Sharing rides, goals with new-found brothers
Out of respect for fair recruitment, I have omitted my fraternity’s name from this column. I encourage all potential members to visit with each fraternity and decide which is right for you.
If you had asked me when I graduated high school whether I would be writing a column four years later about how joining a fraternity changed my life, I would have told you the chances were slim. I might have even laughed at you.
I wasn’t anti-fraternity nor particularly conscious of the stereotypes: I really just didn’t like the idea of working for people’s collective approval, though the process of joining was a mystery to me. I lived off-campus and missed the blitz of recruitment flyers. I apprehensively imagined a room full of guys talking about me and whether I was “cool enough” to join their ranks.
Deciding fraternity life was probably not for me, I spent my first two semesters making friends and getting involved around campus in other ways. I was managing the wait staff at Jasmine Hookah Bar, helping with a Texas gubernatorial campaign and trying to convince the student body president to appoint me to senate.
Despite having fun and occasionally making it to class, I hadn’t found my time thus far particularly fulfilling.
Over those first two semesters, I noticed that a number of my good friends started joining a fraternity. But instead of getting stoned or hosting drunken orgies, they were devoting countless hours to learning about their fraternity’s history and values and keeping their grades up so they could meet the chapter’s scholastic requirements.
Watching my closest friends go Greek and change for the better forced me to change my view of fraternities. I began to see them not as defining their members, but as being defined by them. I’ll never forget the time one of our friends was stranded in Tulsa with a dead car. One of his fraternity brothers made the treacherous drive to Oklahoma and back in one night to pick him up and make sure he wouldn’t have to miss class.
I realized that sharing a common name and carrying on a tradition that began generations ago was actually inspiring people to live more virtuously today.
Sophomore year I decided it was time to seriously look into joining, so I found a recruitment schedule and picked a few events to attend.
If I liked what I saw, I figured I had an easy in at this point. If not, at least I’d get a week of free dinner and entertainment. Though I was pretty sure I would either join this particular fraternity or nothing, the members adamantly encouraged me to attend another fraternity’s events as well to make sure I had a balanced perspective.
Two months later I was an initiated member. Contrary to popular belief, the process did not involve drinking, drugs, naked line-ups or goats.
I soon became the chapter’s vice president and realized the full spectrum of benefits being Greek had to offer. I learned how to function within a structured organization and used the skills my chapter taught me, like parliamentary procedure, constructive debate and compromise, to finally win a senate seat in Student Government.
A year later I was elected Student Government president and smoking cigars with city council members. As cliched as it may sound, the fun I’ve had and success I’ve since enjoyed would not have been possible without my fraternity.
My brothers have been many things to me: a source of new ideas, inspiration to pursue them, and overall drive to be a better person. Sometimes they make me laugh until it hurts, and sometimes they make me want to pull my hair out.
But at the end of the day, I know that next time I’m stranded in another state with no car or money, they’re only a phone call away.