On Being Savage

I recently got to experience one of those sisterhood retreat moments when the room is full of love and everyone remembers so clearly why they became and remained Sigma Kappa women. Even in a room of people I’ve never met in a state I’ve never been to, it still fills me with the same joy to know that our experiences with each other are changing women’s lives every day.

At this particular retreat, a thousand miles from my home and my own chapter, I heard a story from a woman I’d never met that was almost just like mine.

Those who know me know that I’m not into feelings. I don’t get caught up in things often and I tend to deal with my stuff on my own. But those who really know me well also know that Sigma Kappa is the one unfaltering exception to my stoicism. When I experience sisterhood moments like this, I nearly always have tears in my eyes. That part is normal. When this particular woman told her story, though, the situation escalated into a more significant cry.

I started crying because, at that moment maybe more than ever before, I needed to be reminded about what Sigma Kappa had done for me – just the same as it had done for this woman.

I have always had a strong personality. From just about the second I was born 22 years ago, I have been very distinctly myself. I am smart, fiercely independent, incredibly tenacious and forcefully steadfast in my beliefs. I value integrity more than anything else in the world. I believe in decisions based on principle, I believe in honesty and I believe in doing the right thing no matter how hard it is. And, if you couldn’t tell, I’m a very confident woman.

This personality of mine has been defined in many ways, some positive and some very hurtfully negative. A dear friend once said the word that best describes me is “savage.” So that one is kind of in the middle, I guess?

Going through high school, it was mostly negative. I wouldn’t trade my small town experience for anything in the world but I’d be lying if I said it was easy to be someone like me in the world I was living in. I wasn’t what people were used to and, what’s worse, I was pretty unapologetic about it. The way people responded to me wasn’t entirely negative – I had lots of friends, I loved my life, I had a great time in high school – but it was clear to me that most people weren’t crazy about the fundamental things that make me who I am. It was little jokes, backhanded comments and the feeling that people might like me despite my personality rather than because of it.

That was really hard. By the time I graduated and went to college, the collective years of criticism led me to genuinely think there was something irreparably wrong with me.

Then I became a Sigma Kappa. Here, in this wonderful group of wonderful women, I was praised and celebrated for exactly the same qualities that others had found unfavorable in me. For the first time in my life, I felt loved for my personality. For the first time ever, I didn’t feel like there was something wrong with me. I have always had confidence, but Sigma Kappa gave me self esteem. I realized that there are different types of people in this world for a reason and the type of person I am is just as important and useful as all the others.

Still to this very day, four years after I found my place here, I am encouraged to be my savage self, not made to feel that I need to be fixed.

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