The USC Viterbi ISE Graduate Weaving Words and Limbs

| May 8, 2024

A poet who recently published her first two collections, Class of 2024 graduate Meredith Lapidas also has a background as a contortion artist.



Meredith Lapidas can’t not write. Ever since she was in middle school, telling stories and spinning creativity from her day-to-day experiences and observations was just something she was physically compelled to do – even as she moved into the STEM field. The B.S. ISE Class of 2024 graduate recently published two poetry collections: her debut, Midnight Trepidations, a reflection on her journey into young adulthood, and its follow-up West ‘Til Morning.

But if bending and shaping words into poems weren’t enough, Lapidas has also explored a passion for bending and shaping herself as a contortion artist. She will now bring her uniquely creative backstory into the professional world as a technology consultant for PwC, where she has been interning throughout her senior year.

Growing up in Massachusetts, Lapidas said she always loved the written word. While many of her classmates turned to SparkNotes to help them through the school reading lists, she was devouring the classics. Lapidas counts Joan Didion and Haruki Murakami as her literary idols.

“I used to make up little stories with some of my friends,” Lapidas said. “I had a teacher — Miss Betar — who really encouraged everyone to find creativity in any type of writing. So, we made up little parodies for the books we’d read. That’s when I realized I needed to keep writing. I couldn’t just drop it.”

Her 2023 debut poetry collection gathers some of her earliest poems she wrote in high school with her more recent compositions – offering a portrait of a young person coming of age and finding her feet in a challenging world. The title, Midnight Trepidations, is an ode to those of us who are “late-night overthinkers.” Lapidas said she wrote many of the pieces while dealing with insomnia and pulling all-night writing sessions multiple times a week.

“It wasn’t as exhausting as people might assume. I would spend a lot of time awake, writing or getting inside my head. So, a lot of the poems are midnight trepidations – those thoughts, where your mind takes you when you have all that time,” Lapidas said.

“I think a lot of people my age struggle with the reality of “What happens next?” You go to school for your entire life, and then suddenly, it’s a whole new world,” Lapidas said. “So I look at topics like self-exploration, love, and grief for an older life — For what we’re leaving behind when we enter adulthood.”

Meredith Lapidas has released two poetry collections. Image/Aidan Niswender

Meredith Lapidas has released two poetry collections. Image/Aidan Niswender.

Lapidas’ poetry collection is also a family affair. The works are illustrated with photographs from her brother Victor Lapidas and have been further augmented with the help of AI tools – a nod to Lapidas’ engineering background.

“I also added some AI because it’s got these dreamlike qualities to it —when you’re in that state of still being awake at 1 or 2 am, It’s been a really long day, you’re thinking about life, and reality is blowing into your dreams,” she said.

In addition to her book, Lapidas has also been releasing poetry on her TikTok channel @signedmere, reaching an emerging online audience of literary lovers. The digital realm also helps her find the time and space to compose her pieces. Lapidas’ artistic tool of choice: her phone’s humble notes app.

“I text my poems. It’s less daunting than sitting at a computer and writing it out, and I find that my thoughts translate to words much easier,” she said.

A Trojan with a talent for physical feats

Lapidas, a gymnast since the age of four, remembers sitting at home watching TV as an eight-year-old when inspiration hit.

“I saw America’s Got Talent, and there was a girl doing contortion, and I remember thinking: ‘That seems so cool.’ I went into my living room and just did it. And my dad was like, ‘Oh, wow!’ Gymnasts have a lot of that same flexibility. Contortion is just about training your balance and core strength to do things without potentially harming yourself,” Lapidas said.

And so began a new passion that would take hold throughout her school years. Lapidas joined a troupe that would perform in Boston, often for fellow students as part of school programs. Her troupe was also booked for special celebrations like Purim events and weddings.

During high school, Lapidas achieved the formidable “triple fold” — a highly challenging chest stand, where the artist’s head and chest sit on the ground, with their legs bent over their body until their knees touch the ground in front of them.

“If you look it up, it’s scary,” Lapidas laughed.

When an offer to join a junior circus came her way, Lapidas stopped short, instead turning her talents to coaching the kids at her home gym before moving into private coaching, all while devoting more time to her writing.

“I love doing it [contortion], mostly for the fun and the creativity of it. Now I’m at USC I still enjoy practicing on my own.”


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A post shared by Meredith Lapidas (@merely_flexible)

A keen problem-solver, Lapidas was initially drawn to Industrial and Systems Engineering for the variety of disciplines it crossed and the career potential it offered.

“I wanted to do engineering,” she said. “I like business, and I think ISE is a good crossover between statistics, economics, management, and a bit of computer science. I have a really hard time picking things if you can’t tell!”

Now, as Lapidas is set to continue her career in consulting at PwC, she is determined to keep carving out space for creativity.

“A lot of jobs like consulting require good writing expertise, but I would still love to write on the side. I’m figuring out how to do that. Because I know that a job like consulting takes up a lot of time. But I just can’t let go of that passion,” Lapidas said.

Published on May 8th, 2024

Last updated on May 8th, 2024

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