I grew up in a house composed almost entirely of girls. Genetic odds to the contrary, I’m the only guy out of four children. That’s right: I have three sisters. And while I love all of them dearly (am I allowed to say the L-word on this blog?), I won’t deny that some small part of me always wanted to have a brother.
Last Saturday, that dream came true. Except I didn’t get just one brother, or even three.
I got forty.
As some of you already know, since early September I have been a member of Phi Kappa Sigma, one of MIT’s 27 fraternities. After starting out as a “pledge” – a probationary member, as it were – I was formally and officially initiated into the brotherhood, along with ten classmates, last Saturday. The past semester has been an incredible journey for me, academically and otherwise, and my fraternity has played a huge role in my life ever since I came here. When I accepted the offer to join Phi Kappa Sigma, I knew that would be one of the most important decisions I’ve made this year. Now that I’m a brother, I can say without any reservation whatsoever that it was also one of the best.
Earlier today, one of my good friends asked me if I “felt any different” after Initiation. It’s a simple question, really. But at the same time, it goes straight to the heart of what it means to be a member of a fraternity. Because the fact of the matter is, actually, yes. At least for me, becoming a brother is not simply a change in title. It’s actually a meaningful change in the way I feel about myself, my future, and – most importantly – my fraternity as a whole. If I had to put it into words, the primary difference is an almost overwhelming sense of accomplishment, of satisfaction with a job well done and well rewarded.
Over the past semester, my pledge brothers and I worked as hard as we possibly could to live up to the expectations of our newfound brothers – just as every other brother before us had. I’ll be honest: it wasn’t always easy. Sometimes we screwed up – as individuals, and as a class. Occasionally we let ourselves get carried away with petty arguments, or allowed our tempers and egos to get the better of us. But one way or another, we always worked through those conflicts, and we went on to achieve some pretty remarkable goals – not the least of which was remodeling our house’s basement, though I can think of many others.
And in the end, we were initiated together as eleven new brothers, the way it was meant to be.
Beyond that sense of satisfaction, the greatest change is a feeling of ownership, of belonging – of, in a word, fraternity. When I walk into our six-story brownstone on Beacon Street, I’m not just visiting “my fraternity house” – I am actually coming home. Whether I see them at home playing Rock Band, or around the dinner table, or simply walking down the Infinite, the brothers of Phi Kappa Sigma actually are my brothers. It’s that simple.
And it’s that important.