It’s not nuts to be cautious: Being allergic in a nutshell

Lauren Sonnenberg

Anyone who has shared a meal with me knows I carry an Epi-Pen at all times and many can even recite my speech: “I’m allergic to all nuts, seeds and coconuts.” They all know I triple check to make sure nothing accidentally gets into my food.

I take my allergies seriously, and they require a constant vigilance. The danger in allergies is a lack of attention to detail, disregard for safety and reckless decision making—all similar to choices we must make in our lives, especially as we contemplate college.

The evolution of how I deal with my allergies and how others around me reacted has been similar to how many kids mature into teenagers.
When I was little, I was far less concerned with the gravity of the danger that came with eating a nut. Similarly, at a young age, decisions carry less weight and the decision maker is far less likely to take other factors into consideration (like how others will be affected).

With maturity, we become more responsible and we are more likely to notice things around us, but this does not necessarily mean that we are prone to making safe decisions.

As I have matured, I have become far more concerned with my allergies, so much so that I am prone to panic attacks at even the hint of an allergy attack. We should treat things that threaten our safety (like drunk driving and doing drugs) with the same care and concern for our well-being.

By no means do I mean to say that my allergies have been a huge hindrance on my growth—I recognize that there are individuals whose health threats are far more grave than my allergies. They have not ruined my life—the terror of a hospital trip has been counterbalanced by many funny memories—like when Camelia Somers ’14 and I debated whether or not I should experiment and try a peanut in seventh grade, or when Beatrice Fingerhut ’14 had to leave Chronicle layout with me to drive to the hospital, or that Shana Haddad ’14 still maintains that when I broke out into hives on a double-date (a double date that I was unaware of)  Sophomore year, it was just an excuse to go home early.

Just like with any experience, there is as much chance for fun as there is for danger. The most significant role my allergies have played in my life is teaching me responsibility.

I’ve been to the hospital a few times in the years since I became aware of my allergies, but it has always been with the company of parents or friends, passing the responsibility onto others instead of just myself.

My most recent trip to the hospital was a few weeks after I turned 18, meaning I was signing myself into the hospital as an adult. Granted, my parents and brothers accompanied me (my older brother Jake ’11 seemed a little too pleased with the opportunity to stab me with the Epi-Pen) so I was not on my own. But I will be in the coming months and years, and won’t be able to rely on the opinions and guidance of others when I am confronted with a difficult situation or decision.

We formulate our own “moral compass” during our formative years in order to be able to make good decisions when we are being sent out into the “real world.” Hopefully we have developed a sense of responsibility over these past few years to better make the right choices when we are away at college.

As seniors start to make plans to move away from the comfort and safety of home, with parents and teachers available as safety nets and ever-present enforcers of reasonableness, it is now we who will be responsible for most of what happens around us.  We don’t all have allergies of which we must take notice, but everyone will move away and become independent.

With that independence will come responsibility that will need to be called upon from time to time in the face of peer pressure and the chance for fun.  I have learned that even one nut can put my health at risk.  Similarly, one bad decision while away at school carries risks.

We now have to watch out for ourselves and, as my friends are vigilant in protecting me from nuts, we should also watch out for each other. But, at the end of the day, though others care about our well-being, it is solely in our control to make good decisions and be responsible for ourselves.
We need to realize that even the smallest decisions have the potential to greatly impact our lives, both positively and negatively.