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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

TTLG: A Spot on the Continuum

11.8.13.mirror.ttlg2
11.8.13.mirror.ttlg2

As I sat in a meeting at my fraternity the other night, slowly sinking into the leather couch, the house’s president posed a question that, simple and obvious though it might seem, really made me think. “Why did you join a fraternity?”

At the risk of sounding close-minded, I’ll make a confession: I never really considered the thought of a college experience, at Dartmouth or elsewhere, that didn’t involve Greek life.

That’s not to say I didn’t think about the rush process critically, but I always focused more on what I wanted to gain from my house than whether, at the end of the day, I would receive a net gain in happiness from joining the Greek system at all. Like many people, I hoped that joining a Greek house would help me to find a group of like-minded people with whom I identified and shared common ground.

After only a few weeks in a house, my experience has been more positive than I could have imagined. I don’t mean this in a cheesy, rose-colored glasses kind of way; joining a Greek house is a big transition, and as with any major life change, the process of adapting can at times be difficult, stressful and confusing. But it has introduced me to dozens of fantastic people, many of whom I likely would never have met otherwise. These are people who are on their worst days what I strive to be on my best: smart, funny, interesting, friendly and passionate. However, I’ve been surprised to find that what I’ve treasured the most about these new friendships has not been the common ground, but the vast differences in our perspectives and experiences.

I look around the house and I see ski bums and soccer junkies, engineers and English buffs, budding musicians and future business school valedictorians. As anyone who knows me can probably attest, I am none of those things. My skiing form is exactly what you’d expect from a burly manchild with no grace and minimal experience, and my Econ 1 grade alone would probably keep me out of most reputable business schools. But far from making me feel isolated, that wealth of diverse interests has absolutely enriched the sense of community I feel in the house. By constantly stepping outside of my comfort zone, I’ve actually felt my comfort zone grow.

That’s not to say I’ve vastly increased my base of knowledge or expertise. Far from it, in fact. But, to paraphrase the old sports coach cliche, I’ve become far more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Debates about the true meaning of life or the efficacy of Paul Volcker’s economic policies once left me feeling ignorant and intimidated, but now I find myself invigorated to learn new things and hear new views. Occasionally I even feel comfortable enough to plumb my (admittedly small) pool of knowledge and experience for contributions to the conversation. And when the talk turns to one of my passions, I often find my opinions challenged and my understanding deepened in ways I never would have expected. These experiences have taught me a lesson of incredible value, that the “dumbest” person in the room can sometimes offer the most valuable insights.

In a school where we’re surrounded by thousands of the brightest, most interesting and most accomplished students in the world, the importance of that lesson cannot be overstated. It’s easy to feel your sense of self worth start to slip when there’s such a dizzying wealth of talent and experience among our student body. Often I feel like the vast majority of Dartmouth’s population is a little smarter, a little cooler and a little more on top of it than me.

But when the sea of artists and scholars and athletic wunderkinds starts to get overwhelming, I try to take a step back and remember that there’s a spot for me in the Dartmouth continuum. The friends I respect and admire so much must see something in me too. If they didn’t, there are far too many amazing people here for them to waste their time in my company.

Every one of us is here for a reason, but more importantly, those reasons are all different. The enriching diversity I’ve found in my Greek experience is even more pronounced in the greater Dartmouth community. For proof of the vast array of interests represented on campus, one need look no further than the campus listserv — from artistic ensembles to service organizations to cultural interest clubs, the one trait that our student body seems to share is passion. Sure, we “work hard and play hard.” But we also care deeply about an array of things far too broad to be captured by that tired cliché. And those diverse individual passions, coagulated in the clubs and teams and Greek houses that help us to channel and explore them, come together to form a community far greater than the sum of its already spectacular parts.

I’m not sure exactly why I decided to come to Dartmouth. Given how much my answer to the Greek question has changed in just five weeks, I’m not sure it really matters. But I think I’m finally starting to understand exactly what Dartmouth means to me.

Through The Looking Glass is a weekly feature. We welcome submissions from community members — both past and present — who wish to write about defining experiences, moments or relationships at Dartmouth. Please submit articles of 1,000-1,200 words tomirror@thedartmouth.com.