meet me in the woods

I took a little journey to the unknown,
And I come back changed. I can feel it in my bones.
— Lord Huron, “Meet Me in the Woods”

It’s been weird, being back. At first, I was stuck in Tampa, bored for two weeks. Now, I’m in Gainesville for my sorority’s recruitment process, and I’m unsettled. I feel restless, dissatisfied, and neither utterly happy nor unhappy. Not content, but not discontent either. I’m yearning for more, but trying to adjust to what will be my reality for the next four months, the life I loved just four short months ago in the spring.

I’m a long way from the one that I loved
I’ve been tending old flames, lamenting what was.
— Lord Huron, “Way Out There”

I’m experiencing a lot of cognitive dissonance, because sometimes sorority life, and especially the recruitment process, goes so much against my values as a feminist that I want to scream. Sororities are organizations meant to uplift and support women, yet in some ways they restrict and belittle them by making decisions for them and attempting to control, or manage, their behavior, dress, etc. I don’t know how the others don’t see it, how they don’t feel a twist inside their gut every time our chapter advisor gets up to instruct us about wearing Spanx, every time mandatory spray tan sign-up lists get posted, every time we’re told how to act around boys so that they’ll like us. How it doesn’t raise their hackles when nationals rejects our event proposals because they’re “too dangerous,” “too much of a liability,” a “PR risk.” All of these examples show a lack of trust in our ability as grown women to make our own choices. Instead of acting as institutions with women’s best interests at heart, sororities have become national enterprises that aim to guide women according to their standards and, in doing so, discourage them from choosing for themselves what those standards should be. It’s not just my chapter or sorority; it’s all of them. While there are amazing qualities about my sorority that keep me in it, like the sisterhood (it sounds cheesy, but it’s real), sense of community, wonderful friends, and other perks, the superficial, petty, and misogynistic elements that are associated with Greek life as a whole sicken me. Some elements of sorority life, like the recruitment process, are so antiquated, and others mandate conformity or degrade women, even though the people in charge (and most of the chapter) don’t seem to see it. I know they don’t mean badly, but that doesn’t matter to me, nor does it minimize the harm done in a society where women are already held to high and ridiculous double standards.

I been unraveling since my birth
Gonna wander out there and see what I’m worth.
— Lord Huron, “Way Out There”

For the last two years, I’ve been in limbo. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or study and I constantly changed my mind about both. There was no plan; I had no single ambition or goal to strive towards. In the spring, I finally accepted this state of being, embracing my passion for history and the concept of living in the moment. I’d figure it out eventually, and that was okay. But then I took a backpacking trip to Europe for nearly three months this summer, and I came back changed. Different, in some ways. I’ve always been independent and aware of the world around me, but traveling alone increased those qualities tenfold. And for the first time in a long time, perhaps with the strongest conviction yet, I realized, or rather felt: this is what I want to do. I want to see the colors of other skies, swim in faraway seas, dance on narrow cobblestone streets at night, and howl at the moon in a field full of wildflowers. I want to live through every time change, experience different cultures and levels of development, taste exotic foods, and, to put it simply, see the world. Traveling this summer taught me that I could do it. I met people who travel for a living, or work jobs that allow them the opportunity to travel often. It’s within reach now, except for the fact that I’m at university for the next few years and probably shouldn’t won’t drop out. And that’s all good and well, because most of the people I met were at least a few years older than me and had gone through university or a traineeship or something that kept them from traveling longterm for awhile. I have to remind myself that I just have a head start, that I can be in their place in a few years if I want to, that I’m not “missing out.” But watching their Snapchat stories and reminiscing on the amazing time I had, it’s hard not to have a little bit (or a lot) of FOMO. To feel like my reality is a waste of time, and that I’d learn, see, and do so much more if only I were somewhere else. I realize it’s not the best attitude, and I’m working on it, because once school starts and recruitment is over, reality will get better.

But it won’t be the same as it was in the spring, and neither will I.

What good is livin’ a life you’ve been given
If all you do is stand in one place?
— Lord Huron, “Ends of the Earth”

p.s. Thank you, Kat and Delaney, for letting me talk through my thoughts; Sarah, for commiserating with me; and Dillon, for recommending Lord Huron in my time of need. I am blessed to have you all in my life. xx

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Thoughts on a New School Year

Alright, let’s get this straight. I am not happy to go back to school. It’s something I dread, then simply resign myself to, every August. I like to think that the sooner I go back to school, the sooner I’ll be done. I brace for it, it happens, and soon enough summer is nothing but a distant memory. Yesterday was my school’s open house, and while I didn’t go into it expecting much- meeting my teachers, seeing who I had classes with, collecting supplies lists- I came away from the experience with a different perspective on the new school year.

I find myself less ambivalent and possibly looking forward to this year. Yes, I still wish summer break was about five weeks longer, but considering that I have no say in the matter, I find that I have a more positive outlook on what this school year might bring. For the first time, I got to choose every single class I’m taking. I met all of my teachers and I like them all; they seem really cool and passionate about what they teach. An absurdity I noticed as I ran through my schedule is that all my teachers are male. I’ve never even had a majority of male teachers, so this alone makes for a new experience.

I realize that when school actually begins, a lot of work (and stress) comes with it. But hearing about the subjects I’m going to study, I feel excited just to be learning. For now, I am able to ignore the fact that the curriculums are designed to meet standards and prepare me for exams, and that good grades require hard work. For now, I am simply looking forward to absorbing new information and becoming a more knowledgeable person. Will this feeling wear off once the reality of school sets in and I become overwhelmed with coursework and grades?

I hope not. I am going to try to maintain an optimistic view of life this year, and that starts with school. I will work hard and do my best, but also try not to get bogged down with the insane amount of work that is high school. I am going to try.