The Daily Northwestern

Monga: Northwestern’s Balance Revolution: when do we take it too far?

Mehak Monga, Op-Ed Contributor

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Each weekend, “Nerdwestern’s” frat quad seems to buzz with excitable students, bustling their way through the pandemonium of party rejections and misty weather. Early the next day, you’ll catch these very students spending hours on end at Mudd Science and Engineering Library, taking just a lunch break between assignments and classes. From their morning gym routine, to breakfast on the go, to sports practice and academic excellence – each student has a routine with minimal time to take a breather. I thus question the extent to which such a fast-paced lifestyle is truly beneficial, and the point at which it becomes simply a matter of pride or materialism.

Being a top-10 school, the atmosphere of competition is inevitable. Each Northwesterner boasts the hectic lifestyle which got them here in the first place, and the desire to excel further creates a chaotic melting pot of coexisting creativity and timely agendas in each mind. My friends use online calendars with minute-by-minute reminders, notebooks and planners, and lists for absolutely every potential category. Perhaps this overexposure is the product of a large, but still personalized community – one which each student marks their place in, whether through extracurriculars or by their 8 a.m. conversations with the café barista in Spanish (I am guilty of this). Even the popular nickname, Nerdwestern, comes with its own connotations to bookworming your way through these 4 intensive years. Don’t be fooled, though; the ability to balance our academics with a happy mind almost comes naturally to us – or so we like to portray.

My first week in this remarkably chaotic environment came with an overwhelming amount of introductions, “nice to meet you’s” and small talk. By day, we attended True Northwestern Dialogues about diversity and inclusion; by night, we were at off-campus parties with more unfamiliar faces than imaginable. It was difficult to grasp the fact that each day for the next couple of months would be somewhat similar to this week. Finding a place among a sea of a seemingly entirely different species is challenging beyond comprehension. Immediately after classes began, this overpacked and Instagram-esque lifestyle kicked in, leaving little room after Wildcat Welcome for self-reflection and to think about the introductions which acted as the foundations of potential friendships.

Ultimately, the point is that this seemingly superficial and competitive lifestyle – to attend every social event, excel in every class, join an artificial number of clubs, sleep enough, eat well, and remain healthy – can cost us our mental health. Mental health is emphasized by Counseling and Psychological Services and other available resources on campus, but the extent to which students deem these useful and realistic is questionable. With so much of our time being invested into ‘bettering’ our lives and advancing in our careers, at times, we neglect the importance and time that must be dedicated to taking a break from our tightly packed schedules, and embracing the minimalistic moments.

I, for one, find it taxing to spend two consecutive nights packed in a fraternity house, in an uncomfortably humid environment. Still, I feel the need to attend simply for the sake of creating memorable experiences with my new friends. To balance this with more academic strain than we are used to, and to join ridiculously competitive clubs, is a lifestyle that I find absolutely thrilling, but believe could reach a peak and begin to deteriorate if forced or pressured. It may simply be the rush of Fall Quarter, freshman year, or it could be a stagnancy throughout these four years, but taking a step out of our virtual agendas will definitely prove beneficial at some point. So eat an extra brownie at lunch, watch an extra episode of a show on Netflix, do something for happiness in the short term; everything else will fall into place.

Mehak Monga is a Weinberg freshman. She can be contacted at mehakmonga2022@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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