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One Horse-Sized Duck of Helenes Love

It was 10pm on a random Wednesday night in September. Or was it October? Anyway. Rosebud meeting at the URC—specifically that room with the big windows that makes you feel like you’re sitting inside a goldfish bowl.

I was on membership book committee. We sat cross-legged in a circle on the carpet, Trader Joe’s snacks scattered across the floor.

I don’t remember who brought it up, but our conversation turned to narrowing down the list of questions we planned on asking Gen Mems for interviews. We cycled through topics like zodiac signs, Lizzo lyrics and eventually stumbled across the last question pasted onto the bottom of our Google Doc.

“Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?”

It was silly. None of us could read it out loud without laughing first. But I think it perfectly encapsulates my rosebud class, and my Helenes experience.

I stumbled upon Helenes in my first semester of my freshman year at USC. I literally had no idea what I was doing, but I quickly and luckily became surrounded by a group of people who did. From midnight walks on Trousdale after rosebud meeting, to joining in on the collective panic when Professor Beau (retired, but not forgotten) decided to grace us with his presence one afternoon after meeting, I’ve loved every moment that I’ve been a Helene.

Helenes is the place where I feel most at home because my most authentic self is the one most celebrated by other Helenes. I learned to let down my walls (as scary as that can be) and embrace vulnerability, and this shared collective trust sets Helenes apart from anything else I can think of, either at USC or beyond. I’m definitely not the same person that I was when I first became a rosebud, but neither has Helenes as an organization. It’s a parallel evolution, and I’ve found my place in Helenes to adapt to whatever I need most at the moment, whether that be meeting some of my very first friends at USC, or consistently interacting with people who challenge me to be the best version of myself that I can be.

Before joining Helenes, my personality felt scattered into one hundred duck-sized horses. I thought that I was stronger because I was able to compartmentalize the best parts of myself into whatever I thought other people wanted to see. But much like my self-proclaimed fighting skills, I’m not a good multi-tasker. After a while, micromanaging fragments of myself wasn’t something that I wanted to keep doing. I’d hit the metaphorical horse-duck wall in my fight.

So I turned to the only other opponent left in the ring: one horse-sized duck. And it was scary. Would people still like a more consistent, authentic version of me?

But for the first time in my life, I wasn’t trying to be everything for everyone. The noise in my head (neigh-quack—yeah, I’ll stop now) died down. It was me versus myself, rather than projected, conditional versions of myself. I could be the same exact person from Gatecall to Fall Formal, and Helenes love would still be there regardless.

So I’ll always choose one horse-sized duck. Because at the end of the day, Helenes love comes from its entirety, and not just the shiniest fraction of a duck-sized horse.

Helenes Love and All Mine,

Maria Tsiao


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