Second semester sophomore year at JMU I pledged a business fraternity. I went ALL IN. Put it this way, when my parents got my grades for the semester, their comment was, “We know we dropped you off on campus…did you actually stay and attend any classes?”
I had! But the pledge activities of brother interviews, studying for “OQ” (weekly oral quizzing), volunteering, and socializing dominated my time and energy.
True to form, I went in full force, optimistic, positive, trusting, and enthusiastic.
Junior year, the rose-colored glasses started to come off.
What had seemed rites of passage I defended and fought for all of a sudden seemed manipulative, shaming, and with borderline cult-like tendencies.
There was internal gamesmanship, politicking, people adhering to the rules only when they benefited them, cliques, and drama. (Looking back, perhaps they were preparing me more than I wanted to admit for the business world!)
As this behavior came to light and my naïveté got busted up, I started to pull back from activities. I felt betrayed by the image they sold and talked up on the outside, with the inconsistency of the integrity and morals they lived on the inside.
Ultimately, I realized being part of that organization and how it operated directly conflicted with my values of integrity, transparency, and authenticity. With that much of a rub between how I operated and how they operated, could I stay? Could I walk away after sacrificing so much time, effort, GPA, and energy? Was it all for naught?
The answer to that last question–a resounding no! For 7 reasons.
This past weekend, 7 of my pledge brothers (the fact that I joined something that made me a “brother” is nauseating to 2023 Erin…) got together for our annual Girl’s Weekend.
We’re going on 30 years of friendship. 30 years of laughter, tears, and all of the actual, not contrived drama, that life can throw at you.
This weekend I realized how remarkable it was that we’ve maintained these friendships for as long as we have. That all 8 of us have different relationships with each other, and all of us are equally close at the same time. I leave these weekends feeling more of myself, reconnected, and whole as a person.
Talk of the fraternity always seems to come up. My attitude is still crusty. I should probably move on. I should probably let it go.
As I flew home with achy abs from laughing all weekend, I realized I didn’t want to let it go fully. I can’t let it go. Because without that 💩 show of a fraternity, I wouldn’t have the amazing show I have with them today.
Maybe you’re in a situation or group that isn’t completely aligned with who you are and your values. A few reflections:
- Chances are not everyone in the group is bad news. Gather yourself around the good ones.
- Going in eyes wide open and eager is an admirable trait. At the same time, don’t be afraid to squint a little to focus in if things seem a little off.
- Trust your gut. Trust your instinct. It’s not the only factor you should rely on, but it deserves a voice in the decision-making process.
- With time, it seems to me you can always look back and find some good in the situation, even if you couldn’t see it at the time.