Dearly Beloved

The 20s are all about constructing your family. To call someone your family means something spiritually significant. Families are tethered together by energy, feelings, and beliefs that transcend time, place, and space. No matter where you are, your connection to your family can never be severed. Their irreplaceable importance means their essence becomes ensconced with your own. Your family is permanently bound to you. Even more so, when that family is the product of your active selection that unification holds sincere gravitas. They are your dearly beloved.
 
Honestly, I don't really know what to write for this post. I had so many different ideas of what I was going to convey but none of them seemed appropriate for what I wanted to get across. I'm going to switch it up and just write an open letter to my fraternity brothers.
 
Dearly Beloved,
Thank you for letting me be part of your college family. There is intentionality in me using the phrasing of letting and the implicit sense of allowance. There are ways in which my membership in our fraternal organization is and has been perceived to be an anomaly. People like me (whatever that means), people who look like me, sound like me, believe like me and embody their masculinity and maleness like me are rare. In many ways I'm an enigma but one that has been able to be part of a rag-tag makeshift family of sorts that we affectionately call our brotherhood, our fraternity, our bond.
 
I want to say I love you. I love you all so much. I love you all with every fiber of my being. I love you all with everything that I am. I love you all unconditionally.
 
When I came to college I had no intention of joining a fraternity. All the stereotypes, stigmas, and socially classed representations did not seem like something that would work for me. What I did know that I wanted was what my eldest brother had - friends - affirming, loyal, genuine friends to share the rest of my life with. The ones that are first to hear about promotions, engagements, and birth announcements. Those that will check in on me just because, make surprise visits to see me, and never forget my birthday. I'm talking about the ones who will serve as my groomsmen, the godfathers and quasi-uncles to my kids, and be there to support me in all my endeavors. I have gone so long thinking that my college search for everlasting companions has been a failure. I hadn't seen the markers for longevity in friendship that I was expecting, but what I had missed in doing so was that I had already surpassed that with you all by the establishment of the ultimate unification - family.
 
There is a reason we use the word brother. It's actuality shows up in the way I feel about my three older brothers. It's that overwhelming feeling of immense love, ferocious protection, and unbridled passion that moves me to tears in thinking about them or my younger sister, is something I never thought could be replicated. The way I love my siblings with an understanding that our lives are indelibly intertwined is how I have come to recognize my love for you all. My brothers are my soul mates in camaraderie. We will go together forevermore. Disregard all the uncertainty of life, the one thing I know for sure is that my life will always be complete because you're in it.
 
Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for giving me happiness. You may never understand the life-saving/changing impact your fellowship has had on me. Words are insufficient to communicate the immense hope, joy, and peace having a rapport with you has brought me. It is because of your unabashed adoration of me and all my complicated quandaries that I have made it through my college years. You have made me smile big until my cheeks hurt, laugh until I couldn't breathe anymore, and cry uncontrollably. You have empowered me with the confidence to be candid with my gratitude and affections. You have given me memories that I will cherish so long as I live.
 
To say I haven't questioned my membership in our venerated order would be a bold faced lie. Every time I have contemplated departing it has been the magnitude of your sincere love for me that has kept me. Becoming a fraternity man was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I can only speak from my personal experience and I must point out that that larger narratives of problematic behaviors attributed to our community and communities like ours as well as the fraternal movement as a whole are not unfounded, to say so would be an egregious error. You all have not been perfect, and I never expected you to be - but you also granted me that same privilege. You gave me the ability to mess up, to work through my complications, and to take responsibility for attitudes, the ways in which I showed up, and my impacts. You have strove to take ownership of your interpersonal relationships and that is all is asked of you. I appreciate your willingness to get uncomfortable, to be vulnerable, and to speak frankly about the tough things. You come ready to converse about all the headline making heaviness - sexual assault & rape culture, racism, heterosexism, and all the oppression, discrimination, bias, and prejudices in between. You're committed to learning, about society but even more so yourselves and even me too. I don't know many men like you, and you challenge me daily to be better.
 
I want to express my heartfelt appreciation for your celebration of me. You gave me home, family, and brotherhood. You saw me for who I am. You saw the best in me. You saw me as human. You embraced me, both figuratively and literally, without hesitation. You demolished the barriers of race/ethnicity and class that had caused strife so many times before for others with me. When you give me hugs our cheeks touch, our earlobes graze one another, and for a few seconds there is no space between us. We collapse into one another and build up again as one. We separate and I feel your love radiating off of me. You let me be normal. You let me be silly. You gave me nicknames and delegated me as the unofficial college dad. You brought me back down to Earth. You accepted my imperfections, flaws, and chaos. You validated my experiences, thoughts, and personal truths. You have been my friend and have asked for nothing in return. You see me - all of me. Dearly beloved, I am eternal indebted to your humble companionship.
 
Fraternity is about love, profound love dearly beloved, that shakes your body and soul. It is an unbreakable connection to others for a lifetime. It saves you; from loneliness, from yourself, from life. Fraternity, real fraternity, my fraternity is about loving the humanity of yourself and others.

Sincerely,
Brother Oteng

*This past weekend was a continuation of the latest  realizations that I will truly miss the people I have been able to know here. I spent my Friday night eating dinner and catching up with a brother Connor downtown. It was only in doing so that I recognized even through my perpetual frustration with him my fondness of him was unceasing. Saturday was the spring fraternity retreat that is hands down the most "us" time where everyone is most themselves. Powerful sharing of vulnerability, people speaking from the heart, and all the subtle moments of playful brotherhood. Piggyback rides, chair racing, and frustratingly brain-teasers added a lightheartedness to it all. We finished with warm & fuzzy notes that went beyond anything I could have expected. Sunday morning I ventured to the gym for squash and bonding time with another brother, Brad and I felt totally comfortable outside of my comfort zone. Will and I did some online shopping (belated birthday present) and even Monday night saw some of the squad filling my apartment for an impromptu study sessions. It's been a busy few days in the fraternity world, but it's an everyday commitment - one I'm excited to be connected to so long as I live.

My blog post question for the day is ... when do your friends become your family? I know for me whenever I think about some of the people in my life and not being able to exist without them. That sense of necessity is my cue to know I've chosen them for my family.

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