I Knew Her When She Was Dreaming
For me, one of the coolest things about graduating and becoming a young alumna has been reflecting on how my friends grew over their four years at school and how they are now blossoming in the years beyond commencement. We all entered college with dreams, or at least little thoughts about who or what we wanted to be, and it has been so much fun to watch those dreams become reality.
I remember one beautiful night in the fall of my sophomore year at DePauw University when my friend Maritza and I took a blanket out onto Alpha Chi’s front lawn. We looked at the stars and talked about what we wanted to be and what we wanted the rest of our time at DePauw to look like. I was figuring out what major to declare and Maritza was just starting to think about going to grad school. Our futures seemed so far away then. Now look how far we’ve come—to some extent we’ve become the women we talked about being when we were laying in that grass.
Here’s the thing: Maritza and I are both pretty strong women, and we’re capable of doing what we want to do on our own. But I want to tell you a story that I think shows how we’re so much better together.
In the spring of my junior year, I studied abroad in Scotland. On the day I showed up, the sun had gone down by 4:30 p.m. When the cabbie dropped me off in front of my building, it was pitch dark and I realized I needed to go pick up my keys at a different building a couple blocks over. That building was closed too. So I was dragging all my stuff—enough for the entire semester—from one building to the other and back again, and my suitcases were making noise on the cobblestones. It was cold and I was nearly crying because I was in a foreign country and had nowhere to go. Then I remembered that my Alpha Chi sister Mackenzie, who was also studying in Scotland, got there a couple of days early and might be in her flat already. I thought I remembered her flat number, so I rang the number a couple of times and prayed. After a minute of hopeful silence, there came Mack across the foyer—I could see her through the window in the door. I can’t tell you the depth of the relief I felt. Here I was, across an ocean, jet-lagged, lost and cold, and my sister was there to welcome me. Together we got a hold of my keys, moved in my things and went out for Scottish comfort food.
And now I think: what if Mack hadn’t been there? What if we hadn’t lived in the same place? What if she hadn’t been in her flat? I think I probably would have figured it all out on my own. I would have gotten those keys eventually and could have eaten that shepherd’s pie all by myself. I would have been fine. But let me tell you, seeing Mack through that little window, that was more than fine—that was family.
I think that’s what Alpha Chi is really about for me. Our motto is “together let us seek the heights,” and I’ve come to realize that “together” is the most important part. We’re intelligent, strong women—we can and will do the things we’re going to do. But doing them together? That’s something really special. I feel like maybe we can do all that we want to do alone, but we can only be the people we want to be together.
Because when I think about laying on the front lawn with Maritza when she was just starting to think of getting her Ph.D. in sociology, and how now she’s totally killing it in her top-choice Ph.D. program, about how in our room senior year we changed all of each other’s “ifs” to “whens”—I realize I have this wild, unlimited confidence in my sisters. I believe in them. I really do believe that Maritza will do groundbreaking sociological work, just like she dreams. And Mackenzie really will save the planet via environmental geology. She’s already begun. Sophia’s going to start her own business, and, heck, Maddie already owns her own fitness centers. I see the kids Abby is going to teach and the minds Maryclare is going to change. And when all these things come to fruition, I’ll point to these wonderful, successful women and say, “I knew her when she was dreaming.”
And I’ll say this, too: When you have absolute confidence in a friend, you can’t help but know that she has absolute confidence in you. That’s a real friend—not just someone you like and enjoy, but someone who you can believe in, and someone who believes in you. Someone who will lay in the grass with you, and when you say, “Do you think I can do it?” she says, “Absolutely. I can’t wait to watch you.”
This is the kind of friendship I found in Alpha Chi. I found women I believe in, and women who believe in me. It has made all the difference.
And that grass Maritza and I laid in together? It grows in the same ground Alpha Chi Omega’s Founders walked 130 years ago. Around us, the leaves that inspired our scarlet red and olive green had just begun to fall. I wonder if the Founders dreamed of us when they sat in that grass? I think maybe they saw the influence tens of thousands of women loving and supporting one another could have. I think we are the legacy of their dreams come true.