Photo Courtesy of Mary Burgett

May 4, 2016

MARY’S MUSINGS | Confidence

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Writing these blogs has been a therapeutic way to express the difficulties I faced – that many people face – after traumatic events. It was as much for me to write honestly about the pain that I endured and to aid me in healing as it was to raise awareness that pain isn’t purely physical – it can also be a huge mental battle. I dedicate my final blog for the Cornell Daily Sun to the women who were a steady force during my time here, who helped me rediscover my confidence.

I decided to rush a sorority my freshman year. One of my sisters had a great experience; she made lifelong friends, sharing fond memories with them. She strongly influenced me to step outside and experience rush, and for that I will always be grateful. I found my place and my home with Kappa Delta. These women inspired me daily and helped me gain my confidence back. The women that I call my sisters challenged me to broaden my perspectives and horizons with the causes they fought for both inside and outside of our chapter. I saw women studying animal science, engineering, sustainability, math, biology, chemistry, philosophy, psychology, communications, politics, economics, technology and education. I saw women raising a platform to help women project their voices, saw them fighting for human rights, equal pay, reproductive rights, consent and LGBTQ rights. I saw women passionate about dance, singing, robotics, acting, comedy, piano, writing, horses, debate…and the lists could go on. I am constantly blown away by their achievements because they are simply amazing.

However, I joined a sorority with depression, anxiety and panic attacks and I didn’t know if I could handle staying in. I didn’t handle the social aspect well, it wasn’t all good memories with all the baggage I carried, but when I look back, the good memories are what stand out. And even during the bad moments I had a support base, even when people didn’t exactly understand or even know what I was going through. I distinctly remember suppressing my tears while walking on Ho Plaza one day my freshman year. A panic attack was in full throttle, and stressing over an upcoming prelim wasn’t helping either – I was interally screaming in pain. Two sisters sat on benches, just talking. They called out to greet me and I went over to talk with them, not intending to share any of my stress or pain. When they asked me what was wrong, because it was clear that my eyes were red, I told them about my stress (at this point, I had not yet opened up to anyone about the assault) and they gave me hugs and encouraging words. We had just recently met and they genuinely already cared about me because of the bond we shared within this sisterhood. One of these girls ended up being my big sister and welcomed me into an amazing lineage. She is a constant inspiration to me.

I was lucky to have the lineage that I did and created positive memories with sisters in my pledge class and ones above me for my first few years. Now, as I see more remarkable women joining our chapter, I hope that they have the best experiences. We may not all be close, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t support each other or strive to lift each other up. I don’t say it enough but these women have changed my life.

I wasn’t strong enough to ask for help or even admit that I needed to start fighting for myself at the time. I wasn’t ready to unblock the memories. These women gave me the strength and confidence to deal with my past. I was ready to face my demons and begin my road to recovery two years into Cornell because of the effect they had on me. How can I even begin to describe a house full of women who were all inspirations? I don’t know if there are words to fully convey their impact.

They weren’t the only driving forces in my life, but they were the ones I saw regularly at Cornell who taught me to speak up, who taught me the value of growth. Did we have everything together all the time? Of course not. But how we dealt with the challenges is what matters. It is how we learn from mistakes that shapes our character and allows us to become GREAT. I was scared to ask for help, but I had friends, sisters – family – help me stand when I couldn’t do it on my own.

These are my people, and we will last outside of the time we spent together at Cornell. These are the women representing generations of members who hold sisterhood bonds, transcending whatever physical distance there is between us. Building up confidence isn’t easy, it’s not something that is done overnight and it isn’t easy to show it daily. But with that support, with role-models, with women who care about what happens to you, that confidence became a part of who I am and those that I surround myself with. That confidence moved me to fight, to survive and to continuously heal. We all move on with our lives at some points and that’s a good thing, but the people who touched us and those we help along the way will always matter.