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MIT blogger Cami M. '23

breaching discomfort by Cami M. '23

Lately I’ve been occupying space. Many spaces, in fact, especially ones I didn’t previously used to occupy.

I’ve found myself laughing and crying and sitting in silence and really experiencing these new emotions of being pushed into this uncharted, new territory. Though I am a junior at MIT01 Which still feels crazy to say. I still find myself wobbling around with reservations and an unsure aura that seems to scream “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

But really that has been the goal of it all, really. I joined a sorority because the prospect of having to explore and understand this new, complicated facet to my personality was interesting and the people were interesting. I chose to live in the house instead of disaffiliating because I wanted to explore this new space deeper and better understand the nuances of sorority life. And really these developments and travels have been great and I’ve learned a lot.

Additionally, I’ve been attempting not to repeat my introvertedness of freshman year, where I frequented the same three spaces every day (Random, campus, and some random café) and instead have been attempting to spread myself across campus. I stepped into New House for the first time ever and spent time with my big,02 In Greek life you typically have a family line and in this family line you have your bigs and littles. A big is someone who typically looks after you and helps you get acquainted with Greek life and you can continue this family line by getting a little and doing the same for them. ehua, and meeting all her friends on House 4. I’ve also been spending an embarrassing amount of time at the pool table in Simmons, the pool table in Random, as well as just wandering around campus a lot more than before.

But more importantly, I’ve been exploring a new space, my boyfriend’s fraternity. And I will tread lightly because I think there’s a lot of things to be discussed and said about fraternities in general and this specific fraternity, but I think it’s also important that I document and talk about this because it’s been something that has been on my mind for almost three years now.

Be Social was one of my first blogposts and it was also the first time I’ve ever felt like I was back in high school despite being in the safety of MIT. I remember how flimsy I felt, how out of place. It felt like I was too dark, too large, too weird, too..everything to occupy this specific space. To be with this specific guy in this specific frat in a house of these specific people who do not and would not know me.

It was bizarre sinking back into this paralyzing complex dance that is high school trauma, specifically the game of popularity. Who likes me? Am I likeable? Do they want me here? Am I cool enough for them?

But after this blogpost I merely swallowed it down and decided never again to blog about these feelings because they were too scary and difficult to navigate. There were too many feelings and not enough words.

Eventually, though, Raymond and I started dating “seriously” and I soon realized that his frat was also a “serious” part of his life and it was something I’d soon have to address. In January, I told him I didn’t like his frat. I told him they made me uncomfortable. That I did not feel safe being in a house with them despite some of them being his closest best friends and that this did not bode well for our relationship.

And I cried and I cried and I cried because I felt enormously guilty knowing how much his frat meant to him and how much the people in there did but simultaneously feeling fearful in that house and in that area.

So we sat and talked for a long time, a very long time, about the role that the frat has had in his life and what it’s meant to him and offered to introduce me to his friends that he trusted.

We eventually lived on a floor in New Vassar with a pod of people from his frat and still it left a sour taste in my mouth every time I had to walk by their doors or hold conversations. They meant well, but I still was uneasy. Part of my uneasiness came from the fact that it felt all so high school to me; that these were the kinds of people that would have never given me a second glance in high school but are only paying attention to me because I’m Raymond’s accessory, his +1. It felt like they talked to me out of obligation and politeness and not out of a want to get to know me.

But simultaneously the semester was rough and awkward and quiet and it was hard to get to know them so I do not fault them for this. Overall, everything felt bad. And so at the end of the semester I told Raymond I still did not like his frat and that I was sorry and that I would try harder.

And then came this semester, where Raymond now lives in his frat house and I live in my respective Greek housing. A couple nights ago, Raymond had once again another talk, this time longer than any of our past conversations, about my feelings and my discomfort and how we can work to fix this because frankly it should be fixed, and I ultimately decided I would try harder.

And so I went over to the house and once again occupied space. I sat on unfamiliar couches and sofas and glanced around at faces I did not recognize or know. My normally loud and piercing voice was quieted, reduced to humble nods and reserved chuckles and the occasional facetious comment here and there. I politely remembered everyone’s names as they introduced themselves to me and I silently hoped that they did the same.

And I asked myself: Do you feel better now?

In a way, I did. This time was different than before. Raymond was aware of my discomfort and was willing to navigate it and mediate it. This time was different. This was a whole group of other people in the house rather than the ones I was initially afraid of because two years have elapsed. I had a lengthy conversation with the GRA of the house, a very flamboyant and lovable man who described to me his initial woes with living in a house full of 40 straight men and how he had been afraid of the house aura as well. But within a week he realized how kind they all were and how he now views them as some of the most respectful and kind people he’s had the pleasure of “mothering.” And for the first time in that house, I felt at ease.

This blogpost is still incredibly different to type out. I think it’s important to acknowledge that a lot of these discomforts and fears stem from a place of trauma from my previous experience with large groups of men in high school, who seemed to act very similar to Raymond’s fraternity, and I’ve been trying to unlearn the damage from back then and realize that these are new people in a new scenario at a new place.

I think it’s also particularly difficult because I don’t want people in that frat to think I hate them or dislike them as individuals. It’s hard to put it into words, how I know that they are good people but something about them together in groups makes me afraid. It’s even harder to try and discuss my feelings on such a sensitive matter without misrepresenting specific groups while also staying true to my own feelings.

Of course there is still a ways to go and me just coming over one time does not magically fix my concerns and doubts surrounding this whole debacle, but it finally feels nice to finally talk about this after dwelling on it for so long and I’m very grateful to all the people who I’ve interacted with and talked to about it. It’s been interesting having to balance feeling comfortable and safe in certain spaces, while simultaneously wanting to push your own boundaries to grow as an individual.

I’ve often asked myself if I’ve hindered myself from growing in the name of self-care, or if I’ve stunted myself in some way under the guise of protection. But I think I’m starting to better understand my limits and myself and after three years I am finally ready to be uncomfortable in these spaces and hopefully eventually find comfort in them.

  1. Which still feels crazy to say. back to text
  2. In Greek life you typically have a family line and in this family line you have your bigs and littles. A big is someone who typically looks after you and helps you get acquainted with Greek life and you can continue this family line by getting a little and doing the same for them. back to text