I am not in a secret society.
When I wasn’t tapped, I was pretty bummed. I wish I could say I was mature enough not to care, but I did. I was worried that I would be missing out on some fundamental Yale experience, that everyone would have new friends and, worst of all, that I was somehow subpar — that all my friends in societies (all my friends) were somehow more “accomplished” or “worth knowing.” It felt lame.
I guess I’m writing this op-ed for future people like me — people who for whatever reason slip through the cracks of the system. I’m writing to say: Don’t feel lame! I can’t speak for the society experience because I didn’t have it, but I can speak to the non-society experience, and the verdict is: It’s totally fine. It’s totally not a big deal. Seriously.
There are a lot of advantages to society, but it takes up a ton of time. Twelve hours a week for roughly 34 weeks amounts to over 400 hours. That’s a lot of hours! Society is one way to spend them, but there are certainly others.
Last semester I spent every Sunday and Thursday night writing the book for a musical that went up in December, and this semester, I travel to New York every Thursday for an internship. If I were in a society, I wouldn’t be able to have this job — as I usually get back around 10 p.m. And who knows if I would have had time to write the play last semester if I didn’t devote two nights a week to the project?
I’ve heard friends talk about how amazing society is — the bios, the parties, the dinners. But I’ve also heard friends complain about it — when society must take precedent over studying for a test or applying for jobs or spending time with other friends or roommates.
Junior spring, society is such a thing. Everyone everywhere seems to be talking about it and thinking about it and worrying about it. But when senior year rolls around, it fades into the background. No one really talks about it anymore. It doesn’t continue to take over everyone’s lives. (I promise.)
The real secret about secret societies is that they’re not a big deal. They’re a fun way to get to know people. To get free food. To socialize. To think. But they’re not the only — or even best — place to do that. I’ve had plenty of deep conversations, debates and drinks with (new!) friends this year, and I didn’t have a tomb inside which I could do so.
Every year, there are inevitably people who don’t end up in a society. And my only message to you is this: I’ve had a fantastic senior year without one. I did things I was proud of, made new relationships I will always treasure and had a little bit of extra time to do so. I’m not in a society, and I don’t think I’m a lame person — all of you juniors who don’t get tapped, please, please, please join the club.
Marina Keegan is a senior in Saybrook College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.