January 19, 2014

BHOWMICK | The Week That Was

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It is that time of year again when all of Cornell talks and thinks in Greek letters. There is certainly a science of structural organization involved in harmonizing this meticulous process called “Rush Week.” My career as an opinionated columnist started with a column about this bedlam we call recruitment week when I was experiencing it as a potential new member. This year, as I participate in recruitment from the other side of a sorority’s mystifying doors, I am realizing the indispensable nature of Greek life at Cornell (unfortunately for those who like to call it a glorified network of cults). I remember scoffing at the thought of getting bewitched by new girls I met and wanting to adopt them as little sisters instantaneously. I used to think magnetism between human beings primarily stemmed from underlying physical attraction. I was baffled when I learned that a conversation absolutely devoid of intoxication and with the sole goal of just getting to know about someone’s life could lead to friendship too. Every time I was talking to a potential new member, for once, I was not constantly thinking about myself or my seemingly impossible life.

In an exacting atmosphere like at Cornell, it is rare to shift the focus from ourselves to someone else. We are all constantly tuned into our own lives and, as a result, tuned out to everyone else. When I trek to class each morning wading through the snow, it always feels like I am a solitary warrior. Collective pride and feeling accountable for each other is rare at a place like Cornell. But being incredible together instills a person with so much more confidence than being incredible alone. Last year, I wrote an article about how I transformed from a Greek life cynic to a Greek life advocate for everyone on campus from international students to those who do not typically consider themselves outgoing or social butterflies. For me, Greek Life has served as an automatic system which never lets me descend into complacency. When everyone around you is doing remarkable things with their lives, in the spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood, you can’t be the one to settle for average, for their sake and for your own.

This year, as I go through recruitment week, I can feel another definitive transformation taking place. I never quite used to perceive sisterhood as a tangible thing, but I have come to realize that this tangibility is something that gets established with time. I am uncertain how often a girl just walks into a sorority and gets swept off her feet by an instant wave of sisterhood. It is the 48 hours we spend awake working to ensure our respective chapters reflect the excellence of each member. It is the spirit which motivates us to break a leg celebrating our sisterhood when our ankles have already been broken from wearing five-inch heels from dawn to dusk. It is the sudden appreciation of pathetic humor because sleeplessness just does that more often than not. I grew up as an only child with one cousin. Naturally, having older sisters in my sorority  house to fill in the roles of troublesome siblings in my life is something I have cherished during this week. I spent these past few days eating, sleeping and breathing the letters I proudly represent.

This pride, however, is not unwarranted. We have managed to make each other smile in the face of worst possible circumstances and my sisters have reminded us to not take these rare relationships for granted. I feel privileged to have been an indispensable part of so many lives within two years of going to University in a country that I had only heard of or read about before. I do not feel like a nervous international student anymore. I walk around Cornell and own the life I have come to live here. This renewed sense of confidence definitely has to do with the sisterhood I have been bestowed with. During the past two weeks, I discovered sisterhood is not an engineered myth. It has been established by the maxim that “from the outside looking in, you can never understand it and from the inside looking out, you can never explain it.”