I have now completed my first full week of college and would love to share with all of you the essay I wrote for my college applications…enjoy!
Prompt: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
I have a lot in common with the peanut. On the outside I have a tough shell, but on the inside, I have more of a soft crunch. Sometimes I can be a little salty, but more often I’m sweet. Plus, I’m really small – the five feet tall kind of small. Although I have similarities with the peanut, paradoxically enough, I can’t eat it. I even needed multiple people to describe the taste of a peanut to me for that characterization above. It’s not that I don’t like it, or am a super picky eater; I’m severely allergic to it, and have been since birth. It’s not just peanuts though. Ask me what I’m allergic to and I’ll respond with a well-rehearsed
I understand that this is a jaw dropping list. In a small town like mine though, it’s no surprise that I am the only person with nine food allergies. However, food allergies are only isolating if you allow them to be. Through my food allergies, I have learned that I am a part of something larger than myself. I am one of 250 million people, one of 15 million Americans, and one of 1.2 million American youth. I may be one person with nine food allergies, but I am one person who can make a difference.
Just as peanuts are grown in clusters and sold together in cans, I want to be united with those that are like me. In August of 2012, I began my journey to achieving this connection when I created my blog “Allergy Alli” as my Girl Scout Silver award and became an advocate for those with food allergies. With every post published and every page view tracked, my digital presence increased, although it was mainly with an unintended audience. I originally aimed to reach out to my peers, but quickly discovered that I gained more interest from the parents of children with food allergies. I often receive messages, emails, and comments from these parents that are filled with encouragement and gratitude for sharing my experiences. Through my blog, these parents gain a better understanding of their children’s disease and what the future potentially holds for them.
As the page views continued to mount and the “likes” on my corresponding Facebook page continued to grow, I took another step in advocacy. I applied and was accepted into the Food Allergy Research and Education’s Teen Advisory Group, also known as TAG. I am now one of 40 members out of a multitude of applicants who applied nationwide, which has given me another opportunity to connect and learn with other allergic teens. The more I wrote, commented, and connected with this group and my followers, the more I learned that the power in my words positively impacts others and makes a difference in their lives.
Just as peanuts take on many different forms, there are more sides to me than just “The Girl with Food Allergies.” I am a scholar, performer, musician, photographer, cheerleader… I can just as easily be found curled up reading Les Misérables as I can be found singing “I Dreamed a Dream.” I almost always have a camera dangling from my neck or my pompoms shaking in my hands. It’s these characteristics that I tend to write about on my blog because it’s never been about my food allergies, but how I live with them. My food allergies are a large and important part of who I am, but they are not everything I am.
When I was younger, I hated being different and set apart from everyone else. I’ve come to learn, however, that food allergies are what you make them. Now, I don’t mind being different if it means I can make a difference. The best part is, I have many more years ahead of me, and I’ve only just cracked the shell.