Being an AOII Is “No Light Thing”

in General News, RT&J

By Kandy Cassano Bernskoetter, Sigma (U of California at Berkeley), Rituals, Traditions, and Jewelry Committee

“The opposite of belonging is fitting in. Fitting in is assessing a group of people, and thinking, how do I have to act, what do I have to say, what do I have to wear, and changing who you are. And true belonging never asks us to change who we are. It demands we be who we are.” – Brené Brown

Being accepted into AOII during initiation is “no light thing.” One of my lightbulb moments in AOII, where I felt true belonging, was convention in 2017. I was elected to my first term as a Foundation Board member. The previous evening, we all heard the first year of PIP storytelling, now one of my favorite convention events. PIP Ann Gilchrist told a story about an adventure with her husband, Keith, who was an Alpha Kappa Lambda. The next night at Rose Banquet, there was a “Meet and Greet with the PIPs” and I shyly went up to Ann (yes, I felt like a kid meeting Taylor Swift!) I introduced myself. I told her I enjoyed her story, and my dad was an AKL at UC Berkeley, which is their Alpha Chapter.  Ann asked me, “What is your father’s name?” I am fairly sure I didn’t pause, I remember thinking, yeah sure, like you’ll know him! I replied with my dad’s name, and she smiled and said she knew him!  It turns out that Ann was the Executive Director’s administrator in the AKL home office in Indianapolis, and had met my dad many times. Three years prior at the AKL Convention, my father received the very first “Ann and Keith Gilchrist Man of Distinction Award.” 

So here I was, at age 47, having this amazing connection with one of our dearest sisters and leaders through extended family. I didn’t have to act any special way, say anything, or even think about that. I just showed up as me, and Ann saw that. I belonged…”no light thing.”

With so many Founders’ Day celebrations coming up, I remember the story of our founders in the little room above the stacks of the library at Barnard College. That day in January 1897, they formed our Fraternity. It is sometimes hard to believe how young they were when they pledged friendship. But when I reflect on this, it reminds me that life-long friendships have no age limits or boundaries. A sister at 18 and a sister at 88 have the common ties we share from our ritual, which hasn’t changed in over 127 years. For me, our ritual makes me feel a sense of belonging, unity, and common character with and among members of AOII…“no light thing.”   

You may contact the Rituals, Traditions, and Jewelry Committee (RT&J) about anything Ritual-related at RT&

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