Welcome to Everything But The Bagel, a weekly space to make you feel a little less stressed, and a little more grounded, just with writing instead of cream cheese. By diving deeper into the reality of life as a (remote) Trojan, Everything But The Bagel will help you get through the ups and downs of your college experience. Through relatable anecdotes, interviews, and my curated edit of recommendations, this newsletter will remind you that you are at this school for a reason, further helping you make the most of your time at 'sc.
Dear Beautiful, Imperfect, Intelligent Humans,
Caffeine, The Calm App and Calvin Harris are all staples in my morning routine. The caffeine: to wake up, The Calm App: to ground myself and Calvin Harris: to motivate for my morning run––is there any other way to get your BPM up?!
A few weeks ago I was on my morning run as usual. AirPods in, sweat accumulating and the sun shining on the sidewalk ahead. As I approached the intersection where I usually turn left to get home in time for class, someone caught my eye. A woman, probably thirty-something, sitting on the curb with her head buried in her hands. She was in activewear and a ponytail...was she hurt? Roll her ankle? Out of breath? Or was it something else? I kept running––I had to get home in time to shower before class. But you know that gut feeling that tells you that something just isn’t right? Well that feeling started to paralyze me, and I knew I had to turn around––the shampoo and conditioner could wait.
I pulled out an AirPod and slowly approached the whimpering woman, who I realized was tomato-red and sobbing into the palm of her hands. “Are you ok?” I gently asked her. “You know, just this new normal getting the best of me,” she said through her cry-induced gasps as tears continued to roll down her face. My heart hurt for her. Those are the worst kind of days––we’ve all been there.
Then something unexpected happened. This woman and I kept talking for about five minutes (socially-distanced, of course) about how difficult this new normal really is. I assured her that the pandemic has become a universal struggle but that this shared pain and vulnerability introduces an inherent power. I even disclosed some of my personal pandemic battles with her, admitting that I had my weekly COVID-induced breakdown the previous night. She was appreciative of me, a complete stranger, checking in on her and even told me that our interaction was the highlight of her week. After our brief conversation and comforting connection, she went back to crying, and I went back to running. And that was that –– shower time! Or so I thought.
But when I arrived home I felt different. I told my roommates about the interaction, feeling strangely uplifted by my connection with this stranger, feeling surprised that I was so willing to open up to her. Do I know her name? No. Will I ever see her again? Probably not. But did this conversation leave me feeling something magical? Yes. Did it remind me that we really are all so similar and that the little things in life are everything? Absolutely. But I was left wondering: how could someone that I barely knew be so transformative in my life? Restless about the answer, I knew I had to do some digging and get to the bottom of it.
The book I just finished reading, The Defining Decade (scroll down to the weekly digest) is all about how to seize your twenties and why this decade is one of the most crucial and transformative periods of life. The author, Dr. Meg Jay, is a clinical psychologist and associate professor of education at the University of Virginia. In her book, Jay discusses her theory of “the strength of weak ties,” which in of itself is an oxymoron.
As such, I wanted clarification on the theory. I reached out never expecting to hear back from a high-profile, accomplished author like Dr. Jay. So when she responded to my inquiry on Saturday, I was completely starstruck. In our email exchange this past weekend, Dr. Jay summarized the phenomenon to its core, explaining, “the strength of weak ties is about the value of people we don’t know well. Typically, our closest friends and family are a heterogeneous, incestuous group. They know each other and most of the same information. Those further out in our social networks know things and people we don’t know.”
For twenty-somethings who are just starting to build their network, these people and the connections and conversations that follow are especially important. Dr. Jay explained, “if you’re looking for something NEW--the new job, the new apartment, the new person to date --it is almost always going to come from outside of your inner circle. Using the strength of weak ties is like crowdsourcing or taking our problems to the wisdom of the crowd. That takes courage and not everyone you approach might be able to help but it only takes one lead to get us to the next thing.”
In the book she goes into specifics, explaining, “weak ties give us access to something fresh… Information and opportunity spread farther and faster through weak ties than through close friends because weak ties have fewer overlapping contacts. Weak ties are like bridges you cannot see all the way across, so there is no telling where they might lead.”
While this theory seems simple and straightforward, I told Dr. Jay that it strikes me as difficult to take advantage of in the height of a global pandemic. But Dr. Jay assured me that doing so is surprisingly feasible, even during remote circumstances.
“You may be less likely to bump into a weak tie who might help you right now but maybe you’re doing things in life, or online, that is different than usual and are creating new opportunities. I know lots of twentysomethings who are joining online book clubs they might not have bothered with before or who are connecting with faraway folks they’d lost touch with or who are taking on new, COVID-friendly activities that are leading to new conversations.”
Dr. Jay added that in her own life, she acts on this theory by “changing things up and talking to new people or listening to new music or even having new experiences. You might be making new weak ties now that could lead to big changes in your life later.”
Dr. Jay reminds all twenty-somethings that “rather than worrying about what the pandemic is doing to you, think about what you might do about it instead. Don’t believe the hype that this is going to be a lost year or make for a lost generation. That’s catastrophic thinking and it’s premature. We don’t know how long this will last or what it might lead to. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, so this time might require us to do new things that could help and not hurt down the line.”
Wishing you all a week full of weak ties, smiling at strangers, and laughter––lots of laughter
Now here are some of my favorite things from this week:
Quote of the Week:
“There are far more problems and opportunities in the world than there are talented and hard-working people to solve them.”--Neil Pasricha
With the constant comparison triggered by social media and the inevitable reality of imposter syndrome (my clingy BFF that won’t give me some much-needed space), it can be easy to doubt our abilities, potential and character, among other traits. But whenever I am being hard on myself, like I have been recently, I circle back to this quote to remind myself of a universal yet overlooked truth: No two people are ever the same. So that means no person will ever be me. And no person will ever be you. And there is something inherently powerful about that reality. So just remember, being a student at USC, even in remote circumstances, makes you all the more capable to solve the world’s problems and live the life you want to live. There will always be people that are smarter than you, funnier than you or more “accomplished” than you. But they will never be you––don’t forget it. Lean into what makes you, you.
Digest of the Week
If I didn’t already convince you, this book is a MUST read. It is often overlooked that our twenties are a developmental sweet spot, “a time when the things we do — and the things we don’t do — will have an enormous impact across years and even generations to come.” In this inspiring and transformative read, Dr. Meg Jay talks about the strength of weak ties and so much more, weaving in the latest science with “the behind-closed-doors stories of real people.” Not only is it a page-turner, but this is a book that will help you live your best life and make the most of your twenties, even during a pandemic. Sounds like a no-brainer if you ask me...
Something I am working on this week :
It’s human nature to judge––there’s no denying that. And while some of us are more judgemental than others, we tend to forget that we not only cast judgments on those around us, but on ourselves, and more specifically, our thoughts. While this may seem harmless, this can lead to stress, tension and cognitive dissonance in that we don’t allow ourselves to actually feel our feelings. So whatever you are feeling today: inspired, informed, anxious or even overwhelmed, accept it. Come to terms with it. And then slowly start to move on from the thought. Just remember: we have more control over our thoughts than we like to admit and NO thought or feeling is permanent. Ever.
Question of the Week:
Every week, I welcome any questions or concerns you may have that could spark discussion/ bring awareness to our community. I will respond to the best of my ability, consulting outside scientific resources to answer them to the best of my ability. Just click here to ask your question! And just remember: No question is a dumb one. If you have it, I’m sure many members of our community have the same one!
Story Ideas? Questions? Need a Hug? Write to me here:
firstname.lastname@example.org on EMAIL
@srirachamayoenthusiast on INSTA
@ellakatz20 on TWITTER