Impactful Heroines

Ever since I was little, I’ve loved two things: Broadway and books. Why? Because I loved delving into a world and dissecting the different characters to figure out their actions and what makes them tick so I could better understand them. I love stories (true or fictional!) and the ability they have to connect and resonant with different people. As I look back, I realize I’ve always looked up to and connected with strong female characters. These characters were the outliers, girls who were different and dared to think and dream differently than everyone else. What drew me to these different characters was that I saw parts of myself in them. I felt like I could relate to their situations and their thought processes. As I analyzed each character, I learnt from them and what I learnt helped me grow as a person. Below, I have chosen a few of the characters that have had a long lasting impact on me and how old I was when I grew up with them.

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Laura Ingalls Wilder – 8-11
I’m pretty sure Laura was the first female protagonist that I looked up to. She was bold, brave, spunky and wanted to play by her own rules. I admired how loyal she was and how she was more than willing to speak her mind. I think the best part of her character was how she was imperfect. I felt like that made her even more relatable as a character. I like how she constantly pushed the boundaries of convention and how she strove to improve and keep challenging herself.

For one Christmas, I got a huge stack of books about the real Laura which I promptly devored. I even got to see the Little House On The Prairie musical when it came to town. A friend of my mom’s made me a bonnet and I thought it was the coolest thing. I still have it.

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Katniss Everdeen – 11-13
At the end of my Little House on the Prairie obsession, I discovered the Hunger Games and was fascinated by Katniss. Actually, I read the first book when I was nine but wasn’t impressed. For some reason, it wasn’t my cup of tea at the time. The second time around, I was drawn to her strength and tenacity. She was willing to go the distance to protect the people that she cared about. Like me, she didn’t let a lot of people into her inner circle but the ones she allowed in she fiercely loved and protected. She was resilient and refused to let anything or anyone change her. I loved how she didn’t care what anyone thought about her. She had her own set of morals and rules and she refused to compromise no matter how difficult the situation was.

Katniss was the one who initially got me to like the color green. It’s still my favorite color. I also tried archery because of her. My mom, a friend, his mom, and I saw the first movie together and I absolutely loved it… I said every line with each character for the entire film.

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Nina Rosario – 14-17
Nina Rosario is a character from a musical called “In The Heights.” She’s a Latina woman and the first in her family to attend college. To this day, her song “Breathe” still resonates strongly with me because I see so much of myself in her. She and I are so alike. We’re both daughters of parents who immigrated to the states. We both are hard on ourselves and have a huge fear of failure because we don’t want to let our family, friends, and ourselves down. She also struggles with the questions that I do about trying to find our identities and trying to find our place in the world as well as trying to figure out how we fit into our two cultures. Just listening to what she sings throughout the show brings tears to my eyes because I feel like she says what I feel… she understands. Here’s part of another song from the show… Nina’s lyrics are the same things I struggle with. I’m trying to learn more about my culture, I’m trying to learn Chinese, and I still don’t know where I’m supposed to be. At the end of the musical, she’s able to get some answers and choose a path for herself. I’m not quite there yet but I know that I will and everything will be okay.

 

In this post, I chose to focus on the characters that had made a major impact on me. Here are a few characters that deserve honorable mention: Clarisse from Fahrenheit 451, Petra Arkadian from Ender’s Game, Francie Nolan from Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, Tris Prior from Divergent, Johanna Mason and Clove from the Hunger Games, Annabeth Chase from Percy Jackson and Campbell Davis from Bring It On:The Musical.

Currently, I don’t have a character that I’m growing up with/ learning from but I can’t wait to find her. Each of these girls left such an impression on me and are a reminder of the importance of human connection and the power of a story.

The End

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Depression and Anxiety: My Story

I don’t often talk about my depression or anxiety. In a lot of cases where I think to talk about struggling with them, my anxiety kicks in to dissuade me. Today we’re going to talk about it anyway. It’s better that way. It’s just hard to convince myself that that’s true sometimes.

Several months ago, I wrote two paragraphs about how my depression paired with procrastination:

I struggle with depression. As much as I wish it didn’t, it affects my ability to finish articles for the blog. A disclaimer: I don’t deal with depression all the time, some days are better than others, and overall things seem to be improving.

Justine and I have talked about feeling swamped with the obligations we have offline and online. She has so many responsibilities, that sometimes my reason for not working on the blog when I have time feels like a cop-out, an excuse, and not a valid one. I could have been writing, but instead I was on Facebook, or Quora, or chatting with my friends on Discord, or anything else. I even open the Google doc I write my articles in. The tab sits, idle. I want to write, I need to write, but I don’t feel like doing anything. Sometimes I can force myself to write anyway. Other times I while away the hours on the internet, thinking how I’m not even enjoying myself but not liking any of my other pastimes any better in the present.

Some of that is still accurate. Sometimes. I still have days where I want to do nothing, I don’t feel like I can do anything, and I only get out of bed because I have to turn off my alarm. Generally, things have improved from when I wrote those two paragraphs. I started my personal blog in July and that’s forced me to focus. I worry every day about if I have content prepared, if I’ll keep up my daily posting, if I’ll miss a day, etc. Every. Day.

As far as depression goes, I had a lot of dark nights of feeling hopeless and worthless. I pushed through it, and while I felt really horrid for a long time after, I kept putting one foot in front of the other. If I hadn’t had strict deadlines for the last two years of high school, it probably would have taken me a lot longer to graduate than it did. As it was, no matter how unmotivated I was, no matter how much I didn’t feel like I could do anything that day, I had to force myself to get out of bed and do it anyway. Most of that force was fear of bad grades and of not finishing things on time and “what if I don’t graduate because I didn’t do this?” But I also spent a lot of time not doing homework when I should have been.

More recently, as I gained more control over my own life and my direction, I’ve dealt with depression less frequently. Things seemed especially bright around the time I started dating my boyfriend, last December. I had just gotten accepted into Praxis, so I knew what a year of my life was going to look like and I was so excited. Things were looking up. I noticed one month that I could feel the effects of depression but I was in an okay mood, none of the usual bad thoughts were there, which was unusual. This happened just about every month, and I think it may be partially connected to my period. This was quite the revelation.

I had one day that was so bad, depression and anxiety mixed together so well that I had to call off work. I was a mess, crying and irritable, and unmotivated and stressed out for no reason I didn’t think I could handle it. There were other days that were that bad where I still had to go in because to call off would get me fired. Those days were the hardest. Being on the verge of a mental breakdown while putting on a brave face and helping customers is probably the most difficult thing I have ever done. I don’t get a lot done when that happens, because I keep going to the bathroom about to cry, on top of all the other directions they pull me.

A lot of various interpersonal interactions make me uncomfortable and anxious. It’s normal to be nervous about public speaking and interviews, after all, they tend to be important. For me, those nerves can extend to other situations that aren’t strictly either. I can recall being asked to read a few Bible verses at youth group one night. To everyone. Unexpectedly. Over the speakers. I was shaking and hoped no one could tell how terrified I was. When I speak up and participate in group conversations, if I’m not familiar with everyone and comfortable with them, I get wild butterflies in my stomach. There’s been very few exceptions to this. Sometimes I have something I want to say but can’t. I have to convince myself to do it. If I finally do get to the point of forcing myself to speak, I feel shaky and nervous. It’s horrible, and it’s hard to convince myself that everything will be okay. So I tend to watch other people interact at group events rather than participate.

In really large group activities, I’ll latch on to a person or a few people I’m comfortable with and stick with them. If I lose them, it freaks me out and I feel lost and confused and strikingly out of place. I’ll frantically search for them or find a place to stand away from the crowd. Recently, my boyfriend and I went to a homeschool carnival my friends invited me to. I was a bit on-edge because of how many people were there, even though they were scattered over a large area. When I lost track of two of my friends, realizing they’d wandered off while I was absorbed in conversation with my boyfriend, I mentally freaked out. I scanned the crowd, trying desperately to find them. We found them and stood with them before going to wait for the carriage ride. Under the pavillion it was loud and my heart was beating fast and while I knew logically it was okay, I felt really unsafe. After the carriage ride, I felt really uncomfortable and out of place and very much not okay. So I said I was ready to leave. My boyfriend asked if I was sure, and I said yeah, so we said goodbye to my friends and left. I nearly burst into tears as we walked to my car and he asked if I was okay. And I said yes so I wouldn’t cry right then. I cried later, feeling horrible. I had wanted so badly to enjoy my time at the event with my friends and I couldn’t because I was so stressed out the whole time. I like to spend time with people, I really do, but I do much better with smaller groups of people that I know well.

Things can be really hard sometimes, but it’s not all bad. Since I started working at Walmart, I’ve gotten better at talking to strangers and feel more comfortable conversing with people I don’t know well. I also feel more in control of my life and that I’m moving toward my goals in a concrete way. That has helped me have more hope for the future, which erases a lot of the bad thoughts aspect that was so prominent in my depression. I know less about anxiety, because I realized more recently that I was even dealing with it and how it was affecting me. It seemed to be getting worse, but now that I know it’s there, I can take steps to better cope and combat it.

I may not have overcome my mental health problems yet, but I’ve made progress, especially in the last year. I may never be totally free of depression or anxiety, but I have hope for the future and know that it can and will get better. It will take time and effort, but I will get there.

Why I Don’t Wear Makeup

If you were to put a bunch of makeup in front of me, I would have literally no clue what to do with any of it. I’m a simple, no frills person and my getting ready routine consist of me brushing my teeth, washing my face, putting on some toner, getting dressed and fixing my hair.

Why don’t I wear makeup like the majority of teenage girls? Here are my four main reasons why:

 

 

  • My Time Is Valuable

 

I am of the mindset that I could use my time in a more constructive and productive way than taking time to apply makeup. I could read, study, sleep, work, spend time with my family, or sometimes watch my favorite studytubers or clips of broadway shows. Another positive of this routine is that I only need a short amount of time to get ready for the day or to go out. We all have 24 hours in a day and I want to make the most of my time.

 

 

  • Makeup Is Expensive

 

According to this article on Allure, women spend an average of $300,000 on facial beauty products in their lifetime. That is a very large amount of money and could be saved for a number of practical or non-practical purposes. For example, said money could be used for an emergency fund, college tuition, rent, or a down payment for a vehicle or house, travel, seeing concerts or shows, or buying books.

 

 

  • Self-Acceptance Is Important

 

I think it’s important to be confident and comfortable with who you are and how you look without making changes to your appearance, even temporary ones. It can be unnerving going out when my face isn’t clear but I think it’s important to be able to walk around and carry myself with confidence even if don’t particularly feel it at the moment.

 

Sometimes, I worry about what other people will think of how I look at a particular moment. However, I realize that a lot of the fear of perception is actually just me getting inside my own head and I don’t want to be ruled by fear of perceptions or merely perceived perceptions.

 

I also am a firm believer in looking past a person’s outward appearance and looking at who they are and their hearts. Some of the most beautiful people I have met are not the most outwardly beautiful but are beautiful because of who they are and how they carry themselves.

 

  1. It Just Isn’t Interesting

This is perhaps the most straightforward of my reasons. If you know me at all, you will know that I am very much no frills and no nonsense. I don’t understand the attraction of makeup nor do I understand why people consider it a necessity. Makeup is not something I find interesting or useful so I simply don’t invest any of my time or resources into it.

 

In conclusion, I have a various reasons why I don’t wear makeup. First, I want to use my time as efficiently as possible. I also want to be a good steward of my resources. Next, as a young person, I think it’s really important that you learn to value yourself exactly as you are. Lastly, I simply have no interest in the subject. Personally, I’d rather save my money or use it on experiences and other purchases that I think are more useful and beneficial.

 

Readers: Do you wear makeup? Explain why or why not in the comments below!

“The Second Act Industry,” a Response

Recently I came across an article published by the New York Times titled “The Snake Oil of the Second Act Industry” by Alissa Quart. She details how middle-aged people, especially those who are stressed by their lack of retirement funds, attempt to pivot their career lives to make more money before they retire. She details some problems with the industry surrounding this phenomenon, termed the “second act” and the problems with the industry. Overall, she argues that the middle-aged are being taken advantage of by the second act industry and the government needs to provide more social support. In this piece, I have responded to specific portions that I felt deserved a response. The full article can be read here.

 

“I call the businesses propelling that promise of reinvention the “second-act industry,” and it includes for-profit universities, certificate programs and coaches getting in on the new trend — all of them helping, for a fee, people who are trying to get back into or ahead in the work force.”

Some of these programs may in fact take advantage of the middle-aged people they purport to help, as this article asserts. However, some of the blame may be on the people using these services and their blind trust in the programs or degrees being offered. Some investigation into the service, the promised results, and the actual results could help people weigh the pros and cons of such as products and services. That does not mean it would be easy, but if more people become aware of how careers are changing and how hiring practices are changing, it would become easier to adapt to the current job world and discern between scams and legitimate companies.

 

“The industry appeals to anxious and sometimes underqualified middle-aged students who are enticed by a constellation of websites, special programs, self-help books and gurus.”

People are drawn in by the promise of more earning power. The methods purported may be questionable and the price may be too high, but people are willing to pay for it. I agree with the later assertions that something needs to be done to help the middle aged people who fall into this trap, but I do not agree with the proposed solution. As more people test strategies for the current job market and given a larger body of proof, it will help the aging members of the work force adapt more effectively.

 

“To survive as workers, we have to deny, on some level, the realities of our bodies — bodies that age and give birth. While more people are working later in life because of happy things like longer life expectancy, they are also doing so because of very sad things, like a lack of Social Security benefits or retirement plans.”

It is unfortunate that so many people have planned their retirement with Social Security in mind. This places a burden on taxpayers and fuels emotionally charged arguments for why it must be kept, such as, “it cannot be repealed because people rely on it.” When people have the capacity to plan for retirement by saving money, they may partially have themselves to blame for their newfound poverty. However, a lot of people either do not have extra income, have relied on faulty retirement savings methods, or did not save enough to account for inflation and the increased living costs that come with being older. This is a problem, and it will take time and effort to “fix it” and to take care of the elderly people who are currently relying on Social Security benefits.

 

“The real problem is that middle-aged people are unlikely to have pensions or savings because of inadequate federal social support in this country. Unfortunately, individual ambition… doesn’t always do the trick.Yet we continue to believe. Perhaps it’s because the roots of our faith in second acts are long.”   

Federal social support comes from the money taxpayers make. The more the government forcibly takes from those working now, the less they have available to use for themselves and their families. Instead of solving the problem, this could just move more of it to younger people. In fact, based on this article and what I already know about this problem, it seems like federal social support enacted in the past helped cause this problem, not that further social support programs will fix it. I talk about this more in a later paragraph.

 

“So instead of putting the blame on people caught in this bind, what if we had better anti-ageist work policies? What if companies were incentivized to hire older workers? And what if middle-aged people who are casting about for a second act had real societal support while they did so, like free after-school programs for their children or a monthly basic income guarantee, like the one now being piloted in Ontario?”

This is not a solution I would back. In fact, if such a program were presented to people in my community, I would vote against it and encourage others to do the same. These “free after-school programs” will cost money, and who will pay for them? Taxpayers. Who pays for Social Security? Taxpayers. Instead of people voluntarily helping others who need it, either financially or in some other way, the government forcibly takes money from everyone in order to help them. This government welfare is often not the best way to help the person in need, or it is ineffective. Additionally, having more of these tax-funded programs will require higher taxes, thus decreasing the benefit for those who it is supposed to be helping. If instead private institutions or groups of people came together and either raised money to help people in this situation or volunteered their time to help them, that would be more effective and would not require the government to steal money from everyone.

 

“We should look to create fixes for middle-aged workers that are not solely reliant on private inspirations or pricey new degrees. We need public solutions for midlife career atrophy and joblessness so that people don’t get into even deeper debt and blame themselves for their failures.”

These public solutions will require increased taxes, which hurt everyone. The “pricey new degrees” are not effective, yes, that is true. In the changing job market, tangible skills are more valuable than a degree, because so many people have degrees. The value of the degree has decreased but the price has increased. While yes, the middle aged people facing this problem might be prone to blame themselves, it is not a social or societal problem for the most part. The government has lied about Social Security, presenting it as a form of “insurance,” and misleading people as to how it functions, contributing to the problem. Back when FDR enacted the New Deal and instituted Social Security, it was intended to be temporary. Instead, people protested attempts to repeal it after the economy had recovered from the Great Depression (not even because of the New Deal, as Tom Woods details well in 33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask). Now, it has been around long enough that people plan for Social Security to help supplement their retirement savings. Will it be hard for people when or if it is repealed? Yes, because they are dependent on this money that is taken from all the working people and handed to them. But it is not and should not be the government’s job to take care of people in this way. We should be caring for each other, not relying on the government to help people.

Panem vs the US: Could Fiction Become Reality?

The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins is a well-known story about romance, revolution, and resilience. The books and movies follow Katniss Everdeen as she is thrown into a fight to the death against twenty-three other teenagers for the entertainment of the Capitol and her subsequent involvement in a revolution to overthrow the Capitol’s rule over the general population.

Recently, I decided to reread The Hunger Games to compare the book world to the real world.

The country Panem occupies a large part of former North America, the landform of which has been severely altered due to the rise of sea levels. Surrounding the Rocky Mountains are thirteen Districts which have been subjugated by the Capitol located within the mountains. The Capitol uses force via Peacekeepers (armoured soldiers similar to the Stormtroopers in Star Wars), to keep order and ensure that each District produces enough resources to meet the Capitol’s demand. Seventy-four years before the books begin, there was a revolution to overthrow the Capitol which ended in failure. Following the failed revolution, the thirteenth District was supposedly destroyed. At the same time, the governing body in the Capitol instituted the Hunger Games in order to pit the Districts against each other to ensure division and to instill enough fear to quell the thought of any further revolts. For a time, this method worked and peaceful submission was maintained.

In terms of technology, people, for the most part, have access to much of the same items we do. However, there are several instances where technology is more or sometimes less advanced than the world we know. In the Districts, people tend to live slightly more primitively due to their poverty. However, every household, no matter how rich or poor, has Capitol-issued televisions for the sole purpose of disseminating propaganda. In the Capitol, the majority of people tend to have the standard of living close to middle class Americans although there are citizens that live on the two extremes of being either extraordinarily rich or devastatingly poor.

For clothing and fashion, there is both similarity and stark contrast to Western civilization. In District 12, the poorest people who live in the Seam wear plain clothes that often are infused with coal dust while the richer merchants, whose clothes are also relatively simple, tend to be cleaner and have more variety. This is not unlike today. In contrast, among citizens of the Capitol, wild fashion, including “aesthetic” over-the-top body modifications, is common. The people dye their hair unnatural colors or wear wigs in order to stand out. Both men and women wear heavy, extravagant makeup. This is more dissimilar to today, where while some people dye their hair bright colors and men sometimes use makeup, most do not go to the extremes seen in the book.

The books focus mainly on the relationship between the government and its citizens, especially the citizens in the Districts. Both the Capitol overall and President Snow specifically subjugate the Districts. The annual Hunger Games are meant to remind the Districts of their failed revolt and the Capitol’s power over them. The level of control that the government has in the books is greater than that seen in the United States today, however, our government is taking more and more power over citizens. In some countries of the world, there have been governments that control or have controlled their citizens with methods similar to the Capitol. The examples that most closely match Panem are Communist dictatorships of the past and present, or even religious groups that are better termed cults.

Although the state of Panem seems a little absurd at the moment, the US government is gradually becoming increasingly controlling and oppressive. One cannot help but see some parallels between Panem and our own society. Perhaps it is not so far fetched to believe that our own society could one day dissolve into post apocalyptic chaos.

What comparisons or contrasts have you noticed between the real world and Panem? Let us know in the comments!

Life With Food Allergies

To most of the world, food is something fun, exciting, comforting and a way to bring people together. More importantly, food is nutritious and keeps you alive, right? For over 15 million Americans, food can be something that’s a little more sinister, dangerous and even anxiety and fear inducing. On many occasions, I actually get anxiety when I go into a restaurant even if I know I’m not eating. I get very nervous and stressed and I unconsciously scratch at my left wrist.

 

Imagine life where you have to check labels every time you want to eat or use something or oftentimes, call the companies to verify ingredients and the safety of a product. The simple addition of a “may contain” statement can completely eliminate a trusted food or product from your daily use/diet. Complacency is not an option because a mistake can be deadly. Allergens are not just limited to food, they can found in everything from soaps to lotions to shampoos to toothpaste. You have to be constantly on your guard because your allergen could be hidden in many unexpected locations. For example, getting hives from trying a bicycle at Walmart or having a reaction because someone cooked your food with cookware that had accidentally come in contact with your allergen. These are just a few examples of my reality because I am anaphylactic (deathly allergic) to eggs, peanuts and all tree nuts.

 

So, what exactly are food allergies? According to FARE, “A food allergy is a medical condition in which exposure to a food triggers a harmful immune response. The immune response, called an allergic reaction, occurs because the immune system attacks proteins in the food that are normally harmless. The proteins that trigger the reaction are called allergens. Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that is sudden in onset and can cause death.”

 

Just after I was born, within the first 48 hours, my mother noticed that I got sick after she ate a meatball sub sandwich. From then on, through her astute observation, she noticed that what she ate affected me through her breast milk. It was quite hard to miss because my diaper regularly showed that the food she ate went right through me. Remember that celebratory meatball sub at the hospital? The meatsauce dyed my poop blood red. The nurses at the hospital’s maternity ward said it was normal.

 

After bringing me home, the pattern continued. The first week past. Then the first month. Although my mom tried to bring this up to the pediatrician multiple times, he and the staff thought my mom was simply a hypochondriac, first time mother and completely dismissed her concerns. The doctor kept telling her that the explosive bowel movements were all normal and not to worry. Deep down, she knew something was not right and decided to keep a food journal of everything she ate and my reactions for a period of 2 months. In those two months, she eliminated dairy, citrus and tomatoes. It didn’t help that I was not sleeping much. I was gassy and pooped a lot. Just plain miserable. The pediatrician said to add solids to my breastmilk so I could sleep better. My mom, at the insistence of the pediatrician’s nurses, introduced me to Cheerios (disaster) and other regular foods. She saved egg and peanut butter for last. I wouldn’t eat egg. After I had refused it repeatedly, my mom decided to put it away. However, by that time, the hardboiled egg had brushed against my mouth and a rash instantly appeared. After that, the experiment ended there without proceeding to the peanut butter stage.

 

So, at the second month’s visit, she showed the pediatrician how she eliminated her diet of the offending foods and how my health improved. He immediately sent me to an allergist who confirmed I had a multitude of allergies and sensitivities. After that, I didn’t really eat until the age of two with the exception of crackers and cheerios and even those foods were causing me to have minor reactions. All I wanted was breast milk. At that point in my life, food was put into three categories: safe, potentially allergic and extremely allergic. The blood test had shown that I was severely allergic to peanuts and eggs; and moderately allergic to tree nuts, dairy, wheat, soy and peas – in that order.  For a time, only meats, rice and leafy vegetables made the safe list. My mom was my biggest advocate, spending hours doing research on an archaic computer with dial up internet in the dead of night (better connection late at night with fewer users) and lots of experimentation trying to figure out what I could or couldn’t safely eat. She also spent many hours trying to source safe food from a very small pool of food available at the time and preparing me nutritious food from scratch. Because of the many challenges involved in finding and preparing safe foods, I was not able to enjoy a diverse range of foods until I was three, after I had passed my dairy challenge and wheat, soy and peas were no longer a threat.

 

Food allergies affect every part of my life. When I was younger, I was very anxious – can I swim safely at the pool? Can I eat or work safely at the table at school? If I played on the playground equipment at the park, will I have a reaction just from touch? This lifestyle is not a choice, but something I’m constantly dealing with 24/7. Starting when I was a toddler, I had to learn responsibility and how to manage having food allergies. My mom used to make me flashcards with the names of all the the things I was allergic to so I could learn to recognize the words and know if something was safe or not. Thankfully, I learnt to read at the age of two and was able to start reading ingredients on things for myself. Between the ages of two and five, I attended preschool. This meant that I had to learn how to advocate for myself and read ingredients of things with help from my mom. I also started carrying around my EpiPen and had to learn to remember to keep it with me at all times.

 

Allergies don’t just affect an individual, they affect the whole family. In a major case of irony, my family is a bunch of foodies. Living with food allergies was a big adjustment for the whole family because my parents and siblings love food. We love talking about it, making it, eating it and watching shows about it. Although I can’t always eat everything, I enjoy watching and helping the family to pick what they eat. In another stroke of irony, I actually learnt how to cook poached eggs via Youtube even though I will never be able to prepare or eat them. I sometimes feel bad for my siblings because they love eggs but aren’t able to eat them very often because of me. As a precaution, we don’t cook eggs at home because the protein residue is sticky, invisible and hard to remove without contaminating surfaces and utensils. My family eats eggs at restaurants but my three siblings have yet to eat nuts on too many occasions because it truly strikes fear in them. They don’t want to make me sick or cause me to have hives upon contact if they did eat nuts. After eating foods that contain my allergens, the family has a protocol of using a separate bathroom to brush their teeth, wash their hands and sanitizing their toothbrushes. They also know not to share food with me or kiss me for days afterwards.

 

It can be awkward at times trying to navigate social situations with allergies. Food is such an integral part of socialization and I don’t think people realize that. I used to hate having food allergies and how it made me different from everyone else. I don’t hate them anymore, but I still get self conscious sometimes when I go out and have to bring my own food or explain why I’m not eating. Sometimes, it’s tedious having to explain my allergies but I am grateful for the chance to educate people. It has also helped immensely that I have had supportive mentors and friends who have gone out of their way to look out for me and make me feel comfortable.

 

When I was about 12, I decided to stop eating out because I felt that it wasn’t worth risking my life for a restaurant meal following a few incidents. Since then, I have only eaten out maybe five times. My allergies are so severe that I can get a reaction through cross contamination. As an example, if someone’s food preparation gloves touched an egg wash and then touched my food, it would cause a reaction. In another scenario, if my food was prepared on the same surface as fresh pasta made with egg I would be in big trouble upon ingestion. If ingested, I would almost immediately have a reaction.

 

I had one very severe reaction when I was three and a half where I became unconscious and collapsed while playing with my brother.  I had to be injected with an EpiPen and be taken to the hospital. Since then, I’ve had a few reactions that were of slightly lesser severity.  During my less severe reactions, my symptoms include throwing up and having diarrhea for hours, shaking and having my heart feel like it would beat out of my chest because it was pounding so rapidly as well as being dizzy/having a headache. It’s really scary not knowing what’s going on with your own body and how badly it will react while you are having a reaction. Trying to stay calm while your body is experiencing extreme physical duress is mentally and physically draining and terrifying. You have to make yourself calm down because being frantic only exacerbates the symptoms which makes the reaction even worse.

 

What is a reaction? It is where the immune system reacts to a food ingredient which triggers the release of chemicals such as histame from cells in the body. It can cause symptoms such as itching or swelling in the mouth and throat, hives anywhere on the body, runny nose and eyes, reddening of the skin, feeling sick and diarrhoea and/or vomiting. In severe cases, it can cause a sudden feeling of weakness (caused by a drop in blood pressure) or breathing problems (your throat might start to swell up or close). The severe symptoms indicate an anaphylactic reaction and are life threatening.

 

Food allergies have taught me many things such as resilience, resourcefulness and creativity. I don’t dwell on the things I can’t eat or do; I always focus on the things that I can eat and can do. One of the things I enjoy is baking and I love creating my own recipes or modifying recipes to fit my family’s needs. I get immense satisfaction from being self reliant and being able to find and make delicious food that I can eat. I don’t want to feel sorry for myself. I want to live to the fullest the best I can.

 

A big thank you to all the teachers, mentors, friends and parents of my friends in my life for not only looking out for me and advocating for me but also accommodating my allergies and making sure I always felt included. I am so grateful for you all. ❤️

 

Do you have food allergies or know someone who does? Please feel free to leave any questions or comments you may have down below!

 

Can a Bully Reform?

Picture this:

You’re in the supermarket deliberating if the prices for eggplant are worth it or not, when a stranger approaches you. You’re naturally wary and your mind races through all the possible outcomes of this encounter. The stranger calls you by name; by now, you try to place a name on this other person but your mind comes to a blank.

They also apologize, even daring to hug you at the end.  In the midst of all this, all you want to do is push this person off and run for your life. But you don’t. You politely wait until the hug is over and quite blatantly ask for their name. The person is hesitant but after a few moment’s pause, complies. He says his name is Ian and suddenly the memories come flooding back to your mind.

Ian was the name of the semi-popular boy in high school that bullied you for four years straight. He mocked you everyday for dressing poor and called you every name in the book. He made fun of your appearance because you wore braces at one point. The calmness you had faded; anger sparked and all you wanted to do was bop Ian with the eggplant. You didn’t buy his nice act for one minute because if it was one thing you knew, it was that bullies didn’t change for the better.

 

Would that have been you? Would you have accepted Ian’s changed behavior or would you have held onto the past, refusing to acknowledge his good work?

Many of us encounter bullies, be that at our school, the workplace or even our own homes. Bullies aren’t something everyone wants to talk about, especially when it comes to them changing.

Before we get into that, let’s define a bully: a bully is a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.

Teasing someone about their appearance is bullying. Forcing someone to do your homework is bullying. Making fun of someone online is bullying.

It’s often hard for us to accept that change is possible with everyone, even our worst enemy. We don’t think they’re capable under all that cold exterior, when in reality it happens more than we think it does. Society tends to say change isn’t possible, the church says it is. Which is more reliable?

My pastor has often said that hurt people hurt people.

He’s right — when we’re hurting, we tend to want to lash out at those who are happy or have it better than us. It’s a common variable. It’s especially prominent when it comes to revenging those who have hurt us. We want them to feel the pain, we want them to suffer. Scoffing at Ian’s apology or giving him the cold shoulder and watching his face drop with disappointment would be satisfying to that part of us that still feels hurt but most definitely not the best way to handle such a situation.

Does this change your perspective a little? Take that leap if you encounter one, give them a smile and most of all, realize that they’re trying.

 

Erica is Potterhead who enjoys writing, doing tricks on her skateboard and is a huge lover of Batman. She’s about to start her second year of college in hopes of becoming a surgeon in the future.