No Pledge Is An Island

Juliana and her big Michael Parsons in Chicago for the 2014 National Convention. Photo credit: Zac Jones.

Coming to UK with no close friends, I’m not sure how I ended up rushing Alpha Phi Omega the fall semester of my freshman year.  Though the beginning of the school year seems distant and out of focus, I vividly remember the moment I felt that I knew I had a place in Alpha Phi Omega. I had stumbled awkwardly through pledge meetings and the beginning of my pledge retreat, finding some solace in those I’d come to recognize, but I didn’t feel like a part of anything. Instead, I felt as if my status as a pledge separated me from the sea of active brothers.

This feeling didn’t last past pledge retreat. During the retreat, I remember biting my nails down to jagged nubs and shaking my leg so frantically that one would have thought it was on fire. I bounced between groups of other pledges, conducting interviews with the vigor of Rita Skeeter, trying to dispel my nervous energy. I felt like a movie stuck on fast-forward, running through the events of the retreat faster than my legs could carry me, talking in a high-pitched shrill that added to the unnatural speed of the morning.

The day returned to normal pace as the Big/Little reveal ceremony approached. I was still on edge, and waiting in line, bouncing from one foot to the other, like I was struggling to maintain my balance on a sailboat.  Finally, the ritual began, and ended just as suddenly.  After suffering through all my anxiety, I turned around to meet the link I needed to be connected to the chain of brothers in APO– my Big. My anxiety flashed into excitement, and all at once I wasn’t a pledge in a sea of actives anymore; I was Michael Parsons’s Little, and one of the newest members of the Jets family.

That was the end of my perceived isolation. I was lovingly phagocytized into Alpha Phi Omega, into the Jets, and into Michael’s family line. My Big and I became friends immediately, and his friends became mine. Joining APO was like lighting a fuse; it took a couple of weeks to burn, but it resulted in massive explosions of friendship as Bigs and Littles met one another and our pledge class bonded in mutual bursts of excitement.  This was our beginning.  We were pledges now, but we knew that eventually, they would call us brothers.

Juliana Lavey is Alpha Zeta’s service liaison for Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church. She is a freshman Biology and English major.

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