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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kenyon chapter.

I’ve been shy for as long as I can remember. I know all too well the feeling of being the awkward quiet person in a group, wanting to contribute to the conversation but not quite being able to conquer the fear. Throughout my childhood, I hated being shy, which resulted in countless efforts to change myself into the confident, outgoing person I imagined that I could be. I frequently joined new groups or clubs and forced my way into situations that were uncomfortable for me, all in the hopes that I would somehow miraculously be able to walk up to people that I didn’t know and dazzle them with my conversational abilities. I did improve somewhat; being social is a skill, and like any skill it does get better with practice. But I certainly didn’t do any dazzling (to this day I am 100% sure that I have never dazzled anyone about anything), and at the end of it all I couldn’t help but be a little quieter, a little more reserved than the others in the group. Over the years I’ve come to accept my shyness as an ingrained part of my personality; I’m trying to stop beating myself up for not perfectly meeting the unreasonably high standards that I set for myself. So I take a little longer than other people to make friends. So what? I’m still a great, interesting person worth knowing. I decided to stop trying to make myself be someone that I’m not.

Then, I decided to rush.

Yes, you read that right. I, an avowed shy person, voluntarily signed up for what amounts to a weeklong small-talk-athon with a bunch of girls that I do not know and who seem way more put-together than me. Did I mention the small talk? God, there was so much small talk.

Why would I ever choose to do such a thing? Well, this is my second semester here at Kenyon. When I came to college last August, instead of being excited, I was mostly nervous. In high school, I had had a group of close friends, but here, I knew no one. I also knew, because of my shyness, how easily I could fade into the background and spend my time alone in my room, missing out on all of the fun I could be having. For the most part, my fears were unfounded; I quickly made some friends and began to adjust to the rhythm of college life. However, there was something about my first semester that just seemed… lackluster. I was homesick and I was constantly either stressed or bored, depending on how close the next deadline was; the whole semester seemed to lack spirit and never really got a feeling that I belonged here. When I went home for winter break, I even had thoughts of transferring. Ultimately, I liked Kenyon too much to leave, but I knew that something had to change. I wanted to want to spend the next few years here.

I decided to rush because I knew that nothing would ever change unless I made it change—a piece of advice my mom is fond of giving me. Yes, the idea of it scared me, and it would have been easier to spend last week doing what I usually do, free from the potential unpleasantness of meeting new people. However, I felt like my fear, my shyness, was what was keeping me back from truly enjoying my time here on campus. I wondered if joining a sorority would give me that sense of community that I felt I had been lacking and help me find my niche. The only way to find out was to suck it up, face my fears, and sign up for rush.

Interestingly enough, I ended up liking it. After a full week of Rush events, I have a been left with a few impressions:

1. Small talk—it’s not so bad! Sure, it may seem like pointless conversation fodder, but it has a purpose. I remember a couple times throughout the week getting apologies from whoever I was talking to about having to answer the same questions over and over—what’s your name, major, hometown, where do you live on campus, what else are you involved in—with each person that I met. “You’re probably sick of being asked that.” I realized that I didn’t really mind. They were questions that I definitely knew the answers to and so didn’t have to worry about. I think that small talk gets a bad rap among shy people. It’s low-risk talking; it’s less about what say and more about showing the other person that you’re engaged and want to talk to them. If you can’t think of anything to say, just bring up the weather—in Ohio in January, it’s usually bad, and people can usually find something to say about it.

2. I met some great people and had some great conversations. I’d heard some mixed things about the Greek system going in, but once I actually went to rush events, I was surprised to find so many people that I shared common interests with, from Jane Austen to “Gilmore Girls” to Baz Luhrmann’s “Great Gatsby.” I met so many fun, kind, interesting people last week, and even if I don’t end up becoming part of a sorority, I’m glad that I put aside my shyness and went to rush. At the very least, I have a bunch more people that I can say hi to whenever I pass them on Middle Path.

3. Lots of food. SO much food. Like, no matter what happens, I’m glad that I went simply for the amount of chocolate, popcorn, pizza, pasta, and cookies that I was able to consume.

4. Of course, it can’t all be perfect. At the end of the day, I’m still the same person I’ve always been. There were times where I felt like I was being too quiet, that I was going to look too weird to the people around me and that there was no way anyone would want me in their sorority. There were times when I wasn’t having fun and times when I questioned why I was even doing this. And that’s ok. The whole point of this wasn’t to try to constantly impress those around me or to change my personality; it was to push myself out of my comfort zone and see if joining a sorority was for me.

In the end, there was the realization that maybe I’m not as weird as I think I am. I’m certainly not the first shy person who’s ever tried to join a sorority. Not everyone I met during Rush, whether already a member of an organization or considering joining one, was completely outgoing and self-assured. And let’s face it, no one is ever completely outgoing and self-assured. Shyness isn’t a black and white thing; most people would feel timid in some situations, confident in others. I realized I’d been needlessly worrying; probably no one besides myself really cared that I was kind of quiet sometimes, and even if they did, did it really matter? I can’t be anyone but myself, so why worry about it?

As I write this, I do not yet know whether or not I’ll be pledging this spring. While I do hope to get in, I feel that, even if I don’t, I’ll be ok. I’m proud of myself for doing something that scared me.


Images: Feature, 1, 2