Monday, January 16, 2017

Eight Lessons I Learned as a Sorority Woman Living on the Road

by Jordan Seaman, Delta Pi (U of Central Missouri)

On July 17th the Educational Leadership Consultant team and I began a journey of a lifetime. For all who do not know, ELCs are women who work as liaisons between the collegiate chapters and AOII International Headquarters. I wanted to be an ELC since I was a sophomore in college, and I was so excited to travel across North America to represent an organization that I love so much. At my interview for the position, my boss and I spoke about personal growth and development throughout the time as an ELC. However, I never expected the amount of personal growth and lessons I would learn in such a short amount of time. In only four months, I traveled to 16 states, seven universities, and I met hundreds of sisters who impacted my life that helped me grow and learn some lessons along the way.

1. Know your necessities.
As many of my sisters, family and friends will tell you, I’m a clothes hoarder. I can spend hours on Pinterest researching the latest styles and trends. So when attempting to pack my entire life into two 50 pound suitcases and a carry-on, I panicked. Would I need that t-shirt I haven’t worn in months? Sure, I’ll bring it, just in case. Huge mistake. Like I said before, I love clothes, so what did I do when I traveled? Shopped of course. So, after a month on the road I quickly turned into that girl who pulled all my bags to the side to reshuffle my luggage so may bag would weigh less than 50 pounds. Finally, after being charged $100 at the Johnson City, Tennessee (Tri Cities) Airport at 6:30 a.m. for a bag that weighed 62 pounds, I said enough was enough. I landed in Louisiana and sent 2/3 of my luggage home. Lesson learned: If you don’t wear it, you don’t need it. Plus, it gives you more room in your luggage to shop.

2.  Find a routine, and stick with it.
Throughout my life, I’ve always been surrounded by people. I went from growing up as the oldest of five, to a college dorm, Panhellenic Housing, and then living with four roommates. Because of this, I’ve never been on my own for an extended period of time. When I hit the road, it was safe to say I was somewhat terrified, traveling for four months alone. However, I knew that it would be a great time to learn more about myself. It only took until my first visit at Sigma Omicron at Arkansas State University to realize that being alone gives forces you go into a routine. I’m not talking about get up, go to work, eat, and go back to sleep routine, I’m talking about a routine that makes you happy. For me, it’s waking up and listening to music drinking a cup of coffee (or three). I love to run, so I run at least two miles a day. I love to explore, so throughout my travels I will always go find food or explore the area. I love to laugh, so I check my favorite IG accounts, watch some Snapchat stories, and maybe an episode of How I Met Your Mother or The Office every now and again. I always had a fear of routines, but I never realized that a routine could also lead to adventure. Lesson learned: Find yourself, find what makes you happy, form it into your daily routine, and live a life of happiness.

3. You can network anywhere, but especially at the airport.
To be completely honest, before this job, I was absolutely terrified of flying. I quickly got over that fear, because I took 13 flights in only three months. Throughout my time in a variety of different airports, I learned that they all have one thing in common: opportunity. Opportunity in the sense that everyone in at the airport has the same mission as you: to get where they’re going. However, if you take the time to meet the person next to you, you can meet some amazing people. Being an outgoing person, I usually said hello and introduced myself to people in the Starbucks line, terminal boarding, or even grabbing a bite to eat. From simply generating small talk, I met some outstanding people, had extremely interesting conversations, and even received three job offers. I also met Lee Brice, but that’s beside the point, (but also really cool.) I’m not saying you need to do this anywhere and with anyone, because trust me, the 6 a.m. flights are rough. However, sometimes taking out the headphones and putting away the cell phone can go a long way, and I would suggest that to anyone. Make every opportunity a networking opportunity. 

4.     Always remember where you came from.
There seems to be a common misconception that moving away from your loved ones means you can’t stay as close as you once were. When I moved away, I was terrified that this would become reality. In my college years at the University of Central Missouri, I gained some of the best sisters, roommates and friends I could ever ask for. They’re entirely the reason that I applied for this position in the first place, and I was determined to keep these relationships strong. I reached out to one person a day through text, phone call, snail mail (yes, lots of post cards), Snapchat, and whatever else to ensure those relationships would last. When I returned for UCM’s Homecoming, I was overwhelmed with the amount of love I received from my sisters and friends from the Community. They’re so supportive of everything I’m doing and continue to push me to be the best I can be. Lesson learned: It only takes 30 seconds a day reach out and stay in contact. If you care about someone, make it known and always thank those who help you create your success.

5. Positivity is everything.
Before this job, I underestimated the power of a positive attitude. The sisters I met definitely put positivity into a new perspective for me. If there is one thing that all Alpha Omicron Pi sisters have in common, it’s perseverance, but especially perseverance with a positive attitude. Throughout my travels, I met some of the most inspiring sisters with the most incredible stories. Lambda Tau at the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) will forever stand out in my mind. They came together to help a sister who was in a terrible car wreck by raising funds within the community, visited her hospital bed every day, and continue to support her with their love, positivity, and sisterhood. When I met her, she was the most positive person I have ever met, and had the best attitude towards everything that happened. This woman and Lambda Tau changed my perspective on life and positive thinking. From that moment, I vowed to always look at the glass half full, and have taken that positivity and worked it into my everyday life.

6.  If you don’t ask, you’ll never get what you want.
I’ll be honest with you, I’m stubborn. I’m so stubborn that I walked a half mile to and from class every day because I didn’t want to burden anyone to ask for a ride. I hate asking for help because I don’t want to bother others, and I have the “I can just do it” attitude.  Because of this, I wasn’t the best at asking for what I wanted; however, with this job it quickly changed. For four months, I relied on my sisters for my food, transportation and experiences. Even though the guilt and independence was in full swing, I learned I had to start asking for what I wanted. I started to break down the stubborn wall when I arrived at Alpha Theta at Coe College in Iowa. I finally began to ask to on the adventures that I wanted, and in only one week I went to a Cedar Rapids live production, The Kernels minor league baseball game, Coe College football game, and had the best cup of coffee of my life at Brewed Awakenings. I made some fantastic memories, and bonded with sisters along the way. I began to slowly stop being so stubborn, and ask for what I needed. In my work and everyday life, I began to ask, and I began to be a lot happier and getting the things and experiences I wanted. Lesson learned: Whether it’s a place to eat or seeing a part of the country that you want to see, just ask. If you don’t advocate for yourself, you’ll never get what you want.

7.  Patience.
So simple but so true. Before this job, my patience was extremely low. However, this quickly changed. From the small things like flight delays in the Atlanta Airport to tabling on campus for weeks, every situation helped me grow and realize the wonderful lesson: patience is a virtue.

8. You never know who you can inspire, just by being yourself.
I’m constantly asked why I wanted to be an ELC, and my answer is always the same. I want to help and inspire others. However, I really under estimated the amount of sisters I would meet that would inspire me as well. I met a group of amazing sisters I call my ELC team. Not only did we make 14 people fit into a house with seven beds and three showers, but we made it through spider attacks, fire alarms, lock outs, and the AC turning off and breaking in the middle of the Nashville summer. We can take on the world.

I met the wonderful Grace Houston: a sister who serves on the Executive Board who inspired me to push myself to the best of my abilities. We spent the day in Monroe, Louisiana, and she also served as the Colonizing Officer for Phi Alpha at East Tennessee State University. She inspired me and so many other sisters, and I can only imagine to be like her one day.

I met so many sisters from across the country that made me realize why I wanted to be an ELC in the first place. Sometimes, it’s the little things like dancing and singing Broccoli with Sigma Omicron while preparing to recruitment. Their fun and larger-than-life attitudes made my first visit so enjoyable, and with their hard work and determination, they had the highest recruitment return rates they’ve had in years. The women of Phi Alpha inspired me by being them. They managed to grow and build the foundation for their chapter in only six weeks. Their love for AOII and each other is unbreakable, and I know they’re going to be an outstanding chapter. You never know who you’re positively impacting, so just be you, and the rest will follow.

In just four short months, I’ve grown so much as a person, and my love for Alpha Omicron Pi has tremendously grown. I can’t thank everyone on my ELC team, and everyone I’ve met across the country enough for this fantastic experience. One semester down, one more to go, and many more lessons to learn.

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