In hindsight my false sense of independence was really stupid. Fortunately some of my fraternity brothers possessed more maturity and wisdom. (Fair warning: the word ‘ass’ is probably over-used) 

Here’s what I’d like to say to that overly independent, indignantly proud, perhaps even cocky 19 year-old me. With all the tact and care and gentleness I could muster I’d look him square in the eye and say very succinctly “Pull your head out and figure out you don’t do this alone, dumbass!” Yes, I’d add the dumbass. I know it risks pissing him off but maybe I want to hack him off a little because I need to get his attention. He needs to hear some things from me even though he thinks he has it all figured out, he knows the path he’s on and how it will all unfold in front of him. He’s unfortunately, a dumbass.

He’s got it all figured out. He’s going to do summer school and get his agriculture degree in three years and take over the family farm after marrying his high school sweetheart. Except; he’s not. The relationship will end late in his freshman year. The summer school will go okay, he’ll squeak through two classes and two reading courses but then midway through his sophomore year the farm crisis will hit and there goes the farm. Just like that, all three legs of the milk stool will be trashed. Three is a magic number (yes I stole that from Schoolhouse Rock) and like magic it all disappears. And then, what does this DA (dumbass) have?

Well, he has nothing really. See, what he’s done is tell the 80 or so guys he has the closest contact with that he probably won’t ever be able to really call them brothers. In the address that he gives to these guys during “The” week (think Hell Week without really any of the hell) this pledge tells them sure, he’ll be there to help with the fraternity and do work and pitch in and they can be friends, just not brothers. He’ll be direct, even succinct about it, really leaving no doubt in his mind or the minds of the actives. In short, he’ll really be a dumbass and set himself up for what ought to be an ass-kicking, at least verbally, afterwards. Except, that won’t come.

Like his perfect plan that falls apart later, like the crisis that takes away what he thought was his future, there won’t be anything. No reprisal, no talking-to, no dressing down by his big brother, nothing. They’ll leave him be. One active will tell him he enjoyed his theme, that it really made some of them think. Looking back my guess is they discussed if they should kick his ass. Well it comes way late but this DA needs to ‘fess up and say ‘thanks’ and let those guys know, even though it’s been 30+ years, that he finally gets it.

I’ve finally grasped and accepted that the “politics” of getting through this thing called life is truly as Todd Noble said during one of our lengthy chapter meetings. “The total complex of relations between people living in society” (one of Webster’s definitions, not exactly as Todd put it) means we don’t act in a vacuum nor engage life’s challenges as an army of one. It’s not that we can’t (some do) but if they’re living any kind of examined life and maybe even if they’re not they’ll soon find; this doesn’t work. Life is bigger than that. It’s bigger than one person can understand, fathom and yes, conquer. It wasn’t this (hopefully) reformed DA’s mindset back then but it’s probably a way we all lean sometimes. I’m reminded of another reference Todd made (no idea where these are coming from, it’s like I’m Noble-channeling). “It’s like the Beatles said, ‘You say you want a revolution (well) we all want to change the world.’”

In the final analysis, in the end, I’d like to think that those guys collectively taught me something. Did I deserve to have my DA melon thumped? Probably, however they as a group took the more mature, dare I say fatherly approach: let the DA figure it out. When he’s heard God laugh at his plans and cocksure visions of the future one day he’ll come around. He’ll figure out this thing isn’t done alone. When life has kicked his ass in ways we couldn’t have begun to nor been as effective in doing, he’ll get it. He doesn’t control the universe. I’d like to think that maybe they had some faith in me back then (maybe that’s just my ego talking though). In any event, it’s been a long time gentlemen and as I said way overdue, but thanks.


20/20 hindsight is something we all possess. What things as you look back on them now, have you been taught through the years? If you would, please lay some of that knowledge on me in the comments below. 

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