“JUST DO IT!” rang the screeches from far off in the distance. As I teetered over the edge of the stone cliff and peered out at the water below, I could see the jagged outlines of the sharp rocks lurking below the surface. I wasn’t very keen on getting too friendly with those rocks, and their closeness did little to appease the nervous, bubbling feeling in my stomach.
“JUST. JUMP. NOW!”
The yells from my fellow Pi Phis were getting more and more impatient. I sighed, clutched at the frayed rope swing in a death grip, then pushed off and swooped out into the unknown.
All my time spent wavering on the edge of the cliff resulted in me spectacularly flailing throughout the entire swing, losing my grip on the rope, and then flopping ungracefully into the water below. The whole rope swing + cliff + swimming hole adventure looks fantastic when other people are doing it. I remember feeling antsy while waiting in line for my turn, and happily envisioning what type of cannonball I would do for my grand entrance into the water.
What I couldn’t imagine until I climbed up the side of the cliff, however, was the feeling of unexpected fear that took over me. I felt incredibly far away from everyone at that instant, with my closest companions being the sharp rocks waiting to catch me under the water. The yells of my sisters were what snapped me out of my daze, and gave me the extra push I needed to jump away from safety.
My cliff jumping escapade took place in the El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico this past spring break. Two spring breaks ago, I was still just a freshman. My freshman year at MIT passed by in a blur. I was stuck in a comfort zone of what I was used to from high school, so other than playing violin, cooking for myself, and hanging out with my floormates, I didn’t do much outside of schoolwork. I desperately missed my friends and family back home in Iowa, and I saw each holiday as an opportunity to enjoy precious time away from MIT. At the end of a glorious summer break, it seemed almost cruel that I would have to go back to MIT. I tried to think about things that I would have to look forward to, but other than seeing a few friends, I came up sadly short.
The start of sophomore year passed by much the same way freshman year did. I was stuck in the same routine of school, food, and violin. I felt as though I had missed my opportunity to join different clubs my freshman year, and it was too late for me now. While others had explored and found new activities that they were interested in, I had shrunk back and reinforced my shell of familiarity.
In the spring, however, a new, unexpected opportunity presented itself. One of my friends all the way back from middle school, Amanda Evans ’14, approached me about an informal recruitment opportunity with Pi Beta Phi. Before then, I had never given sorority life much of a second thought. I probably wouldn’t have been able to name all five sororities if asked, and sorority life existed well outside the range of my comfort zone. My initial thoughts really mostly consisted of “free food” and “more free food” (they had some awesome tacos), and even as I went to more and more events, I still had no serious intention of joining.
I have a tendency to be a very complacent person. I am neither proactive nor aggressive when it comes to pursuing things that I want, and I see that as one of my weaknesses to be worked on. After receiving my bid, I stared at the small slip of paper and thought about all the opportunities that had slipped through my fingers, all the mailing lists I had signed up for in a spurt of enthusiasm but never followed through with, and the very possible monotony of my remaining two years at MIT if I didn’t finally take a risk and put myself out there.
So, I surprised myself and joined a sorority. I’m trying this new thing now where I don’t sit back anymore and wait for things to come to me. Every new experience I’ve had through Pi Phi has reinforced my resolve that to grow as a person, I have to actively put myself in unfamiliar situations. Familiarity only creates expected outcomes, whereas some of my best memories have come from exploring the unknown.