Gutierrez: AND is already in my DNA

Pallas Gutierrez, Op-Ed Contributor

It’s Week 5 of fall quarter. I’m writing for The Daily and Syllabus, applying to be a first-year theater board representative, a writer and new board member for the Waa-Mu Show, going to club fencing practice and doing lighting design for a winter quarter show. I have gone to two interviews, filled out two student theatre applications and I have two more of each in the next week.

I still feel like I’m not doing enough.

Part of this can be attributed to my high school experience. The most popular people were the most involved. I was around students who did everything. I played varsity sports for two seasons and out-of-school sports for six, worked on 12 school productions, wrote for the two school newspapers for five years and served in student government for four years. That was just our version of normal, and I loved every bit of it; I didn’t do anything I didn’t want to do. As a matter of fact, I took at least one show off every year, and switched from varsity to club fencing when the workload became too much. But there was still an unspoken pressure; everyone was doing everything.

Northwestern’s club fair was fun, but it also reminded me of all the things I felt obligated to join. I fenced for five years, so I had to join the fencing club. I’m Latinx, so I had to find Alianza. Love feminist theatre? Sign up for Lipstick. Love student-written work? Vertigo it is. The things I truly love and the things I was just curious to try got lost in the shuffle of everything I “should” have been signing up for.

The constant refrain of “AND is in our DNA” both genuinely and sarcastically, only adds to the internalized pressure I put on myself to do everything. I came to NU planning to double major in Theatre and Gender and Sexuality Studies. Since arriving in September, I have considered adding a certificate, a minor and two modules. One of my best friends and I are planning on going to Europe next summer, but maybe I would be better off getting an internship. Students are considered to be full-time when they take three credits, but between wanting to finish my distribution requirements and the prerequisites for my intended modules, I’m considering taking five. Hearing “AND is in our DNA,” that it is not only encouraged but almost expected for everyone to have a hundred things on their plate, makes me feel justified in loading myself up with obligations — almost to the point of breaking.

There’s a certain lack of control in how involved people are in extracurriculars at NU. Almost every extracurricular I have looked at requires some combination of an application and an interview, which means whether or not people can be involved is somewhat out of their hands. Every rejection feels like a failure by human nature, and “AND is in our DNA” only emphasizes the feeling that by not being “good enough” to join something, I am not good enough to be here.

I like that no one is one-dimensional at NU. Engineers can do a cappella; theatre majors can double in mathematics; anyone can write for The Daily. I like that everyone can sympathize with being completely slammed for a week (or two or three) and that no one has tried to bully me out of my responsibilities and into going out. But the problem with constantly reminding us that “AND is in our DNA” is that it makes it all feel like not enough. I question every minute that I spend playing video games, crocheting or reading for pleasure. But the students of NU have earned those little moments for themselves.

A. Pallas Gutierrez is a Communication freshman. They can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.