I remember the day I knew I was gay. I began having those butterfly feelings in my stomach you hear about in the movies. It was then I knew deep down I had my first crush, and it was on a guy. I knew at that very moment I was not the same as everyone else. I was young, however, and I didn’t really understand the concept of “gay.” Not yet, at least.
For years afterwards, I told myself I had to like girls and anything less was unacceptable. I told myself the part of me who liked guys was just a collection of thoughts—it wasn’t real. While I would tell others I was straight, few would believe it. For years I was bullied because, to others, I seemed different. Every day at school was daunting and miserable; those were some of the darkest years of my life. Those who have been bullied know exactly what that’s like, and while I have forgiven, it is hard to forget.
In high school, I briefly dated a couple girls. Still, I noticed guys who were attractive to me. I told myself that attraction was just “thoughts.” While I never felt one hundred percent comfortable with my sexuality, I felt I finally put that part of me—those thoughts—behind me.
When I arrived at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) I became involved on campus through the Student Government Association. By second semester I accepted a bid to join an interest group that would become the Iota Tau chapter of Theta Chi. While we were still a colony, I began to date a woman at NKU. Even though I had told myself and others I was straight, people still suspected otherwise just as they had years before. The relationship just didn’t feel right, and after a month and a half I ended the relationship. I knew it hurt her, but I couldn’t keep pretending I was happy.
After that relationship, I put dating behind me. I accepted a position on a Cincinnati City Council campaign and devoted much of that summer to it and to my internship at the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts. I was really happy working in politics and at the courthouse. In addition, Theta Chi was coming together very strong. By the time sophomore year began, I was beginning to come into my prime.
In November my candidate won a seat on Cincinnati City Council and our colony installed as the Iota Tau chapter of Theta Chi. I began to make a name for myself on campus. My self-confidence grew. When spring semester rolled in, I was appointed to the Interfraternity Council to serve as Vice President of Membership. It was also around this time I noticed someone in an unexpected way – through Twitter. One of my chapter brothers retweeted one of his tweets; I clicked on his profile and found he and I had similar political and social views. I found him on Facebook and sent an innocuous friend request; he accepted it and we began to chat and learn more about each other. As we chatted more and more, I could tell there was a feeling greater than friendship. That part of me—those thoughts—had begun to come back. This time, however, I could not just put those thoughts away. This time was different, and I knew it. I felt it.
By February, things with this guy progressed and we admitted we liked each other. That is when I knew it was time for me to come out.
My chapter brothers immediately came to mind, so at one of our chapter meetings in February I came out, initially as bisexual so I could still hold out hope that I would be “normal.” In my mind, being bisexual was still better than being gay. I was very nervous doing it, but I hoped my brothers would be accepting: that’s exactly what they were. After meeting about a dozen brothers came up to me and congratulated me. One of my brothers said, “All I want is for you to be happy; I’m glad you came out.” They all told me how proud they were of me, and for the first time I felt completely normal.
Things did not work out with that guy. Soon after, however, I dated another guy and I knew I was gay. Not bisexual, but gay. That was my truth and I was finally able to live in it.
The fraternal movement has not always been known to be accepting of its LGBTQ members. There are countless examples from the past—both told and untold—of fraternities hazing, bullying, and kicking out brothers who either came out or whom they suspected of being gay. The most operative word there is “past.”
This is the present.
My Theta Chi brothers created a culture of caring through our collective Sacred Purpose which I needed to finally develop the courage to be who I am and nothing less. In a way, Theta Chi and Greek life saved my life. Without their acceptance, I don’t believe my mental health, to this day, would be in a strong place. Holding onto that burden was one of the hardest things I have ever done. With their support, I live authentically. I live my best life. Theta Chi took a timid college freshman who was lying to himself about his sexuality and helped him become a confident and proud man.
I don’t think I would be where I am today, a First Year at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, without the loving, respectful, and accepting environment that exists in Theta Chi Fraternity. These ideals are the Sacred Purpose we are all called to live. We need to remember this and put it in practice every single day.
Patrick Reagan (Iota Tau/Northern Kentucky 2016)
Three weeks ago this Saturday, the game changed.
Every year, thousands of collegians on campuses all across North America participate in leadership events, community building exercises, self-help seminars, personal development, team building trainings, and countless other activities which will ultimately define who they become once they leave their college/university. This has been the standard for decades for members of Greek letter organizations. Get your education but also live and learn outside the classroom. While the intent has always been there, fraternities have not always been the best at being able to quantify and articulate exactly what the fraternal experience is. This all changed July 23, 2016, when we launched The Resolute Man.
The feeling in the room was electrifying. As I began to field questions during the launch and in the days that followed I could see the wheels start to turn in the minds of our collegians and for some, I could see when it clicked.
“This is what we have been waiting for!” one brother quipped. “Resolute Man will make is so much easier for me to explain to non-members or even their parents the benefits of fraternity membership,” said another brother.
The Resolute Man for all intents and purposes is a road map to getting the most out of your collegiate experience. It highlights educational and experiential opportunities for collegians to fully engage in, not only through their academic pursuits on campus, but it also serves as pathway to instill leadership and social competency into their own personal and eventually professional lives.
It is true, the Resolute Man is a four-year journey for our collegiate members. What is truly special about Resolute Man is it purposely absorbs and adopts the tenets of Sacred Purpose; something which, when done correctly, can have a great impact on the lives of our entire membership and not just a single member.
Sacred Purpose’s mission is to foster a sense of responsibility in the protection of our brothers and our communities. The pillars of Sacred Purpose can all be traced back to the idea of creating true friendships rooted in learning and caring for one another. This can been seen in the updated leadership structure within local chapters, new advisor roles dedicated to health and safety, and the over 800 events created and implemented over the past two years. Creating opportunities for our collegians to have critical conversations with their chapter and their communities is one of the most rewarding aspects of our collective Sacred Purpose.
The Resolute Man makes it a priority for any collegian going through this journey to not only attend Sacred Purpose events put on by his chapter, it also requires them to help plan and implement an event themselves. A Resolute Man is a leader in his chapter and on his campus and through Sacred Purpose a Resolute Man is dedicated to the safety of his brothers and his community.
History was made in Theta Chi Fraternity with the Resolute Man and Sacred Purpose is an essential part of this historic move. I cannot wait to watch our collegians and eventually our alumni (myself included) achieve this historic distinction.
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1000 days is a long time. You could walk coast-to-coast across the U.S. multiple times. You could spend a weekend in every country in the world. You could write a book, bring a child into the world, and train for a marathon, and you would still have time left over.
For more than 1000 days I have mourned the loss of my brother, Gilad Nissim.
March 26, 2013 was the last time I saw my friend. March 27th came and Gil, a freshman sitting in his dorm room, called his Dad complaining of a headache. After his conversation, Gil took the elevator down from his residence hall to grab lunch, took three steps outside of his building, and collapsed on the ground.
Gil was taken to the hospital where it was determined he suffered from an aneurism and was in a coma. Gil was in good health, but we soon learned he suffered from a condition called Arteriovenous Malformation, or AVM. He had a blood clot in his brain. A tangled mess of nerves in his skull, assumed to have been there since he was a child, just waiting to go off like a neurological time bomb.
Gil spent the next few months in the Maryland hospital before being transported to Israel where his family was located, and they would be able to try some experimental treatments. In November it was determined the son and brother we all came to know was not going to return to us, and he was taken off life support. He passed away on November 13, 2013.
I will never forget my Chapter President, Ben Caffey, calling us in for an emergency meeting that next Sunday afternoon. Ben, standing at the front of the room, was forced to shoulder the heavy burden of telling his chapter our 19-year-old brother would never awake from his coma. The kid who never ceased to put a smile on our faces, whether it was being the first to volunteer for an event, or having the uncanny ability of friend-zoning himself with every girl he met… he was gone.
There is something eerie about the death of someone younger than yourself. It brings into question a lot of truths you may have never been forced to consider. We grow up watching our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and sometimes even our parents pass. Unfortunately, all this conditioning does not quite prepare you for the untimely death of not only a teenager, but a teenager who was among the best of us. A physics major who applied for internships that PhD’s barely qualify for. But that was Gil: so bold in his actions that his genius could never be questioned with totality.
Gil’s death brought about a great deal of grief and I was forced to cope with the far-too-early loss of my friend. Coping comes in the most unique ways – for me it was restlessness. I needed to put my efforts into something meaningful for Gil, so we began work on a candlelight vigil.
As Greeks, we are day in and day out, pit against each other in competition. We compete in recruitment, athletics, philanthropy, community service, and socially and are constantly measuring our own success based on the results of others. In an instant, all of that pettiness faded away.
I met with Matt Lenno, our Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, and he began giving me some information about how we could start putting something together for Gil. I sat in rooms with the
Panhellenic President, IFC President, and leaders from every fraternity on campus; each of them extending their own assisting hand to our memorial event. They each came forward with a donation for candles, offering aspects of their own fraternity’s ritual towards the loss of not just my Theta Chi brother, but a member of a larger brotherhood –of all Greeks.
On a bone-chilling November evening, while swirling winds threatened to blow out the 1000+ candles that were lit, a community of caring and mutual respect was cultivated. Our Sacred Purpose is to take care of our brothers and our community. That night our community took care of us.
In the 3 years since Gil’s death, it does not feel any easier, but it does feels more hopeful. Not because I hope to see him again in life, but because I saw the 1000+ people who showed up for his vigil, and I see them honoring him still to this day. It is a quick look at the bracelet I’ve worn on my wrist in his memory each day, or those who make a Facebook post on his wall telling his family we remember him. Gil’s impact will continue through those who remember him.
It is impossible to understand why Gil died. It still feels tragic and wasteful. At the age of 23, how to understand death is still a mystery to me. The only thing I can do is attempt to understand Gil’s life.
I can understand what Gil did each day that made people fall in love with the good in him.
I can work every day to live it in a way that Gil would be proud of.
I miss you, Gil – thank you for being my brother and sharing your good with the world.
Kevin Kutner, Field Executive
The following is a personal philosophy I have adopted about life.
- Always dress well.
- Golf is one of the only sports where polos and dress pants are a norm. Only in golf do get rewarded with a jacket as a trophy. Some people may argue that such attire has no impact on play. Those people would be wrong or Rickie Fowler
- In life, dressing for success is more than just something for business meetings. How you dress is a mentality. When you put effort into your appearance, whatever it may be, you feel confident.
- Golf should never have a peak.
- Unlike other sports where players can be in their prime for only a short part of their life, golf is a sport you can play for your whole life. Don’t believe me here is the legend Jack Nicklaus at 75 still killing the game.
- When we focus on our peaks in life we see past success and compare it to our current situation. When I got to college nothing I did in high school mattered. Those achievements got me in the door and that was all. Now a college graduate, my college accomplishments don’t mean anything either. No one cares about which tier my fraternity was in or how we did in intramurals. When you graduate you can choose to have high school/college be the peak for the rest of your life or focus on your next summit.
- A far drive off the tee-box doesn’t mean a birdie
- Some golfers care too much about their drive. Go to any driving range and you will see 90% of the people there straining their backs with the newest possible driver, swinging for the fences. Meanwhile hardly any person is seen at the chipping green. Short game isn’t sexy, but it is what makes you a great golfer. Anyone who has seen the master of short game Phil Mickelson knows this to be the case.
- In life we spend too much time on what makes us look cool rather than what actually gives our lives substance. This can be illustrated by the guys who go to the gym every day to maintain that unrealistic “perfect” physique, while ignoring the growth in other areas of life. He often doesn’t study. He repeatedly neglects his responsibilities. He doesn’t aim to be promoted at his job. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger is a relentless business man who grows his brand outside of just working out. Live a well-rounded life.
- You’re going to play horrible some rounds
- In golf you will play bad. You will get a snowman on a hole. Even the best have an atrocious hole now and then. Take this Jordan Spieth meltdown for example
- Much like one bad shot can lead to another and another; bad days tend to compound themselves. This is going to happen in life. Whole months may pass where you forget what a good day feels like. Simple aspects of life like getting out of bed become a chore. But with each new day, is a new round and has the potential for the best day of your life.
- If your golf game needs help talk to someone
- When you are playing at your worst and nothing seems to be changing, it comes the time to talk to an expert. Take Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler, and Ernie Els who have all asked for help from golf guru Butch Harmon. Even if a golfer isn’t at his worst he always has a confidant in his caddy; someone to talk to about what he is thinking and help him out.
- In life when things are going tough we often think we have to go it alone. When sadness hits us we tend to tell no one, just hoping that it will work itself out, but sometimes it doesn’t. This can provide a perfect opportunity to slip into a deeper depression. Life isn’t easy, but there are trained professionals who can always help.
- No one is as good as they say they are.
- If you have ever sat in the club house after a round of golf you will hear countless stories of amazing achievements deserving of ESPN top ten highlights. “It was raining sideways and I hit my ball out of the rough around three trees, over a lake, and past 3 sand traps to land 2 inches from the hole. True Story.”
- In life this is the equivalent of Facebook, Instagram, and snapchat. On social media we post only the great things in our lives. We see the wedding engagements but never the failed relationships. We see the smiling faces scroll across our feed and never the frowns. When we start to compare our lives to the perfectly-crafted personas we see on social media we stop striving to live our own lives.
- Every round of golf is against yourself.
- At the end of the day golf is a thrilling sport because you are always playing yourself. With each round, you are competing against your own handicap. Any great golfer will tell you that you should never look at the leader board. The moment you start playing based on someone else’s score is when you start to play your worst.
- With social media being inescapable it can be easy to get caught up in the success of those around us. We start to live life for the approval of others. Achievements no longer have meaning unless they get 100 likes. I used to have elaborate snap chat stories of my adventures in college until one day I realized that by being fixated on someone else’s impression of my personal experience I was actually missing out on my story. Put down your phones and enjoy the ride.
Finally, open your eyes, it’s a great day for a round of golf. And even if it isn’t, there’s always tomorrow.
Will Maher, Field Executive
This is the Part II of a three-part series on Music, Mental Health, and Masculinity. Be sure to check back to read parts I and III.
When I was about 14 I had a conversation with my uncle, who makes a living playing music. He asked what I listened to these days, and I told him Metal and Hardcore. Quickly, my uncle asked about a few bands, to which I replied “No I don’t like those emo bands.”
Uncle: What’s wrong with Emo bands?
Me: They just complain and are annoying.
Uncle: Isn’t Emo short for emotional?
Me: Yeah I think so…?
Uncle: Isn’t Metal and hardcore emotional?
Me: Well yeah, but it’s different…
Uncle: I don’t know; it sounds like you listen to Emo music.
I was struck by this and halfheartedly admitted to myself that he had a valid point. Of course, I shrugged it off in the moment to defend my view; citing the musicianship and lyrical content of Emo music as supporting factors in my disregard for the genre.
Where did the disregard for an entire scene of music come from? It came from my view of masculinity through the lens of a teenager.
After my going to my first concert in 7th grade (Slipknot, Lamb of God, Shadows Fall, and Trivium), my friends and I became obsessed with heavier music. The energy and passion we witnessed at the show was unlike anything we had experienced. Enormous mosh pits, screaming along to songs, head banging, fans jumping fences to get into the pit, shoes being lit on fire and thrown; it was an adrenaline fueled sea of chaos and we loved it. Perhaps if it was any other concert, we would have been set down a different path, but that day our choice had been made. We wanted more.
Naturally, we turned to YouTube to watch other Metal concerts to discover new bands. I couldn’t say when, but it got to a point where what we were listening to “wasn’t heavy enough.” We were building a tolerance for Metal and needed something stronger.
Soon we were discovering bands like The Black Dahlia Murder, Animosity, Despised Icon, Carnifex, Through The Eyes of the Dead, The Red Chord, and the list goes on. It almost became some unwritten law that if the band did any clean vocals (singing) they sucked, and Emo bands being at the forefront of this “suckage.”
We could literally pull up a band’s page and write them off simply from the 3 genre descriptions that were listed. I had come to understand and buy into the idea that listening to Emo music somehow made you weaker, or a lesser fan. I would see shirts at concerts that said “Defend Metal, Kill Emo Kids”. Metal, right?
The irony was most Metal bands preached the same kind of acceptance and understanding their Emo contemporaries did, just in a different way. It was all a means to the same end. An outlet to seek refuge from life’s turmoil, and your own insecurities. I didn’t realize it, but I was using heavy music to escape from my issues while feeling safe behind a veil of masculinity.
I love Death Metal. I still listen to it every day. I’m actually listening to Whitechapel right now. My point however is that it was easier to wear the patch of Metal with confidence, because I felt protected by what I considered to be its inherit “toughness”. I knew Emo music was the butt of many jokes, simply because they were outwardly emotional and vulnerable about very real subjects, but unfortunately, I fed into that.
Believe it or not, Metal, is equally open and emotional on similar subjects, but people have this hesitation and fear of the genre, and for whatever reason, I loved being a part of that. I felt stronger, more protected and more of a man because of the music I listened to. It was a vicious cycle, fueling both my affinity for Metal and disdain for Emo music.
During my fall into the Death Metal abyss, I caught wind of bands like Stick to Your Guns, The Ghost Inside, Have Heart, and Guns Up. These groups embodied more of Hardcore style of punk mixed with some Metal motifs and an attitude reminiscent of the PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) punk bands from the 1980’s. Not only did they preach an understanding of mental and emotional issues, but they addressed a wide range of topics like drug and alcohol abuse, racism, sexism, masculinity, and family struggles.
These bands had a defining role in my life. They helped me shatter my ignorance towards music, myself, and my identity. They question the stereotype of what it meant to be a man and opened my eyes to the fact that what you wear, what you look like, who you know, and what music you listen to has nothing to do with your ability to be a good person. I found a strength in this. I found acceptance. It wasn’t just an acceptance of the music I had previously written off, but it was an acceptance of myself, my problems, and who I was. It was an acceptance of it being okay to cry, scream, and hate the world. With them, it was okay not to ALWAYS be okay and they worked to offer solutions through their music, to light a path towards getting through these problems.
Sacred Purpose does the same thing for me. Living my life through our shared sacred purpose lets me know my brothers are there, just like music, to help me through. Shattering the idea of what it means to be a man and what it means to hold myself and others accountable is something I didn’t think music could do. Re-framing masculinity and mental health, as a ton of our chapters are doing is a good thing, and is a conversation worth having. I am proud to be a member of an organization that values health and safety just as much as it values brotherhood.
“A poor man’s poor sport we’ve fallen short of reasoning/Sex does not determine capability /But we let our hostility be our guide to decide /What’s right for a girl and for a guy/Because every sex is just as able to keep this foundation stable /Enough is enough speak up its tough but don’t think that your unable/Let acceptance be our key to unlock our integrity /From there we’ll be able to see that there’s more than just she and he”— “A Poor Man’s Poor Sport” by Stick to Your Guns
Kris Taibl, Director of Communications
When I think of life’s challenges a quote by author Seth Godin often pops up in my brain; “If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.” Constantly confronted with moments and choices that can lead us toward different paths, decisions have to be made. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s life has been no different.
Before his Pulitzer Prize winning musical Hamilton: An American Musical became the darling of today’s new Broadway he was an artist teaching high school English during the day and writing in the evening. At this point in his life, he had graduated college but knew he was destined for something bigger than what he had. He put his passion and name on the line and shopped his musical In The Heights to Broadway producers for years. After being turned down time and time again, the moment he sought after seemed so far out of reach.
Miranda told a story of this time in his life during a commencement speech at the University of Pennsylvania a few days ago and it resonated with me and I hope it will with you. He was at a meeting, accompanied by his co-author of Heights, with a big-deal theatre producer. The producer wanted to back his show… with a few changes. “This doesn’t feel ‘high-stakes’ enough for this character. Let’s change it.” Those words from the producer echoed in Miranda’s head and he had a decision to make. He had poured his blood, sweat and tears into Heights (literally, he has said “if you cry when you hear my lyrics it’s because I cried writing them. It’s all a part of the recipe.”) Miranda was scared to say no to the status quo. Miranda was scared his dream of getting his show up off the page and onto a stage was in jeopardy if he did not submit. His legacy was on the line.
Miranda felt like the stakes were high enough. Convicted in this, he and his co-author decided to pass on the offer. Many years and rewrites later, Heights was produced with the stakes for the character remaining the same. The show went on to win the Tony for Best Musical of the Year. Unrelenting, he challenged the established culture of Broadway and won out.
This win paved the way for Hamilton to become a reality. In contrast with most shows on Broadway, “[Hamilton is the] first authentic hip-hop show” according to Questlove, who produced the cast album. A musical about “the ten-dollar founding father/without a father” is a story about “America then told by American’s now.” according to Miranda.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s experience in his life and in his writing has more in common with our Sacred Purpose than you might think.
When Theta Chi launched Sacred Purpose in the spring of 2013, it was the culmination of hard work from brothers across North America. Sacrifices were made to ensure we would not compromise our own values to support the status quo. Our brothers needed guidance on how to talk about sexual assault, drugs, alcohol abuse, hazing and other hard-hitting issues. A few individuals volunteered to stand up and lead in the creation of Sacred Purpose and like Lin-Manuel Miranda, did not submit.
Our Sacred Purpose is unique to Greek life. Our Sacred Purpose takes courage to implement and time to develop. Our Sacred Purpose is challenging the idea of “Fraternity Culture”. Our Sacred Purpose is award winning. When brothers are elected into the office of Vice President of Health and Safety, they have to let Hamilton’s lines reverberate in their minds. “Just like my country/I’m young scrappy and hungry/and I’m not throwing away my shot.”
Hamilton “got a lot farther/by working a lot harder/by being a lot smarter/by being a self-starter.”
Our Sacred Purpose is the story of our founders then, lived by us now. Hamilton encourages us to work not for the moment, but for the movement; to think about how our lives can impact the world.
“We all relate to Hamilton. We all want to leave our mark. We all want to be fearless. It’s only a matter of time.”- Nicole Nadler, Contributor to the Daily Dot and fan of Hamilton
This is the Part I of a three-part series on Music, Mental Health, and Masculinity. Be sure to check back to read parts II and III.
The Center for Addiction and Mental Health released a study which shows 70% of mental health problems have their onset during adolescence. While the true realization of my own depression and anxiety came pretty late into my adolescence, I exhibited symptoms (which went unchecked) from as early as 14.
When I was younger, toxic relationships, break-ups, unrequited love, familial pressure, and the deaths of close friends and family all took their toll on my developing brain. During this time a genre of music crept into daily listening and I was in complete and absolute wonderment. Lyrics that spoke about being scared, not knowing who you are, being dumped, feeling directionless, absolute despair, love, hate, and so many things in between became the soundtrack to my life.
I’ve been listening to a lot of that music lately. Daily plays on my Apple Music are filled with artists and lyrics that resonated with me as a teenager but not necessarily with me today. This has brought to light some really interesting revelations about who I was back then and how I became the person I am today. The music carries memories of heartbreak, not fitting in, depression, social anxiety, frustration; all of which, the anxious person in me would like to push back down as far as possible and keep moving forward, but that is not who I am anymore.
Emo (short for emotional) music is described as a style of post-hardcore music characterized by expressive, often confessional, lyrics. Having roots in the hardcore-punk rock scene of Washington D.C. as far back as the 1980’s, emo musings have been a part of our musical zeitgeist for quite some time, even if we didn’t know it.
This type of music gave life to my thoughts and resonated with me in ways I wasn’t really sure how to express back then. Going to shows, perusing Tumblr, and deep diving into my own thoughts became outlets for me. Driving around in circles with my iPod on shuffle, thinking/singing/screaming, gave me a release. I was able to connect with artist on a level I never knew possible. Lyrics seemed to be ripped out of the headlines of my life and were there for me to ingest and unpack.
I was your stereotypical emo kid. I wore black band t-shirts, high top Chuck Taylors with socio-political messages sharpied on the soles, and a studded belt from time to time. My hair was long in the front and swept to the side with one year, a chunk of it dyed blonde because I was feeling adventurous. I fit into a mold, along with thousands of other kids, when I thought there wasn’t one. A community came out of this genre of music but something much bigger was burgeoning.
Bands like Taking Back Sunday, Bright Eyes, Saves The Day, Brand New, Alkaline Trio and My Chemical Romance all shed light on the dark that some days consumed my thoughts. Songs like “Freakish” by Saves The Day exacerbated my heartbreak after being dumped. “Radio” by Alkaline Trio allowed for catharsis after a more insidious break-up. “There’s No I in Team” by Taking Back Sunday was the anthem I latched onto when a friendship crumbled. “Guernica” by Brand New helped me navigate my own emotions when a family member lost his battle to cancer. “Sonny” by New Found Glory helped the tears flow when they really needed to after tragically losing a friend in a car accident.
I have come to the realization it was the music is that got me to a place where I could feel comfortable and could treat my wounds, visible or not. That is the terrible thing about the shame surrounding mental illness. Walk up to your friends with a puncture wound and they can see it; its tangible. You can’t do the same with mental illness. You feel things, often horrible things, but outwardly there are no puncture wounds to show.
Emo music was often dismissed by mainstream critics and their sub-genre peer groups because of its distinct connection with mental health. During a time of great stigma towards mental health in general, this genre did more for encouraging awareness and empathy towards mental health among young people than any other genre.
In 2011, Dr. Rosemary L. Hill challenged the discourse of mental illness around emo music. “fans discuss the music…enabling them to cope with pre-existing depressions, to overcome bullying and even to save their lives.” Hill writes. “I think emo probably has helped make talking about mental ill health easier for some groups.” “There has been a broader shift towards more openness and less stigma over the last few years.” She says, “bands like My Chemical Romance definitely helped some fans negotiate their mental ill health…their lyrical messages were about living and learning to live with mental ill health, to find ways to cope and gain support.”
I used music as a means to cope with feelings I didn’t fully understand and for that I am thankful for my time as an emo kid. Emo music, while a sub-genre of a sub-genre which can be traced back to American Punk Rock, pushed lyrics about mental health and mental illness to the forefront and allowed an entire generation of music listeners to take a look in the mirror and really confront their feelings. Looking back now, music was my treatment before psychotherapy became my therapy.
My musical tastes have changed since then, but the words and melodies still ignite feelings within me every time I hear them. Being 10 plus years removed from the “scene” I can still remember every word and every place I was when I first heard a particular song. Something I find encouraging is how this genre ushered in the idea of wearing your heart on your sleeve and how it’s okay to not feel okay. I listen to music now that resonates with where I am as an adult but you can catch me in my car shouting at the top of my lungs songs lamenting my teenage angst but fully understanding now why I gravitated toward it in the first place.
“We understand, little by little, that the more time we give ourselves we do have the power to control what we’re thinking and when I’m the lowest I’ve ever felt I know that I can put on music and wait through that hell. I know I’m going to feel different, if not the next day then the day after that.”- Bert McCracken, The Used
Summer-The warmest season of the year, in the northern hemisphere from June to August. What student doesn’t love this season? It’s when the rigors
of classwork slow down. It’s that time of year where you don’t have to peel off multiple layers as soon as you walk into a building. Finally, after months, you are able to escape the rattling indoor heat to indulge in the sights and smells of the great outdoors. Most students see this as a time to kick back and do, literally, nothing. Why not instead, take advantage of the opportunities available to you during this break?
Here are some tips to help make the most of your summer.
Get a job/internship
Are your dues owed by the time everyone gets back for fall semester? Planning on a spring break trip next year? What about formal? These things all require a good amount of money, but if you start working and saving over summer, it’ll be much easier to manage. The scope of jobs and internships available for college students is vast, but they all can help you plan for a great year, while at the same time provide you with real world work experience. The great part about this is that you are choosing it. If you get an offer for an internship that you aren’t excited about, look around for another opportunity. Summer offers something we normally don’t have an excess of: time. Regardless of the path you take with a summer job or internship, the experience could provide opportunity for full-time employment after you graduate. At a minimum, you’ll meet new people and expand your network.
Take a class
A lot of majors have that one required class that nearly everyone seems to struggle with (organic chem. FTW). Taking it during the summer is a great chance to earn a better grade. You have the opportunity to take one class at a time and won’t have other coursework to distract you. Yes, having class during the summer is not ideal having fun, however ask yourself: Do I really want to take this class along with a full course load? Equally, it could also be a chance to take a class that interests you, but you haven’t been able to fit into your regular course load. Just because you’re a molecular biology major doesn’t mean you should bar yourself from taking a stab at that sculpture or piano class. Don’t be scared to try something new.
Establish a workout routine
Summer is a great time to start a workout schedule. Due to the nice weather gyms often offer great deals during the summer to attract more customers (I used to pay $60 for 3 months during the summer with free parking at my school’s rec center). With the warmer weather you can create a mixture of inside and outside exercise routines to keep you invigorated. Developing an effective workout schedule in the summer gives you time to build a habit and perfect it towards your needs. By the time fall semester starts up, it will be that much easier to continue and give you an outlet whenever a break from classes and studying are needed.
Make time for yourself
Whether it is reading a book on the sunny veranda or hitting the links for a round of 18, making time for your own enjoyment is essential. Summer is a great time to decompress from all the hours of studying from the past school year. It also gives you time to hang out with friends and family. Enjoy this beautiful season before reality hits, once again.
Summer never seems to be long enough (especially up in the north). Instead of spending your entire summer on a couch do something to help better yourself. Don’t worry, Netflix will still be there once the cold weather hits again.
Nick Hoke, Field Executive
Addiction doesn’t always start in a back alley. Addiction often starts in the medicine cabinet of your own home. Addiction is an indiscriminate, chronic disease that can dismantle whole communities given the chance. You can come from a suburban bubble, rural town, culturally diverse neighborhood, single parent household, all the privilege in the world, or none; addiction knows no bounds.
This topic has been on my mind lately after realizing drug overdoses now take more lives every year than traffic accidents. I have been struggling with how to write a compelling post on a topic I have no direct experience with. I do not personally suffer from drug addiction and to be completely honest, I couldn’t recall anyone in my immediate circle who is. That’s the weird thing about addiction though, it hides in plain sight. Your parents, siblings, neighbors, fraternity brothers, classmates, colleagues, and friends could all be struggling to live with their addiction and you would never know it by looking at them. This made the gears in my brain begin to rotate.
I’ve heard it said before that college is a dangerous place. Dangerous because it is the place you go where your beliefs are tested, your opinions are scrutinized, and any preconceived notion about how other people live is often shattered. You meet people from higher and lower socio-economic standing, different races, different religions and, different expectations of what college is supposed to be.
I met a student named Bob once. I was in a position to help Bob get into college. He wasn’t a traditional aged prospective student, but somehow Bob’s application ended up on my desk. When we sat down to talk face to face I could tell there was something he was struggling with but from a professional standpoint, I was not the person he needed to speak with. Then the topic of housing came up. Bob opened up, explaining he was recently released from a substance abuse recovery center and was unsure of the best housing option for him.
People often ask what motivates me and my answer is consistent; I want to feel like I’m helpful.
In this moment, I knew Bob needed my help. He didn’t need my help to combat his addictions (I am severely underqualified to help in that regard) but what I could do was be empathetic and point him in the right direction. At this point in his recovery he was ready to tackle college again. I never asked Bob about his past or his recovery but I knew what was ahead of him. An often precarious place, college can harbor temptations and resources an addict would need to relapse. College is an easy place to experience a setback. College is a dangerous place.
After a few meetings with Bob over the course of a summer, we worked together to get his paperwork in line so he could begin course work in the fall. Once he was enrolled, our paths did not cross again for a number of years. My purpose in Bob’s life was served and I was able to yield whatever power I had to get him started in the right direction. Knowing my own college experience and knowing the landscape of universities today, I would often think about what he was up to. Was he still abstaining from whatever he was recovering from? Did he give in? Did he find a group? Is he even enrolled? All of the thoughts would come in random bursts, but as we all know, life comes at you pretty fast. In the interim from our last encounter Bob was not part of my thought process any longer. Other students with other challenges came through my door and I did my job to help them navigate their way to begin a college career. It wasn’t until an all staff meeting, years later, did Bob reappear in my life.
Bob’s name was on the agenda in the spot we normally reserve for campus professionals. They would come to tell us about new initiatives their department had coming up or to ask for our assistance during an all campus event. When I walked into the meeting, Bob was in the front of the room in a suit and tie (a far cry from his camo shorts, backwards hat and flip flops I was accustomed to seeing him in). Bob was ready and waiting to present on a Collegiate Recovery Program he and a few other students in recovery were launching on our campus.
He lived his life, as I then found out, actively abusing mind altering substances for 10 years before he sought treatment. I sat and listed to an impassioned man discuss the systemic biases the general public and some universities hold in regards to recovering students. He outlined their plan to help students in recovery feel wanted on a large campus and engage them in ways that would not interfere with their long-term recovery. Their group had the backing from campus administration and were in the talks of acquiring a wing of a residence hall specifically for recovering students. His purpose for coming to our meeting was to get the word out. He knew my department was considered the front porch to the university. Having this knowledge in our back pockets could lead other students to them and could possibly move students closer to recovery.
As he spoke I wondered if he remembered who I was. There had to have been at least twenty more impactful people in his life since we had met. I could point out a few when he was discussing who he had partnered with on campus. After taking questions he addressed the group but looked in my direction and said “thank you”. As Bob was walked out he headed in my direction and I stood up, really unsure of what I was going to say but before the words came out of my mouth, his intentions were clear:
“I remember you. I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t help. Thank you for believing in me.”
I know my small role in his life is not what kept him in long-term recovery but his acknowledgement is what keeps me grounded in the work I do. The small things I did to help a student get into college had become one of the turning points in his life. I was part of his long-term recovery. The magnitude of his appreciation was strongly felt by me and in that moment I knew what I did mattered. What we do as educators, administrators, friends, colleagues, brothers, and human beings matter.
Bob graduated last weekend with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. He did this while simultaneously winning national awards for his advocacy, being selected as one of the top 40 student leaders on his campus, becoming a certified Peer Recovery Specialist, and joining a fraternity.
This fall, Bob is on his way to an Ivy League school to work on a Master’s Degree in Social Work to continue in his pursuit to be an advocate for those like him, in long-term recovery.
Collegiate Recovery Programs are all across North America with many being on our host campuses. The mission of CRP is to meet the needs of this growing population of recovering young adults as they pursue their educations. Several colleges and universities have also developed collegiate recovery communities to help young adults in recovery maintain their abstinence while in school. The primary goal of these communities is to provide a safe haven for young adult students who are struggling to maintain their hard-won abstinence while surrounded by resources to enable their addictions.
For a full list of universities click here.
Need help with substance abuse? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.
After traveling across the country and visiting with numerous chapters who differ in every way imaginable, I couldn’t help but notice at least one similarity across the board: every Vice President of Health and Safety (VPHS) had slightly different definitions of what their role was in the chapter. Some would say, “I’m the bro other bros can come to with problems” while others would express “I’m the dude who puts on events and encourages less partying.”
While all have some semblance of truth at their core, they all miss the mark on the original intent of the position and how it has evolved to address the needs of the ever-changing Greek landscape. It is imperative every VPHS fully understands why Sacred Purpose came to be, their role in the chapter, as well as how to bring our Sacred Purpose to a community wide level, and beyond.
If you google “fraternities” your search results would be riddled with informational links and unfortunately the majority of the info you see would be negative content. Articles sometime range from alcohol abuse statistics among fraternity groups, to hazing allegations, and even the tragic death of undergraduate members. The idea these stories have become a normal narrative in Greek life is the very reason Sacred Purpose came to fruition. The word “sacred” is used intentionally and is not to be taken lightly. Our Founders took an oath to protect and support one another, with the understanding that today’s members would continue their legacy.
Caring for others is the highest expression of courage and true friendship. The mission of Sacred Purpose is simple: Develop a deeper level of mutual caring for one another, in turn, strengthening the brotherhood and the community as a whole.
The VPHS is the embodiment of Sacred Purpose and their role is twofold. He should be a resource to the members for emotional, physical and relational strength, while at the same time educating the chapter to do the same. He should cultivate working relationships with campus and community health and safety professionals who can support the mission.
The VHPS should be on a first name basis with offices that promote health and safety initiatives on their campus. Counseling centers, university health centers, campus Title IX coordinators, police and fire departments are all resources that should be utilized to maximize the effectiveness of this position and our Sacred Purpose. These trained professionals can assist in our efforts to host community wide events to shed light on tough topics like sexual assault prevention, mental/physical health, or life safety best practices.
The Sacred Purpose movement is unique to Theta Chi and is at the forefront of making health and safety a priority among Greeks. The VPHS serves an invaluable role which needs to be accepted with passion, responsibility, and accountability. Our Sacred Purpose is gaining traction and starting to be recognized by friends and allies in the general population. Critical conversations are being had in our chapter houses and on campuses across North America, and the VHPS is keeping the dialogue going. It is time to put an end to the negative perception fraternities have in the public eye and start a productive conversation on how Greek life can make a positive impact on its members and campuses as a whole.
We cannot simply say we are “…ennobled by a high and sacred purpose…” We have to live it.
Taylor Dahlem, Field Executive