Everything But The Bagel: It’s Ok to Not Be Ok Right Now

How to take the pressure off and be kind to yourself in times of uncertainty.

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 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,

Happy middle of the week and happy Passover to those who are celebrating. I know my family is stoked for our highly anticipated zoom seder––I guess there is a first time for everything! It’s 68 degrees and sunny in Chicago so I’m a happy camper on this Wednesday. I know this is an everyday occurence in South Central, but cut me some slack here––for those of you who know it, Chicago gloom is real and it’s painful.

I want to take the time this week to acknowledge an important counter narrative to the content I have been producing. Over the weekend I took a minute to be vulnerable on my Instagram account that features my reporting. I admitted to my followers that despite my uplifting and motivational content that I work to release each week, this pandemic has most definitely dragged some of my emotional wellbeing down with it.

A few days ago I was trying to be productive––basically just staring into the soul of my Mac’s browser with a cup of coffee on hand ––and suddenly found myself overwhelmed with anxiety, uncertainty, and a debilitating fear of the unknown. I stuffed my face with banana bread, changed from jeans to sweatpants, cried, cried some more, and then a lightbulb went off. Why have I been putting this incredible pressure on myself to be productive, to accomplish more than I normally do? I mean that only makes sense, right? What else do I have to be doing?

Left and right we are being advised to take this time to start that business or write that book. If you are feeling creative or doing something of that nature as a coping mechanism that is great, but let’s take a second to remember that this isn’t a normal time or normal circumstances by any means. We haven’t been given a three month vacation to accomplish our life goals. The expectation that we will come out of quarantine with a thriving podcast, ready to rule the world is quite frankly, absurd. We are staying at home to help stop the spread of a terrifying and deadly disease, not to start a booming business––let’s not forget that.

Nonetheless, with the mix of cancelled internships, living under our parents roofs, and the stress of a compromised college experience, we seem to be holding ourselves to the USC standard, a pressure where it can be hard to catch a breath. But how can we hold ourselves to this standard when we aren’t on campus? When we don’t have a classroom to learn in or teachers to talk to? When we can’t see our friends in passing or grab a Sunlife smoothie on a Sunday?

To gain more insight on how we can best lift this weight off of our shoulders, I spoke with Alexis White, an L.A based entrepreneur and founder of The A-List, a comprehensive education company that offers academic counseling and tutoring services to students of all ages. “We need to allow for the mental space that this entire scenario occupies,” White said.

For many, going to the grocery store now feels like a life or death decision. So “to think you are going to write the best paper or secure the best summer internship because now you have time to write ‘the best cover letter’ is asking too much of yourself,” White said.

White highlighted the importance of going back to the basics, whether that be enjoying a morning cup of coffee with your mom or going for a run in your old neighborhood. It is also a great time for self reflection, White said. She suggests taking the time to “ask yourself, what do I like to do? Not for a job, but what makes me happy everyday.” It is important to remember that “everyone is just as bored and confused and stressed out as you are. Whether they are 70 or 17.”

As a successful entrepreneur and mom of two, White took a moment to reflect on the trajectory of her career, admitting that it took ten years to build her business. She emphasizes that as college students, even those who are graduating, “you have so many years after you graduate from college to figure your stuff out. Literally so many years.” White believes that stressing about a less-productive six month period of time is, “Totally useless. Life is going to give you back this time. I assure you.”

White has been going off a three touchstone rule everyday. “Just do the things that make me feel semi-human” White said. “For me personally, that’s breaking a sweat, eating healthy, and FaceTiming a friend.”

White emphasized the importance of letting go of the expected and allowing these circumstances to take you where they do. As uncomfortable and scary as that may be, right now “it is a day to day process, and those little moments of joy are really all you can ask for at this point.”

So while it may feel like everyone around you is making the world’s best cheesecake or organizing every spice in their kitchen cabinet, it is important to remember the myth of productivity that surrounds us. In other words, if you are browsing twitter or reading that book in sweats all day you get an A plus.

Wishing you all a week full of unproductiveness, self-compassion, and laughter––lots of laughter.


Now here’s some of my favorite things from this week:


“The truly smart aren’t those who read tons of books and words. The smart are those who can read their own heart and mind”. -Pook

Now, more than ever, we have to lean into our emotions, even the ones we don’t like to talk about. Take them for what they are, embrace them, and feel them. This is how we know we are alive. While it may not seem like it, the essays and internships can only get us so far. Listen––like actually listen––to your mind and your body. At this point in time, that is the best thing we can do for ourselves and for those around us.


Stop Trying to Be Productive by Taylor Lorenz

This brilliant New York Times article was much of my inspiration for this week’s column. “Stop Trying to Be Productive” by Taylor Lorenz touches on similar themes and the pressure we are putting on ourselves with all of this “extra time” on our hands. If you liked this week’s content, go check out this well-crafted piece.


This week I am really trying to focus on feeding my body with nutritious and organic food. I have been guilty of finding comfort in my mom’s to-die for baking, but I am trying to limit my portions. I am your number one culprit of “I had one so I should have them all” and find myself regretting that decision when it feels like Thanksgiving dinner 30 minutes later. Too much restriction has never worked for me personally. What I am doing, is consciously putting thought and effort into each meal and snack (don’t skip meals or you will over eat) and trying to mindfully eat by enjoying each bite. If you are looking to start eating more mindfully, this podcast episode all about intuitive eating saved my life!


Every week, I welcome any questions or concerns you may have that could spark discussion/ bring awareness to our community. Just remember: No question is a dumb one.

Write to me here:

Email: ellakatz@usc.edu

Twitter: ellakatz20

Instagram: ellaakatz