coffee date #40 with lex steigelman
senior 🥺, chem major, poli sci minor, Italiano, law school bound!, comp chem researcher, a badass Staples printer, an elite chef
me: black coffee, medium roast | lex: iced caramel latte with almond milk
location: starbucks, campus town
Lex is a part of my chemistry research group (i.e. The Baker Lab).
As of last semester, I rarely interacted with her because our research timings were never aligned. However, I still knew that she was a Staples printing God because she had printed out and laminated personalized bread-shaped name tags for everyone in our lab (get it? Baker Lab & breads?). But that’s pretty much all I knew of Lex.
As of this semester, I see Lex every Thursday from 1-3:30pm. Research can be a very repetitive and long process, so having someone in the room to goof around with makes it so much easier to plow through. We’ve begun to just chat about the mundane things in life; we share stories and laugh hysterically, and suddenly look at the clock and see that our time in the lab is almost over. Things are just easy with Lex.
What made me want to ask Lex to go on a coffee date with me is her ability to make other people feel grounded and comfortable. Every one of our conversations felt so safe, which is something that I deeply value in other people, prompting me to invite her for a little date at our run-down Starbucks in campus town.
Diving into the world of Lex…
- adults handling the emotions of children
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I and those I know were as children before we were put through society’s wringer and came out of the other side fitting into the mold that we were told to mold into.
Lex explained how her childhood self would feel a lot of feelings; specifically, overwhelming bouts of joy and excitement – “feeling the joy of just existing” is how she described it to me.
During those bouts of feelings, whether they be happy or sad, Lex was both explicitly and implicitly told to calm tf down by the adults in her life. This is true for me too and many others I know.
“As a society, we have deemed it as being unacceptable to be emotional, in a good or bad way.” – Lex Steigelman, 2023
As children, we don’t have the concept of regulating our emotions – we just react in response to our environment in that moment. The adults, who have already undergone and graduated from society’s conditioning school, then burst our little bubble of feeling our feelings by telling us that we should “stop crying,” “not make such a scene,” “not be this happy because it won’t last forever.” They are teaching us that showing too much of anything is bad because our main goal in life should be to ‘fit in’ and fitting in means shrinking ourselves to our maximum capacity.
In order to heal, though, we need to connect back to our childhood selves. Emotions are data. They teach us so much about ourselves and how we are feeling in the moment. Instead of teaching children to mask themselves and grow more distant within themselves, we should allow them to cry, laugh, scream, and love. Boldly and Gigantically. Teach them that it’s not too much; it is, in fact, human.
“It takes a village to be a person.” – Lex Steigelman, 2023
- pros and cons of social media
Lex and I have previously had a conversation about social media that I wanted to deep dive into during our date. We both share a Venn Diagram-like perception of social media, where we differ but also understand the overlap in between.
What I freaking admire tf out of Lex is actually her lack of social media presence. We are a part of the generation that didn’t grow up with social media, but were introduced to it right when we were going through puberty. Thus, we were already being bombarded with changing hormones and bodies along with this new added force to be pretentious teens online.
Lex described that her online presence made her become even more self-critical and perfectionistic about the superficial things. As a result of the impact it was having on her mental health, this queen made the decision to delete her Instagram at the age of 16! I feel like this in-and-of-itself is a huge accomplishment because even at 16, we are young enough to continue to run in this toxic social media cycle. Therefore, the fact that Lex recognized this cycle that young and got herself out of it is commendable.
“I started thinking about the people I see face-to-face. They matter so much more to me than a like ever could on Instagram. Seeing people smile and interact and genuinely want to be with me (instead of getting random DMs online) makes me feel so much less anxiety day-to-day than I ever did when I was on social media.” – Lex Steigelman, 2023
Also, can we just take a moment to see how social media has impacted the younger generation? Kids my brother’s age, for example, literally look like they are already in college when they are still middle/high-schoolers. It’s like they have all collectively skipped the awkward pubescent phases of their lives, which is inevitably a tragic result of their generation actually growing up with social media.
- BeReal. are we really being real?
I love BeReal. I think it is one of the cutest social media apps that was created with the intention of trying to match people’s online selves with their real selves. But there are still ways that many of us don’t use the app to fulfil its main goal.
“I felt like I had all these different identities and like I was strung in between them, so I never knew how to act around anybody.” – Lex Steigelman, 2023
The whole point of BeReal is to post as soon as we see that we were notified. This means that we take a picture of whatever tf we’re doing in that moment. Do we look homeless while we’re chilling in bed and eating a bowl of cereal – take a picture. Are we makeup-less, filter-less humans walking to class – take a picture. Have we not left our apartment in days and don’t even remember the last time we showered – take a picture.
BeReal was supposed to be a way for everyone to empower each other. It was supposed to be a way for all of us to show each other that we don’t live glamorous lives like we may make it seem like on every other one of our social media platforms.
However, BeReal now (depending on the people who are on your feed) has kinda morphed into a thing where people wait until they are doing something to take a picture (I will confess that I am also a culprit of this at times). This just feeds into that toxic cycle of being pretentious people.
- the true purpose of college
Education is still very much a privilege right now rather than it being a right. But for those of who have the privilege of receiving higher education and going to college, Lex and I believe that the true purpose of experiencing this level of education has nothing to do with the academic benefits at all. College is so crucial because it provides a space for everyone to step into their own selves.
Before college, I was still an insecure, pubescent soul. It is during college that I feel like I’ve gained a shit ton of confidence, the ability to voice my opinions, and even embrace being an Indian American. This side of college must be communicated to all incoming students because it’s truly a life-changing phase in our lives.
- confidence vs overconfidence – the line.
This is a continuation of the conversation I had with coffee date #38 about the difference between arrogance/over-confidence vs confidence.
Lex and I do agree with Julia about the fact that the line for confidence is pushed back greatly when it comes to women. But I still wanted some clarity as to what the actual difference between the two is. Here’s how Lex defined it for me:
Confidence: the ability to be okay with being yourself and also having people around you who are accepting of you being yourself.
Overconfidence: the need for constant validation from others and pushing their own abilities onto other people.
What I took from this is that those who are overconfident are often those who are the most insecure. They tend to cover up their insecurities by projecting their abilities/emotions onto others. Confidence, on the other hand, is being more accepting of our own flaws and then just rolling with it.