They say that as you grow up you're supposed to look forward to new experiences. But as a kid with food allergies, no thought scares you more. We thrive in the word "safe." Safe foods, safe restaurants, and safe companies that know how to properly label.
We love what is already known.
"New" is a word that is usually met with a little bit of nausea and definitely a feeling of an oncoming hive or two. "New" poses questions, where "safe" has us comfortably settled within our known barriers.
"New" means taking your first bite of food and starting an internal clock for the itchy tongue or eyes; "new" means waiting twenty minutes on hold only to have a company read a prepared allergy statement that leaves you with less information than you started with.
But it also means finding a safe new restaurant where the owner's daughter is also allergic to nuts and you breathe a little easier, or hearing the final timer go off during a food challenge and knowing a whole new world has just been opened up.
I'm twenty three and I still have to push myself to be comfortable with new things. But I have also decided that I am not going to let my food allergies stand in my way. I am my best advocate, having been trained to be so from a very young age.
Nobody knows me and my safety better than I do. New and dangerous don't have to be synonyms, and with the right questions and conversations, some of the new can become my new safe.