An Unconventional Community

When you hear the word community, what comes to mind? I think of a tight-knit group of individuals who share similar backgrounds and familial upbringings, who really feel that they know each other, who possess some sort of mutual understanding, and who provide sincere support. In this sense, it seems that a strong community must be inherently small and develop overtime. Contrast this with distance running. Marathoners are in the athletic pursuit of an individual goal and are often seen as selfish, as they devote so much of their time to training, potentially at the expense of other familial or social responsibilities. At face value, running a marathon appears incompatible with community- they are almost opposites. Every time I interact with other runners, however, I am reminded that running provides the most beautiful sense of community I ever encountered.

For more than a year, I had been planning on running the Chicago Marathon. Prior to my injury, I would visualize every aspect of the next Columbus Day weekend on a daily basis- eagerly picking up my bib at the expo, entering the starting corral shaking from both the frigid morning temperature and nervous excitement, running hard through my Windy City home, and wrapping myself in my well-deserved silver blanket. Not being able to make these visions a reality has, at times, left me as an emotional wreck, but my dad was still running the race, and I wanted to make the most out of the weekend. Therefore, while the rest of my family was still sleeping, I took the 6:00 AM train downtown to the Runner’s World shakeout run with Bart Yasso, Sara Hall, and Deena Kastor. Initially, I was concerned that showing up at a shakeout run for a race I wasn’t running would be quite awkward, but I could not have had a more uplifting experience.

Deena Kastor

A hundred or so strangers gathered at sunrise to run along Chicago’s lakefront trail. While we didn’t know anything about one another before this morning, we were united by this common identity as runners. We shared the defining characteristics of self-discipline, intrinsic motivation, courage, and a zesty passion. We felt the same emotions of anxiety, enthusiasm, and joy surrounding our goal progression. While we came from different backgrounds, training for a formidable race joined us in a unique journey. Moreover, we each had a story, and sharing our stories resulted in powerful social support. We were not merely a group of selfish strangers – we were a strong community.


Not only is the running community sincere, but it is the most welcoming community that I know. I felt more support from this community than I often do from my peers, along with a sense of empathy. All runners know how much not running sucks, and sharing experiences with individuals from all walks of life was quite fascinating.  While I was unable to participate in the shakeout run itself, I felt a greater sense of belonging just casually chatting with fellow runners than since I have run myself.

Perhaps my most profound realization of the weekend was the unique accessibility of the running community. There is little social hierarchy in this sport- elite runners are just ordinary people. Runner’s World Publisher Molly O’Keefe and Chief Running Officer Bart Yasso smiled to see the girl who got hit by the beer bottle (at least my story is memorable to my favorite journalists!) Two of America’s greatest distance runners of all time, Deena Kastor and Joan Benoit Samuelson, are my biggest inspirations. I emailed Deena prior to this weekend, she sent me a sincere response within a couple of days, and greeted me with a big hug and warm smile on Saturday. To me, this hug was the equivalent of a typical teenager getting a personalized greeting by Taylor Swift! We had a friendly conversation, and the next morning, 42-year-old Deena broke the U.S. women’s masters marathon record by nearly a minute- proving that excellence can come later in life and that several months without running does not mean an end to my participation in this sport.

Bart Yasso

At the race expo, I approached Joan- who won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympic marathon, the first year in which women were allowed to compete- like a little kid in a candy store. We discussed the physical and mental difficulties of dealing with injury, and she stressed how young I was and how much potential the future held. Talking to her felt like talking to my mom- she was just so down to earth, caring, and kind. Joan emphasized the importance of listening to our bodies, and she could not have set a better example herself- she reluctantly sat out of this year’s Chicago marathon due to a stomach virus. As mentally tough as we might be, sometimes the body rules over the mind, and we just have to accept that and move forward.

FullSizeRender copy
Joan Benoit Samuelson

Immersing myself in this running culture when I am physically unable to run is a blessing and a curse. It makes me more upset that I cannot do what I love, but hearing stories of others, ranging from novice runners to world record holders, reminds me that I am not alone and gives me hope for the future. When I can run, I will be more passionate and determined than ever before. For now, however, I will continue to connect with others in this special sphere, this sphere in which I have been fortunate to find a profound sense of community.


Believe: My Personal Faith

It has been one year since I last posted on this blog- one year since my empowering encounter with Jim, and two years since the beer bottle incident. My introspection has skyrocketed in the past year, but I have failed to craft my thoughts into words. In one of my courses this semester, Ethics: Human Goodness, we have been discussing the power of narrative and the importance of documenting our experiences. Ideas for blog posts pop into my mind quite frequently, and I am grateful for this class for finally re-catalyzing my commitment to sharing my adventures and expressing my feelings here. One post cannot make up for a year’s absence, and I promise that I will get back to my lighthearted stories soon. Today, however, I will focus on something deeper, the greatest lesson I’ve learned in the past several months- the power of believing.


If you ask me to describe myself, my passion for running immediately comes to mind. My athletic identity is perpetually salient, as, to a large extent, I centralize my life around this sport and its culture. Aside from the physical activity of running, I begin each day by reading Runner’s World magazine, have a Twitter solely for the purpose of following elite runners, and schedule all of my holiday plans around races. When I think about the future, where I’ll be in five or ten years from now, I imagine traveling to different races, setting new goals, and surpassing them. I am a runner at heart- yet for the past several months, proximal hamstring tendinosis has kept me sidelined. I have felt an emotional overload like never before- anger from being entrapped in the dungeon of the gymnasium, confined to the elliptical rather than free to roam the forest preserves; anger at the time and money I have spent on failed treatments from orthopedics, physical therapists, massage therapists, and chiropractors. Sadness from missing out on an abundance of races, including next week’s Chicago Marathon, and simply of being unable to engage in my most beloved activity; sadness that causes me to cry myself to sleep more often than I’d like. Confusion as to why this is happening to me right now, when I was in such good shape and loving running more than ever before; confusion as to what I have done to deserve this and why all of my autoimmune conditions make healing so difficult for my body. My injury has made little improvement in several months, and I have not been able to run since February. But for some reason, perhaps irrational, I keep holding on to this little bit of hope, believing that things will get better.


If you look around my apartment, it’s clear that “believe” is my favorite word- it’s plastered on my bulletin board, training journal, medal rack, and a canvas. This word has been special to me for a while, but in the past few months, it has become the mantra that I live by. I would be the last person expected to get a tattoo (can’t you just imagine me having an allergic reaction?!) yet connecting my mind and body through this word has definitely crossed my mind. Sometimes I wonder if I should just give up hope of getting better and returning to running- but I just can’t. I have a plethora of life goals, and running is what most excites me about the future. Running is engrained in my identity, and it is too important to simply discard. Based on experiences I’ve encountered and witnessed, I do not believe that everything happens for a reason. I am not a religiously devout individual, and I am not sure that I believe in god. Recently, however, I have coped with adversity by establishing my own faith- believing that things will get better. My personal spirituality is synonymous with “believe.” It has allowed me to make peace with my injured body, focus on circumstances that are in my control, and not let go of my dreams. Believe.



An Empowering Encounter

I have been pretty terrible about updating my blog lately. Since I’ve been back at Emory, I’ve only posted once. Thoughts of new posts constantly come to mind, yet with classes, research, volunteering, extracurricular activities, and of course, running, I just haven’t found the time to write. This weekend, however, was very special- in the midst of stressful schoolwork and homesickness, I had a chance encounter that completely restored my faith in humanity.

It began Friday afternoon when, after picking up my race bib and t-shirt for Saturday’s Winship Win the Fight 5k, I was walking to a lab meeting. Suddenly, an older man approached me and asked about my ankle. I was quite surprised, but he seemed friendly, so I briefly explained the beer bottle incident, which coincidentally happened exactly one year ago (the Friday afternoon before the Winship 5k, which I had been planning on running!) Surprisingly, the man seemed relieved. We continued talking, and it turned out that Jim is a melanoma survivor. His calf was affected by cancer, and the sight of my ankle had worried him. I asked him if he was running the race, which he was, and we began discussing our favorite races and times. As we parted ways, we wished each other luck, and he told me that he hoped to see me on the podium tomorrow. That would have been enough. Sad as it is to say, it’s not everyday that a random stranger strikes up a conversation with you. I thought about Jim for the rest of the day and what a special encounter it had been.

Come race morning, I was warming up with tears in my eyes. I could hear the Winship Cancer Institute speakers, which made me think about my cousin Jimmy, a pediatric oncologist, who passed away a few years ago. I hadn’t realized what an emotional event this race would be, and as I finished my warm up, I heard, “let’s hope there’s no beer bottles on the course this early in the morning.” I turned around, and there was Jim! We entered the start corral together and discussed our families and backgrounds while waiting for the gun to fire. This was the first race I’ve run without knowing anyone- in fact, I’d never run a race without my mom or dad on the course or in the crowds. While the race was held on Emory’s campus and had around 3,000 runners, walkers, and joggers, I did not see any fellow students! It wasn’t really the type of event one typically attends alone- there were teams with hundreds of people in matching t-shirts, groups of cancer survivors, and families running in honor of loved ones. But I did not feel alone at all- I had made a lovely acquaintance, and I was running for a compelling cause.

It was a challenging course (the name of the area, Druid Hills, gives it away) but my endorphins were in full gear. I was the third female to cross the finish line, but rather than analyzing my splits and cooling down, I just wanted to see Jim finish- and he did, in under 26 minutes, and was handed a white flower, indicating he was a cancer survivor. And Jim was right- we did see each other on the podium! We both placed in our age group, and he was elated that both he and “his adopted daughter for the day” had medaled.

I had been on cloud nine the whole day after my encounter with Jim when I received an email from him. Without knowing anything about me but my first name and that I was an Emory student, Jim had found my blog. He deeply touched my life, and it seems I made an impact on him as well. I don’t know what else to say about this weekend. Jim has the spirit of runner- a fighter, an unstoppable machine, a pure human being. We were brought together by chance, and I hope to see him at next year’s race. Jim made me appreciate running, living, and human goodness more than ever before. Miracle moments like these are few and far between, but they truly are empowering.



Change: Goodbyes & New Beginnings

Change is something I have always struggled with. This is not unusual- as human beings, we are creatures of habit- yet I have always felt I experience more anxiety than my peers. Perhaps my medical conditions are to blame- a new environment means a new sleeping, eating, and exercise schedule, which can (and has!) thrown off my blood sugar (I have had to get up almost hourly in the night for the past week to check my blood sugar and often have glucose.) A new environment means new people to educate about my allergies (more detailed post coming soon!) A new environment means being away from the comfort of my family. So how do I deal with the stress of change as I transition from a relaxed summer at home to sophomore year at Emory? I cling to the activity I can always bring along- running.


It might sound strange then, that the day before leaving for school, I finally decided to donate my old running shoes. Facebook was bombarded by the Ice Bucket Challenge and while I didn’t particularly want to dump ice on my head, all the hype lead me to think of an easy act of goodness. Just as I have trouble with change, I have trouble parting ways with the things and people that I love. Therefore, I had seven pairs of Nike Lunarglides piled in my laundry room, too worn on the bottoms to run in but otherwise perfectly fine. My mom had been nagging me (along with my dad and brother) to get rid of these useless shoes for quite sometime, but I always refused, explaining the value of all the miles each pair of shoes had carried me in and the memories that they brought back.



Well, since I was all packed and had nothing to do on that last day, I took all of my running shoes outside, got Daniel’s as well, and had a running shoe photo shoot. It provided an hour of entertainment, some of my favorite photos, and a realization- I had a ridiculous amount of shoes for no reason. I did some research online and found an organization called Share Your Soles, which donates shoes to severely impoverished people in several parts of the world. My shoes have been with me for a long time, but it’s time to give someone else a new beginning.


So next time you’re dealing with a change in life- however large or small it might be- find something constant to take with you. I find it best if it’s an activity you can do alone- something to bring you comfort and clear your mind- but even better is when you can take your passion and find others with similar interests. I’m trying a new strategy I’d like to call the “say yes” approach- when someone asks me to do something for these first few weeks of school, I’m going to say yes as much as possible. It’s worked- I’ve already found some great new buddies for morning runs!





No Risk No Reward + DIY Race Bib Book!

Nearly every Saturday morning this summer, I have dragged my mom along to accompany me on my long runs. Perhaps dragged is not the correct word- she admits to enjoying biking alongside me on the trails. However, every Friday night, she questions my motives- “Why do you have to run ten miles?” She has a point- I have no upcoming long races on the calendar, and my body could probably use some rest- but these longs runs are the highlight of my week. While they can be physically and mentally exhausting, they are what make me happiest.

Whether or not you’re a runner, I think it’s nearly impossible not to be fascinated by the runner’s mentality. We push our body through pain, as overcoming doubt and challenge makes us feel like we can conquer anything. With each tough run, we grow stronger, eventually reach our goals, and thus set new ones. As runners, we constantly push ourselves through suffering because we know it will ultimately make us better people. This summer, I’ve collected a variety of quotes about this phenomenon. Here are some of my favorites:

“People ask why I run. I say, ‘If you have to ask, you will never understand.’ It is something that only those select few know. Those who put themselves through pain, but know, deep down, how good if feels.” -Erin Leonard

“If you’re doing it right, at some point you will want to drop out of just about every race you run.” -Mark Remy

“Stepping outside the comfort zone is the price I pay to find out how good I can be. If I planned on backing off every time winning got difficult, I would hang up my shoes and take up knitting.” -Olympian Desiree Linden

“Happiness is pushing your limits and watching them back down” -New Balance Ad

So challenge brings us the greatest happiness- quite fascinating, in my opinion at least!

I had been searching for a creative way to display my race bibs for quite some time, so I decided to make them into a book. Like my medal rack, my race bib book is already giving me running motivation and exciting me for the future. This book was extremely simple to make and only cost a few dollars (not including hundreds of dollars in race fees!) All of the materials can be found at Target, and you can customize it however you like.




All you need is a bright polypropylene folder, two loose-leaf rings, Sharpies, a hole puncher, and scissors. Cut the folder to a size that is a little larger than your largest bib (I cut mine to about 9 x 9.5″) and decorate however you would like. Line up your bibs in chronological order and place on rings. If you have bibs of different sizes, you may have to punch holes in the larger bibs. Simply punch corresponding holes in the folder, place on rings, and you’re done!

You may be thinking, “I don’t have any race bibs to place in this book.” Well, if you create this, think of all the motivation it will give you to race :)

photo 2-2

Southwest Salad

I’m calling this recipe Southwest Salad, but in my house it’s just known as “Melissa’s Salad.” I could go on and on about how much I love this salad- it’s bursting with flavor and is filled with healthy veggies. Many of the ingredients shown are canned, but it tastes even better with fresh produce from a farmer’s market (I had already depleted my weekly local supply when I decided to take this photo!) The recipe below serves three. I eat this salad almost every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night for dinner- and no, I never get tired of it! It’s evolved over the years, as I’ve based it off of a variety of salads that I’ve seen in restaurants but could not order because of my food allergies. It’s my go-to weekend meal, and I hope it will become yours as well!

photo 1-2

Southwest Salad

6 c salad greens

½ cucumber, sliced

1 carrot, chopped

1 tomato, chopped

Green onions, chopped

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1½ c corn

1 can beets, drained and chopped

1 avocado, diced

Fresh Gourmet Santa Fe Style tortilla strips

Kraft Catalina dressing


Combine above ingredients in large bowl. Sprinkle with tortilla strips and toss with Catalina dressing.

photo 2-2


Since my family couldn’t get over last week’s ice cream cake goodness, we decided to try a mint Oreo version! Instead of crushed candy canes, I added a cup of chopped mint Oreos to the vanilla ice cream, along with some peppermint extract. We can’t decide which version we like better- you should try them both!



This week, I finally got around to hanging up the medal rack that I purchased at last month’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon Chicago. It was a splurge, but I can already tell that it was well worth it. Every morning this week, I have woken up and immediately been reminded why I run. Each medal has a story, representing not just the physical race, but what was going on in my life at the time. But more inspiring than the medals themselves is the word they hang from- believe.

“Believe” is, in my opinion, the most powerful word, and I strive to think of this word in times of challenge- whether it’s ten miles into a half marathon, in the middle of a difficult chemistry exam, or even in certain social situations of doubt. In the absence of belief, where lies the mere possibility of success?

One of my favorite quotes, said by Thomas Jefferson, is “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done before.” Believing in yourself is the first step.

Pick a word that energizes you and aligns with whatever your personal goals may be- whether they’re related to running, academics, or exercising vigilant care over a chronic disease. Perhaps your word may be “calm,” “preserve,” “strong,” “focus,” “forward,” “smile,” “patience,” “appreciate,” or anything that motivates you towards progress.

I haven’t had the best running week- I’ve gotten in my normal mileage, but I’ve felt quite exhausted and sluggish. However, every  time I see the word “believe” plastered on my wall, I know that I must get out the door and do my best. I urge you to choose a word and place it somewhere as a constant reminder. I hope you find as much encouragement as I have- comment below!


Peppermint Oreo Ice Cream Cake


I’ve always wanted to try ice cream cake. I remember going to countless birthday parties growing up where ice cream cake was served, but my mom and I never tried to make a safe version for me ourselves. Now that I am addicted to Dunkin Donuts unsweetened ice tea, I am tempted by their ice cream cakes everyday on my lunch break at work. This weekend, I decided it was time to stop feeling sorry for myself for not being able to have this treat and start creating my own dream ice cream cake.

This recipe is simple and foolproof yet absolutely delectable. It’s only four ingredients, yet I promise your taste buds will be thanking you! Best of all, it’s dairy, egg, peanut, and tree nut free, and vegan as well. Can’t have soy? Substitute with coconut milk. Can’t have gluten? Use your own favorite sandwich cookie. The possibilities are endless- you could try a crushed graham cracker crust, a different flavor ice cream, or mixing in your own favorite candy or fruit. Let me know what combinations you come up with!

You will need…

2 quarts Creamy Vanilla So Delicious Dairy Free Soymilk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

1 package Oreo cookies

6 crushed candy canes

¼ cup melted Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine



Oreo Crust

Place 24 Oreos in a food processor and blend until desired crumb texture. Add melted margarine and pulse until well combined. Place the ground crumb mixture into a 10” springform pan and press evenly onto bottom. Refrigerate this crust for at least one hour.


Peppermint Ice Cream

Take ice cream out of freezer and let soften for 20 minutes. Put ice cream into a large mixing bowl. Add 4 crushed candy canes. Mix with hand mixer until smooth. Add more crushed candy canes if desired before pouring mixture into springform pan. Place in freezer for at least 2-3 hours.


Remove cake from freezer and top with chopped remaining Oreos and crushed candy canes. Place back in freezer until ready to serve.






When you’re nineteen-years-old, you want to look your age. You want to appear like the mature, college-student that you are- maybe even older. You do not want to look like you’re twelve. Well, for some reason, since I was about sixteen, I have continuously been mistaken for a twelve-year-old. This phenomenon is increasingly common, and I can’t tell you why. It truly bothers me, yet it makes me laugh- after all, twelve is the same distance from five as it is from nineteen. What follows is a collection of the more interesting remarks I’ve received:


It started to bother me when I became an upperclassman in high school…


Librarian: Are you a freshman? You must be nervous coming to such a large school. Do you have any questions- I’d be happy to help!

Actually, I’m a freshmen mentor. I just wanted to ask if you could tell those youngsters in the back to be quiet! Am I carrying a map? No! Am I carrying a freshman backpack (okay, well maybe) Do I look lost, overwhelmed, or confused? I sure don’t think so!


So I thought that once I got to college, people on campus would inevitably assume I was at least a college freshman, but I was wrong…


Attractive Upperclassman in Cafeteria: “Are you a visiting high school student?”

What on earth would cause you to approach me and ask me this?!


But that’s not the only hopeless romance…


Lifeguard at My Brother’s Overnight Camp: “Umm how old are you? You have to be twelve to ride in the ski boat without a life jacket.”

I later found out he was my age (and attractive,) but I doubt your typical college guy would see a twelve-year-old as a potential partner.


There are some benefits…


Horse Racetrack Ticket Agent: “So that’s two adults and a child?”

At least I save my parents $10.


But I don’t necessarily want to be thought of as a child…


Waitress: “We do have a kids menu, you know.”

I didn’t order anything because of my allergies, not because I would’ve rather had chicken nuggets.


Nurse at Camp: “Where is your buddy? Are you okay? What cabin are you in?”

Actually, I am the intern for the American Diabetes Association, not a camper at a camp for kids ages 9-13.

I thought maybe runners naturally looked young- the lean, athletic, no-makeup look- but perhaps I’m too hopeful…


Workout Class Instructor: “Wow, look at that girl in the pink shirt. She’s really getting into this! But how old are you sweetie? This class is for fourteen and up.”

Thanks for making everyone in the class gawk at me.


And then there’s this thing about airports…


Airport Ticket Agent: “We have an unaccompanied minor!” After showing her my license- “Wow, you really look like you’ve twelve.” Then, to her coworker- “How old do you think this little girl looks? She’s actually in college! Can you believe it?!”

No, I can’t.


TSA Agent (as I begin to untie my shoes): “Excuse me, but how old are you?”

Maybe I should be taking advantage this- kids under twelve can leave on their shoes as they go through security.


Another Airport Employee: “Sweetie, do you know where you’re going?”

I am walking with a purpose, passing several people as I go, carrying my Longchamp bag on one shoulder and Vera Bradley duffle on the other, wearing knee-high leather boots, an infinity scarf, and my Kate Spade glasses- what makes her think I am a lost child in need of help?!


And I’m sure they’ll be plenty more to come….

Behind the Facade


It is a blessing yet a curse. A relief yet a disguise. While I am small and may appear young for my age, from the outside, I look like a healthy teenage girl. For the most part, I am- I eat a balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins; I exercise daily; I try my best to prioritize sleep- I do all that I can to live a healthy life. What no one can see, however, is what is going on inside my body- what I cannot see, what I cannot control- an antibody overload.

I was diagnosed with my life-threatening food allergies when I was a baby, and I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during my freshman year of high school, so about four and a half years ago. Therefore, you would think that, by now, I would be accustomed to the challenges of managing these chronic medical conditions. Numbers would verify your assertion- my last episode of anaphylaxis was to a bee sting (something out of my control,) and I have not had a food-related anaphylaxis episode since I was in elementary school and ate a cookie with trace amounts of milk (the cookie was then sent to the FDA, and the company was shut down!) My hemoglobin A1c is consistently near five percent- meaning that my blood sugar is comparable to that of a non-diabetic individual. Based on these scientific facts, you would think I am the perfect example of a teen successfully managing food allergies and diabetes. You would think that these conditions do not bother me on a daily basis. You would think that I have become fully acculturated to these medical hardships. I wish I could say you were right, but I cannot.

I want to illustrate my point with a hypothetical situation similar to one I’ve dealt with before. For situations involving multiple nights away from home or airplane travel, multiply the stress and preparation by ten.

It’s the afternoon of my sorority formal. Nervous excitement fills the air as my friends scamper to get ready. Does this dress make me look fat? Who is good at curling hair? Which purse goes best with these shoes? How far do you think they’ll go? I hope he likes me. I hope this night lasts forever. Typical college-girl anxieties.

In my head, quite different thoughts arise. Is it better to leave my comfort zone and possibly cause a scene at a restaurant I’ve never been to while trying to explain my allergies or to bring my own safe food? Is it worth it to fit in but risk a reaction? If I bring my own food, how will I keep it cold until we get there? The hotel assured me that they would provide a refrigerator for my room, but what if it’s not there? What if it’s too cold for my insulin (don’t want a repeat of the school nurse freezing my turkey on the 7th grade Springfield trip!)How many extra sandwiches should I bring? What if our group decides to stay in Atlanta later than planned the next day? How many cups of Cheerios? I need to measure mine out in advance to know how many carbs I’m eating- but what if my friends see my food and ask to share? I don’t want to be rude. Should I just bring the whole box? I’ll bring my own bar of soap, but what if the hotel’s soap contains milk or almonds (also don’t want a repeat of a playgroup party where everyone washed their hands in effort to keep me safe but ended up making me sick!) How many lancets should I bring? Pen needles? Alcohol swabs? Where will I put my purse during the dance? Most girls will hand their guy their cell phone to stick in his pocket, but I don’t think all of my supplies- two EpiPens, Benadryl, meter, insulin pen, and glucose- will fit. I hate looking like an obnoxious girl who can’t bear to leave her oversized purse- I wish everyone could just know the reason why. How left out will I feel when my friends are drinking? Will people think I’m no fun? What if my date and I hit it off and he tries to kiss me? I can pretty much guarantee he will have eaten something I’m allergic to within the past few hours. What if I need medical help and everyone is too drunk to notice or care?

These thoughts seem to belong to a ridiculously anxious person- one who fears everyday life. I do not fear daily life, and I take every opportunity I can to embrace my food allergies and diabetes. But these are the thoughts that run through my head- I presume that, upon looking at me, no one would imagine this. I am different. By no means do I wish that my medical conditions defined my outward appearance, but it does make it harder for my peers to understand. By no means is it their fault-only other individuals living with similar challenges would know how I feel.

So as we are getting ready, I reply to my friends- No, that dress does not make you look fat. My hair is naturally curly, so I cannot help with that. I think your silver clutch is killer with those platforms. I’m really excited for tonight too- but am I? Yes, of course I am- it’s my first college formal, after all. The nervous excitement is contagious, and I’ve heard spectacular stories about this weekend from the older girls.

I wish I could shed the weight that all of my medical preparations bear upon me. I wish I could have the same worries as a typical college girl. But my allergies and diabetes have made me the person that I am. While these medical conditions are sometimes considered disabilities, in several ways, it is easy to see them as abilities- instilling within me the persistence and perseverance that make me an endurance runner, the discipline and drive that make me a strong student, and the conscientiousness and responsibility that make me a loyal friend.