Gutierrez: Stop mocking people for doing things they love

Pallas Gutierrez, Columnist

Engineers mock theatre kids, theatre kids mock athletes and athletes mock journalists. Most people I know have at some point derided someone else spending time on something they love, usually because they don’t value that thing in the same way. Despite how easy and almost instinctual it may be to jokingly devalue other people’s activities, I’m here to say: stop.

Doing things you love takes time. This weekend, I spent 30 hours programming the light board for “A Chorus Line.” I loved every minute of it, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it took up a large amount of my time. When I dare to complain about this time commitment to my non-theatre friends, they often retort, “You chose to do theatre!” But everyone chooses to do something; no one is predestined to be an engineer or an athlete. It’s rude to stop people from venting about the harder aspects of the things they love, simply on the grounds that they chose to do them.

The other form that this mocking has taken, in my experience, is to jokingly say, “What a waste of time.” Sure, it’s just a joke, but sometimes it isn’t. Since the arts in general are often degraded as worthless, it’s impossible to know whether someone who says this to me is joking or whether they genuinely don’t see my work as legitimate. When someone spends time doing something they love, be it theatre, journalism or robotics, it’s never a waste of time.

Just because you don’t understand something or interact with it regularly does not mean that it doesn’t have value and that it isn’t valid work. I don’t have a clue how calculus helps send things into outer space, but I know that it does and that it’s hard work for the people who do it. Being good at anything is work: it all takes practice, and practice is work.

We all enjoy things that aren’t in our field of expertise — I love to watch hockey even though I can only skate forward. We need advances made in all disciplines for society to function. I wouldn’t have been able to start writing this column on my phone during tech rehearsal and have it show up on paper if not for electrical engineers and computer scientists. Without art and artists, scientists would not be able to graphically represent their ideas for lay people. We need to think beyond our own skill sets, our usual outlooks on the world. While it is easy — and sometimes comforting — to pretend that your niche is somehow more valuable than other people’s, it’s far more important to elevate everyone when their moment comes.

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.