Last year at around this time, I bought a new camera for my photography class. Apparently, the one my mom bought me for Christmas was “not the right kind.” Annoying, but whatever. So I dropped a cool $300 on a Sony Alpha DSLR. I unpacked it in the parking lot of Walmart and put in a spare memory card I had laying around my glove compartment. When I got home, this was the first picture I took. It’s the letters on the house I lived at for three years.
Applying for college was more nerve-wracking than applying for jobs. Most of my high school friends applied and had been accepted to either the University of Utah or Westminster. I, on the other hand, decided to go to the University of Wyoming. While I wanted to spread my wings and try out a different city, a different state, the logical choice was UW because of the Hathaway Scholarship and because of low tuition rates. I packed up two cars full of my belongings and set sail for Laramie. I don’t think I said a word the entire trip there. There was no turning back.
I moved into Orr Hall with a roommate I had never met. Luckily, there were two guys from a fraternity right across the street that volunteered to help me move everything in – something I am still grateful for to this day. I took way more than I needed to. After I got settled in, I wondered if UW was really the right choice for me. I admittedly missed home, but I was also ready for a new experience.
That second week of my freshman year was Greek life’s recruitment week. Without telling my parents, I decided to sign up for recruitment week. Each night, I got to explore different houses, meet different people, and figure out this whole “Greek life” thing. To me, it was a lot like test-driving a car; each one rides differently, and the goal is to find the perfect fit for yourself. At the end of night three, my recruitment group walked up to a table with a banner that said “Sigma Phi Epsilon.” And wouldn’t you know it? Those two guys who helped me move everything into my dorm were the first two people to greet me.
They showed me around the house and gave me virtually the entire history of the house. There were guys with so many different backgrounds, so many different experiences, so many stories. I didn’t feel as lost in my collegiate journey as I had been. I listed SigEp as my top preference, and got to come back a second night. I don’t remember what activity we did that night, or for that matter, any of the activities I participated in that entire week. But I do remember something that sticks out to me to this day – everybody in this house meshed together like one big family.
I received four different bids on bid day, the maximum allowable. Over the next 48 hours, I had to do some soul-searching. Which organization best matched my value set? Where would I be most comfortable? By Sunday, I realized that the decision was obvious. Virtue, Diligence, Brotherly Love. Sound mind, sound body. A truly balanced man. SigEp was my home, and my newfound brothers were my family.
My parents didn’t find out about the fraternity until it was time for my first due payment. When I called them up on the phone, my decision was met with much resistance. If I were a parent and their kid asked for money for something they knew nothing about, chances are I’d probably be angry too. I spent a good hour on the phone with them, trying to coax them and win their support. I succeeded.
That first year was one where I grew in many ways – mentally, physically, and emotionally. I had a younger sister growing up. No brothers. I was the eldest child. When I joined SigEp, I got 35 new brothers, and I was the youngest. While my sister challenged my patience, my brothers challenged my mindset. I opened my heart and my mind, and I learned what it truly meant to be a SigEp.
There’s a hierarchy of families, as is custom with any fraternity. I remember having to choose my big brother. There were so many choices, but I know I made the right choice. He was the one who helped me move into my dorm that first day. And who was my big brother’s big brother? The other one who helped me move in. I belonged to a great family.
“Live every day like you’re wearing your letters.” I’m sure I heard that at least 100 times during my collegiate career. Certainly, there were very vivid memories of demonstrating each principle SigEp stands for.
Virtue. Do the right thing. During Homecoming Week my sophomore year, we participated in the Big Event, a day of service in the community. I was still on crutches from a surgery back in July, and had been assigned to go to this basement rental near campus. The woman who lived there needed help cleaning up the place because of health issues. When I got there, the place was cold, the windows were cracked, the heat didn’t work. A family of five was living in a two-bedroom apartment. As I was cleaning the walls, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her situation. She and I struck up a conversation over the course of the three hours or so that I was there. I got to know her. She was thankful for everything she had. She was thankful for her kids. She was thankful for the help. Before I left, she pulled me aside and hugged me. I learned the value of appreciation. This isn’t a flagrant search for gratitude. Rather, it is a lesson in the internal reward you receive for putting others before yourself. Doing good makes you feel good.
Diligence. Perseverance at its finest. I had surgery July 5, 2013. I was told that it would take at least six months for me to be able to walk without support and eight months for me to be able to run. I was frustrated because I really enjoyed running, and losing something you love for that amount of time takes a toll. There were many trials and tribulations within the first three months. My mom even considered having me take a semester off so I could focus on recovery, but I wanted to go back to school. I remember the second week of school. I was still on crutches and still in slight pain. I just wanted to be able to walk again. So, I left my crutches at the house and attempted to walk to class in the Ag building. It took ten minutes for me to walk halfway there. I was sweaty, out of breath, but damn it, I wanted to walk again. I did this every day for two months. Soon, my gait was smoother and the pain went away. I worked my hardest to be able to run two months earlier than expected. During Christmas break, I ran my first mile, albeit slower than normal. By March, I had run a 5K at Copper Mountain. This is not a pity party. Pain is temporary, and the experience wasn’t that bad. But persevering and setting goals made it all worth while, and made me a stronger person.
Brotherly love. Let the love flow. I opened up more to my big, Dylan, than I think I’ve opened up to any other person. There’s a lot of trust, and you come to realize how strong that trust is through experience. We unfortunately lost one of our members in 2015. It took a toll on many of us. A lot of guys lost their close friend and confidante. I lost my little. The brothers of SigEp banded together. In the house, we kept our doors open more frequently. We engaged in conversation, in reminiscence, in true heartfelt camaraderie. I’m not ashamed to say that I hugged more. These were more than brothers, these were my best friends. This act of brotherly love, this act of friendship stands the test of time.
Graduating was the most difficult part for me. Leaving something I had grown accustomed to, a house full of my best friends and an organization that taught me so much, wasn’t easy. To this day, post-graduate Jordan wishes he could have stayed in school and got a second degree, just to be there a little while longer. At the same time, I wouldn’t trade any decision for the world. I am a better person because of the fraternity. The years may pass, but the memories stay. I think everyone should experience Greek life, regardless of which house you choose. I may be a bit biased, but out of any decision I’ve made in life so far, joining SigEp was the by far the best.