A Year To Remember

A Year To Remember

A recap of my 2016 & fingers crossed for 2017
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I'm writing this at 11:42 p.m. on December 31st, 2016.

Not shockingly at all, but New Year's blindsided me, as did Christmas (which I rushed to throw together once the semester ended), as did Thanksgiving (which was pitifully celebrated by three people around a slightly pink turkey at 8:00 in the evening whilst I alternated between editing papers & mashing potatoes).

I'm not upset about this though because I've never been one for New Year's, as it is primarily a drinking/staying up late holiday (neither of which I am fond of). However, after reading a few lengthy Facebook posts of friends and being sucked into participating in the Instagram #bestnine2016, I started--inevitably--reflecting on my year.

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The highlights of my year (chronologically) were:

+ Starting writing for Odyssey--Happy one year to me (though I took a brief sabbatical in the summer to prepare for my thesis).

+ My one year anniversary of marriage and our honeymoon do-over (read all about it here).

+ Turning 21--though again not a huge drinker.

+ My six year anniversary with my now husband.

+ Becoming president of Brenau's chapter of Sigma Tau Delta & simultaneously seeing two of my best friends graduate/abdicate.

+ Helping publish The Elixir's 2015-16 edition.

+ Completing spring semester and my first year as a college mom.

+ Moving into our renovated apartment situation (read all about it here).

+ Becoming The Elixir's new editor in chief & creating our new website.

+ While I was on a wordpress kick, I also started my own blog.

+ Welcoming my daughter's first cousin into the world--on my husband's birthday no less (which just happens to be the same day as Harry Potter's & J.K. Rowling's).

+ I celebrated my daughter turning one year old...excuse me while I go cry in a corner...(check out her super awesome pineapple/flamingo party here).

+ I started my own Happiness Project modeled after the book by Grethen Rubin, which is a monthly set of goals/resolutions designed to improve--you guessed it!--my happiness (read all about it here).

+ I started my senior year of college.

+ I committed to going to Cambridge University for a 4 week summer semester (read all about it here).

+ I founded an online support group for mothers/students at Brenau (click here to check it out).

+ My blog welcomed its first guest writer: Becca Jean the Hiccup Queen.

+ I found out that the roundtable proposal on digital writing for Brenau & UNG's chapter of Sigma Tau Delta had been accepted to present at the national convention this coming March.

+ I edited & published a Southern Literature magazine (alongside my colleagues) and it was inducted into the rare books room at Brenau as the inaugural issue of Dr. Dobkins' collection.

+ I completed my first creative thesis (special circumstances have dictated that I do two) and received an A with an honorary plus. Look for the short stories on my blog!

+ I bought my matron of honor dress for my best friend's wedding.

+ I WON a scholarship from Sigma Tau Delta for $1,000 towards my Cambridge trip (read my scholarship essay here).

Of course there were some low-points, like my creative nonfiction paper for the Sigma Tau Delta convention being rejected (which incidentally is about my honeymoon do-over), but overall it was a great year.

Things I'm hoping for the new year are to get through another semester with As & Bs, see my blog get some more traffic, raise enough funds to go to Cambridge, celebrate two more anniversaries and three more family birthdays, successfully participate on the roundtable, publish a new edition of The Elixir, find an internship for my last semester, GRADUATE with a B.A. in English, and figure out what the hell I'm going to do after that.

Cover Image Credit: Fox 47 News

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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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11 Encounters You Only Experience When You're 10 Years Older Than Your Siblings

No I'm not their mother, but I sure do I act like it.

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I'm a 19 year old college student who has 3 younger siblings, all 3 being at least 10 years or more in difference to me. I have an (almost) 10 year old full sister named Gabby, a (newly) 4 year old half brother named Dylan, and lastly a 1.5 year old half sister named Marvell (yes, like the comics but with an extra "l").

My parents were married rather young, around my current age, but my dad remarried, and for the longest time I thought I'd be an only child. All this seems normal & reasonable with my situation in life; but God would only know what kind of things I, and many other like this, have to deal with and have learned. It's not as more offensive, as there's plenty worse in life than being accused of being too young.

With collective community talk and experience, here are 11 encounters siblings like me may have experienced in their lifetime with those little ones.

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