What Lies Ahead

What Lies Ahead

Ultimately you get to decide

What do you want to be when you’re older? This is a common question which we have all heard from our parents, teachers, and friends. Naturally, as we grow older our answers evolve with us. Some people may argue that over the course of four years at school we determine what we will be; however, I strongly disagree with this opinion. The degree we earn in college determines what we will do from nine to five, our profession. Yet, it’s our perspective on life and what we put back into the world that follows us through life. Our jobs after college are merely lines on our resumes. Therefore, this question doesn’t concern what we want our LinkedIn to say, it regards the type of life we want to lead and the person we want to become.

As high school seniors we were being told when we were allowed to use the bathroom, what we were allowed to eat for lunch, and where we should go to college. Then, when we arrived at college life made a complete 180-degree turn and left us with more freedom than we’ve had in our whole life. However, with freedom comes responsibility. In college it’s easy to get overwhelmed with how much we are expected to grow and figure out about the rest of our life in a minuscule four-year span of time. These years are spent with people still questioning who we are and what we want to become, yet how are we supposed to know the answer if we haven’t even experienced real life yet?

As senior year slowly approaches and I anticipate what the next ten months have in store, I remind myself that I still have time to figure life out, and I don’t have to answer life-defining questions at someone else’s demand. I’ve grown an incredible amount over the last three years, and I know that this year will propel me even closer to who I will be in the future.

I’m majoring in accounting and I will graduate with a degree in business administration, but my future career as an accountant does not tell the world who I want to become. Only I can answer that question. So what do I want to be when I’m older? I used to answer this question with: princess, cowgirl, doctor, and president. For now, I simply want to be happy, and I will figure out the rest as it comes.

Cover Image Credit: WHISKEYRIFF

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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.


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.

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Dear Seniors, There's More to Life After High School

The best and worst times over your life, but there's more than what your problems are now.


Dear Seniors,

There's more to life than high school.

You get to a moment in time where you feel like you're running yourself dry overturning in a lab report or study for a math quiz. And while those things do matter, they don't control everything.

I'm in a bit of a funk right now going into the ending of my sophomore year of college, and honestly, I'm about to declare that any sophomore year, is just no fun.

But after two years of being graduated from high school, I've come to the realization that there is more to life than what you live (or lived) in high school.

I'll be honest, I've had a bit of a bum school year so far and I don't really know if I can pinpoint why. I feel like I'm on a train that just keeps going and has no stops but somehow more people keep getting on board.

I'm in a feeling of just plain loneliness. And I know in retrospect that I'm not actually alone, but that doesn't stop the feeling from being there. And of course, when you're in a bum mood where nothing seems to be going right, what does any (somewhat) sane person do? Wallow. And then go down memory lane of everything that used to be good or figure out anything you could've done wrong.

With that, I came to the realization, that there's more to life than the life I lived in high school.

I used to care so much about what was going on in my day to day life, and whether people liked me or why they didn't like me. I cared about if I looked a certain way or did something right versus wrong. And all I could figure out from this is that none of that matters now. There is more to life than high school.

Be happy. Be so happy about graduating high school and completing 13 years of required schooling. Be proud of yourself for getting that far. It's important to graduate high school. But there is more to life than the life you lived in high school.

My experience coming into college was not all that I thought it would be. I didn't make friends right away, I didn't love my college from the start, I didn't know what I was doing at all. I saw my friends from high school on social media seem like they were having the time of their life and all I could think was what was I doing wrong.

All I've learned is that there was more to life than high school.

Every problem I've ever had within my four years of high school does not matter now. I thought everything used to be something, seems like it's nothing now.

There's more to life than high school.

I came to college with expectations of what life may or may not be. I graduated high school thinking every friend I had, was going to be a lifelong friend of mine. Truth be told, I think I can count on one hand the number of people I still keep in touch with from high school.

There's nothing wrong with old friends and staying friends and appreciating high school.

But there's more to life than high school.

There are things that you should always be proud of and graduating high school is one of them. But there's more to life than high school.

I'm trying this new method of living each day as if it's their own. I'm really trying to live more in the moment of things I'm doing because I really just feel like I'm rushing through things just trying to finish, finish what? I have no idea.

But live each day as it's own, and realize there's more to life than the life you lived in high school.

Cover Image Credit:

Kiahna White-Alcain

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