Re: Greek life doesn’t care about student lives

To Hanna Suarez – Opinions Editor, Daily 49er:

Let me begin with first thanking you for acknowledging the tragic death of Timothy Piazza, a sophomore who passed away sadly at the neglect of a Penn State fraternity. This is not the first death associated with hazing or alcohol abuse within a fraternity or sorority that has caught national attention – and like many newspapers, you capitalized on the sensationalism of Piazza’s death and used your position to attack Greek life organizations with little research on how these organizations are run. Instead of interviewing campus Greek members or members of OUR campus athletic organizations to understand your local Greek community, you choose to use impartial statistics to justify calling a ban on Greek organizations without doing any research in the actual field. You hide behind your rape, alcohol, and hazing statistics to hide the fact that you did no research into your local Greek community. You even cite dues and party receipts from Penn State without finding out any statistics from the college you’re writing the article for to act as comparison.

Maybe this is just my opinion, but you jumped to a lot of conclusions from your statistics without understanding the points of view of the community you’re criticizing. I hope in the future, you’ll take the opportunity you have as a student journalist to reach out or contact CSULB’s Greek organizations. You’d be surprised at how many of its members would love to talk to you – or maybe you assumed we were all hiding on our lofty thrones, too entitled to speak to anyone that hasn’t pledged or doesn’t get a check each week from their parents for extra spending money?

I joined a sorority at the end of my sophomore year in college, but at that time, I held the same opinion as you. I thought Greek life was about drinking, drugs, and partying with no consequences. I had built these stereotypes from articles I read, movies I’d watched, and from all kinds of media that had beaten into my brain the idea that frat boys would try to date rape me and sorority girls were catty and rich. Then I was proved wrong.

I could tell you about the community service my sorority and countless other Greek organizations support, besides all the hours, money, and time we put into fundraising and giving back to charity and our local community, but you don’t seem to care. I could tell you about how I was too shy and anxiety-ridden to make meaningful relationships with people I’d met at CSULB until I joined Alpha Omicron Pi, but instead I’m sure you’d like to reduce me to the fact I just “paid for friendship”.

I could tell you I served in leadership roles in my organization, learned how to budget and run meetings, and put our dues into areas that gave back to our sisters and to the house our sorority used for meetings, but you don’t actually care about how my organization was ran; you’d rather assume our money went to partying, drinking, or going out with frat boys. I could even tell you about the fact that I paid my own dues while I was in the sorority and I worked a part-time job while going to CSULB full-time in order to afford it, but instead you’d rather assume I was born rich and wanted to shell out thousands and thousands into an organization just to increase my social status.

I would even tell if you, if you’d asked, that we have mandatory educations – which are essentially free lectures and seminars paid for in our dues – for the women in my chapter on some of the topics you mention in your article, which include: binge-drinking and the signs of alcohol overdose, sexual assault and the available resources on campus, and even domestic violence and self-defense workshops. I could tell you about all the fraternity men I have met over the years that didn’t see me as an object, but instead as a peer, treating me with respect and kindness. I even began dating a fraternity man, which has led to one of the healthiest relationships I have ever had and that I am still in today after two years – but you’d rather reduce fraternity gentlemen into “boys”, infantilizing them and perpetuating the idea that they are testosterone-raging teens hell-bent on hazing and assaulting any young woman they lay eyes on.

I could tell you about how Greek life enhanced my life and how it continues to do so even though I am now an alumna of AOII and have since graduated from CSULB, but it appears you care little for the opinion of someone that is actually a part of Greek life, or you would have interviewed one.

Your assumptions are dangerous because you’re perpetuating stereotypes against organizations that you know nothing about and that you obviously haven’t put the care or effort into getting to know or research. You would have learned that we don’t claim to be perfect – Greek organizations have always had to deal with hazing incidences, alcohol abuse, and sexual assault charges against their members. Our national and international headquarters give us rules and guidelines, and if those guidelines are broken, our chapters are disbanded.

We take these issues just as seriously as you do, if not more seriously. Your gross exaggerations of us being elitist and unaccountable for our actions are in direct opposition to all the Penn State members who were just charged with manslaughter and the shutting down of their fraternity due to Piazza’s death. When something like this happens in the Greek community, it reflects poorly on all of us – which makes us more steadfast in our desire to do better for our community, to continue to work hard academically, and to be more loving, kind, and better human beings.

My problem, Hanna, is that you could have used your article as an opportunity to talk about the dangers of binge-drinking and give information or ideas about its prevention on college campuses or even within clubs and organizations. You could have given your readers some facts or resources of on-campus organizations that are there for women and men that have suffered from sexual assault and violence. Instead you used this tragedy as an opportunity to rehash old and tired stereotypes without any new fresh ideas on how to solve these problems.

This should go without saying, but if you talk to almost any sorority woman at CSULB, or even any Alpha Omicron Pi, they’d tell you this – we don’t haze, I was never hazed, and my sisters accepted me as a member of the group without needing to prove a damn thing. In your mind though, doesn’t it just make a better story, to say that banning something will mean something bad will just stop, instead of pushing those dark behaviors deeper underground? Because prohibition and the War on Drugs have worked out so well in the past, let’s just put an end to all fraternities and sororities, and then people will stop drinking, stop hazing people, and stop sexually assaulting people! What a concept!

Contrary to Hanna’s pointless idea of an outright ban, I’ll suggest the following, more realistic ideas, especially to CSULB Greeks reading this article. Greek organizations and our members need to be more open with our condemnation of the behavior of our fellow members, like those of Penn State’s Beta Theta Pi. We need to focus our attention on the education of our current and future members on the topics of hazing, sexual abuse, and the dangers of binge drinking. Every chapter needs to refocus on what they can do to prevent a tragedy like Penn State from happening within their own organization, whether it be increasing the presence of sober brothers and sisters at events, or starting sober driver ride shares within our chapters as resources. We need to further our outreach and service in our local communities instead of solely focusing on fundraisers for charities. We need to support one another and build each other up, focusing on the betterment of our community as a whole.

These tragedies should light a fire within us to reflect better on our organizations and to meet the world’s hatred for us with love and compassion. We are better than what Hanna Suarez and the media thinks of us, and the changing of our image can only be done by the positive actions we make and show to the world. Continue to wear your letters proud, as I know I will.

The Time That Ravioli Was My Excuse to Miss Class

The first time you meet me, you might have a few different impressions. Either I come across bitchy and cold, extremely talkative, or quiet and nice. You may think, hmm, Megan seems interesting, with lots of hobbies and passions. Maybe she likes being active, or exploring, or doing something entirely different?

In actuality, one of the major parts of my personality is that I have a terrible sense of balance. Just like all those other quirky girls you may have met…except I can’t. fucking. do. anything. without. spilling. shit.

It isn’t a quirk, but instead a stark and daunting reality that every day, I might royally fuck something up. I could probably bore you with all the times I’ve spilled mustard on a white shirt, or spilling coffee down my freshly laundered work pants. I could tell you the tale of tripping over absolutely nothing while walking across my college campus. But, those stories are fucking boring. I’ve found that if I don’t do one small clumsy thing a day, all the clumsiness will build and the universe will be out of balance and I will have to do one BIG, ENORMOUSLY clumsy thing. Here is just one (with many fucking more to follow or until I learn how to not fall):

The Rocketing Ravioli

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Have you ever had a day where everything goes fucking wrong? I’ve had too many to fucking count, but here’s the one I so desperately try to forget, but that friends will bring up time and time again if my ego becomes too inflated. This story usually brings me back to earth with a fucking thud.

Back in college, I usually tried to juggle too many things at once, as one is wont to do when they overload their schedule with 15 units of classes on only two days of the week while working a part-time job on all other days. I thought that, with two years of college experience under my belt, I knew it all. I was a fucking rock star. I could balance homework, papers, a balanced diet, AND a life worthy of social media all at the same time. I was at my fucking peak.

One day, I was intensely hungry, like always, and craved Chef Boyardee ravioli. I calculated I had about fifteen minutes to make it, cool it, eat it, and be ready to catch the shuttle to take me to class from our one bedroom apartment. I sighed in relief at the knowledge that I was growing up to be a successful adult, with a whole life of possibility ahead of me. So I made the damn ravioli.

I had placed all the shit I needed right next to the couch so I could easily grab it and go once I was done. I also had a pile of clothes I had been folding and piling the night before, and let’s face it, I probably wouldn’t move them until I actually needed to wear them. My pristine black and white couch with my comfy white pillow looked so inviting, and I couldn’t wait to enjoy my pre-class snack.

The microwave dinged – the bowl was hot as fuck. I grabbed a towel and cradled the bowl in my hands. The warmth of my meal radiated into my fingers, and I slowly walked across our beige carpeted floor to my already prepared seat on the couch.

Then, it happened – a moment that I could almost sense was about to happen, a premonition that turned into a sudden realization as my fingers lost their grip – and for a whole second the word “FUCK” seemed to flash on like a brilliant marquee in my mind – as the bowl slipped from the towel I was holding and tipped upside down, rocketing ravioli in all directions of my living room.

The noodly meat squares plopped onto the ground in a sad lump, while the damn sauce seemed to ricochet off of nearby objects and grow exponentially in distance and damage. The reddish brown liquid first hit the beige carpet and soaked into the dirty recesses below in a deep pool. Next, it hit the pile of clothes that sat beside the couch, including one of my favorite sweaters on the very top and my white work pants, now destroyed in the mayhem. It splattered onto the side of the couch like blood spurting from a crime show victim, and somehow a huge glob hit my beautiful, dainty white pillow like a fucking rocket, seeping into the fabric. How the fuck had specks of Boyardee managed to get on the wall, the lamp, the coffee table, AND the window? Steam from the radiated microwaved meal rose from every area it touched, like the remnants of a fire slowly burning out. Sauce splatter littered my pants and the reek of fucking processed beef and tomatoes filled my nostrils.

I stood among the wreckage of my now burnt orange apartment and sighed. I wasn’t going to make it to fucking class that day.

How I Learned to Love Myself

I’ve been reflecting on this for a few reasons and events that have happened recently.

The first was when I woke up in a bit of frenzy, and as I was getting ready for work, I forgot to draw my eyebrows on. I didn’t notice my eyebrows weren’t there for my entire commute to my job; I boarded the bus, walked by guests, and interacted with customers with the same pep and enthusiasm as if my eyebrows were painted on perfectly. I’ll explain – I have something called trichotillomania, a body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) where I compulsively pick my own hair, leaving me, essentially, eyebrow-less. Needless to say, I was embarrassed when I finally saw myself in the locker room mirror, since I hadn’t brought an eyebrow pencil with me and I couldn’t find a pen that would make a convincing mark on my skin. I asked to leave work early, but I’ll never forget the sheer fact that for a good hour, when I wasn’t focused on my appearance, I was happy, confident, and ready to face the day.

The second was when I was in the passenger seat of my boyfriend’s car, taking selfies of myself. I had put on makeup that day, which for me, was a rarity. I had straightened my hair, and believe me, I was looking good. As I was perfecting the angle on my phone to capture the light that hit me best, my boyfriend comments, “Those girls in the car next to us saw you taking pictures of yourself and they started laughing.” My initial response: who gives a shit? Did they not see how great I looked? I finally replied, “It took me a long time to feel this good about myself.” I know that even as millennials we tear down each other for taking constant selfies, but in that moment, I wanted to capture my love for myself and remember it for a future time when I wasn’t feeling beautiful. That revelation was one I wasn’t about to let go.

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The infamous car selfie, in all of its glory!

The third was when I found out that someone I considered a close friend had been saying negative things about me to another friend. The act of gossiping is something I’m not unfamiliar with, and I’ve been a part of rumors from all sides. Finding out that this friend was making unflattering comments about me in the first place wasn’t the part that most surprised me, but instead what she was saying about me did. This friend had made jokes and nasty comments on my fashion choices, style, and appearance – and that is what truly shocked me. This was because, up until that moment, I hadn’t been focusing on how my appearance came across to other people. So many other challenges and problems had arisen in my life, so my personal style was pushed, mostly, to the back-burner.

I started to wonder, as I scrolled through my recent Instagram posts and focused on the clothes I was wearing – what do my fashion choices really say about me as a person? I thought I had made some cute outfits, sometimes…hadn’t I? Was I completely unattractive? Were my friends embarrassed to be around me, seen with me, take pictures with me?

And then I thought of one last question –

When was the last time I had felt this way – this crippling, anxiety-ridden lack of self-confidence?

This constant struggle – between our desire for the acceptance of others and the self-confidence we feel in ourselves – was one I faced when I was much, much younger than I am now. In elementary school, at the peak of my self-confidence, I wore strangely coordinating outfits based on holidays, animals, and themes. The crazier, the tackier, and the more unique the clothes, the more it fit my style. My mom always praised me for my outfits, and I proudly wore them outside and to class, thinking, wow – I’m fashionable!

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Exhibit A: Two loose braids on either side of my head, two clips holding them…in place, maybe? Elvis glasses? This picture is tame, believe me. I just can’t wrap my head around this one in particular. 

Looking back on these hideous tween outfits I’d parade around in (and that my mom took way too many pictures of as proof), I realize now that, obviously, my mother wasn’t praising my fashion sense that was obviously underdeveloped for my age. When my mom would tell me I was cute or that my themed outfit was perfect for school that day, her intent was to build my confidence in my sense of self. My quirky outfits definitely stood out, and helped me for the better: it weeded out my peers that cared about appearance over personality, and allowed me to make supportive friendships that only continued to build my love for myself.

Middle school, for all of us, is probably the fall of our self-confidence. Acne exploded not only on my face, but over my entire body. My glasses were straight out of Harry Potter, and my braces seemed to be permanently affixed to my teeth. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup to school, but I still gave myself those tell-tale, emo raccoon eyes. I was experimenting with clothes, style, and life – but my confidence wasn’t exactly sky-high during this intense time of transition.

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I’m not sure what’s happening here, but I found this in an old picture album entitled “im effing awesome”. I hope you’re appreciating both that very high MySpace angle I achieved, as well as the fact this picture is still on my hard drive.

I’d like to say my style matured in high school, but it was more an act of convenience. I bounced between school, home, theater rehearsals, and choir performances. I was changing from costume to outfit to pajamas constantly, so the aspect of comfort almost always won out when it came to more fashionable items in my closet. Sweatpants, basic v-neck t-shirts, and dresses (basically a long-ass shirt that passes as a complete outfit, and is, in my opinion, one of the laziest choices we girls have at our disposal) were my typical pick. I didn’t have time to slather on makeup, because I’d just have to wash it off and put on stage makeup that same night. I didn’t have time to complete a whole outfit when I was barely squeezing in homework in the hours I wasn’t practicing lines, rehearsing my harmonies, or spending time with my family.

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This selfie is called the “smile-and-casually-pose-as-if-someone-else-is-taking-it-for-you-when-really-you-were-taking-it-yourself-alone-in-the-living-room”.

Sweatpants turned to leggings when I graduated and moved on to college, because they literally go with everything. E-ver-y-thing. I will fight someone on this. Comfort above fashion, people. I don’t think I’ve worn jeans for more than a day in a row, purposefully, since probably my freshman year of college. I went to college for almost five years. I’m serious about leggings. Seriously.

All things considered, since those anxiety-ridden middle school days, the confidence in my body and appearance was slowly growing into a state of contentment. I began to love parts of my body – my hair, my stomach, my eyes, my smile – until there was barely anything I hadn’t grown to love about myself.

But how did I get to this state of comfort, not only with my clothes, but with showing my vulnerable and quirky side to complete strangers through my outfits and my attitude?

Perspective

Your thoughts about your body and yourself can be influenced by a lot of external factors: your family, your friends, the media, your significant other. But these thoughts all become internal. How you feel about your weight, your style, your hair – it’s all in your mind. To begin loving yourself, you have to see yourself in a new light. I can tell you all day that thinking positively can have real life positive effects, and in our worst moments, seeing ourselves as beautiful is the hardest thing to do. Remember that you have a lot of hidden strength within that mind of yours, and changing your perspective in small ways can have an enormous impact on building your self-worth. So don’t wait until you’re feeling your crappiest to tell yourself you’re beautiful. Change your perspective right now. Take a good selfie of yourself, look at yourself in the mirror, or just look down at your body as it is. Focus on each body part and think something positive – maybe your legs are just shaved and are super smooth, or maybe your hair smells fresh right out of the shower. If you get stuck on an element of yourself that you don’t like, take a moment to appreciate that it exists, and that you love yourself regardless of these elements that make you uncomfortable. Slowly begin to see your body as a unique, loved whole instead of separate parts that you either like or hate.

Focus

Now that you’ve spent all that time focusing on yourself, another big step you can make in loving yourself is turning your attention to your life goals. These could be daily, weekly, yearly, or even future goals, but take some time out of your life to pursue what makes you happy. Diving into hobbies, activities, exercise, or socializing takes you out of your negative, inner feelings and thrusts you into what’s happening in your life. I’ve found that I’m the most confident in myself, my weight, my body, my appearance, and well, my everything, when I’m busy actively participating in things that I know I enjoy.

Smile

This is one simple thing you can do, at all times. Smile more, and show your teeth! I realized that when I was younger, I’d make these “fake smiles” for pictures, because I thought I looked prettier when I didn’t show my teeth. Then I focused on the pictures where I was smiling candidly without thinking – I’m sure you can guess that in the latter, I looked so much more beautiful, because my smile was genuine and happy. Smiling often as big as you can is a rule that shouldn’t apply only to pictures! Don’t hesitate to laugh, smile, and enjoy moments when they happen. Smile when you lock eyes with a friendly stranger, and smile when you’re with your best friends and family. Relish in your happy moments, and remember these times when you’re not feeling your best.

Acceptance

You can still love yourself even on a day when everything goes wrong. Your outfit was ridiculed by your friends, or your makeup was ruined, or you gained weight or you lost it or you just feel like every part of your body is working against you – these crappy days are going to happen. Let them happen. Wallow in your crappy feelings for a bit, cry it out, call a friend, whatever you need to do to feel a little better. Take some deep breaths. You’re going to have moments when you really don’t feel like loving yourself. Remember that you have the strength to get through every bad day, and that strength came from inside of you. That, in itself, is one of the most beautiful things about you. Accept that not every part of you is going to live up to others or even your expectations. I promise these moments will only make you stronger.

IMG_4403This is a real, candid laugh, and what I personally think I look best doing.

I can’t guarantee that any of this advice will stop you from caring about what other people think of you, because it sure hasn’t done that for me. Loving myself, though, has given me the resilience to better handle the weird stares or trash talk that come my way from strangers, family, and even close friends. I truly feel though that once you start loving yourself, life will be more beautiful, and others will gravitate towards your radiant energy.


P.S. Did you love those few embarrassing pictures? I’d love to see your favorite tween, angsty selfies. Maybe that’ll be the subject of another blog post…because these sure weren’t my craziest selfies that are still on my laptop years later…

Self-love is the answer to every break-up.

I feel like I’m always jumping ship from one relationship to the other, without much time in between to be on my own. I think the downfall of this type of dating is that it’s hard to see myself as someone out of a relationship, as my own personal entity. I don’t mean to say that I don’t want to date the person I’m dating, but I usually get very swept up in the love and affection that a new relationship brings.

Every relationship is a lesson. That’s what everyone tells us when we go through a break up – what have you learned? As long as you’ve changed as a person, then the relationship mattered, and was worth all the time and the effort and the money and the dreams and the hope and the love –

But sometimes I feel like a relationship just ends. No reason. No change. There’s no grand scheme – you didn’t break up just so you could have an epiphany. Sometimes the end of the relationship is just the end. Sometimes you’ve done everything you could, and everything right, and the person that you had imagined in your life is suddenly gone.

Sometimes a break-up just fucking sucks. The best thing to do is to enter into a relationship with yourself. ESPECIALLY when you’re still in a relationship.

Take yourself on a date. Buy yourself flowers. Take yourself to a movie and splurge on the large size popcorn. Text your best friend and remind her you love her, or bomb her phone with emojis. Go to an animal shelter and cuddle the puppies or kittens. Volunteer somewhere and help someone feel better. Watch that rom-com you’ve seen twenty times before and bawl your eyes out.

Give yourself the love you’ve always reserved for someone else – your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your lover, your friends, your family. If you’re in a relationship, give yourself an equal amount of self-love.

You owe yourself that.

 

(Image source)

home

I live in the dorms, with a hilarious and awesome roommate, taking up half a room with boxes and boxes and boxes of knick knacks, magazine clippings, sunflowers, piles of clothes, and blue, blue, blue.

It’s home. I feel as close to myself as I can be when I’m there, as if my bed is me and so is my wall of paintings and drawings and so is my closet and so is my desk and my bookshelves and my microwave and they are all me and I am them and I am home and home is me.

But even though I love it there, I get restless. I have to move, to leave, to explore – I walk out with nothing but my key and camera in hand and I take long walks and long stares at the world and I sit and I stare and stare and stare so that maybe the world will become me and I the world but I haven’t seen enough world for that to happen yet.

I hear children laughing and crying in the mornings. We live right next to a daycare and there’s an elementary school across the street. You can always hear the roar of plane engines as they swoop so low and shoot up into the sky. There is green grass and street cats that run across the parking lots and a giant blue pyramid that pops out behind the buildings and people smoking at the circle of stone benches and the white clouds that dreamily sway in the morning wind and cherry blossoms that shine bright pink. I smell fresh flowers and cut grass and smoke and urban smells of people and cars and public buses. All of this waits on my doorstep, right outside my door and outside the hall and down the stairs.

I’m not far from where I used to be. Where I grew up as a kid. Just keep driving on the freeway and you’ll get there, where the beach is a five minute walk away and the streets are small and crowded and sand infiltrates your clothes, your shoes, your bag, your mouth, your hair, your skin. If I hadn’t left there so young, those girls would be my best friends and those boys would be my relationships and those teachers would be my fond memories of stupid homework and ridiculous lessons and at that school I would have had my golden years.

Instead though I live in a brick building made up of odd squares stacked at weird angles and everything is green, I swear. When you walk by you can hear people blasting their favorite music or laughing or playing card games like Bullshit and shouting or the grunts and moans of sex. You can smell the cup of noodles and the stench of smuggled-in beer, and who could forget the cheap Christmas lights strung up all year round or the girls throwing up outside or (even worse) in the bathroom because they can’t hold their liquor after partying all night at a frat.

That’s where I live and I love it and hate it and whatever happens it’s home and I don’t want to say goodbye.

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