For members of social clubs, it’s easy to subscribe to the idea that there aren’t many people outside your club worth hanging out with. Between club week, functions, club sports and Spring Sing, it is easy to be indoctrinated with the idea of inter-club competition and the superiority of your own club without even realizing it.
I joined Knights as a junior, so for two years I formed relationships completely free of any pretense or expectation that come with being in a club. The matter of what club someone was in was never an issue. The question rarely crossed my mind. I formed great relationships with different types of guys that belonged in and joined different clubs. Some of my closest friends joined TNT. One of the first friends I made at Harding joined Omega Phi during their first club week. Another joined BOX. My roommate joined Knights. Most of the freshman hall-mates I was close with joined PKE or Titans. I played rugby with guys in Sub-T and Gamma Sigs. Some of my closest friends didn’t even join a club. For me, none of it was ever an issue. They were just good guys I enjoyed hanging out with.
During my sophomore year, one of my freshman hall-mates asked if I wanted to go on a manly spring break trip. Club-less me spent the week in northwest Arkansas backpacking, canoeing, rock-climbing and caving with five PKE’s and one Titan — if you want to look at it that way. Up in the Ozark Mountains, it was simply seven honest guys sharing trails, tents, meals and stories. It was one of the best weeks of my life.
Since I joined Knights in 2013, my friend group has shifted significantly, with the list of non-Knights I hang out with shrinking. Guys I had been so close with I see less and less. I attend non-club events less frequently, and subsequently I talk to fewer people who aren’t in Knights. Special relationships have been lost to the subconscious belief that I don’t need to hang out with guys that aren’t in my club.
When my spring break plans fell through this year, I decided to do something that wouldn’t cost a lot of money, and I remembered that a few of the guys I had gone to northwest Arkansas with two years ago were planning a trip to the river. I texted one of the guys and told him I’d love to join.
So I spent four and a half days of spring break kayaking down the Buffalo River with three guys from PKE. We camped alongside the river, laughing about stories and memories of our freshman hall and our trip two years ago. We shared stories from our experiences abroad and our career ambitions. We cooked around the same campfires together, and we spent an evening hiding from the rain under a 10×20 tarp together. We shared flashlights, chlorine tablets and toilet paper. Along with the sense of accomplishment I felt after 70 miles of “expert-only” water levels came the reminder that we aren’t defined by the clubs we are in, or by the club we aren’t in. I re-lived some of those moments from freshman and sophomore years when social clubs didn’t create boundaries or expectations for my relationships.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Knights. It’s one of the best things in my life, and it has made me a better person. It has given me a brotherhood, a support group and so much more. Most people in a club can probably say the same. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with people who aren’t in your club. Don’t be afraid to step outside of the social club boundaries and rivalries to form relationships with other people. You may be pleasantly surprised at the lasting friendships and memories you’ll make. As for Woody, Roehl and Forrest: thanks for letting a Knight join your spring break trip.