Once a Greek, always a Greek: How my time in a fraternity impacted me

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It was a balmy, sunless May Saturday when I received the news that he had died. “You’re shitting me,” I remember exclaiming in disbelief into the phone when my friend had called to tell me that one of my pledge brothers had died. Although we had only known each other for the length of our freshman year in college, I had considered him a brother, bounded together by Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. That summer I got drunk, mourned, tried to make sense of my loss and, ultimately, witnessed the strength of 60 men whom I’m glad to call my brothers. Like everything else that hazy summer, it didn’t make sense, but in perhaps the worst moment of my active career in Pi Kappa Alpha, we learned that our brotherhood was no myth.
The chapter as a whole met the day after his death. We cried, told stories of his character and used one another to prop our spirits up. At the funeral, we stood together in back of the room, a mass of black suits, young men learning about the fragility of life together in the cruelest of ways. We weren’t afraid to cry in front of each other; we were brothers after all.
Three years later, I’m still proud to admit that rushing Pike was the best decision I’ve made during my college career. By the time this is published, I will have been an alumnus of this great fraternity for just over 24 hours. While I am 100 percent certain Pike was the fraternity for me, I am writing this column to also commend the Greek system as a whole. It’s no secret to any of us who proudly adorn Greek letters across our chests that both movies and the news frequently portray members of fraternities and sororities  as sex and booze incarnate. I’m not saying we’re perfect (and I can’t think of one post-adolescent student that is), but we certainly have more depth than- say- a keg.
Just this past semester, Pike collected dozens of thousands of cans to benefit the homeless, Chi Omega devoted a week to raising money for Make-a-Wish and Alpha Xi Delta raised more than $20,000 for Autism Speaks. Often times, UNO’s biggest student-driven philanthropic events are organized and hosted by members of the Greek system. We may have a significantly smaller Greek system than University of Nebraska or many other major Division-1 universities, but that doesn’t mean our roar isn’t just as loud.
I’ll share a secret with all of you readers that won’t surprise anybody who knows me- I’m not exactly the most manly of men. Shocker, the guy who listens to Lady Gaga, has watched “Gilmore Girls” several times with his girlfriend and didn’t  completely hate it and couldn’t tell you if the Colts were a football or baseball team is no Chuck Norris. Well, I grew up fearing my daily ride on the school bus as a kid; the other boys would ridicule me because I liked reading and writing, and they liked sports. I hesitantly pledged a fraternity under the direction of my older brother, who was Pike’s president at the time and figured it would be another testosterone-fueled environment in which I wasn’t cool enough to really become a part of.
To my surprise, I actually flourished during my time at the Pike house and am leaving my active fraternity career with friendships I know I’ll have for the rest of my life. Like any great organization, each fraternity and sorority has a diverse group of people; we’re not one homogeneous group. It’s our strive to make the community a better place while also seeking brotherhood or sisterhood that bonds us together, and each chapter’s ritual and deep history that makes them unique
Maybe it’s because I’m a writer (so I must have a deep, aching, sentimental soul like all the scribes before me) or because I’m a weirdo that analyzes every little thing entirely too much (like all the scribes before me), but I found my last whizz at the fraternity house as an active member of Pi Kappa Alpha to be poetic. I could hear the rush of cars from the third floor bathroom window, the same evening traffic that has pulsated and moved around the house all four years I’ve been a member. As cars zipped by, I thought of how I’ll miss that comforting sound, and the house that I became a man in; of how many times I felt truly alive here; and how I learned to fall in love with a group of guys and all the memories we shared.
I’ve been all the way up to Chicago and all the way down to Florida with my fraternity brothers, been to many formals and Hayracks and, yes, even shared a few beers together. They’ve stood by me as I dealt with my grandmother’s death, supported and campaigned their asses off for me until I won Homecoming King and taught me what it truly means to “work hard, play hard.”
From my days as a new member to the semester I served as external vice president of the chapter, I’ve always felt at home with my chapter. As I stand before my chapter one last time to go alum, I hope I can tell one hell of a going away story, don’t cry (it’s a real concern; almost any episode of “Friday Night Lights” makes me well up) and impacted the chapter in some meaningful way that makes it a better organization than when I started. This brotherhood has become my home, and I know I’m going alum a much better person than when I first called myself a Pike.

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