To all the girls rushing this week.

This is my third August on Mizzou’s campus as an employee, but my first one working near Greek town. And when I say “near” Greek town, I’m practically in it. I remember during Stop day last year I could hear three different songs blaring from three different frat parties. Not exactly a welcome sound in my office, but it comes with the territory.

Fast forward to August, and the trap music (for now) has been replaced with air horns followed by indistinct female voices chanting for a new group of rushing girls. (I’m looking at you, KKG. Y’all are LOUD and PROUD.) Yesterday I saw probably 50 girls, all donning the same red Mizzou PHA T-shirt walking to their next house. They looked SO YOUNG, and I remembered that when I started college, I had just turned 18 less than two months prior. I had to admire the efforts most of them had gone to to stand out even while wearing the same shirt. They had the cutest shoes, skirts, shorts, and accessories.

Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 10.51.49 AM
These are my best college gals. 1/4 of us were Greek.

I did not rush as a freshman at Mizzou (or ever), but seeing those matching T-shirts immediately took me back to the lounge in Hatch hall, where we’d be hanging out when the rush activities were over for the day, and all the girls on our floor who were rushing practically fell out of the elevators – hot, sweaty, physically and emotionally drained, and chatting about which houses they liked.

Something about seeing those girls yesterday made me feel so motherly toward them. I just remembered how frightening and awkward those first few weeks of college were. There was so much new going on, and we couldn’t and didn’t process it all until months or even years later.

So, if I could give them each some advice (that they probably wouldn’t even want, because, HELLO, I didn’t even go greek), this is what it would be:

This week will not make or break your college experience.

If you’re thinking “I NEED to get chosen by DG because my mom was a DG, and it’s a top tier house, and these girls will be my sisters! And in my wedding! And friends with me for the rest of my life and certainly these next four years!” – just take a deep breath. Some of those things might be true and others won’t. I know plenty of girls that loved every second of being in their sorority and wouldn’t trade it, some who liked it fine, but not enough to keep paying dues so they dropped, and others who liked it, but had lots of friends who weren’t in their house. All are fine. Your college years will be what YOU make of them – don’t let too much ride on your Greek experience. It’s different for everyone. Having the highest expectations and putting a ton of pressure on the randomness of this week is only setting yourself up for some disappointment. Perspective is good. This week is not everything.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re buying your friends.

Although I never said it out loud to anyone who was Greek (because I have basic social skills), there was a part of me that used to feel that way. I think it stemmed from the fact that my personality, especially during college, felt FOMO in really severe ways. I wanted to experience everything fun that was available to me. I didn’t rush because I knew it was expensive, and I already had enough guilt about how much my parents were paying for out-of-state tuition. So I repeated that cliche line to myself to make myself feel better about missing out. Reader, I was jealous. I have seen sororities turn girls into leaders in four years. Sororities encourage their members to keep up with their studies, exercise their craft-making muscles, and build life-long friendships. They can open up doors for you professionally, and provide a built-in STRONG community. So, if anyone says that to you, don’t listen to ’em. They’re just jealous. Chances are that you’ll have a fabulous time, make a ton of friends, and won’t have to worry about finding off campus housing when you’re required to live in the house (which, trust me, is a kind of a nightmare).

Look outside your sisters for some friends, too.

It is so great that you’ve just found a ton of new sister-friends who are similar to you in lots of ways. You will need them when school and boys and life get hard. There’s nothing wrong with like-minded community. But you know what’s also great? Being friends with people who are different than you, too. College is a time when you’ll be surrounded by people from all over the country and the world who don’t look like you, dress like you, talk like you, or think like you. This is, in fact, is a true gift. It would be a shame if you didn’t take advantage of it. I am 100 percent more cultured, open-minded, empathetic, and well-rounded because of the people who I got close with in college who challenged my preconceived notions about what life is like for everyone. This is not to say that your sorority sisters can’t do this for you also, they probably will in some capacity, but when house drama is at an all-time high and you think you’ll explode if you have to talk about it with one of your sisters for one second longer, you’ll be grateful for your friends you can escape to who literally could not care less.

Your worth is not defined by what house does or doesn’t pick you.

I know you know this. I know it probably doesn’t need to be said. But I also know that this week has probably been TOUGH and draining, and your perspective might be a bit off. So I’ll say it again: Your worth is not defined by whatever happens on bid day. You are beautiful, loved, and precious exactly as you are. If you didn’t get your number one choice, it’s NOT because you’re not smart enough or pretty enough or didn’t wear the right outfit, a lot of this is just chance. You just didn’t click with the girls who happened to chat with you (*spoiler alert*: Even when you are part of a sisterhood, you will NOT automatically click with every person in your sorority.). And if you DO get picked by your number one choice in a “top tier” house – congratulations! But this is just the beginning. Try not to have an inflated sense of self-importance, and remember that every part of your sorority experience for the next four years will not be all roses.

Enjoy it and record it. And not just on instagram.

These next four years are going to be some of the most fun and stressful times of your life. I am so happy for you, and a tiny bit jealous. The world is literally your oyster in ways that it’s not as much for me anymore. So take some time to take it all in. It’s really happening, you’re away from home and all the pros and cons of that reality are about to start hitting you HARD.

I would have thought that the first week of college would be something that’s so seared in my memory that it would be hard for me to forget, but this isn’t really the case.

I have one visceral memory of my parents driving away, trying to hold back tears. I was in the circle drive in front of Hatch hall. My room was all set up. I think I had about a week before classes started. I remember going back up to my room, making a sad meal of mini wheats in a coffee mug, and watching The Office on my laptop (I believe my roommate was out doing rush activities) and thinking “Well, what the hell do I do now?” I figured it out eventually, and the rest I guess is history. 

I don’t remember much else, and I wish I had written more down. Keep a diary of everything you’re doing and thinking and feeling. It’ll help you stay grateful, it’ll help you process what all you’re going through, and your future self with thank you when you’re old and gray like me and trying to remember it all.

Advertisements

I read some, and you can, too.

I’ve been on a slight reading kick lately** and I’ve thought about why, exactly, I’ve had some success actually starting and finishing (and not just listening) to some really great books.

**Note: Other people with more responsibilities than me (stressful jobs! kids!) read way more than I do. Not for one second do I think I am some prolific reader.

So here are a few tips I’ve found that really help me get in a reading groove and stay there:

Get a library card.

One tip you hear over and over again from capital-R Readers is: “Don’t be afraid to walk away from a book you just can’t get into.” This has always been tough for me, so I’d like to amend this tip slightly with this one: Get a library card.

I am well-versed in the romantic Saturday ritual of having one too many bloody marys at brunch and then wandering into the local bookstore next door. Next thing I know, I’m falling head-over-heels in love with some random hardback fiction novel with the most deliciously trendy cover design without so much as reading the front blurb. Twenty-six dollars later, when the alcohol has worn off, I try reading it, and it’s a struggle to get to page 30 — I realize I’ve made a huge mistake, Arrested Development style.

It’s hard to put those books down for good because I’ve invested in them. And so I try to slog through it, or worse, just don’t pick it back up for months at a time. Reading another book in the meantime feels like betrayal, so I don’t.

This is where the library card has been clutch for me.

Bad book? No problem. Return it. Get another. Get another FIVE if you wish. All for free.

The other great thing about the library is the pressure to finish. That three-week window is like a challenge that should be pretty doable for most books. And the most popular books that have holds on them, you can’t renew. For some reason, when it’s finally my turn to read a book that I’ve had on hold for weeks, and I know there are others not-so-patiently waiting after me, something about it feels more special. I’m making someone else wait, so I better really be reading this and enjoying it and giving it to the next person in a timely fashion.

(I never have this sort of benevolence toward random strangers in other aspects of my life. But READERS, man. There’s a community there.)

Make your reading conditions ideal.

Some people get in bed at 9 p.m. for a solid hour of reading each night before bed. More power to them. Me? I struggle to get in bed before 10 p.m., and I get about two pages in before needing to turn out the light. Instead, I sneak about 20-30 minutes on a campus bench during the work day lunch. Weekend mornings with coffee are a given. I love reading outside, and my dude considers it time spent together if I’m outside reading while he’s tinkering with something in the garage or mowing the lawn.

Be that cool person reading at a bar before your happy hour people show up. And I say cool because I know I’m always jealous of those people – aren’t you?

Take yourself out on a date with a book. Leave your phone in your car. Make it a treat, but think of it as a productive treat. Reading is good for your brain!

Track your progress.

Goodreads is a fantastic app/website for keeping track of the books you’ve read, when you’ve read them, what you thought about them, as well as the ones you want to read. You can set a goal of how many books to read for the year, and every time I finish one and see my progress bar move up a little bit more to complete, it’s satisfying. It’s nice to look back since January and see what types of books I’ve been leaning toward at a glance.

Find your book people.

Listen, book preferences and opinions are about as subjective as anything in this world. You can be my my best friend and soulmate, and I can feel “meh” about a book you loved and vice-versa. However, there are people who mostly have the same tastes in books as you do. Find them, and go off of their recs. The key to staying in a good reading flow is picking ones you’re probably gonna like. No more half-drunk decisions based on cover design, mmmkay?

Just start with one good, easy book.

Or, get back on track with one easy book. Sometimes I think I’m too high-brow to enjoy a “beach read.” Sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my time if I’m not learning something, or reading something very heavy from a perspective I’ve never been exposed to. There’s a necessary time and place for all of that. In fact, it’s a main reason why we should read, in my opinion. But, there’s nothing wrong with flying through a great romance, just to get one novel under your belt.

Modern Mrs. Darcy has so many lists of great books, categorized in EVERY way (short, beach-y, reminds you of your college days, etc.) you’re sure to find a good one that appeals to you from one of her lists.

My latest read definitely falls into this category. It’s fun, easy, fast, and a good story:

Screen Shot 2019-08-02 at 9.20.45 AM

Keep a running list of your Want To Reads

This is key for keeping up a good rhythm. As soon as you finish one, just refer to your To-Read list (curated on Goodreads!) so you don’t have to hem and haw over what perfect one you should read next. Just pick from those.

Another reason to get a library card: You can download books to your phone or other mobile device FOR FREE, as soon as you want to. All without having to make a trip to the library. The future is now.

Share your reads and what you thought about them.

I think sharing our reads is a really powerful thing.

When I see that someone I follow on instagram has read six books in a month? That’s inspiring, and makes me wonder how I could get in a few more pages tonight. When other people see what you’re reading and what you like, they’ll recommend similar things to you. When someone shares a beautiful image of their current read and their patio beer, I’m thinking of how I can make that happen in my near future, too.

It’s so fun to post what I’m reading next on instagram and get three responses of “Oh I loved that one, I hope you do, too!” Again – readers, man. We’re all in this together.

I think sharing encourages us all to read, which will give you more recs to weed through in the best way, you know? I think we’re all reading a little more cause we’re all sharing what we’re reading a little more. So pay it forward, and show off your reads to your friends!

One is better than none.

Don’t stress too much. Once you start reading a little more, if you’re like me, you see just how many books you can cram into a month, which will influence my picks. I’ll pick shorter, easier ones just to check it off the list, and avoid longer, harder, or more literary titles. This is dumb. Don’t be like me. Quality over quantity. We’re here to enrich our lives, learn some things, and relax a little, not check off all the boxes.

A supportive significant other helps.

My dude has bought and built furniture specifically for my books, never complains when I’m rattling on about the plot of my current read, doesn’t mind if I ignore him and read on long car trips, and has been known to bring me a glass of wine while I read. Ok, ok, now I’m just bragging. I think I’ll keep him.

 

Whew, that was longer than I planned. If you’re still here, I applaud and appreciate you. Reading is cool and fun! In the spirit of taking my own advice, soon I’ll review some of my latest reads here. And please let me know: What are you reading? What helps you read more? I’d love to know.