Growing Up in a Post-9/11 World

Author: Elizabeth Zarb, Current Events/Politics

I have lived in New York my entire life. But, I do not remember the Twin Towers.

On September 11th, 2001, I sat in my family room watching Blue’s Clues. I was only two years old. I didn’t see the look of terror on my mom’s face, as she couldn’t get ahold of my dad. I didn’t see the news reports, showing the plane hitting the South Tower.

The youngest millennials, such as those born in 1999, do not remember 9/11. We have absolutely no recollection of life or travel before those awful attacks. We grew up strictly in a post-9/11 society, and it’s something that hasn’t really touched on. 

I had only flown one time before September 11th, and quite obviously I don’t remember it. What’s familiar to me at airports is TSA at every single area, high tech scanners, taking shoes off before allowed through security, random selection, no water bottles allowed, and an all-around uneasy feeling.

Of course, I’ve heard stories about flying before 9/11. And even after hearing them, I can’t fathom not having to take out every single liquid item in my bag, or being allowed through a security checkpoint with my sweater still on. 

Life before 9/11 seems like a foreign concept. For my entire memory, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in New York (now replaced by One World Trade), not the Twin Towers. At the time, I didn’t know about the Pentagon being hit, or that the brave people of Flight 93 were able to prevent another attack by crashing into Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I didn’t know anyone who worked in the World Trade Center, and I thought the “We Will Never Forget” decals on my car windows were just pretty decorations. I was respectful during our moments of silence in school, but I didn’t think much of it.

Despite living through it, September 11th, 2001 feels like another date in my history textbook.

As I grew up, I wanted to learn more about September 11th. I read everything I could get my hands on about that day. I asked my mom questions about where she was, what it was like, and her reaction to the horrific attacks. She told me about how after 9/11, New Yorkers rallied together, and helped each other out whenever needed. And that this tragedy brought the country together, at least for a while. She was always patient with me, with her only request being that I don’t ask my dad about the day. At the time, I didn’t understand why.

But, when I was in eighth grade, I was assigned a scrapbook project about September 11th. For the first time, I was encouraged to ask my dad about what happened. It was then that 9/11 stopped being just another date.

I found out that my dad lost three friends in the attacks. He had been on the phone with one of them right before they died. He had to walk across the 59th Street Bridge in order to get home. My father very rarely shows emotion, and seeing that pain is what made September 11th finally feel real to me. I cannot thank him enough for sharing that with me. 

9/11 has since become something that I couldn’t remember, but still mourned. I still cry every year, even now. It’s a strange sort of sad, where I don’t quite know what I’m missing, but I can still feel its absence. By learning about my family’s connection to the day, I am able to understand it more than I was before. I encourage you to ask your family about their connections to that day, where they were, and how it impacted them, especially if you’re one of the younger millennials like I am.  

Some people my age have begun to forget about 9/11. My high school even stopped calling for moments of silence at the exact times that the towers were hit. My friends go about their day without another thought. I began to get agitated that the day wasn’t being remembered, because it shouldn’t be like that.

I will forever be grateful for my junior year history teacher, who was the person first in a while to force us to come to grips with the reality that is 9/11. “As long as people keep sharing their family’s stories, people will keep talking about it,” he said to me, and that’s a powerful statement I’ve never forgotten and continue to act towards. I urge all of you as well to follow this advice.

I have lived in New York my entire life. I do not remember the Twin Towers. But I remember the aftermath of September 11th, 2001, because I lived through it. It’s the only world I’ve known. I lived through a radically changed nation, I lived through people mourning, and I now know that it’s possible to never forget something you can’t even remember.

Living With Endometriosis From an Early Age

Author: Elizabeth Zarb, Real Life Stories

Getting a period is pretty standard for anyone with a uterus. They can be painful, they can cause a wide range of unusual emotions, and they are a great excuse to eat an extra piece of chocolate. But, these symptoms are all considered “normal” parts of having a period. 

What’s not standard for people with uteri is endometriosis. 

Endometriosis occurs when tissue that usually grows inside of the uterus grows outside and around it, putting pressure onto the uterus. Its only cure is menopause. And, it’s genetic.

My mom had endometriosis, my aunt had endometriosis, and I have endometriosis. I’ve had my period for seven years. If you do the math, I’ve had around 84 periods, each lasting almost two weeks (way longer than average). And during every single one, I was screaming and crying.

At just 11 years old, I had to leave dance class early because of how intense my cramps were. My first memories of my period were of me lying on the floor of the bathroom, crying. I would describe the pain by saying, “you could probably stab me in the uterus while I had cramps, and I wouldn’t be aware of it.” By age 13, I was missing two consecutive days of school a month in order to deal with the first two days of my period, and I was taking four Advil every four hours for ten days straight. By high school, I had a doctor’s note saying I couldn’t play gym when I was on my period. At age 14, I begged my mom every single month to put me on birth control, as I was told that would help with the pain, and after I turned 15, I was put on the pill.

I was told that birth control should help my cramps, as that’s what it does for many others. However, over the course of three years, I’ve been on eight different birth control pills, with none of them alleviating the pain. I felt so helpless that I even asked about getting a hysterectomy. I wanted the source of pain as far away from my body as possible.

Eventually, my gynecologist sent me to a pediatric gynecologist, since they’re the ones trained to look for abnormalities. I told her what my symptoms were, and she immediately diagnosed me with endometriosis, something which my old doctor had only mentioned was a possibility. I began taking continuous birth control, which is essentially the same as regular birth control — except it skips the placebo week, meaning that those who take it don’t get a period. This worked well, but it gave me severe migraines. For a while, I was okay with this, as the cramps were by far the more severe pain. But, my doctor was not happy about the fact that the pain simply moved, and suggested an IUD. 

While types of birth control were being sorted out, another discussion came about. You see, endometriosis doesn’t show up on sonograms, so even though my doctor diagnosed me and began treating me for endometriosis, there was no 100% guarantee that I had it. The only way to know for sure was to do an exploratory laparoscopy, which is doctors sticking a camera through your belly button — and if doctors were to find any endometriosis, they remove it. Sounds easy, right?

I came out of the surgery in generic surgery related pain but otherwise okay. Sure there were cramps, but the cramps were considered a normal side effect (and yes, I realize the irony of how the surgery that was to prevent period cramps caused period cramps).

Right now, I’m hopeful. I went through seven years of unbelievable pain, and I’ve exhausted all possible options to help my endometriosis. Yes, it can grow back, but hopefully, the IUD will stop that from happening. The most important thing to me is spreading awareness about endometriosis, because it is something that 10-20% of people with uteri suffer from silently. It’s considered “taboo” to talk publicly about periods, but because of this taboo, many people don’t know what endometriosis is — and therefore, don’t know if they have it. Celebrities like Halsey and Julianne Hough have spoken openly about their struggles with it, and it’s opened up the conversation for other people.

And hey, if Julianne Hough can film an entire season of Dancing With The Stars while suffering from endometriosis, then at the very least, I can get out of bed in the morning.


For more information about endometriosis, visit endometriosis.org

Harley Quinn

Life Lessons from Harley Quinn

Author: Elizabeth Zarb, Entertainment

Wait, but who’s Harley Quinn and how can I learn from her? Well, she’s a DC Comics character who made her debut as the Joker’s henchwoman in Batman: The Animated Series. 

She quickly became a fan favorite, becoming one of the first comic book characters to originate on TV, and launching from screen to comics with her brash sense of humor, her crazy antics, and, of course, her love for “Mistah J.” Her popularity skyrocketed with Margot Robbie’s portrayal of her in 2016’s Suicide Squad. Now, what can she teach us?

Coffee is always a necessity.

In the 2016 movie, the first thing that Harley asks for when told she could have anything in her cell that
she wants is an espresso machine. A girl after my own heart, and I’m sure yours as well.
Coffee is always the priority. 


Solve problems by looking at them from a new perspective.

Mistah J wants the fish to smile? Just put Batman upside down and those frowns become smiles!
Only someone as insane as Harley could think of such a brilliant idea. And it shows us all that the
solution to problems can be found much easier than we realize.
Stop with all the overanalyzing


How to properly deal with catcalling.

Guys harassing you? Just pull out a bazooka and “blow them away.” 10/10 would
recommend. OK, not really, but she’s showing us we should all stand up for ourselves
when we’re not being treated right,or being treated in a way we like.
You don’t have to deal with catcalling, or anything, if you don’t want to.


Own your past and your flaws.

Upon hearing ex-criminal El Diablo’s tragic backstory, Harley shows little sympathy,
instead telling him to own it. She knows that your past mistakes shape who you
are as a person today, and there’s no use trying to escape the past.
Don’t dwell on it, use it to better yourself, and move on. 


Your environment can shape who you are.

Harley tries to give up crime, but because of her reputation as a villain she is unable to
assimilate into society. That same society throws her right back into her crime life.
(Granted, it was a misunderstanding that led society to reject her, but it’s all the same to Harley.)
Be careful who, where, and what you surround yourself with. It truly shapes you. 


Sometimes, love is worth it all.

In Suicide Squad, Harley willingly throws herself into a vat of chemicals to prove her
love to the Joker, showing us that yes, true love does exist, and the lengths
that you’ll go to for the person you love know no bounds.
While you shouldn’t have to go to such extremes,
be with someone you’d risk it all for.


But sometimes, the person you love isn’t worth your devotion.

The Joker and Harley’s relationship is known to be abusive, with the Joker often
causing Harley physical harm. Harley shows us that it’s okay to put yourself first,
and to leave an abusive relationship in order to save yourself.
Also, you never should have to deal with an abusive relationship in the first place. 


Sometimes your best friend is also your partner in crime (and in life).

Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are best friends, with Ivy giving Harley an immunity to many
toxins when they meet. They run amok through Gotham City together (Ivy is driving the
in the aforementioned catcalling scene) and eventually Ivy helps Harley leave
the Joker. 
The two go from best friends to girlfriends, and it’s often said that
if your girlfriend/boyfriend is your best friend, you’re doing it right.


Harley Quinn may not be a perfect character (she is a criminal, after all), but she is incredibly complex and involved in some of the most engaging story lines in DC history. She also has given us some very important lessons to keep with us throughout life.

Mental Illness is Real and Frightening

Author: Elizabeth Zarb, Real Life Stories

My mental health is not at its peak.

Mental illness is something that I have struggled with for most of my life, especially as I entered adolescence. I’ve been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder, depression, an unspecified personality disorder, and I have frequent bouts of dissociation. I spent two years misdiagnosed as bipolar. Yes, misdiagnosed. Casual, right?

I have been to edges that I don’t like to admit. I have felt like my brain is broken and doesn’t work “right.” I have experienced days that are just one panic attack after another. I have been frightened by the status of my mind. I have to keep a list of things that make me happy on a wall so that I don’t lose sight of them.

When my mood crashes, I can become uncharacteristically mean or distant. I have a nasty habit of isolating myself when I feel low, which can lead to extreme breakdowns. Cutting myself off leads me to make projections of my fears and anxiety. Essentially, I believe my friends are replacing me even when they aren’t. 

My panic attacks can be triggered by almost anything. A lot of times it’s caused by social situations, but not always. Each panic attack presents itself in a different way. While I can normally identify when one’s coming on, I’ve had other moments where I just genuinely thought I was having an asthma attack only for a doctor to find my lungs fine. When I panic, nothing makes sense. 

Being afraid of your own mind is something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.

When the irrational part of my brain takes over, I lose control. In a moment that I’ve only recently become more open talking about, the irrational part of my brain led me to slice open my hand with a butcher’s knife because that part of my brain wanted me to use my blood as paint. What was terrifying in that moment was that I didn’t consciously make that decision; the knife was already making contact with my skin by the time I realized what was happening. Even by the next morning I wasn’t sure if I had dreamt the event or not.

I have come to terms with my illnesses, my hand is completely healed, and I’m taking the proper measures to control them. I share these to show how much can be going on in the human brain at one time. While there is so much going on in my brain, and anyone else’s brain who suffers from a mental illness, I have to continue to go to school, have a social life, and deal with the everyday responsibilities of being a human.

But I’m in constant fear that my mood will crash and suddenly I won’t be able to do anything, or I need to give myself a ten minute pep talk before I’m able to go ask for help in a store. I have to pretend everything is okay if I suddenly begin dissociating in class and don’t know what’s real anymore, which is really difficult to pull off convincingly.

And I am not alone. I know many people who suffer from depression, borderline personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder, severe anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and even moments of blackouts. Mental health is a part of life in every possible way that it can be.

But, there’s still a misconception out there that our generation is making mental illness “fashionable,” or a fad — and that even celebrities are using mental illness as they would fashion accessories. This a gross and potentially harmful misunderstanding. Carrie Fisher, everyone’s favorite and much missed space princess, was very vocal about her struggle with bipolar disorder… and nothing about it was ever for publicity.

Mental illness is not a new thing. And yet, the phrase “it’s all in your head” is thrown around constantly. There is so much fundamentally wrong with this phrase.

When you tell someone that their struggle is “all in their head,” it invalidates what they’re feeling and can even cause the person to not believe that they have a problem, which will prevent them from getting help. 

There is a stigma surrounding mental illness that states that if you just “think happy thoughts” then everything will be cured. But there’s a lot more to it than that. It consumes your body. More than once I have found myself unable to move because of severe anxiety sending waves of nausea and dizziness throughout my body. I have been trapped on the couch because my depression has drained me and I lose all motivation. I can’t simply “think happy thoughts” in those situations, because my mind and body are completely overridden.

Millennials are one of the first generations to actively seek help for mental illness on a wider scale. Previously, it was often seen as something that you kept to yourself. Because we are now seeking help, it is perceived that mental illness has become a trend and is something that has been publicized in every possible way.

I am not ashamed that I go to therapy. I’m not ashamed that I am on medication. And nobody should be. Why should we be subjected to live in a society where mental health isn’t taken seriously until it is too late?

This is just one of many questions we need to be asking ourselves everyday in order to be living our best lives. Because at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about — being the best you you can be?

If you think you may be suffering from mental illness and don’t know it, I implore you to do some research on mental health facilities near you.

If you or anyone you know experiences suicidal thoughts or tendencies, whether related to a mental illness or not, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.


How Do DJs Make a Name for Themselves? That’s My DJ Tells Us How

Author: Elizabeth Zarb, Entertainment

Being a DJ looks cool and glamorous, right? Well millennials, thanks to a new series, we get a inside look at what it’s really like. 

That’s My DJ, a multi-award winning web series by D.W. Waterson (also known by her DJ name hey!dw), follows aspiring DJs as they try to break into the EDM scene. Yes, it’s just as awesome as it sounds.

The idea for the show came to Waterson based on her life as an EDM DJ for the past 3-5 years, knowing she wanted to bring this other world to life. “I remember when I was getting started just kind of looking around the room and being like ‘wow, there are a lot of interesting people here, and characters, and awesome music, and these flashing colorful lights, why isn’t anyone kind of telling that story?’” she said.  

The premise of the show goes beyond those colorful flashing lights, and into a world that seems glamourous on the outside — but is a whole different story on the inside. Mainstream media often shies away from showing the world of DJs for what it is.

Waterson wanted to change this. She was so inspired by the world around her that the entirety of the series’ second season is autobiographical, while the other seasons are based on people she has met and stories she has heard while being a part of the EDM scene. As a result, That’s My DJ’s scenes are shot clearly, without any sugar coating but rather, in a gritty reality. 

Season 3, however, is the darkest season of the show. “Sam (the DJ who is Season 3’s main character) is more of a producer, and he’s kind of being pushed into the DJ scene,” Waterson said. Sam’s “happy place” is making beats by himself.

“He’s constantly being pushed out the door to socialize, to drink with people, to stay up until six in the morning doing drugs in order to book his next gig, which kind of sends him on a downward spiral… it’s a very chaotic dark world.” Waterson wanted to use season 3 to show the consequences of drugs and alcohol, which are so present in the DJ world, and to explore where the line between doing drugs casually and becoming addicted falls. How does it end? Watch the series to find out! 

The webseries’ success came as a total surprise to the cast and crew of the show. It won awards at both the 2016 New York Television Festival and the 2017 Vancouver Web Series Festival, including Best Directing. “It’s cool to see when you pour your blood, sweat, and tears into something… and for everybody to react the way that they did to the [second] season was very humbling and grateful,” Waterson said.

When asked if she had any advice for people trying to break into the EDM scene or people trying to get a web series off the ground, Waterson offers advice that is applicable to the DJ realm and beyond.

 “You really kind of just have to do it,” she said.I know that sounds almost like a cop-out advice, but that’s kind of the advice that I got at the beginning. A lot of people sit on ideas and are like ‘oh but we don’t have enough money’ or ‘we lost this location’ or ‘I don’t believe in myself’ or ‘how do I get a DJ gig at a bar?’ You just kind of have to be like stupid confident… Just do it and finish it, and it you’re proud of it at the end then put it out there and really push and try to build your fanbase, because that’s how you build yourself career at the end of the day. And if you finish it and you’re not happy with it, then it was an amazing life lesson for what you want to fix next time and then go do it again.” 

How can the show inspire you? It is, (as other webseries are) is a shining example of a millennial with an idea brought to life. While not everyone can relate to the EDM scene portrayed in the show, the arcs the characters go through — whether it’s heartbreak or trying to make your mark on the world — are arcs that every young person goes through.

All three seasons of That’s My DJ are available to watch on YouTube and at thatsmydjseries.comYou can follow D.W. Waterson on Twitter and Instagram at @heydw_x.