“Alright, so where do I sign to become a brother?”
That moment of joy was the culmination of a month of honest conversations, thoughtful consideration and cost-benefit analysis. Over the course of that month I felt like becoming a SigEp brother was stepping into the unknown. But it all clicked one Sunday when I realized this Fraternity would indeed be worthwhile.
I was coming into my junior year after an incredible summer study abroad experience shadowing thoracic surgeons in France. Med school was beckoning, and I was ready to prove my worth with an upward academic trajectory.
Early in the fall 2016 semester, I skimmed an email about the Balanced Man Scholarship from some guys I didn’t know named Patrick and Peter. I was not about to give up my shot (#Hamilton #MedSchoolProspects) to join a group of guys whose goal, I wrongly assumed, was to outdrink one another. Then I got the same email — forwarded by a close friend of mine. We talked, and I told him how I really didn’t want to join a fraternity but I wouldn’t judge him if he chose to.
Taking a chance
He countered, “It only takes 15 minutes and you could win $1,000.” I wasn’t convinced, but I looked over some of the questions. I enjoy personal reflection … but when reflection becomes a form of procrastination I’m hooked. So I filled out the written application and slid into the back of the auditorium a few days later for the interest meeting on the Balanced Man Scholarship.
I was struck by the professionalism in the initial emails and the presentation. That’s why when I got a voicemail from Patrick about making it to the interview round, I decided to call back. If I was going to be in the running for a (newly increased) grand prize of $5,000, then I might as well seize this opportunity.
That phone call was the first of many conversations to come. Patrick, in charge of recruitment for the chapter, made a sincere effort to get to know me, even though he was engaging with many other scholarship applicants (and he once called me by the wrong name!).
I could live with being called Carter if we kept talking about things that mattered to me, like the root cause of pain, the importance of self-care, motivational speaker Jeremy Poincenot, San Diego State ’13, and using positivity to deal with suffering. We also talked about SigEp, what it would take to operate the Balanced Man Program at Wash. U. and whether I really had a place in an organization like this. I finally decided to take Patrick up on visiting a chapter meeting one Sunday.
The guys seemed cool, but I still wasn’t convinced. I didn’t feel I had time to join a fraternity, even if I didn’t have to pledge. I decided to tell Patrick that I wasn’t interested and that this would be too much of a distraction from my dream of becoming a doctor.
Patrick heard me out, seeking to better understand my objections. Knowing my true doubts were about whether I had time for SigEp, he showed me, through several videos, that other brothers were benefitting from SigEp while still pursuing rigorous premedical tracks.
The turning point
I watched the videos and became even more torn. I tried to objectively reason through the choice, but conversations with friends, family and others I trusted still didn’t help. Then it all changed … I received an email invitation to the BMS Banquet as one of the 20 finalists.
The banquet was pretty awe-inspiring. The food was great, and there was this entire network of “behind the scenes” people that I’d only heard about. Although I didn’t receive a scholarship, the banquet helped me really understand what SigEp is about. I had no idea the impact of the Fraternity stretched far beyond just the guys I’d met on my campus.
But my deciding moment came at chapter meeting the next day during the icebreaker activity: a “snowball fight.”
We were asked to write down meaningful questions on sheets of paper, crumple them up, and then toss them at one another. The real kicker was the way they responded to these questions. I gained insight into the minds of the brothers, and their responses reflected personal visions that excited me.
Then I talked to Jeremy Poincenot, SigEp, inspirational speaker and blind golf world champion. His willingness to be vulnerable allowed us to connect. He’d spoken at the banquet, and he encouraged me to take the risk of becoming a brother.
Relationships. That’s what it took for me to break past my stereotype of what fraternity is, reconsider SigEp and finally take the risk to commit to this organization. I knew then that there were guys in this group who I wanted to know better and be part of my community. There were guys with whom I could be vulnerable and I could believe in to pick me up and carry me through.
I believed that the Balanced Man Program could help me pursue my dream of becoming a doctor. I saw that these young men were friends, mentors and brothers who shared my passion to build something better, to redefine the norm, and above all, to walk with me as I pursue my dreams — within a brotherhood.