and then I said no.

I’m marking today as a milestone in my life. I’ve begun my first steps of saying no ; of choosing what is important over what is necessarily visible. Strangely, I’m feeling displaced , as if a rock has been placed in my gut and I don’t know what to do about it. All I can do is think about it, appreciate my new place and somehow get used to this discomfort. It’s refreshing – being displaced. Today, I made the decision to not run for leadership in my chapter.

Giving some context, I joined Lambda Chi under a contract to myself to commit to improving the state of affairs in the chapter. What is a great brotherhood, lacked the momentum to inspire initiative and project its true self on a community that was obsessed with image. As the Vice-President, over the past year, I overhauled frameworks and planted seeds for a culture of self-motivated external involvement. But my proudest take-away from the position was when I was tired of doing well and wanted to empower others to do better. The game had become easy – it was as if I was an advanced character playing on beginner mode. That’s nothing to say of my own absolute ability – there’s so much I have to gain in experience – but I also came from two significant leadership experiences ; leading in the army and running my own private company. I realized quickly the challenge then was to captivate the chapter to adopt my vision and make it their own by finding meaning in it.  One year later, and I’m incredibly satisfied with the distance we have come as brothers and the vastly different perspective and energy we have for things. There were leaders within the chapter now – voices that mattered. I was no longer the shining tip  – I was part of a bigger foundation for the future.

Joining IFC was my way of playing on ‘very difficult’ level. The issues I’m faced to confront are so much more complex and dynamic ; and ever so scary. Mental health, inclusion, sexual assault, wellness are all topics that are so embedded into college environments and yet perpetuated in echoes throughout society. There’s so much I have to deal with just by tapping on the string that unravels into a mess of related issues and personal lives. But there also lies the opportunity to heal brokenness and potentially transform the future. I know I frequently talk in big ideals and visions, but here I see myself possibly dealing with my biggest challenge ever. And I’m excited.

We went on a retreat this past weekend to have a first touch on our leadership councils and see what we want to plan for in the year ahead. Amongst many other things, the displacement originated from a realization that the scope of my job was very real in its effects. If I did my job well, I could do the same I did for Lambda Chi – I could build a culture that perpetuates itself. I traveled back to my chapter, thinking about the election that was to happen that day. I had expressed intention in the months before of running for the first Vice-President role – a role I wanted to transform in a similar way to how I had transformed the second Vice-President role. The chapter seemed favorable to the idea and I simply had to run to prove myself. Regardless of whether I won, the decision to run itself started to become difficult for me.

I had to choose between two roles that demanded so much from me and it tore me that I cared so much about each community. The decision came finally in the comfort of my brothers, who above all else, reminded me that I had pioneered such a self-starter culture that there was a new brand of leaders emerging in the chapter. One of my mentors once told me ‘The best type of organizational leaders are the ones who empower others such that they are useless by the time they leave’ . I finally realized I was experiencing some semblance of that. I could finally say no, no because it was important that I let this culture perpetuate itself, but also because I needed to see to the bigger task at hand in my new role.

It’s here that I’m displaced. I grew up fighting for roles that allowed me to transform my environments and make them better. Yet, here I am , realizing the success comes in my saying no. In saying that I should not be involved this way – still involved, but in less prominent ways. And if this is the trend, then I’m truly growing up. I’m truly moving into my senior year and making something out of both my youth , and out of my college experience. I’m inspired, and I’m ecstatic, because the final lap is ahead, and oh boy, they’re always so sweet.

As I type these final words, the displacement is starting to sweep away. I’m starting to understand how powerful leadership can be, and how I’m still learning. The world has so much more to beat into me, the stubborn idiot that I am, but every lesson is a ballad in itself.

It’s good to be alive.

hooah.

 

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the reason for brotherhood

sns

 

“This will probably be one of the moments in life you’ll remember forever”

I’ve heard that phrase a few times. When I entered the military, when I organised Singapore’s largest improv flashmob, even when I was in the hospital hallway as my baby sister was born. Yesterday another experience was added to that list.

I got fully initiated into Lambda Chi Alpha, and become a brother in the fraternity. It’s slightly surreal, and while I can’t talk about the events that formed the core of the initiation process (these are secrets we hold) , I am in no way doubtful that this is one of the decisions I will always be grateful I made.

Brotherhood and the notion of lifelong friendships are crucial to me. I am a believer in loyalty, and I have learnt to surround yourself with people who you can be loyal to , and expect loyalty back in return. It’s been a very common thread that my friends have observed in my life and I am proud to keep.

Coming to college in the United States presented one of my biggest challenges in adaptation. Not only was this environment completely different from the Asian-based system I thrived in , in Singapore, but I also came with almost no friends. I had also known everything about fraternities from movies and other popular media. Parties, Alcohol, Girls and Debauchery – that was what I thought fraternities were.

Yet, as soon as I started putting myself into situations where I could meet more people, I became naturally drawn to Greek life. The point of a Fraternity was essentially to build a social organisation , and me being a social creature, could not resist the idea of being able to expand my social circle. I realised soon though, that I had chanced upon something a lot more precious at Lambda Chi. I had chanced upon true brotherhood, not the kind put up on display as a front for guys just wanting to throw down hard, but a group of brothers who genuinely invested in each other and into the house that we stood in.

That sealed the deal for me. I wasn’t going to join a fraternity simply because it gave me access to a good time ; I was going to join a fraternity, specifically Lambda Chi , because I knew I wanted to spend my next years in college with these guys by my side. As I continued to rush, and then subsequently underwent Education, I was recurringly reassured that I had made a great decision.

Brothers stood up for each other ; brothers went out of the way for each other; brothers made incredible stories that broke into the dawn of day with each other. I was living an incredible life, and that’s not a hyperbole.

When it came time to initiate, I was fully assured that this was decision that would define my college experience to a large level. When applied, I know I’m a force – and I was ready to apply myself to this organisation.

The journey is far from over. But I’m here now, and I’m so very happy at this point in time. I’ll remember this , another moment in time where I’ve experienced bliss.

Life is a tiring journey, but with the help of a few friends we can finish it heads held high.

geronimo.

frathouse by the prairie

“You would think seeing a whole place covered in snow would be beautiful, but you know what, I could honestly do without all of this environmental dandruff” Cindy said as she walked down the path with Rick.

“I find it fascinating.” Rick stared at the snow falling, putting out his tongue and letting the snow land on the tip. “But yes, I could do without the chilly wind ” he chuckled.

“I don’t get how you find all of this so funny. I’m freezing my ass off.” Cindy continued to dig her hands deeper into her coat , clenching the inner lining as if it would help her fight the chill. “Why did we even come out?” she continued whining.

“Well, if I remember correctly…” Rick started.

“Don’t you dare. You wanted to go to a frat party just as much as I did” she pointed her finger in his face.

He pushed his nose onto her finger. “Oh wow that’s a cold finger” he said. He did not want to argue with her ; tonight was supposed to be their night together. He would remind her the next day though , how she had continuously messaged him the whole week to find the parties that were to happen that night.

They had to endure a whole night of drunken stupor, dirty dancing, “Do you know someone here?”s and “Take a lap buddy”s . It was iced with some occasional fun moments though. The music at Sigma Phi was to his taste, and he had met a girl at Alpha Gamma that he had managed to have some corner fun with before he realised he had come with Cindy.

He despised the hookup culture on campus – but he kept being pushed to the corner by random people and just played along before his brain took over. Cindy offered something consistent. And that was the closest to romance he could get on campus.

“Let’s just get back to campus as soon as we can. My coat’s in your room right?” Cindy broke his train of thought.

He nodded his head, all the time staring right in front of him.

“Ce était une nuit incroyable!” he heard someone shout all of a sudden.

His heard darted right, allowing him to see a couple coming out, dressed in clothes he had only seen in the movies. Miami Vice if he wanted to be precise.

“Look at that!” he said, tugging at Cindy’s arm.

“It’s just a bunch of drunk grad students. Let’s head back. I’m freezing” she said, letting on a slight sense of annoyance in her voice.

“I’m pretty sure this isn’t a regular frat party. Let’s check it out ” he said. They walked up to the men on guard duty.

“What party is this?” Rick asked.

“It’s a password party, no password no entry” one of the men on duty said.

“Damnit ” he replied. His eyes were drawn to the lights leaking out of the house windows. The music that was seeping out didn’t sound like regular frat party music – there was a sense of elegance to it.

“Thanks Goodness. I was about to leave you here alone if you had decided to go in .” Cindy said relieved.

He looked at her with his face cringed . ‘Thank God she didn’t see that’ he thought to himself as he noticed her head facing forward. All of a sudden he felt a womanly touch on his shoulder. It was a lady with a large classy hat, and a gown covered with a faux fur coat.

“They’re with me” she said. “The password is magia” she whispered .

“Alright you guys can go on in” the man on duty said, waving his hand towards the front door.

Before he could take a step, he felt Cindy pull on his arm. “Let’s just go back to your place.” she said, with a pout on her face.

“Didn’t you hear the password? Magia… that’s magic in Espanol. This is our kind of party!” he said, a glimmer in his eye.

“It may be yours, but I’m done. I’ll just call an Uber and head back, if you’re not coming.” she replied , the annoyance pretty apparent at this point.

Rick looked at her, and then back at the house. The lady was still there , by the man on duty . She looked up and smiled at him, waving her hand. He looked back at Cindy , and felt a sudden limp. “I’m sorry Cindy, you know I have to do this. I wouldn’t forgive myself if I let a chance like this go. Let me know when you get back alright” he said and moved in to give her a hug.

She walked away before he could move in. “Sure” she said, curt and short.

Thank God I avoided that one, he thought to himself as he walked back to the house.

“Was that your girlfriend?” the lady asked him as she accompanied him to the door.

“You’re apparently not from here. Relationships don’t exist in this school” he said, head sinking slightly.

“That sounds horrendous.” she said. She slid her arm around his. “Well my name is Elaine, and this is the start of a beautiful night”

Rick turned towards her and smiled. “Seems like I made the right decision he said”

___

The party was unlike anything he had seen. As he walked in, he was transformed to another world. The room was decked with low hanging lights , the music was a fusion of jazz and electronic music, the people were dressed to impress.

“Why don’t you grab a drink? I’m going to say hello to my friend , he’s hosting the party. ” Elaine said into his ear.

“You know the host?” Rick asked , surprised.

“Oh yeah. Do you want me to introduce you to him?” she said.

“Why not” he replied quickly. He would love to meet the person who was creating this magic.

She led him by the hand to a couch at the far end of the floor. There were all kinds of people around , with all colours worn, and embellished with probably any foreseeable form of jewelry and apparel, and then some more. Amongst them all was a simple man, in a simple sports jacket and bowtie. “Is that him?” Rick asked, pointing at him.

“You have a good eye. He likes being called Doctor, but his name is Reinhardt. We all just call him Doctor”

“Is he a real doctor?”

“No one knows. He does know the solution to almost every problem we bring him though. So in a lot of ways, yes he is a better doctor than some”

Elaine walked on over to the Doctor, kissed him on both his cheeks and embraced him. She gestured over to Rick, and the Doctor came over.

“I see you chanced upon our humble get together. I hope you’re enjoying yourself.”

“I am, greatly in fact.”

“The night has only begun. You’ll notice there’s something special about this place. When are you from?”

“I’m from Chicago”

“I asked, when, my fine sir, not where. If you didn’t notice by now, this is not just a themed party. This is a party in what is known as the Roaring 20s. And by your response, I judge that you’re not a time traveller like the rest of us.” The Doctor turned back and faced Elaine. “You brought another straggler in?” he asked her.

“He’s cute” she said, and winked at him.

The Doctor turned back. “Watch out for her, she’s the most dangerous one amongst us all. Have a good time tonight, and don’t get lost. That has a different meaning here.” he said, slapping him on the back and walked away.

Rick stared past him and looked at Elaine. “I’m in another time?” he asked stuttering.

“Magia ” she said, and pulled him away to the dance floor.

They danced the night away, to the best music he could remember in a long time. As if Baz Luhrmann himself had transported himself to the 20s to be re-inspired, the music spoke of a different kind of ambition. Of ideals and hopes, rather than throwing one’s life to the dogs.

Elaine’s palms were wrapped around his arms, and she pulled him in closer.

“You know what’s making me in love with  tonight? I don’t feel like I’m here to make risky decisions I’ll want to have the chance to forget the next day. I actually want to live right now, I want to make risky decisions that I can live with ” Rick said, and planted his lips on hers.

They continued in each other’s embrace , and finally moved to the couch at the side.

“I didn’t expect people to be this open in the 20s” he said , chuckling.

“Honey, I’m not from the 20s. I’m a time traveller just like anyone else here. I’m from the 2100s. The 20s were my favorite period tho.” she said, placing her hand on his cheek.

“You dance almost like you fit in, especially in that attire”

“They still wear heels in the 2100s. I’ve yet to understand why” she laughed. Rick joined in, and they laughed for a good while. She leaned in on his chest, and lay there.

“Will I get to see you again?” he asked, playing with her hair.

“Well that depends. Now that you’re here, you get to choose. You can be trained as a time-traveller, or you can go back home. If you go back home, it’s unlikely we’ll ever meet again. But if you get trained, who knows? Maybe we’ll see each other soon.”

He continued playing with her hair in silence.

“What are you thinking?” she asked, holding his hand tighter.

“My whole life, I’ve been looking for moments like these. Pivots in life , that can throw you in a whole new direction. I’ve met people who are comfortable with what they know. But I’m constantly seeking things I don’t know. I’m always scared, because I may lose the progress I made – my family, my friends; but I’ve always ended up making new friends, and finding ways to connect with my past. What if one day I lose that ability? What if I keep pivoting till I forgot where I came from?”

She turned her head and looked at him.

“Those are exactly the questions I didn’t know the answers to. And you know what, there’s no other way to answer them other than to truly be forced to answer them. The only question that matters is “Will you?” . So will you?” she asked.

He stared at her ,and then took a look around the room, glancing at everyone in it. All the travelers, of time and space. He glanced at the door, from which he had left Cindy, and from which he had left what was a “consolation prize”. He found the Doctor , meeting new people from all over the timeverse , and then looked back at Elaine.

“Magia” he said, summing up the moment. And then he kissed her, like nothing before.

___

geronimo