You Got It Going On

You Got It Going On

Redefining beauty in today's age.

I spent this past Friday volunteering in my aunt’s classroom at her elementary school. Going with her required me to wake up far earlier than I am used to, which meant that the last thing I was concerned about was my appearance. However, I put on my nicest pants and threw on a professional shirt. To be honest, I was worried more about arriving on time than anything else, due to my perpetual history of tardiness.

About an hour after I got there, I was sitting in an exhausted trance in an undersized blue chair when I heard a chorus of whispers filling the classroom. It wasn’t until I heard the loud groan of the word “Ewww,” that I lifted my head.

Apparently, most of the girls in the classroom were asking their fifth grade, male counterparts if I was pretty, and their responses were not so positive. I made pretend not to hear them as they commented on my short hair, furry eyebrows, and tired, pale face.

However, after about two minutes of this, I found myself growing increasingly more insecure and excused myself to the bathroom. I looked at myself in the mirror.

As a disclaimer, I have never planned on writing about looks or appearances, because, for the majority of my life, I never thought that it was really worth discussing.

But, as I was looking at myself in the mirror in the elementary school bathroom, I started to wonder how strong the patriarchy was with this situation; that I, a grown-ass woman, was made insecure by a group of fifth-grade boys.

They were overpowering me with their perceptions of beauty, probably ones that they have learned from television or the Internet. Granted, the opinions of these 10-year-old students did not upset me. Rather, it was that the standards of female attractiveness had extended to such a young age. It was starting to feel helpless.

I was a paraprofessional for a middle school class this summer, and I met a beautiful eighth-grade female student who confided to me that she had been hospitalized for an eating disorder that school year. She told me that all of her friends were skinny and pretty, and that it was hard to believe that she was attractive in the way celebrities look. Besides telling this student how much I admired her for her strength, and reminding her that her body is just a case for her soul (that elicited an eye roll from her), there was not much I could do.

There are people my age who are struggling just as much as this young student was. Insecurity is not something that just disappears with age. It’s hilarious and accepted to Snapchat your friend a picture of your four chins at an unattractive angle, but nearly sacrilegious to go on a date or out to a bar without 30 minutes of preparation to look "presentable."

If you look at it objectively, it just seems like an overly confusing and altogether unnecessary game to play. And if you're like me, and perhaps a little exhausted, it’s easy to quit this game prematurely.

In order to create any sort of outward change, it's important to understand and sit with our own opinions and perspectives as to what we feel beauty is. By doing this, we are better able to distinguish both what we value and how much we value it in a person.

I went through a period in my life where I chopped all of my hair off because I did not want to feel “pretty” anymore, mostly because growing up, I was told that long hair was beautiful, like Tova Benjamin writes about in her article.

I wanted to wear asexualized clothing and detach emotionally from any sort of romantic situation because I wanted be seen as an actual person, as opposed to somebody with boobs and a nice face.

Tavi Gevinson expresses this idea in her really good article. But then, over time, I came to realize that by doing this, I was only letting society/the patriarchy/whatever win. Who can really determine what is feminine, when it comes down to it?

Only yourself.

I can be incredibly feminine and beautiful without having long tresses and perfectly lined eyeliner. You best believe that you can, too.

It would be one thing if it was just something our generation is doing, but it’s a whole other thing for it affecting people younger than us, who are still determining and crafting what beauty is in their eyes.

That day in class, a quiet fifth-grade girl could have heard her male classmate outline in what ways I was not pretty. And, in return, she could have committed it all to memory, taking serious note that perfectly maintained eyebrows warrant male approval. That makes me worried and, ultimately, powerless.

So, my call to action is to tell you, readers (regardless of gender), to do you. Go braless or bare-assed, or treat yourself to that new MAC palette and wear the shit out of it. By doing you, unapologetically, somewhere the wheels will begin turning and perspectives will begin to shift. And with that, I am pretty sure that there will be a fifth-grade student, somewhere, who is going to benefit from it.

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Why It's So Important to Educate Yourself About Opiates

The scary truths about the rise of opiate usage.

Several days ago, my brother’s longtime college friend and former roommate’s brother, age 25, passed away from a drug overdose. While it may seem like this wouldn’t necessarily affect me, it did. My brother went to his funeral and sat with the family to observe a Shiva, a Jewish tradition when a first-degree relative passes away. It shook my brother a great deal, and I can’t imagine what the roommate’s family is going through. Even though I barely knew my brother’s roommate, and didn’t know the roommate’s brother at all, his death still resonated with me, and for the first day or so I couldn’t figure out why.

Obviously, death is never easy to deal with, even if it’s someone you don’t know; it negatively impacts loved ones and/or friends around you, and by default, affects you also. Besides these reasons, however, it occurred to me why it scared me so much: people are becoming numb to substance abuse, and this could happen to anyone. The scary reality is that people are not only becoming numb to substance abuse in middle aged people, but also on college campuses. Therefore, I wanted to take this opportunity to share my thoughts on drug abuse, and the statistics of drug abuse on college campuses.

Substance abuse among college students is hardly a new trend. From the 1970s on, rates of alcohol consumption and binge drinking have remained fairly constant. College students have always represented a large portion of the population abusing drugs and alcohol on a regular basis.

Although alcohol abuse has maintained a steady presence on college campuses, the number of Americans being diagnosed with opioid addiction continues to skyrocket, but still very few receive any treatment. An analysis from Blue Cross Blue Shield of its members found that from 2010 to 2016, the number of people diagnosed with an addiction to opioids, including both legal prescription drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone, as well as illicit drugs, climbed nearly 500%.

In 2010, there were 1.4 incidences of opioid use disorder among every 1000 members.

By 2016, that number climbed to 8.3 per 1000 members. Yet, there was only a 65% increase in the number of people getting medication-assisted treatment to manage their addiction. Only one in 10 people receive any specialized treatment to manage their addiction, and 40% of those who are addicted do not seek treatment. Who is at the highest risk for addiction, you might wonder? Young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

The overdose rate among teens has doubled between 1999 and 2016, according to CDC records, and just in 2015 alone, there were almost 800 deaths among those 15 to 19 years old. Children start using when they are teenagers and use peaks in young adulthood. If you look at college students, you see that people who tend to use substances are much more likely to drop out. The scary reality is that people think this problem isn’t common on college campuses because addicts usually drop out if hooked at a young age, which downplays the seriousness of the issue.

College students are commonly exposed to depressants and stimulants. Depressants include alcohol, Valium, and Xanax to name a few, while stimulants include cocaine, Ecstasy, nicotine, Adderall, Vyvanse, and caffeine. They also may be exposed to hallucinogens, the main hallucinate being marijuana. These classes of drugs alter brain activity in a way that alters anxiety levels, sleeping patterns, mood, energy level, and alertness. These changes could lead to experimenting with opiates.

Opiates are powerful painkillers made from opium, a white liquid in poppy plants. Opiates produce a quick, intense feeling of pleasure followed by a sense of well-being and calm. Long-term opiate use changes the way the brain works by changing the way nerve cells communicate with one another. If opiates are taken away from opiate-dependent brain cells, many of them will become overactive. Eventually, cells will work normally again if the person recovers, but they cause wide range of withdrawal symptoms that affect the mind and the body. This can occur after one instance of getting high.

As with many other drugs, opiates possess very high addictive potential. Opiates include heroin, morphine, codeine, and Oxycontin, to name a few. This isn't the norm, per-say, to get hooked on these drugs in college, but it's definitely on the rise in the past decade or so. This was the unfortunate situation that happened to my brother's roommate's little brother. The biggest risk factor contributing to the increase of drugs like heroin are prescription painkiller use. The vast majority of prescription painkillers are opioids, and therefore highly addictive. People who are given painkillers to treat legitimate pain become addicted and when they use these drugs for an extended period of time, and then suddenly their prescription runs out, they turn to heroin as a cheaper and readily available alternative that fills their cravings.

One of the main reasons that heroin overdoses are on the rise is, quite simply, because use is on the rise. However, this upsurge in use isn't the only contributing factor to the rising overdose rates. Another reason heroin overdoses and heroin-related deaths are becoming so common is that people tend to use multiple drugs in conjunction with heroin.

In 2013, 59% of the people who died from a heroin overdose were also using other drugs. Mixed drugs have a much higher overdose rate than just one drug used alone, and this is due, in part, to the quantity of drugs being taken, but also because of the varying effects that different drugs have on the body. In addition, many people who are addicted to heroin try to quit at least once, and every detox leads to the possibility of a relapse, and every relapse carries a significant risk of overdose.

With many opioids, heroin specifically, you never really know how much of the pure drug you're taking, which means every hit is a risk. This is especially dangerous after a detox period because your body's tolerance for the drug has dropped, meaning a regular hit could easily cause an overdose and possibly a deadly one. Heroin use leads to slowed breathing and can cause you to stop breathing entirely if you take too much. People who are trying to quit are, unfortunately, the most susceptible to these kinds of overdoses.

Moral of the story: it's totally fine to have a drink or two to kick off the weekend, but if you find yourself wanting to experiment with other addictive stimulants, depressants, or opiates, or a combination of different classes of substances that I spoke about, you should try to think about what you may be getting yourself into. Addiction is so common, and it shouldn't take the death of a loved one to make this issue a reality. Young adults need to find a way to effectively deal with peer pressure and/or life pressures, seek help for mental illnesses that they could be facing in college or post-college, examine risk factors (by facing biological, environmental, and physical risk factors you possess, you're more likely to overcome them), and keeping a well balanced life.

If you find yourself turning to substances as a way of relief or an escape, don't wait; act on the problem once you recognize that it's serious. If you see a loved one struggling, act on it immediately before the problem gets out of hand. There are always rehabilitation centers or support groups that can ease whatever you or your loved one is going through. Take advantage of these resources.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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7 Ways To Motivate Yourself During The New Semester

Former President Teddy Roosevelt once said, "Believe you can and you're halfway there."

As we continue through the month of January, we encounter the start of a new semester of school. Based on how well you performed last semester, you may or may not be excited for this new set of classes to come. One way to approach the new semester is with as much motivation as you can, regardless of happened last semester.

It's a new year and a new opportunity for you to do your best in your given situation. Former President Teddy Roosevelt once said, "Believe you can and you're halfway there."

If you can find motivation and manage to believe in yourself, anything is possible over the next few months. Here are seven tips to a successful semester:

1. Put out inspirational reminders.

Whether you hide them under your pillow, put them on the bathroom mirror, or tuck them away in your favorite book, inspirational reminders can help motivate and inspire you to perform to the best of your ability during the semester to come. A note that simply says, "Do great!" or "Work hard!" can be enough to change your attitude for the day. In turn, this will not only benefit you, but it can also improve your day.

2. Cheer on your friends, so they do the same.

Not only can you motivate yourself, but you can motivate your friends just the same. By cheering them on and encouraging them to do their best, you can expect encouragement in return.

3. Set daily reminders.

By setting daily reminders on your phone, laptop or tablet, you are providing yourself with important reminders to study as well as to smile big once a day i.e. 5 p.m. study time, 3:00 p.m. work out, 8:00 a.m. walk to class.

4. Use short-term goals.

Setting short-term goals for yourself is important for seeing designated results. Nothing feels better than accomplishing a goal that you set for yourself.

5. Take up a hobby.

Having an activity to do outside of studying not only serves as an escape from school, but also brightens your day and allows for personal time. Working on a project or doing this hobby two or three times a week can help improve your mood.

6. Morning stretch.

After waking up in the morning, try stretching out your body to loosen up any tension that had built up. Stretching will help relax your body. Begin each morning with a quick stretch to stimulate your mind and body.

7. Use a planner.

You might already have a planner or daily scheduler, but do you actually use it? If so, great! If not, you might want to start. Writing and planning out your day on paper is a great way to stay organized and on top of all the tasks that you need to accomplish for that week.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into smaller manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” - Mark Twain

Cover Image Credit: Angelo Spataro

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