by Brendan Cavanagh
I saw someone the other day wearing a shirt that simply said in block letters, "Just BU." While the logo clearly advertised our school- that is, Butler University- it got me thinking. It's important to be your own person, without any false ties to people or organizations that do not precisely match your interests. It takes a long time to fully understand how to belong to a group and yet still retain your own identity. I could have been one unique person within a fraternity of various characters. But I gradually discovered that I would much rather be one of several of my type instead. Out of context, the following quote sort of describes my rationale for leaving. Substitute the tone of conformity for finding that perfect fit:
"I was raised up believing / I was somehow unique / Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes / Unique in each way you can see / And now after some thinking / I would much rather be / A functioning cog in some great machinery / Serving something beyond me"
--Fleet Foxes, from "Helplessness Blues"
After nearly three months of pledging a fraternity here on campus, I decided to withdraw and remain with a group of friends in which I feel like I belong. And that's okay. I'm not cut out to be part of a fraternity, I don't think. It's not that I disagree with the ideals of the fraternity, but I don't think I could falsely exemplify a particular image associated with the house and its individual members, even a benign one. I'd rather have my image here on campus shaped over time by my actions, even if they're bad. I don't care. As long as it's my image, not the image I would immediately be assigned the moment I donned the letters of a fraternity.
"I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way, and not his father's or his mother's or his neighbor's instead."
--Henry David Thoreau, from Walden
I don't know, maybe I'm inherently a rebel. I may not have a red windbreaker, and I've certainly never placed a bucket of porridge on top of a door for someone to wear as a hat when they walk through that door. But I've never been too interested in belonging to any organization that shackles me to a core set of beliefs, no matter how few or harmless. Maybe I've seen Cool Hand Luke ten too many times, but that's just me.
In a way, I'm proud of myself for declining to join. As mammoth as an opportunity as joining the frat was, I think it shows strong self-examination and keen judgment to be able to say no. I mean, I didn't simply not "feel like" doing it, and I wasn't childishly afraid of the consequences of joining, so I feel like I really weighed the options wisely. Even if withdrawing means I miss out on certain opportunities, so be it. I've essentially taken a left instead of a right in the proverbial yellow wood.
"And I- / I took the road less traveled by / And that has made all the difference."
--Robert Frost, from "The Road Not Taken"
Finally, I'd like to share some memorable words from a book I just read. Yeah. For recreation.
"So I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them."
--Charlie, from Stephen Chbotsky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Obviously we don't know what ramifications will arise out of each decision we make, big or small. But so long as we remain confident that we are making the best decision for ourselves and we're happy with ourselves for doing so, our choices will not have been made in vain. I opted out of joining a fraternity in favor of remaining true to my principles and forging my own path through college. And that, I've found, has made all the difference.