the Fraternity Pact

Truth - The greater life lessons we learn oftentimes do not manifest themselves until long after an experience has concluded. Love can be so pervasive and yet so elusive. Recognizing love for what it is can be a difficult thing to ability to cultivate. In doing so though we learn better how to choose for ourselves. We choose love. We choose our family. We choose those that we let in to our lives. We give invitations, make promises, and pledges ourselves in pacts. This is my fraternity pact.

"We're on a planet. At the same time. In the Universe ... Let's do something great together!” Jeff Byington
 
In my post-undergrad life, the significance of my "lifelong" membership in a fraternal organization has faded into little more than fond memories of weekends spent having stupidly hilarious conversation to the soundtrack of early 2000s hits, bureaucratic unproductive chapter meetings, and semblances of interfraternal communal collaborations. I rarely wear my letters save for laundry day. My pin remains encapsulated in its plastic container at the back of my nightstand. Even the founder's creed that I had once memorized comes back to me in bits in pieces. My identity as a fraternity man has become an afterthought. I am a shadow of the "fraternity man" I used to be. But despite being awarded fraternity man of the year at the end of my college tenure, I never really identified as a fraternity man. The image didn't line up with my identities and I found myself disenchanted on many an occasion with the movement being behind the times in general. The touting of community, diversity, and inclusivity had always felt less than authentic. The thoughts of disaffiliating never dissipated for me. There was this moment at the beginning of my initiation ceremony where all those whose hearts were unsure are facetiously asked to depart and it remains ingrained my heart. I asked myself how did I end up there. One thing I never questioned was how it was one of the most formative experiences I have ever had, for better and worse, because the fraternity pact I took was really one to learn how to distinguish and love your chosen family.
 
What I realize now is that I did not fully comprehend what brotherhood meant until I had long graduated. My tenure as an active undergraduate was tumultuous in that I would have these bright spots where I felt all-in like after retreats with group hugs, dueting karaoke on Chipotle runs, or receiving a simple text asking how I was sans ulterior motives, but generally those were small intermissions between generally amiable mundaneness. I remember giving my "brother of the week" presentation as an afterthought at one of my last meetings where it was the first time many of the other men learned the basic details of who I was - siblings, hobbies, ethnicity, etc.  I had spent three and a half years with rotating groups of men who knew next to nothing about me with exception of a few. The relationships I had formed were disingenuous. Their depth had been superficial. My investment in others never rarely provided a reciprocated return with most of the brothers. We shared letters but not who we actually were. Now more than ever though I see with the few brothers that I still actively engage, and more importantly, interact with me, that our relationships gained that gravitas that I had inaccurately perceived to exist before. I see them, know them, and treat them as family - as I had inadvertently strived to do all along. Now I have acknowledge the intentionality behind it.
 
My experience with my fraternity taught me how to care for people in my heart. I learned how to let down my guard and allow others in. I figured out how sustain relationships I found to be worthwhile. I now know how to trust with every fiber of my being. I know what it is to care for others so deeply that my heart leaps with the sound of their voices. I would drop everything if they needed me to. I can have conversations that bring out my core values, bonafide actuality, and biggest secrets, fears, and insecurities. I do not question the realness of my friendships - it is inherent, implicit, and irrevocable. I say I love you unabashedly and mean it. I feel it. I know it. I live it. These brothers I have come to know are part of me as a person. Where they end and where I begin is indistinguishable. My successes are their accomplishments, my heartache impacts them directly, and my regularities still make for riveting conversation because of this mutual love.
 
That word brother is one I use sparingly.I found a few of my brothers for life in my fraternity but more importantly I learned how to spot them elsewhere. Kindred souls, unrelentingly loyal, and with our names mutually written on the hearts of one another. I say their names and I light up A warmth fills me. It is such a profound feeling. These people are my chosen family. That is what fraternity taught me - how to choose my family. I learned how to scribe the ligatures of others' names permanently on my personhood. I gained the ability to carry the qualities of others with me especially when we are apart. I built an army of warriors prepared to fight to the death for me and me for them. I found family to love beyond the boundaries of blood. That ability to recognize everlasting bonds is one that few gain and is absolutely invaluable. I discern those who are in it for the long haul, who challenge me, make me better as a person. I am cognizant of the people that value the entirety of me. I am appreciative of the persons that give the opportunity to be vulnerable with one another. That is the fraternity pact I sign, and re-sign daily.

I serve on my chapter's alumni board and will continue to do so because of the love that my fellow brothers show me. I hope to impart the imperativeness to others through this sustained commitment. To all my brothers in life who love me in, and outside of my organization I say thank you and that I love you. Your presence in my life as my chosen family is what people search their entire lives for. I am so grateful for you and for your allowance of me into your life. We can never know how important we are to one another. Let us never stop telling, showing, and living that we love one another. Do not hesitate to send that text message, snapchat, or book a flight. I will never not be comfortable with you. Know that you are the ones that will stand with me on my wedding day, and be the godfathers of my children. You are those that I will tell about promotions, rough patches, and the latest superhero movies. I love you. Because of who you are, and who you are to me. I love you.

As someone who exists on the other side of fraternal communities in the capacity of an aspiring administrator, I am overcome with emotion when I see/hear the love between brothers being expressed. Sometimes it is explicit and other times it is so subtle. When it is not there it is noticeable. It impacts every single aspect of how you interact with your members. That distinction between organization member and full-fledged familial brother is nuanced. How you communicate, whether that be with compassion, thoughtfulness, and personal investment or carelessly, with criticism, and/or disrespect says so much. People feel the love you show them long after you have left them just as much as they take in your indifference towards them. At the end of the day if you cannot think to yourself why you love a brother, there is a problem. While you may not form those soulful relationships with everyone in your organization being able identify a few in and outside of your chapter is beyond important. Choose your family wisely and they will never forsake you. 
 
The fraternal movement has stalled. With so many calling for its disbandment it seems like those in its upper echelons are out of touch with the reforms that the small, yet vocal minority are calling for. The xenophobic, culturally appropriating, sexist, classist exclusivism is no longer in style. The clinging on to epitomized machinations of privilege is out of touch. The homogenous replication process that reinforces tradition, (read stagnancy) has to go. To get with the times that idea of chosen family needs to be embraced wholeheartedly. If these gendered spaces are to persist they must fulfill their purpose of creating communities where people can get to the core of who they are to dialogue soul to soul.  Forget the embroidered letters, apathetic rituals, and excessive binge drinking/bystander atmosphere - being initiated should mean membership into a chosen family. One where difficult conversations are had. One where all forms of diversity are celebrated, welcomed, and embraced. One in which people not only sincerely care for one another but put action behind it. If you don't get to love and be loved by your brothers or sisters, what is the point? All the pretentious formality, dynamic recruitment workshops, and Greek Week practices mean nothing without the choice of love. Screw the bracketology, crafting, and throwing what you know, where is the love? Values based organizations are irrelevant if the end all value of love is not central to it all. X

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