Tuesday, August 08, 2006

My thoughts on sorority life

I don't think I'm the only revert to Islam who feels at times like she leads two seperate lives, but mine keep me very busy. I can't remember the last time I was bored, I do so much that I do actually lose sleep, and can entertain myself with conversation about any of the things I do. Islam is one part of my life, a growing part. The rest is what I am gradually starting to leave behind.

People often remark about how busy I am, and it doesn't sink in. I think "Oh, he's just saying that," or "She's just being nice but she's as busy as I am." Is that true? This week I am planning to work 61 hours in total. (Needing to give up one of those hours, though, still working on that...). I also have dinner plans on Wednesday, and have been invited just about every day to go walking with some sisters, something I plan to start today inshaAllah. I've picked up two extra shifts at work (to be noted, for the following week I won't be working at all in the lab.) After this I'll get a little bit of rest before starting school all the way.

Yes, that means life is going to get busier! Starting with 14 credit hours, 8 of which are engineering but don't include a 4-hr lab. The remaining 6 will be, I'm praying, religion courses. The idea being that since I have spent the last year studying religion, this sort of non-devotional study might actually benefit me in my own personal studies, and also might benefit from my personal studies. My full-time DOT job will scale back to part-time, hopefully at least 15 hours a week, and I can perhaps keep a few weekly hours in the lab that can supplement my income while offering me the opportunity to catch up on homework. This is all not to mention the Arabic language class I'm planning to audit, which unfortunately might be the first to go if this is all too tight. Of course, as a schedule, the above is all only if God wills it.

The other main issue--and this is one that scares me--is my sorority. President again this semester... and I can't say it went especially well last semester. You see, the more religious I become, the more isolated I am from a lot of social activities with them. No official events involve alcohol, and the organization is equally professional as social, but I'm tending to spend less time with my friends outside of "official" events because I don't care to go out to get a drink afterwards, or spend the weekends at a club, or make a round of the frat parties. As president, it is more official business that occupies my time, coordinating between committees and ensuring we stick to our policies, but I sort of feel "apart" from the rest of the girls. Islam aside, to focus on school, I can't even attend as many functions as I once could. I can already feel the burden of 3 weeks of recruitment, 3 months of fundraising--trying to encourage activity from others but hardly able to be active myself. As much as I hate to admit it, I really am looking forward to the spring, and going inactive, at which point I may close this chapter of my life. On the other hand, I have changed so much since joining, that thought deserves sincere reflection.

Returning to school in the fall of my junior year, I was eager to improve myself in an area I felt I was lacking: social skills. I would say I had two extraordinary interviews the previous spring, being offered both jobs for which I actually did interview, but nevertheless in August met the unhappy realization of attending school again in the fall (instead of co-oping) knowing that something was missing. I made personal resolutions to become more involved on campus, and on one of the first days of school saw a chalked advertisement for a professional engineering sorority, and just at the last minute decided to attend their "info night." You could say I fell in love with the girls--nowhere before had I been able to just "get along" with so many at once--we had so much in common, and right away I felt like I belonged.

I remember in HS my dad tried so hard to push me to "get out" more, to go to parties and socialize with my "friends." I was much happier to stay at home, never really had an urge to go out; it's funny now then, that I'm president of a sorority--like I should be some sort of social queen. I wouldn't really describe myself as extroverted, or someone who really needs social interaction, but I have certainly come to appreciate it, and enjoy it. I've learned how to talk to people in groups, individually, in general how to manage people and direct them toward a goal, how to assign tasks to keep people from being overburdened or disinterested. I've become more comfortable with myself and my personality, and have had to deal with accountability to other people. I hope these traits can benefit me outside of an engineering career, though that was the original intention in seeking to develop them.

I can remember a time when I was too shy to speak up in class, or to give a presentation unless I was extremely well-informed, at which point I would just ramble on about what I thought was relevant. Talking to strangers 1-on-1 was incredibly difficult for me. The Friday before last, I realized that I had made progress... chatting up strangers at my sorority's booth (display board) at an orientation session. Over a year ago I remember watching a girl a really admire do something similar at a booth for SWE (Society of Women Engineers), and I was really impressed at how easily she could talk to people, and made a point of wanting to be able to do that, one day. I won't say it's something I'm especially good at, now, but at least something I feel moderately comfortable doing. And I do have an added challenge--that everyone looks at me a bit differently because of the scarf.

To be honest, I hope that I can use such skills as these, like talking to people, in a more noble endeavor than engineering networking. Da'wah, for example, and teaching, are two places where my mind is. I appreciate the experience and all I have learned, but really I am ready to move on into a more serious world that doesn't have time for after-dinner parties four times a week.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Salam Amy

Ah decisions, decisions. Yes it's always a struggle as a muslim trying to work out how much to 'participate'. Read the following link, I'm sure your sorority doesn't go this far. But I was kind of shocked to see this happening at Catholic Univeristy.