a scout is brave

Boy Scouts, just as the rest of the world, is susceptible to some neanderthal-like fears and insecurities. The older generation of scouts seems dead-set against homosexuals, as though something they learned from their days of knife-wielding and fire-building somehow differs from what we teach kids today.

I don’t often get political. And I still don’t understand how it’s even considered a political opinion to love who you want to love.

What an amazing world in which we live, in that such a short time after the “gay rights” movement took off, many states now acknowledge our gay and lesbian friends. How amazing that gay teenagers have role models like Tom Daley and Michael Sam. We live in this place where it really is getting better, but in boy scouts, it’s still worse.

Gay scouts are told that they’ll be tolerated until they turn 18, then they can kiss the organization goodbye. We talk a lot about living the scout oath and the scout law. Tell me, which scout is braver than the openly gay teenager actively engaging in a youth development program he loves, knowing it will turn on him after his 18th birthday? How much deeper loyalty to the organization must a homosexual scout have to endure the imminent shame of being expelled from the BSA after his 18th birthday? Don’t gay teenagers get enough shit in high school without the national council looking over each scout’s personal life? Scouting provides a service to people of all sizes, races, ages, and – yes – sexual orientations. What are we so afraid of?

I just don’t understand why such an esteemed organization is so set on being on the wrong side of history.

http://www.scoutingforall.org/

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Average

I’ve been studying a lot about averages lately.  Means are equivalent to the expected value an insurance company has to payout on insurance policies – what the policy is expected to amount to.

In a lot of ways, the average turns out to be an even split between extremes.  My mom’s a ginger, my dad has black hair, and my brother and I both turned out shades of blonde.  My height is just about an even split between my dad’s towering >6 foot stance and my mom’s dwarfism.  I don’t know what proportion of me is my mom’s country-spirit and my dad’s ultra-nerd, but I them both in me, and I wonder how much of that I learned and how much I was born with.

But the mean is also pretty tricky.  The average of 1 and 99 may be 50, but 50 is still just as far away from understanding what it’s like to be 99 as it is to understanding what it’s like to be 1.  It’s hard to quantify personality traits like that.  You can map the human genome but you can’t explain why, if my parents had two kids, and the expected value is half of each of them, how we turned out so differently.  He’s like 66 and I’m like 33.  Or something IDK lets get away from numbers.

But the average is also the expected value, so that got me to thinking about expectations. Is what’s expected of me the average of my parents relative “life success?”  I’ve always had high dreams and aspirations for myself, and I kicked ass in college and high school, but then so did my dad, who went on for his master’s, and even did a lot of work toward a PhD, aspirations that have never really appealed to me.  Am I shooting for the average of my dad’s academic success, relative to my mom’s beauty school certificate?

The answer is hell no.  I’ve always been above average.  I exceed expectations.  For the first time in my life, I feel really in control of my future, and I trust that I’m going to be happy no matter what.

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Forget and Not Slow Down

I wrote a longer blog but deleted it because I think I wrote it mostly for myself.

Kick some ass today :]

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Hail, Sinfonia!

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.  

 

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The 12 members of Phi Mu Alpha, as of my initiation – plus one alumni. (I’m the one who needed the haircut.)

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.

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We somehow tricked over 100 Sinfonians into coming to our school… probably 30 or so of them were ours anyway though. 

 

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.

 

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After singing with the University’s Wind Symphony.

 

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.  

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Resumes are for Liars

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.

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Long time, no see!

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.

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you can’t pick your family

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.

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