Fraternizing with the Fraternity
Being a teenager is all about meeting your counterparts. When you meet someone that’s supposed to be just like you, it’s like stepping into a parallel universe. Like that movie Pleasantville with Toby McGuire and Reese Witherspoon, or when Sabrina met Katrina (her evil Spellman twin). It’s such a weird thing to meet someone who’s supposed to be just like you, but you realize they’re absolutely different in every single way. I’m talking about in college when you meet someone in the same club form a different college, and even more so your same fraternity. Get ready to fraternize with the fraternity.
Can we please start with just how excited I was to get to see my fraternity brothers this summer (that awkward moment when you’re going back to college in exactly 1 week). Our fraternity, that is Phi Mu Delta National Fraternity, has our biennial business meeting called conclave this week. Wednesday afternoon after packing like nobody’s business, I had my mom drop me off at the Greyhound bus station in downtown Cincinnati. My brothers, Derrick, Phil, Rob and Zach were already well on their way driving from Burlington, Vermont to Cleveland, OH when I finally boarded by bus. Let me tell you, that was one of the most ridiculous experience I’ve ever had the displeasure of experiencing. The station was sketched out, with tattooed, boozed up, and heavily pierced city dwellers. To say I felt out of place like the prepped out suburban boy I am would be an understatement. I couldn't even handle the whole ordeal. I boarded the bus with like this eastern African youth ministry (y’all know I love my Africans, but that would be Western and Southerners, JK). The dude next to me was hogging the space like nobody’s business, and doing the most with his constant jibber jabber. I was just trying to read a book, listen to my tunes, and play some roller coaster tycoon. No such luck, the people to the other side were discussing their child support problems, military combat experience, and favorite video games. I was so tempted to say, “Homie-G, you’re doing the most right now – you’re way too old (as in late twenty-something) to be playing video games.” The trip moved slowly, and eventually we made it Columbus (apparently all major cities in Ohio start with a “C”) where I had to get off the bus, for no reason, and reboard a few minutes later. This time everyone got their own section of seats, and retreated to their electronics. Blue lights, cell phone screens, and laptops illuminated the entire bus from back to front. Hours go by, and I’m pretty sure I was going in and out of consciousness. Soon I see city lights, car dealerships (if it ain’t for a Benz, I can’t care) and realize I’m close to Cleveland. I text up a storm to my bros, and they meet me at the bus depot where I’m immediately hit up for money from multiple homeless people (it’s the naïve, vulnerable, teenage boy face I walk around with that makes me a target). We drive over to the hotel, get settled, choose twin sized bed mates (smaller than my room at school) and bro hug it on out. It’s been multiple months and I really did miss them a shat ton. We sat up catching up for a bit and planned when we would wake up – who could of forgot how much of a character those guys are? I don’t know, I just like to fraternize with the fraternity.
Never have I ever shared a bed in recent times (when I as a little kid, so about 4-6 years old, doesn’t count). So going half-sies on a twin size hotel bed with a big guy like our Robbie, was more than a new experience. Everyone else passed out, ASAP – whereas I wanted to continue my television addiction with some late night catching up. Soon I’m hearing the weirdest noises of all time. Zachy’s furthest from me sound and silent asleep, Papa Dubois (Derrick) just starts roaring like a legendary Aslan style lion with his incessant snoring, and of course there’s Rob who just moans quietly. I was like, what is this Animal Farm – that ish cray. Eventually I knock out and soon enough it’s already morning. We’re all a complete disaster in the morning, we wake up late and are all over the place. Four guys, one bathroom – you do the math. After a good two hours of preparation, we’re all finally dressed, in business casual garm, and ready to hit the city of Cleveland. We take some pictures with the guitars around town and even pay a visit to apparently the tallest building in Ohio, the Key Tower, before getting some Starbucks (complete with scones) and heading to officially start our extended weekend. It all starts with our opening luncheon where we come face to face with our fraternal counterparts - let's just say it was a little more than awkward. I'm pretty sure I was more than super nervous. We had a keynote speech from the president of the NIC (North-American Interfraternity Conference), Peter Smithhisler, which set the tone for the rest of the day. We broke off into our respective committees and it was Rob, Phil and I with a variation of other brothers in the Member Ed./Growth committee. I let my reserved side take control, and sat back listening to everyone's opinions on how we could grow our fraternity and better educate our members. We had some very vocal brothers like Frostburg and Alabama's Jimmy, AJ & Solomon , and some quiet observers (like me) - either way, lots of ideas were hashed out by some knowledgeable people. We may or may not have digressed but our facilitator Joe, kept us on track. Three hours later we're done for the day and off to dinner. People start mingling and switching up tables, which is when people's eccentric personalities come out. We've got some TV worthy characters out there, that's for sure. Dessert comes out (some strong tiramisu) and chapter of the year presentations start. It's Frostburg versus Susquehanna - Jimmy, James, Branden & Nathan; Billy, Derek & Tom - both groups were impeccable and gave awesome presentations. With our fraternal events done for the day, it was up to our hotel room to get changed for a night out.
Who came up with the bright idea of closing down everything in a city at like 10pm? Worst idea ever. Us "Vermonters" roam around the city, looking for anything open and literally everything is closed, or doesn't let people under 21 in (darn my boyishly good-looking charm and 19 year old age). We retire to our hotel room to watch TV and just talk like bromantic brothers should. After dying of thirst, we find the ice machine and vending machines on different floors of the hotel - let's just say we were a major mess. We creeped on pedestrians from our 6th floor window and called it a night. Fraternizing with the fraternity was drastically different than I expected it to be. All different chapters, but the same core values. It's like siblings in a family, you all look similar and are pretty much just different genetic recombinations of your grandparents genes. We may look different, talk different, and have different inside jokes but we can all connect on the basis that we're all fraternity brothers. For once, you can realize that this thing we call brotherhood is larger than life itself. That's fraternizing with the fraternity.
Being a teenager is all about meeting a different version of yourself. Well there’s no one else I’d rather be, that’s for sure. What I’ve learned is that no two people are exactly the same, and also no two fraternity chapters are the same either. That’s the complete truth. My fraternity in Vermont, is definitely different from the chapter in Alabama but the thing that keeps us all tied together is our fraternal values. Learn those and you can fraternize with any fraternity.
My blog post question for the day is … have you met anyone who looks like you? Uhm, never have I ever met anyone who ever looks remotely like me – I like to think I look like a darker version of Jacob Artist, but that’s not true at all.