The Rush to Find Yourself
Identity is often tied to the groups we belong to; whether they be cultural, religious or social. We often find comfort in surrounding ourselves with those who are similar to us. In college, this natural phenomenon could not be more true. As a first-year, one major concern I had for next semester was the housing situation. And I was certainly not alone. Each spring, bewildered first-years are suddenly faced with many choices regarding housing, whether it be the decision to go Greek, join a Selective Living Group (SLG), or be independent. Weeks are suddenly filled with different rush or SLG events, friends drift apart as they make different plans for next semester, and the search for roommates begins once again. For some, this process will result in a bid to a fraternity, sorority, or SLG. For some, this process will result in disappointment. For all, this process will be disorienting and stressful. As someone who is independent and planning to room with a friend next semester, I admit that there have been instances during the rush process when I wondered how my Duke experience would change had I joined a Greek organization or SLG.
Maslow’s hierarchy, after all, places Belonging right after Safety needs, showing how humans have this great desire to belong to a group. It’s why Greek organizations (and to a much lesser extent SLGs) have so much clothing with their respective symbols on it. It’s why girls in sororities have those hand symbols. It’s why we wear Duke gear around campus. It shows affiliation. This is not inherently a bad thing. Affiliations are an integral part of who we are after all, because it shows the groups of people we choose to spend our time with. The problem with affiliation, however, can be two-fold. For the affiliated, it is a source of pre-judgment. Media has made it so that the word “frat boy” or “sorority girl” often evokes a certain image, often not a nice one. When someone wears a sweatshirt with Greek letters on it, it is easy to judge their character by the sorority or fraternity that they are a part of. With the tiered system, this judgment can happen from within the Greek community as well as from outside of it. It is made clear which groups are the “low-tiered” frats or sororities. This categorization is inherently troubling. I have heard a friend complain that some of the girls in the sorority that she is a part of seem bitter because, “they didn’t get into the one they wanted.” On the other hand, independents may sometimes feel that they are not part of any particular group at all, because they lack the symbols of affiliation. As someone who has friends who are now part of fraternities, sororities, or SLGs, my decision not to label myself may seem to only be making it harder to find a group to fit into. But I know friends who are very happy with the groups they are a part of, and I also know friends who are considering dropping their affiliation altogether. I know friends who have rushed in desperation to feel a sense of belonging and try to build their sense of identity, only to end up with a group of people they actually do not connect with. And I would rather be independent than end up in a group where I feel like I must be fake.
We choose the labels that we are given. Whether we live in affiliated or independent housing, what is most important is not the judgments of others but rather our own sense of happiness. I am content as an independent. And I can only hope that the members of my class are happy with the groups they have chosen to join or the friends that they have chosen to block with, regardless of their affiliation.