Before I rushed
Before I rushed, I said: “But I love the diversity of random assignment.” My first-year dorm had all types: jocks, frat bros, quiet kids who rarely left their rooms, geniuses, girls who went out every night. We were all friends. I felt like I actually knew the Class of 2015. I haven’t felt like I’ve known them since.
Before I rushed, I said: “It weirds me out—it’s like you’re auditioning to be friends with people.” I had spent my life auditioning for plays, and I was thus well acquainted with this type of terrifying judgment and the possibility of subsequent debilitating rejection. And it was even worse—for shows, there were a myriad of perfectly explicable, painless reasons for rejection. But for rush, it was so simple—it really was nakedly about whether or not they liked you. They deemed which qualities were most important in a friend to them, and then they judged based on a few interactions whether or not you stacked up.
Before I rushed, I said: “But it’s not even about the diversity of the group—it’s about my own diversity.” Sometimes I was shallow, and I liked gossiping and getting pretty and going out and getting attention from boys. Other times I was an intellectual, and I enjoyed puns about the Allegory of the Cave that punctuated 4:30 a.m. philosophy debates. Sometimes I was an activist, and I would find myself barely relating to people whose concerns didn’t expand beyond themselves or their family or even their country. Other times, my own concerns couldn’t even expand beyond the third Lord of the Rings movie. Any group I picked, I felt like I was choosing a single side, or maybe two, and downplaying the rest.
So I didn’t want to rush. But I did want friends. In the end, I rushed a single SLG: Maxwell House.
And I loved them. I related to them with more of my sides than I had anticipated. I wasn’t nervous about getting in because we just clicked—the process of auditioning for a friend group seemed as organic as the simple process of making friends. Even better, I found them to be surprisingly diverse—all types, a group of true weirdos from many walks of life, maybe improved by the fact that we selected each other because we weeded out people with values that were so different that we’d never relate. I’ve never looked back.
But as campus fills with tired first-years who keep losing hours of sleep on both ends due to nerves at night and extended getting-ready routines in the morning, I’m wondering if maybe I should be looking back, at least a little.
Situations in which humans are sorted into categories are inherently difficult for us to judge because, inevitably, the feelings about being selected soon become overwhelmed by feelings about the results of this selection. I almost forgot how I used to feel about rush until I started talking to first-years who were sharing some of my old trepidation.
I couldn’t be more pleased with the results, so it would be confusing to remain so dissatisfied with the process. Moreover, if there’s not an obviously easier way to do it, and if the process is regularly yielding such happy outcomes—most people I know genuinely seem to love their group, and I love the group rush produces for me—why voice any objection?
As I see it, there are two reasons.
For one, I do think we need to consider what is lost when we select ourselves into groups of people who resemble us. Freshman year, beautiful interactions were born out of even the most severe differences. That stereotypical frat guy who used to objectify women? Boy, did we have great, fiery debates. That girl who was so rich she had to insert a location between the words “my” and “house”? I’ll miss her stories, and I’ll miss being surprised by her humility. That varsity athlete whose alarm could be heard at 5:30 a.m. every morning for practice? She made my 9:00 a.m. “run option” alarm seem like the easiest sound in the world.
There’s another reason, too.
Facebook shows us universally broad Bid Day smiles, but we’re deluding ourselves if we think this paints a good picture of what rush does to people. This week, there’s a girl getting a phone call about being dropped from eight of nine sororities in round two. This week, there’s a guy reading his email and seeing that he’s the only one of his friends who didn’t make it past round one in the group they’d all already decided they’d join. This week, there’s a girl who will conclude by Sunday that she simply is not charismatic or pretty. Three years later, she may not have changed her mind.
So even if I’m not calling for reform from my comfy seat in a group I love, I at least think I owe it to these people to say this:
It may seem like we all fully buy in. But we don’t. The process is horrible and unkind and shockingly imperfect. It shows us a tiny sliver of you, and the only reason I’m judging that sliver is that I was born a few months earlier than you were.
So first-years? If you’re inclined to, rush. I’m glad I did. But go in thinking that you’re better than this process, that you’re above it—because we all are.
Ellie Schaack is a Trinity junior. Her column runs every other Monday.