As Long as I'm Living

As Long as I'm Living

You only live once.
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When I was a little girl, my mother would read me this story each night as she would tuck me into bed. The story was about a mother watching her baby grow older, and walk through the different stages of life. And no matter how difficult and obnoxious he acted at certain times in his life, every night she would come into his room while he was asleep, rock him back and forth and sing, “I love you forever, I love you for always, as long as I’m living my baby, you’ll be.” At the end of the book, the mother is too old and frail to sing to his son. So instead, he picks his mother up and sings her the very same song she would sing to him.

And although I would make my mom read me this story all the time, it would make her cry, each and every time. I remember reaching the end of the book and already expecting to look over at her tear- streamed face. I do not think that as a little four year old I was able to comprehend the true depth and meaning of the story, and what exactly was making my mom so emotional.

However, it is only in light of recent events that I was finally able to understand the underlying melancholy theme of the bedtime story, and why my mom would squeeze me extra tightly after reading it each time.

“As long as I’m loving, my baby you’ll be.” Nothing in life is forever. And the mere fact that we do not have full control over the course of our own lives is extremely frightening. Here is a story of a mother putting the most precious thing in her life to sleep. She gives everything she has to this child and deals with so much; from the long, sleepless nights, to the illogical, toddler tantrums. No matter how hard he makes life for her sometimes, she would do anything for this little soul, sleeping peacefully in her arms. But at the end of the day, there is only so much she can do, as she is not the only one in control of what’s to come in life.

We all pray that life will take its course, and in the end, it will all culminate naturally. We dream about our future husbands, children, and grandchildren- fantasizing about the joy and light our futures will bring us. But sadly, there are so many who are not given the privilege to even go this far. It’s as if they are taken out of a game they were not yet ready to end. We don’t know why it all happens, but the pain that we’re left with is excruciating.

Sometimes I think about all of the people who were ripped away from their loved ones too soon. I wonder if they too would read this story to their children each night, and promise to be by their side, “As long as [they’re] living.” I wonder if they would pray to only be separated at the right time. But what happens when the time just comes too soon?

These thoughts are painful, and I do not in any way believe that we should go through life with the sound of a biological clock ticking in our ears. However, I do think that sometimes we need to remember that we only live once, not matter how short that time may be.

Too often I find myself waiting for tomorrow. I complain that I’m too young, and wish to be older.. for my life to be settled, and for everything to be perfect. But I’m only realizing now that that life is not guaranteed to me. The only thing I am certain of is right now. The present. This very second. So what will I do with it? Well, for one I should learn to enjoy it. Because from what it seems like, life doesn’t get any easier. With each phase comes different challenges, and I’ll just have to learn to get through them.

Therefore, I’ve decided to make a list. At the end of each day, as I’m getting into bed I’m going to list three things that made me smile that day. They can be as minuscule as seeing someone who made me happy, or hearing a certain song that brought back good memories. Whatever it was, it’ll be put onto paper, so that whenever I feel upset, or eager to be at a different place in life, I’ll review my list to remind myself of how much I have at that very moment.

And one day, if I’m fortunate enough to hold my own, sleeping baby after a long day, I’ll be able to read through my list and remember that each day brings light, and I must cease it for “as long as I’m living.”

Cover Image Credit: http://www.browniephotography.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Brownie-Photography-orange-county-photographer-3.jpg

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4 reasons how Drake's New Album May Help Us Fight Mental Illness

Increasing Evidence Points to Music as a Potential Solution to the Mental Health Problem.

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Okay, You caught me!

I am NOT just talking about everybody's favorite actor-turned-rapper— or second, if you've seen Childish Gambino's "This is America" music video. Unfortunately, current research hasn't explored specific genres and artists. However, studies HAVE provided significant evidence in possibilities for music to treat mental health disorders. Now, before you say something that your parents would not be proud of, ask yourself if you can really blame me for wanting to get your attention. This is an urgent matter concerning each one of us. If we all face the truth, we could very well reach one step closer to solving one of society's biggest problems: Mental Health.

The Problem:

As our nation continues to bleed from tragedies like the horrific shooting that shattered the lives of 70 families whose loved ones just wanted to watch the "Dark Knight Rises" during its first hours of release, as well as the traumatic loss of seventeen misfortunate innocents to the complications of mental health disorders in the dear city of Parkland— a city mere hours from our very own community— it's impossible to deny the existence of mental illness. As many of us can already vouch, mental illness is much more common than what most would think: over 19 million adults in America suffer from a mental health disorder. Picture that: a population slightly less than that of Florida is plagued by hopelessness, isolation, and utter despair.

Disease in the form of depression holds millions of people prisoner, as anxieties instill crippling desperation and too many struggles with finding peace. This can be you. It could be your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your cousin, your aunt, your uncle, your friend, your roommate, your fraternity brother, your sorority sister, your lab partner, or just your classmate that sits in the corner of the lecture hall with a head buried into a notebook that camouflages all emotion.

I hope we— the UCF community— understand the gravity of the problem, but it's clear that some still see mental illness as a disease that affects only a handful of "misfits" who "terrorize" our streets, while the numbers reveal more to the issue. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans suffers from a mental health disorder. The problem is so serious that suicide has risen to become the second-leading cause of death among 20 to 24-year-olds. While many continue to ask for more antidepressants and even the occasional "proper spanking," recent studies indicate increases in occurrence, such as one in depression from 5.9% in 2012 to 8.2% in 2015. So, clearly, none of that is working.

The Evidence:

If we really want to create a world where our children are free from the chains of mental illness, we need to think outside the box. Doctors and scientists won't really talk about this since it's still a growing field of research, but music has strong potential. We don't have any options at the moment, which means we need to change our mindset about music and to continue to explore its medicinal benefits. If you're still skeptical because of the title, then please consider these 4 pieces of solid evidence backed by scientific research:

1. Music has been proven to improve disorders like Parkinson's Disease.

Researchers sponsored by the National Institute of Health— the country's largest research agency— saw an improvement in the daily function of patients with Parkinson's Disease. This makes patients shake uncontrollably, which often prevents them from complete functionality. The disease is caused by a shortage of dopamine— a chemical your neurons, or brain cells, release; since music treats this shortage, there's an obvious ability to increase dopamine levels. As numerous studies connect dopamine shortages to mental illnesses like depression, addiction, and ADHD, someone could possibly use music's proven ability to increase dopamine levels to treat said problems.

2. Listening to the music has the potential to activate your brain's "reward center."

In 2013, Valorie Salimpoor and fellow researchers conducted a study that connected subjects' pleasure towards music to a specific part of the brain. This key structure, the nucleus accumbens, is the body's "reward center," which means all of you have experienced its magical powers. In fact, any time the brain detects a rewarding sensation— drinking ice-cold water after a five-mile run in sunny, humid Florida, eating that Taco Bell chalupa after a long happy hour at Knight's Library, and even consuming recreational drugs— this structure releases more of that fantastic dopamine. So, with further research into specifics, doctors may soon be prescribing your daily dose of tunes for your own health.

3. Listening to Music may be more effective than prescription anti-anxiety medication.

In 2013, Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel J. Levitin— two accomplished doctors in psychology— reviewed a study wherein patients waiting to undergo surgery were given either anti-anxiety medications or music to listen to. The study took into account cortisol levels, which are used daily by healthcare professionals to gauge patient levels. This "stress hormone" was actually found to be lower in patients who listened to classical music rather those who took the recommended dose of prescription drugs. Sit there and think about that for a second: these patients actually felt more relaxed with something as simple as MUSIC than with chemicals that are made specifically to force patients into relaxation before surgery. Why pop a Xanax when you can just listen to Beethoven?

4. Music may release the chemicals that help you naturally relax and feel love.

Further studies continue to justify music's place in the medical world as results demonstrate increases in substances such as prolactin— a hormone that produces a relaxing sensation— as well as oxytocin— the substance that promotes warmth and happiness during a hug between mother and child. So this study basically showed us that music has the potential to actually make you feel the way you did when Mom or Dad would embrace you with the warmest hug you've ever felt.

The Future:

The evidence I present you with today is ultimately just a collection of individual situations where specific people found specific results. There are a lot of variables when it comes to any research study; therefore, data is never truly certain. We should take these findings as strong suggestions to a possible solution, but we must remember the possibility of failure in our search.

The neurochemistry behind the music and its medicinal properties is just beginning to unfold before the scientific community. In fact, extremely qualified scientists from the National Institute of Health— the organization that basically runs any important medical study in the United States— continue to remind us of the subject's youth with the constant use of "potential" behind any and all of their findings. Therefore, it's our responsibility as a community to look into this— not just that of the scientists at the National Institute of Health.

We're all surrounded by music. It's at the bars. It's in our ears during all-night sessions at the UCF library. It's keeping us awake through East Colonial traffic at 7:00 AM while hordes of students focus on their cell phone screens instead of the paved roads ahead. It's in the shoes we wear, the actions we take, and the words we say. IF YOU'RE READING THIS: it's accessible to you. So, don't be shy, and try to play with your Spotify account, or even just on YouTube, and gauge the power of music. As more and more of us see the light, we can promote the movement and carry on as more research comes out to support us.

Drop the bars, drop those addictive pills that destroy your body slowly, and pick up your headphones and press PLAY.

Just relax, close your eyes, smile, and live.

Cover Image Credit:

@champagnepapi

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Some Dreams Never Come True, And I Promise You, That's OK

I put way too much emphasis on what needed to happen that I didn't make room for other possibilities

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We all have dreams and those dreams are what fuel us through life and give us motivation. Personally, I have big dreams that I spend years aspiring to and then I have little ones that give me something to look forward to. Recently, a big dream of mine was, for lack of a better word, crushed. It was like my life was put on pause and something meant to be was ripped out from under me. So many tears were shed and to be honest, I am still getting over it.

I had dreamt of this for so many years of my life that now, I have no idea what's next.

This dream was my next stepping stone and I now realize that I relied on it too much to push me forward into the next few years of my life. Now that I know that reality will never come true, I have to figure out what comes next. And that is the exciting part.

While that dream was something that I desperately wanted to come true, it doesn't necessarily mean that that's it for me and that everything is over. Suddenly, the years before me that I had planned out are open and free and I can fill them with whatever I want. I can take a few years off to travel, I can start a business, I can do anything. This dream wasn't holding me down, but now that it's gone, I can focus on something new.

I put way too much emphasis on what needed to happen that I didn't make room for other possibilities. Yes, it was absolutely crushing to be told that something you have looked forward to for so many years wasn't going to happen, but after all of the tears were shed and the mind was cleared, I saw the open future ahead and it put a smile on my face.

That's exactly what you have to do. It's okay to grieve the loss of something that should've been because that dream was a part of you and will always be a part of you, but don't let that loss blind you from the opportunity before you.

Take this opportunity, this freedom, and use it to kick some ass and be an absolute boss. You owe to yourself.

I am proud of all of the hard work I put into that dream and I don't regret anything. Being told no was something that needed to happen, I may not yet understand why but I know in time, it will make sense and I will be where I'm meant to be.

Cover Image Credit:

Personal Photo

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