Seven. / Contributor Three: Isabelle Levent, Built By Girls WAVE
On Coffee Culture, The Importance of Silence, and Doing What Scares Us the Most.
Hey, everyone. I’ve got a really fun edition this week with another awesome contributor: Isabelle Levent, my latest advisee for the Built By Girls Wave program! Started by the Built By Girls team led by BBG Ventures partner (and BBG founder) Nisha Dua, the organization “connects young women (Advisees) aged 15-22 years old with professionals (Advisors) in tech as part of a 1:1 Advisor program.” It’s one of the best tech-focused mentorship programs in the country and I highly recommend considering becoming an Advisor if you haven’t already.
Since our first meeting earlier this year, Isabelle has impressed and continues to impress me with her deep knowledge within the film, activism, and social entrepreneurship worlds, and when I asked her if she wanted to contribute an edition of Le Cinq, she immediately jumped on the opportunity. Needless to say, you all are in for a treat.
Isabelle Levent is currently on a gap year pursuing film, tech, and entrepreneurship before heading to Stanford next fall. She is finishing a documentary, Shared Cups, about coffee culture in Georgia and Turkey, and is working on a series of interviews with Gen Z activists, entrepreneurs, and founders. She is a content developer for Bamboo Learning, an education software startup, and a production assistant on a TV show. She is a graduate of the Brearley School, a former Tribeca Institute Fellow, and a current Reel Works Fellow. You can follow her on Instagram here.
A fun fact: Isabelle shared some freeze frames from Shared Cups below!
What are you currently working on?
I’m finishing a short documentary (Shared Cups) about coffee culture in Georgia and Turkey, which has in many ways become an exploration of hospitality and community. Natalia, one of the people I interviewed in Georgia, puts it best: “You [Americans] drink coffee to wake up, while we drink coffee to converse and socialize.” A coffee roaster and seller at a Batumi bazaar proclaimed that “coffee, like vodka, is something you simply can’t drink alone.”
At this stage in the filmmaking process, I’m moving bits and pieces around and figuring out if there’s anything else I want to tuck into the narrative. I’m trying to reconcile the intimate ritual that drew me to coffee in the first place and the historical context of a tradition that came to Georgia via Istanbul and Ottoman provinces.
What are you currently excited about?
When I started my gap year, I was presented with a completely blank slate. I had all this time, zero structure, and an ever growing list of things I wanted to do and learn, so I turned to habits as a way of creating a daily framework and tackling my goals.
Gretchen Rubin, the author of Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, suggests that as humans we fall into four categories when it comes to our relationship with goals and responsibilities: Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, and Rebel. Her entire book revolves around the premise that habits are intrinsically built on personality. It reframes a good habit as something that is individually tailored rather than a universal truth. I have come to think of habits like writing styles. You try on a few and along the way, develop something of your own.
What’s a story or article that you're currently thinking about?
The Atlantic’s “Why Everything is Getting Louder” by Bianca Bosker explores the rise of noise pollution due to technology - specifically data centers - and the physiological and psychological importance of silence. For me growing up in New York City, noise is an omnipresent background sound, but as Bosker notes:
“Large-scale studies show that if the din keeps up—over days, months, years—noise exposure increases your risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and heart attacks, as well as strokes, diabetes, dementia, and depression.”
The article is a sobering reminder of the unexpected consequences of technology and sensory overload. At some points, it becomes an ode to silence. The article quotes Gordan Hemtpon, a sound ecologist:
“‘The further we get into quiet, the further we discover who we are...When you speak from a quiet place, when you are quiet, you think differently. You are more uniquely yourself. You are not echoing advertisements. You are not echoing billboards. You are not echoing modern songs. You’re echoing where you were.’”
What’s a product you’re currently obsessed with?
My Ink and Volt Planner! I’m a pen and paper kind of person when it comes to structuring my time and goals. For me, the key to getting things done is writing them down. I wanted a planner that was undated, minimalist, and included prompts that were helpful without being too prescriptive. I finally settled on the Ink and Volt planner and do not regret it. So far, the biggest perk has been getting into the habit of a weekly progress check.
Wild Card: What’s an item you can’t shake your mind off of?
“Do what makes you most scared.”
That’s what a film director, Rachel, told me a few weeks ago when I met her for coffee and it’s a phrase that has been stuck in my mind ever since. I expected her to say “do what you love” or “do what makes you happy,” so her statement floored me. Behavioral economics tells us that we are for the most part loss averse, so Rachel’s advice is counter to our natural tendencies. It’s a reminder that fear is more than a good indicator of what we should avoid; fear is an indicator, perhaps, of what we should seek out.
Do what makes you most scared, an incredibly radical statement in a world driven by convenience, efficiency, and personal pleasure.
~ C O L O P H O N ~
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