As a writer for the media, particularly for a site that covers the many ongoings of Greek life across the country, I’m often reporting on things drunk frat guys and sorority girls do, and while they’re usually hilarious, they can be mildly embarrassing for someone who doesn’t have a sense of humor about it. Following said posts, there is almost always an uproar of people claiming that we shouldn’t have written the story, that we shouldn’t have included a person’s or chapter’s name, and that we shouldn’t have linked back to articles that give even more information about who the student is. Of course, following these “rules,” would mean I wasn’t doing my job. I’m supposed to report on things happening to Greeks, both good and bad, so as not to show journalistic bias. I’m supposed to give all the information I have. And I’m supposed to use a proper citation if I did not break the story. Still, though, every time I write something controversial, I’m on the receiving end of some nasty emails accusing me of “bullying,” or “making Greek life look bad,” simply for relaying information.
While, often, the barrage of emails telling me I’m a horrible person does instill some guilt in me, it also gets me thinking about the notion of risk and reward…and consequences. Growing up, I was always told that our actions have consequences. My mother reminded me every time she had to discipline me for doing something wrong. I learned at an early age that if I risked breaking a rule, I risked being punished for it. Sometimes it was worth it and sometimes it wasn’t.
But somewhere between the time our parents grounded us and becoming semi-functioning adults, we started to believe that we should somehow be immune to the negative effects of our decisions. In today’s inspirational-quote-on-Instagram world, we like to think that risk just means possible reward, and forget that it also means possible consequence.
Logically, we know that if we have sex with some guy without a condom, we might either have the best sex (or most medium sex) of our lives…or we might get pregnant. We know that if we haze our sorority’s new members, it could result in the closest, most tightly-bonded new member class ever…or it could lead to the closing of our chapter. We know that if we tell that guy we’re seeing that we’re DTR, he might also be down to relationship…or he may never answer another text again. We know that if we drink to the point that we cannot control ourselves, it may be the best day of our lives…or it could lead to our arrest for doing something completely ridiculous and that people are going to talk about it.
We know all of these things. We’re not stupid. But it seems as though we’ve taken to choosing to ignore them, so that when the worst case scenario does happen, we can plead ignorance.
The problem with forgetting the most simple life lesson is that many of us re-learn it the hard way. We make a risky decision and it blows up in our faces. And then all we can do is panic and assert that we shouldn’t be responsible for the outcomes of our actions. Instead, we protest the rule we broke, go to court to fight the charge, or demand that the story get taken down. We claim that someone calling us out on something we actually did is “bullying,” minimizing what actual bullying is. We claim that the media is making Greek life look bad, when we’re doing it all on our own. We scream that it’s not fair, even though we’ve been told a thousand times that life isn’t fair. And when none of that works, we chalk these unfortunate outcomes up to “mistakes” and claim that we all make them — which is true, but it’s also a cop-out. In this world of no possible negatives, very few of us actually accept responsibility, and I think maybe it’s time that we start.
So to that end: it was a decision that I made to write that piece, and whether it was the right or wrong call, the consequences were the hate mail and negative comments that I took personally. But the bottom line is that I took the risk, and I accept the consequences.
Another one of my mom’s favorite adages was “If you do the crime, you do the time.” Yes, the woman is a walking parental cliché, but she’s right. Now, I’m not saying that you should never take a risk or make a decision. The best experiences in life truly do come when you make crazy choices or push yourself out of your comfort zone. So go out there and make some choices – good ones and bad ones. But when you do so, be aware that all the risks that you take and all of the decisions you make can have both positive and negative results. Part of being an adult is being prepared to deal with those outcomes, whichever way it goes. We need own it when we fuck up, accept the consequences, and maybe even learn from them. And when you’re grown up enough to do that, you may even be able to laugh some day..
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