I flew on September 11. (On a very small plane with 11 passengers. Yes, 11.) It wasn't something that I wanted to talk about, which is the reason I didn't mention that I was going out of town. I'm fine, obviously, and I was flying for the best reason possible: to see family. Sorority sisters, to be more specific.
My sorority hosts an annual retreat that is sponsored entirely through donors to our foundation. It costs between $1,000-2,000 to send one girl and about 250 girls attended. I felt rather privileged to be invited. The purpose of the retreat is for sisters of all ages to come together for one weekend to strengthen the sorority through discovery of new leadership techniques. It was held at a conference center in rural Ohio, but not too far from our Headquarters in Columbus.
The majority of the weekend (sans sleeping and eating) is conducted outside, rain or shine. If you've been around JGIWC for awhile, you've probably gotten the impression that I'm extremely girly and very un-athletic. You would be correct. This weekend was a huge challenge for me, but one that I willingly accepted.
I can't say too much about the weekend, because honestly, I don't know how. It was life-changing and eye-opening and no words could do any of it justice. I was reunited with friends I hadn't seen in years. I met collegiates who told me that I inspired them. Ever-lasting bonds were created and preserved. At the end of the weekend, I was able to tour our Headquarter building, which is something I've been wanting to do since I became a member 5 years ago.
I've been very fortunate to have had a number of difference experiences within my membership in these past 5 years. I always try to bring an open mind to whatever I am entering, but never have I exited an event so altered, so touched, so refreshed. After the tour, we were dropped at the Columbus airport for our homeward bounds. I spent a few precious minutes with girls I'm proud to call both sisters and friends, and I got on my plane. I carefully opened a small bag in which a number of sisters had placed small notes they'd written me over the weekend and began to read the pieces of paper. I began to choke up when I read, "You are one of the most poised, classy, elegant, and talented women I've ever met. I hope to be like you when I graduate". And then I came across, "You came here as the girl from New York City. You are more than you think" and my eyes became watery. I thought about how honored I am to be among this elite group of women and I put my head into my hands and cried.
I have never gotten on a plane and cried. No matter where I've been, I'm always ready to go home. But this time, something inside of me just wasn't quite there yet. And that's when I knew I had truly changed.
I got all of my tears out, wiped my eyes and took a deep breath. Not moments later, the pilot announced that the winds from Hurricane Ike were swinging North and it was no longer safe to fly such a small aircraft. He drove back to the gate and ordered us to deplane.
Be careful what you wish for 'cause you just might get it...?
After sitting in the airport for another 4 hours, it was determined that I would not be able to fly out until the following day. I took a cab back to our Headquarter building and spent the night there. It's funny; when I was there on the tour, I wondered to myself if I would ever have the chance to return and possibly stay there. But I was thinking in terms of years, not hours.
I don't exactly feel comfortable with security officials who don't seem to know what's going on. And I wasn't exactly loving that when I returned to the airport on Monday, my flight from SUNDAY was still on the screens as 'on time' and my new flight was nowhere to be found. Or the fact that the Delta desk attendant was chatting loudly on his cell phone with his mother, complaining about his job. This does not make for what I consider to be a legit airport. I also wasn't a big fan of flying in general when the flight attendant asked 4 people seated in the front to move to the back in order to distribute the weight more evenly so that we could take off on time. I shut my eyes tightly and prayed for my life. It's a good thing I already had my emotional moment on the plane the day before, because I wouldn't have had time to on this joke of a means for transportation.
So here I am, back in New York. With an experience behind me that I will always keep close to my heart and never, ever forget. Unfortunately, when I went to upload all of my photos, I learned that my camera has reached the end of its life and I was only able to salvage about 10 of the 60 photos. I took so many, and most of my favorites are gone. I'm heartbroken. Luckily, I have many great sisters who will send me all of the photos that they took. And if I've learned anything this past weekend, it's that life is short, and in the words of my favorite poet, Robert Frost, "it goes on".
Last but certainly not least, to my Hot Pink girls: Thank you so much for a wonderful weekend. You are all precious. To know that all of you appreciated my attendance and that some of you even looked up to me... was more than worth braving the rain. I know I've done something right.