I wrote a longer blog but deleted it because I think I wrote it mostly for myself.
Kick some ass today :]
I wrote a longer blog but deleted it because I think I wrote it mostly for myself.
Kick some ass today :]
My youth leader once told me on a very successful mission trip to some ghetto in PA that the plateau feelings of self-worth and accomplishment do not last, and she was absolutely correct. That day, she gave each of us a journal to write down how we felt about what we did to inspire us in the future. I still read about gutting and painting that lady’s house and swell with pride for the little help I was able to provide to her and her family.
I don’t usually post about Phi Mu Alpha. In fact, there are times when I don’t usually have anything nice to say about Phi Mu Alpha at all, but as an esteemed graduate of West Virginia University, looking back on my time spent with the Epsilon Sigma Chapter there, I swell with pride – for every reason. In my time in Sinfonia, the chapter found success in every area you can think of.
In the province, Epsilon Sigma – I believe – is widely considered one of the more popular destinations to take your chapter. Being from the largest school of the 6, with the most… things to do, and after hosting one of the most successful province workshops I’ve ever heard of, our fellow brothers formed bonds with each other and with ES that make inter-provincial travel seem like a treat, rather than just some obligatory envoy sent to appease the province 39 bylaws. Some of the best friends you’ll find in Sinfonia are from other chapters. You can vent all you want to a brother from another school about whatever business drama or personal drama is going on in your chapter, and it’s almost guaranteed never to see the light of day again. Every chapter has it’s own stuff going on, and talking to brothers from other schools about the day-to-day tedium helps make everyone feel a lot better about their own chapters.
Although it may be little known to a non-Sinfonian, the basic jyst of the outreach of Phi Mu Alpha is, unsurprisingly, through music. We take music to people who need it – nursing homes, hospitals – wherever there is an opportunity to play or sing, that’s what we love the best. When I first began in the chapter, we simply did not have the numbers or dedication to really make that all happen. Between other obligations and keeping our head above water, ES had its hands full. A year or so in to the reconstruction era, that all began to change.
In high school, I kept traditions of going to Christian music festivals in the summer (before I fell in love with working at camp) with my youth group (read: best friends) and going on little mission trips to not-so-distant places in need (as the one mentioned above). The close feeling with God attained through those little gestures – things that come so easily for you and your cohorts, but make a world of difference in the days of those to whom you give – are extremely humbling and gratifying. Sinfonia is no different. Talking with elderly nursing home patients after hearing them open up their voice and sing along to the simplest song in your set list is a feeling unlike any other, and I personally can’t explain it. Without those shared experiences, I’m not sure if I would have lasted in Sinfonia as long as I did.
Most people who are a little familiar with the fraternity know that as one of the rites of passage to get in, you carry around this little notebook to try to answer questions and get to know the brothers better. One of the default things every brother puts on their page in every notebook is their Most Memorable Music Experience (MMME).
When I first joined, I had always written down my senior year of high school – we had a fresh new band director, and since all of my friends were seniors, section leaders, and the drum major, it generally fell to us to steer the band in the right direction all season. That season I had a kick-ass solo (the pretty solo in the Bluecoats’ Autumn Leaves, for you DCI fangirls), we kicked ass in competition, and a lot of great memories were made that I still cherish today. My first encounter with this chapter’s music game was at the AMR preceding my pledging, featured a trombone solo, a singer/songwriter duo, and a few red-book songs by the brothers – nothing that you would necessarily call memorable.
In the Pride of WV, I haven’t found a memory that has meant more to me than that experience. Yeah, band was fun, but it was always a struggle for me. I started off as a 3rd trumpet, fresh off braces, and while the trips were fun, they didn’t compare to the thrill of marching in competition.
The past few years, I have written something different in various PM classes books. The musical performance aspect of our chapter has grown almost as exponentially as the size of the chapter itself. Hosting a fine interfraternal American Music Recital with Kappa and SAI, having a thriving revival of EpSig’s Motones, and opportunities to sing with the WVU Wind Symphony. Singing the National Anthem for men’s and women’s basketball games and being on the list to be invited back ASAP. These are all things I never dreamed possible, but with the hard work of many, many men at this school, it was. Phi Mu Alpha’s success is an asset to the college of creative arts and to the university, and it shows how much you can learn about organizations through student organizations – if you care enough.
I mean yeah, we may act like dicks sometimes. I know I do. Every brother probably has a few least-favorite brothers. But together, we do stuff, and we mean something to each other. The plateau feeling doesn’t last, so you have to write it down. Maybe I’ll rewrite this post one day, but I doubt it.
I could put that I worked at Tudors, Shell, Burger King, whatever other dead end job on a resume, but I wouldn’t have room to say that I’ve been spit on, hit on, threatened to be killed, undervalued, overworked, and infested with the common cold more times than I could count.
I could put that I was an area director of a summer camp for years, but I wouldn’t have room to include boosting kids self-image, herding cats, managing other staff members and resources, or the entertainment value I have given little/no sleep and nothing to go off of.
I could put that I was president of a music fraternity, but I wouldn’t be able to say what a large change occurred because of the work of myself and my colleagues, how successful it’s turned out to be, how I managed leaders within the fraternity, or how much my life has changed due to the power of music.
I could put that I played trumpet in band, and I was a leader in the Pride of West Virginia, but I couldn’t be able to express the commitment to excellence, timeliness, and dedication enough to due the words justice.
Resumes don’t speak for themselves. I don’t want to be hired for who I’m not.
A lot of things have happened in my life since the last time I posted on here. I honestly wouldn’t know where to begin to cover the stuff between now and then, so I’ll just start with now and see what happens.
I’m sick of where I am. Life keeps getting harder – and I was fully expecting that to happen, but it seems unnaturally so. I don’t even know what I really want in life, but I know I don’t want what I have now. I hate people having expectations of me, when all I’m really trying to do is come up with expectations for myself. I want to travel, see my family, make time for friends while they’re still around, graduate on time, whatever… it just doesn’t ever seem like I really have time for any of those things. Not a day goes by that is a complete waste, but it seems like I just keep making no progress toward any visible end.
I need to get into a groove, making time in my life for everything and cutting out the extra. Tomorrow is the start of a new cliche, and I’m going to see if I can make some stuff happen.
I don’t really talk about Phi Mu Alpha that much. I don’t work really hard to recruit people, I don’t like to keep random folks in the loop about what we’re up to, and I try not to fan-boy the fraternity too much in public. I’m not saying that doing any of those things are wrong, they’re just not what I do.
I don’t like to recruit people. When I first joined band, I really had one band friend, and she was in a different section than me. I made friends with people I knew through her, but the first person I really branched out to meet was a pledge of Phi Mu Alpha. I never really understood his random meetings or why he had to dressed up. We were never really too close, but since he was a freshman he would take rides with me to parties and stuff whenever I would offer. Eventually, he became one of my best friends.
That Spring semester, I had been toying with the idea of coming out to interview for the fraternity. By that time, I knew most of the brothers, either through mutual friends or from band, and I genuinely liked all of them. I had asked my friend if I should try to get into Sinfonia, and he said he didn’t know. He left the decision entirely up to me, and tried not to sway my preference in either direction – only reminding me of the time constraint it would place on my semester (which honestly served to deter me from joining a little).
I was never “recruited” to join a fraternity. What drew me to Sinfonia was a longing for brotherhood. I had already consciously chosen the members as friends, and then I sought them out as brothers. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.
That’s why I never really like to try to persuade people to join Sinfonia. The chapter draws men to it that want to be a part, and if they’re accepted by the chapter, it’s a kind of mutual trust. Probationary members have always meant more to me when we don’t have to drag them out to interviews or coax them to fulfill their obligations.
In this way, the chapter both chooses its new brothers, but so does the probationary member. In my years as a part of this chapter, I have seen the brotherhood I wanted to be a part of, and I have also put through the brothers I would have in the future of the brotherhood.
On the Province level, though, everything is different. Meeting brothers from other schools is inherently hit or miss. I personally did not seek out the brothers from another chapter, just as they did not try to absorb me into their brotherhood.
I have a sibling brother, and my mother always told me that you don’t get to pick your family. That’s completely true for Phi Mu Alpha, as well. I didn’t choose the chapters in Province 39, and I didn’t choose what members they recruit, and they didn’t choose me or Epsilon Sigma, either… but I have yet to meet a fellow Sinfonian that I haven’t liked just the same.
I don’t recruit; I don’t choose anyone that doesn’t choose Sinfonia, first. You can’t pick your family.
I don’t know how it works now, but there used to be something definitely comforting about Myspace. Not bulletin surveys, although I’m sure i did at least a thousand. Not the music on your home page, or layouts. It was something shallower than all those things: top friends.
It seemed insane at the time. I don’t know if it was the cyber embodiment of our junior high insecurities, or just a fun way to show people you care. It was political and competitive. I know no one made it into my top 8 unless I was in their top 8. I was catty – and even then, I had to make compromises to pick people I felt like I had to pick.
But I truly wasn’t too off-base, not really. In retrospect, the people I put in my top 8 were still close friends. I could pretty much depend on them to have my back or support me, no matter if they were 8th or first. Sure, I’ve lost touch with them now, but it’s still a comforting idea… to be able to list your top friends. The most reliable – the cream of the crop.
College takes that away from you. You have your room mate, and for me, she is one of my closest friends, but anyone whose ever lived with a friend knows that the distinction changes. I need to be able to talk to people about things I just can’t talk to her about. So for that, we have other close friends. We get out and socialize to fill the parts of our social lives that need different personalities. In high school, you really didn’t have too much of a selection. Cliques and groups formed mostly on common interest, and you put up with what you had to work with.
It makes more sense to live life away from such a confiding pool of ‘friends’ to choose from, but it’s a lot scarier. You kind of have to wait for those “what are friends for?” moments to find out who has your back. You don’t have a short list of 8 people you can go to when shit gets real. I don’t have a number one friend that I trust with everything – I trust tons of people with different parts of me in hopes that they’ll wind up caring enough when I need one of them.
I guess it’s good we’re not in the Myspace age. I would be completely unable to choose 8 friends to post above the rest these days…
…but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to log in to check if someone else cares that much about you??
This has been one of the first semesters that I’ve honestly not cared even a little bit what people think about who I am. I mean, I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, I try to be polite, and I would obviously prefer to be liked… but I’m finding it easier to be myself.
I did the same thing as I was graduating high school. When I went to the senior all-night party, I had a ton of fun. I made friends with people I’d never talked to before; done stupid embarrassing stuff just for fun and laughs, and it was awesome. I let go of all the resentment I had for those strangers that I didn’t even know why I had. That summer was one of the best of my life, as I worked at summer camp – where you’re literally too on-stage all the time to have self-doubt.
It’s been weird to be back on stage in the semester. As a student org president, a leader in band, and as a senior in general, I feel like people know who I am… typically, I would have assumed that would cause added stress to my self-image, but it’s actually kind of nice. I feel like the example I set of not caring what people think (at least of who I am) is an awesome thing for underclassmen to see. I don’t want people to think I’m hard to approach, and I want everyone to see that you can have fun while still taking school, band, whatever, seriously.
I don’t even know why I write this stuff – it’s not like I’ve discovered some fundamental truth about the universe. It’s not even that fun or entertaining. /shrug