, and chatted in the kitchen over boxes of pizza. The Sunday weirdness of Shake Day had not deterred a majority of the Greek participants from enjoying the festivities, but left some of us in a slump. As a sober sophomore, I felt even more removed because of my responsibility for my freshman, a girl I care about and have known for years. Despite the thrill of having her join the sorority where I had felt at home for a year, I found that part of my excitement during the day was hollow, and I could not find a way to feel genuine.
I decided to deactivate from the sorority that day.
The thought of deactivating had rolled around my mind during the past few months, but the onset of the final decision came as a surprise. I recognized on Shake Day that while everyone managed to feel this joy that infected campus, I could not recover any energy from rush week. The whole process had drained me. I did not feel connected to the sorority as a whole anymore, did not feel fulfilled after completing my obligations, and could not tell where the sorority was headed in the future. Deactivating felt like a healthy decision, giving myself a break from the commitment of Greek life while I tried to collect the other pieces of my Sewanee life and puzzle them into coherence.
The stability I felt as a member of Kappa Omega did not disappear when I deactivated, but shifted around to other parts of my life. My experience in the sorority had made me strong enough to branch out into different areas of Sewanee. After deactivating, it has taken me a month to balance out theatre, Arcadians, the Purple, writing tutors, and living in a themed house, in addition to my academic life, which also underwent a change. Deactivating happened around the time I decided to change my major to a double in French and Theatre, and all the adjustments made me feel out of character.
What if I had made the wrong decision? What if deactivating would cause my social life to shift in ways I hadn’t prepared for? What if I couldn’t make the pieces of my life fit together? What if changing my major changed me as a person?
I could not have made a wrong decision, just a decision. Staying in a sorority or deactivating, my life would have changed. My social life has definitely altered in ways that hurt. My mother explained to me that in essence, I had sent a message that an organization that my sorority friends valued did not mean as much to me, and that would hurt them. I had no control over that, and I could not have anticipated how little we would see each other in consequence of my decision. All I can do now is show them that I still love them and value them as friends beyond the Greek label we wore.
I was never just the Greek label, though. One of my housemates described the situation this way: I was not a KO, but I was in KO. Deactivating does not imply anything negative about me, but gives me the opportunity to explore myself in unpredictable ways. Though a scary step, I view it as necessary to opening up my life to new possibilities.
Best of luck to the new members of Greek life, to the ones who never rushed, and to the people who still feel on the fence.