This post first appeared on my blog on October 10, 2010.
Time is relentless, punishing, and unforgiving.
But this weekend, I had the opportunity to defeat time, albeit just for a few bright, shining moments.
On this date – 10/10/10 – Tau Epsilon Phi celebrates its 100th birthday. As a member of the Tau Beta chapter at the University of Maryland, I am in Las Vegas with 40-plus of my fraternity brothers winding down the fraternity’s centennial with an extended weekend reunion.
I reconnected with fraternity brothers whom I have not seen, by and large, since the Reagan administration. Some of us have kept in touch. Others, not so much.
We have changed. For some of us, for example, the hair is grayer, fading, or non-existent.
Then again, not so much has changed. Within seconds, our familiar rhythms, cadences, and interactions return from a time known as Before.
Before clients, deadlines, and mortgages.
Before job changes, layoffs, and startups.
Before reality challenged our hopes, dreams, and goals by exclaiming with authority, “College was college. But the real world demands a price. Sometimes that price will be financial. Sometimes it will be emotional. Are you ready to pay the price?”
Through pictures and videotape shot during the Stone Age of home video, we sliced the prism of time by seeing ourselves as we were then. In an omnipresent, digitized slide show running on a flat-screen television in our hospitality suite, we see captured moments that resurrect the ghosts of who we were.
To view the slide show is to walk through a time warp to an era of the late 1980s when Madonna ruled as the “It Girl” of controversial entertainment, FOX was a nascent television network instead of a broadcasting powerhouse, and terrorism on American soil was an “it can’t happen here” topic.
We were, quite simply, boys evolving into men. In the fraternity, we learned how to run for elective office, master responsibility, and become decision makers. We learned how to budget, manage, and distribute tens of thousands of dollars to pay for formal events, house parties, and food. We learned how to debate, discuss, and resolve issues confronting our organization – increasing dues payments, creating rules and consequences regarding living in the fraternity house, selecting potential sorority partners for Fall’s Homecoming Week and Spring’s Greek Week.
For me, I learned tangible lessons about communicating verbally and in writing. Because I liked communications, I won an election for Corresponding Secretary. In that position, I kept the fraternity informed of community affairs that affected our off-campus house. I also filled in for the Scribe on a few occasions. The Scribe took notes furiously during our Monday night meetings to preserve a record of motions, votes, and news.
From brothers who knew how to dominate a room with projection, persuasiveness, and personality, I learned verbal skills that are invaluable when I conduct communications classes, workshops, and seminars.
Different people emerged to take on roles. Those who were good managers became the President and the Kitchen Steward. Those who were good with money became the Treasurer and the Bursar. And those who were good leaders became the Pledge Trainer and the Rush Chairman.
We also made contributions to the fraternity without defined roles. For example, a brother who was good with his hands built lofts for the rooms. I could type fast, so I frequently typed papers for brothers based on their dictation using a now-forgotten technology called the typewriter. No spell check, there. Just Liquid Paper and do-overs.
We were diverse, yet united. Different, yet similar. And through it all, a brotherhood formed that the tentacles of time cannot erase, fade, or even blot.