What Fraternity Didn’t Teach Me

by Taylor Deer

There are two sides to me and they both fight for control. This isn’t a new concept, but its new to me.

There is the “Big Me”. Success driven, ambitious, goal oriented, hungry for achievement, propelled by admiration, and externally fueled to continue toward reaching success. When the “Big Me” takes over, I am the star of my own movie, and I view the world as resources to help me achieve more. I seek skills in order to boost my personal value, professional development, time management, resume builders, networking, schmoozing, working the crowd, and memorizing jokes because I know they will get a laugh. The “Big Me” looks in the mirror and says, “what will others think of ME today?”. “Big Me” is career oriented, and his theory is based on economics (Hard work + Determination = Achievement). “Big Me” knows that happiness is a product of achievement.

I justify “Big Me” by submerging myself in extrinsic motivation. Listening to music that says “Sleep is for the weak”, “Put in the work”, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me”, buy more, work harder, etc. I look up to famous leaders who lead the business world. I watch movies about the hero overcoming insurmountable odds and reaching their goals and I cheer their success. I listen others when they sing my praise and recognize my effort.

“Big Me” teaches me to chase more wins, to surround myself with others who want the same. To attend leadership conferences so I can make myself better and achieve my goals. To listen to others on how to make smart investments and how to make more money. To reinforce that happiness must be earned. The “Big Me” pushes me to do things that for the sole reason of self betterment and advancement. It makes me into a machine that runs and extrinsic motivation, and I’ve learned that it is insatiable.

Fraternity life, created, fed, nurtured, and celebrated the “Big Me”. For the longest time I thought that was a good thing.

What Fraternity life never taught me was: What happens when you achieve everything you set out to do, but still feel empty inside?

There came a time when I did everything I set out to do, exceeded my own expectations, and still felt like there is something missing. I try to fill that void with more achievement, more advancement. I know that it doesn’t bring me happiness, but I know nothing else, so I just continue. “Big Me” thinks everyone probably feels like this, right? To check, I just look at all my friends celebrating their successes on Facebook. Everyone has a new promotions, new jobs, new cars, new houses, new suits, new relationships.

What Fraternity life never taught me was that there is another side of me. The “Little Me”

The “Little Me” is humble, genuine, loving, generous, reflective, quiet, and introspective. It is propelled by selflessness, internally fueled towards self mastery and awareness. “Little Me” finds peace by making decisions based on a higher set of morals. It finds satisfaction and fulfillment by spending quality time enjoying the present moment, wherever I am. It knows that anxiety only exists when we let the thoughts of the future take over. It knows to reflect on the moments of my past that made me happy. It knows that there is more to life than hopping from goal to goal. Its more concerned with being happy in any circumstance, instead of waiting for the right circumstances to be happy.

The world needs a place that cultivates the “Little Me” in young men and women. The “Little Me” helps us tie a deeper purpose to our daily decisions. Decisions like “Should we make “Make _____ Great Again” shirts?” They’re popular, people would see them, it might get our name out there, and it would be really funny…. But SHOULD we? That’s the “Little Me”.

I realized that Fraternity life did not teach me to value the “Little Me”. I was only given one option. “The Big Me”.

Look at what Greek Life has turned into. “Big Me” Machines. We think in terms of ourselves.

We boast professional development. “Look, Zuckerberg was a Fraternity man!” We post photos of ourselves when were helping others. We fudge community service hours to win awards. We host parties for ourselves. We talk poorly about other chapters to climb one rung higher on the imaginary social ladder. We post posters of our values over other’s posters. We wear our words on our shirts on our members. Recruitment is as “Big Me” as it gets, we say, “we’ll be over here, behind our letters, with our members, if you want to be like us, come see us, if you want to join us.” And then we compare our new member class size to the other houses. More new members must mean were a better chapter right?….. Right?

Everything we do promotes a culture of “Big Me” within our membership. We believe that we are changing the world because we are developing young men and women into leaders (that’s why we all memorized who our organization’s famous alumni are). But are we?

When I think of our society today, I see a sea of people who have an overfed and dominant “Big Me”. Our generation is in this continuous search for achievement, with no source for inner structure and character.

Fraternity life can be that source. We can teach our members that there is more to life that a continuous chase of more wins. We can reform our organizations to value the words selfless, humble, content, fulfilled, and loving. Just as must as professional, driven, ambitious, and leaders. In doing so I believe we will stay important in the life of a developing human being over a fun four years.

This isn’t about recruitment, its about renewal of our purpose.