The Road Almost Not Traveled
Growing up with two lawyers as parents and watching a lot of Law and Order SVU, I thought I was destined to become a lawyer. Halfway through my third year of law school at the University of Virginia, I am frighteningly close to that goal. (Of course, there’s still the whole passing-the-bar thing, but one obstacle at a time.) Given this clear goal, you might have thought I would have gone straight through college and into law school. But I didn’t—and it’s because I joined Alpha Chi Omega.
I won’t go on about what this organization means to me. I’ve said it before on this very blog, and many of my sisters have said it better. Suffice it to say that it changed my life and helped me become the woman I wanted to be. But my experience would not have been complete without serving for a year as a chapter consultant.
I spent the better part of the fall semester of my senior year agonizing over what to do when I graduated. I had taken the LSAT, my grades were where I needed them to be, I could get my letters of recommendation easily. In short, I was in a good position to apply to law schools. But something just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go to law school; I did. But I also knew that all the same schools would be there next year, and once I started down that road, the opportunity to become a consultant would be gone.
So I did what I normally do and called my parents. I expected resistance. I expected them to be worried about what impact this might have on my future, whether I was having second thoughts about law school or that they might think this was me being afraid of the future and trying to hold onto something familiar. When I called, I was prepared to deal with any of those responses. What I was not prepared for was their easy acceptance and encouragement. “It sounds like a great opportunity,” my mom said. “Law school will be there next year,” said my dad. When I asked why they were so supportive, they told me it was because they had seen how much I had grown since joining Alpha Chi as a sophomore, and they understood my desire to give back to the organization that had given me so much.
After that, I did what I realized I had wanted to do all along: I applied. I got to go to headquarters for the very first time for my call-back interview. I received and accepted the offer to be a traveling consultant for Region 3. I flew off to Indy for training and met the most amazing colleagues and sisters you could ask for. And then I started my travels.
At the beginning of my very first visit, I remember feeling incredibly overwhelmed and out of my comfort zone. I realized I was the person more than two hundred young women were looking to for answers. I was the first line of defense for any emergencies. And who was I? A very newly graduated college student who’d had five weeks of training. I wasn’t much older than many of these women and not much more experienced. But, there was a job to be done and it was my job to do it. So I put on my makeup and heels to convince myself that I was a confident consultant, just like the other sisters who had visited my chapter and somehow managed to save the day with unflappable grace. I don’t know how graceful I was—my lovely sisters from that first chapter I visited may have their own ideas. But we pulled through it together and I remember fighting back tears when I said my goodbyes.
It was on the plane, the first time I’d had only myself for company in the last two weeks, that I had time to reflect on the visit. This was the first time in my life that I had truly been in charge and ultimately responsible. It had been daunting, but I had done it. I could do it again. It was through this experience that I learned to have confidence in myself, in my abilities, in my judgment and in my own self-worth. With each new visit, I learned new lessons, faced new challenges and continued to grow that confidence.
While I learned a great deal about people, met incredible women, traveled the country and had an amazing time, it is what I learned about myself that made the experience invaluable. Whether consultants go on to work in higher education, become lawyers, become executives or any other career you can imagine, it’s the confidence we learned to have in ourselves, and in our judgment, that gives us the strength to succeed.
Transitioning from college to the “real world” is hard. You wonder if you’re really ready. You wonder what the world will throw at you and if you can handle it. For me, taking a year to learn about myself was what I needed to walk through those law school doors confident that, no matter what, I would be able to make my way in the world.
And of course, I had the time of my life.