Crystal Clear By Firdaws Hakizimana


Crystal Clear


When I was about twelve, my mom and I had stopped at Target and got a Brita water dispenser. It wasn’t particularly large; it should have held about 18 cups worth of water. But, the thing is, when we went through the box once we were home, there was something I wasn’t expecting: a thin cobalt blue, small, electronic device. A water tester. Suddenly, I realized why my mom was willing to spend $30 on a fancy pitcher.

The thing is, during the week prior, my family had watched a  large collection of documentaries about water; we started with marine life,  and then the binge-watching moved on to shows about water quality standards. One of them must have triggered something in my mom because the next day we went to Target.

We ended up returning the water dispenser kit, and it was simply just too small for a family of six. However, the water tester accidentally stayed because I kind of wasn’t paying attention when I was packing the box. By the time we realized that the tester was still in our house, we had already thrown away the receipt.

With a water tester and no dispenser, my mom checked the water that we had been drinking. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the best, much less even that good, and as at the time we lived in Michigan, a place with so many water sources like the Great Lakes, it was mystifying.

Nonetheless, my mom was determined to find better water, and so the tester received its own special pocket in my mom’s bag. If we were at a friend’s house, she would check the quality. One of the most memorable moments, was when she had tested the water that one of her friends bought and had delivered to her house. Filling a small cup with the clear liquid, we found out that even water from health stores couldn’t be trusted.

But why did we even need the water tester, and what did it test for?

There is something called the Total of the Dissolved Solids or (TDS), that the tester would display on its small screen. The higher the number, the worse the water was. Likewise, the lower the number, the better.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency or the EPA, “Water quality standards (WQS) are provisions of state, territorial, authorized tribal or federal law approved by EPA that describe the desired condition of a water body and the means by which that condition will be protected or achieved.” This law is in effect in places where there are a lot of aquatic organisms, recreational purposes, boating, etc.

Different places have different TDS; most of the time it’s simply basic minerals which can lead to saltier tasting water, but there are two chemical elements that also is found in water that is problematic; aluminum and lead.


Aluminum in some places, such as Europe, is used to purify water. The process works like this: while aluminum is one of the most abundant metals in the world, it is never found by itself as it has chemically bonded with any other material near it. Break the bond, aluminum needs to find something else. When the aluminum is then poured into unclean water, it bonds with the strongest thing it can find: the dirt in the water.

Lead, on the other hand, is one of the main reasons that I even chose this topic to write about. If you recall, in 2014, the water that the city of Flint Michigan was using changed from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to a closer and cheaper alternative, the Flint River. Due to the fact that there were corners cut to make the switch cheaper, the sewer pipes weren’t checked. In the end, 12 people died from Legionnaires’ disease. The rest of the population suffers from side effects that come with a dangerously high level of lead in their bodies.

On April 6, 2018, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder ended the Free Bottled Water Program, claiming that the lead levels in the water are “Now well within the standards.” A  pediatrician by the name of Mona Hanna-Attisha, who strongly disapproves of this course of action tweeted out “This is wrong. Until all lead pipes are replaced, state should make available bottled water and filters to Flint residents.”  Most of the Flint population have said that they don’t trust the water, which is understandable as it has harmed either them or someone they know.

I frankly believe that ending the program is unacceptable and wrong. The government got into this trouble for cutting corners, and now it feels like they are doing it again. Thanks to their blunder, now the younger generation of Flint will now suffer from behavior and development problems.

While I know that not everyone’s mother carries around a water tester in her purse, I feel that everyone should have access to clean water. The details around water quality should be anything but murky; let’s make it crystal clear.

Debunking the Defunding of Planned Parenthood

What do you think of when you see the words “Planned Parenthood”? Perhaps it is a sense of pride, knowing that it is a place where anyone can go to access help. Likely you also think of abortions when you encounter the organization. “Planned Parenthood” can be interpreted in numerous ways, but more than anything, its core meaning is literally its name. This organization is a resource to help safely plan your future parenthood. Do not let the name fool you- not every service is related to being sexually active. Their variety of care includes (but is not limited to): men and women’s health services, STD testing, patient education, LGBTQ services, pregnancy testing, abortions, and referrals. Moreover, Planned Parenthood is a healthcare provider invested in fighting for women’s rights; the proof is in their unwavering message of equality during the Trump administration. Therefore the question should be asked: why is this organization solely thought of as an abortion clinic?

The services of Planned Parenthood are substantially important for teenagers. As a teenager who has endured almost twelve years of public education, I can say with confidence that I feel a sense of failure in terms of my sexual education. Although many public schools provide more than adequate sex education and reproductive health classes, I did not receive it.

My first encounter with a topic broadly labeled as “Family Living” occurred in fourth grade. My class was split into two sexes: the boys went to the library while the girls were forced to sit in a circle. A middle-aged woman talked to us about our “changing bodies”. We were subject to this talk, that at the time seemed like a punishment for something none of us had done, once a day for around two weeks. Us nine-year-olds listened to this woman talk about periods, sperm, pregnancy, and sexual predators. I always questioned why the boys got to escape this lesson. Sure, they would not personally experience female reproduction, but nonetheless, they should still be informed. Perhaps if they were from a young age they would not squirm when a woman mentions tampons and they might understand the fear set in girls at a young age of people around us, especially men. Maybe if certain men experienced that lesson as boys, they later would not become the sexual predators fourth-grade girls have to learn about.

My second encounter with a reproductive lesson happened in seventh grade. This time the sexes were mixed together, and the teacher was male. In this trimester-long class, we touched upon sexual education. We were taught what pregnancy was and how to avoid it: use a condom. We were shown male condoms and told to “play with them”, a weird concept to me still. Us middle schoolers all uncomfortably laughed and stretched the rubber, but none of us had learned anything new. The most important lesson my health teacher taught us was about STDs and STIs; a lesson I still appreciate. But he failed to talk about miscarriages or stillbirths, an occurrence from reportedly one in four pregnancies. He also neglected to talk about consent, rape, or anything of that nature. If he had handed out Planned Parenthood pamphlets that informed us of where to go to learn about these sensitive topics, many students would have explored the subject matter further.

My last encounter with sexual education was in tenth grade. Although our health class was a semester-long, our sex ed was whittled down to about a week or two. Again, I had a male teacher. He was a Physical Education teacher so his curriculum was not geared towards sex ed. The main thing I took away from this high school sex lesson was abstinence. I did not learn how to apply a condom. I did not learn about the side effects of birth control on a woman’s body. And, once again I learned nothing about consent, rape, sexual abuse, or anything that daunts high schoolers. I was also not pointed in the direction of Planned Parenthood resources so I could find more information to help.

The importance of being educated sexually is crucial when it comes time for college. Many studies state that one out of three women gets raped on a college campus. Essentially, if you are in a room with a handful of college graduates, odds are at least one of them has been raped. As a privileged teenager in the age of technology, I was able to learn about these overwhelming topics on my own as needed. As the president of my school’s Women’s Rights Club, I am aware of the relationships high schoolers endure and the abuse that could have been prevented if only we, as impressionable young adults, were taught about them.

Planned Parenthood services must be provided in schools, in workplaces, or anywhere an undereducated person may be. The resources this organization provides include much more than just abortions. Therefore, the defunding of an entire company that simply strives to inform the population of sexual health is as close-minded as it is dangerous for future generations of parents.

On Missing Poptarts

Poptarts have actually always been my favorite food. When I was a little girl I would beg for poptarts, but then get so hyper from the sugar that I was running around the house and bouncing off of walls. So my mother stopped buying them, saving the pastry for special occasions.
As I got older, my love of Poptarts remained, but my relationship with food changed. At 13 years old, my eating disorder began creeping into my life. I had been repulsed by my body for as long as I could remember, and didn’t have the healthiest habits. I connected the dots, and my chronic-perfectionist brain decided to ‘fix’ the problem.
What began as just ridding my diet of overly sugary or fatty items and replacing them with whole foods, quickly turned into obsessively tracking every calorie and body-checking at every chance. The first time I scanned a poptart nutrition label after changing my lifestyle, i cried. I just… couldn’t. One pastry is usually 200 calories, and loaded with sugar. To put that in perspective: for almost a year of my life I only allowed myself 600 calories (often less) in a day.
A treat that I once adored as a carefree child, was villianized by my new warped mindset of the world. I wouldn’t ‘allow’ myself any food of that nature. The only time I dared eat one was with a friend at a competition in 9th grade. Later that night, my throat tightened at the memory, tears from my consuming guilt breaking free.
I’m in recovery now, desperately trying to undo the damage I inflicted on my body. But the fear won’t go away. I still can’t bring myself to eat a Poptart.

pretty hurts

pretty hurts.
it’s an old saying,
as a little girl,
i just thought it meant
uncomfortable heels,
blisters from flats,
tight dresses,
or pierced ears


it’s funny how much truth
a silly old phrase can hold.

pretty hurts
this is drilled into our brains
the belief
beauty comes at a cost,
a parasite
that roots itself
little by little,
as little girls grow.

pretty hurts
the pangs of hunger
you willfully ignore,
because pretty girls
skip lunch.

pretty hurts
when you pinch
at the fat
on your waist
your legs
your wrist even,
until skin breaks.

pretty hurts
a pounding headache
you get
trying to study
but you can’t focus
because your stomach can’t comprehend why it’s so empty.

pretty hurts
shivering so hard your ribs ache,
always so cold
freezing to the bone
because seeing your bones
is all you care about anymore.

because pretty hurts,
being pretty
being skinny
being fragile
being sick,
it’s worth it.

and wanting to be pretty
transforms itself,
into insatiable perfectionism.
never thin enough.
never light enough.
you know you’re dying
but you can’t stop,
pretty is supposed to hurt,

pretty hurts
your purple fingernails,
hair falling out in clumps.

pretty hurts
staring at size 0 models,
hours on end,
ashamed you don’t look like a goddamn stick.
page after glossy page
people praising
celebrities for slimming down,
and throwing up.

is this what we are teaching?
teaching little girls
that thinner = better.
lighter = prettier.
a lesson
in every way you can hate yourself.
and little girls
are avid students.
studying every flaw reflected in the mirror,
learning to read nutrition labels,
memorizing menus,
practicing lies,
learning everything diet culture has to teach,
until they’re 68 pounds in a hospital bed.

a little more
and you’ll be perfect,
a little more
and you’ll be worth it.

pretty hurts
like panicking every time you look in the mirror.

pretty hurts
broken friendships
worried mothers

and sometimes the hurt
is just too much
and you wonder,
was it really worth
the pain?

pretty hurts
pretty aches
pretty burns

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