Celebrating This Season

in Executive Board
Chantel McCormick Schieffer, Alpha Phi (Montana State U), International Vice President
Chantel McCormick Schieffer, Alpha Phi (Montana State U), International Vice President

By Chantel Schieffer, Alpha Phi (Montana State U), International Vice President

You know how a song can seem to transport you to another time and place? This time of year does that for me. The shift from summer to fall brings not only a welcome change of temperature but also inspires memories of some of the most consequential times in my life. The instant the air starts to crisp, I feel transported to my college campus in the mid-1990s where the buzz of football games, class lectures, and everyday life with my sorority sisters was purely electric.

I can still feel that deep sense of belonging that I first experienced as a young woman navigating the wild rapids of the river life with the help of worldly professors, kind sorority alumnae, and loyal sisters. All generous with their time and grace, they helped to shape me into a woman of ambition, character, integrity, and much more. I am who I am because of that time and place.

That 20-year-old version of myself understood for the first time what it meant to truly belong – to myself, my campus and community, and to a sisterhood that is Alpha Omicron Pi. I understood what it meant to be part of something bigger than just “me”. As an only-child, this was a formidable life lesson to be sure. Growing up without siblings, I did not truly appreciate what I did not understand about familial bonds. AOII filled a hole for me that I did not know existed.

Through this newfound sense of belonging, I learned that deeper accountability must complement the responsibility of lifelong connection. It was a stumble-fall-rise type of learning as I began to sincerely understand my obligation in the world. That learning also brought my identity and values sharply into focus. I experienced love and support in ways I previously only heard about. I was accepted without judgment and did not need to change who I was to “fit in”. I belonged as-is. We all did.

While my story and sorority experiences are mine alone, I know the impact is not unique. Countless women across North America can share a similar perspective of their own, with a foundation of love and belonging at the center. My invitation to you is to sit in those memories for a bit during this season of change. Conjure up the memories of those trusted souls who molded who you are today. If you are so moved, perhaps share gratitude with those people – starting with yourself.

It is with the deepest sense of gratitude that I celebrate this season of change, not only the one I experienced decades ago, and am reminded of year after year. I also celebrate this season of harvesting the seeds planted all those years ago.

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