Nuts Drive Me Nuts

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

At a Bat Mitzvah I attended in eighth grade, an encounter with seemingly innocent Japanese cabbage-which I did not know was marinated in peanut oil-produced an unparalleled wrath. Upon putting a mere spoonful into my mouth, I went into anaphylactic shock. This taste of hell enveloped my entire body in quarter-sized welts, sent excruciating pains darting up and down my spine, inflated my eyelids and lips so that I resembled a grotesque blowfish, and virtually disabled me from breathing. Calling this treacherous event a near-death experience is not a hyperbole by any means. The maximum safe dosage of Benadryl was a life-saving intervention, pacifying the reaction rapidly enough to prevent the need for an Epi-Pen injection and a visit to the emergency room. If I had not taken any measures, that morsel of lethal cabbage could have taken my life. A trait that has distanced me from most of my peers is my severe allergy to nuts. Nothing else could garner the bewildered gaze at my Medic-Alert bracelet as people guess the identity and magnitude of the medical anomaly engraved on the reverse side, or the sophomoric chuckles when they hear “nuts.” I take the jokes in stride, but few comprehend the burden of living with such a dietary restriction. Scrutinizing ingredient labels is irksome, yet the punishment for slacking off can be fatal. I learned the hard way how imperative it is to investigate the contents of food that is not pre-packaged, since numerous cuisines contain nuts or nut products. Living with a severe food allergy has caused me to mature more quickly than most my contemporaries. Growing up, I have faced an arguably daunting task-finding the words to politely decline certain foods without insulting one’s cooking or housewarming abilities. My limitations have undoubtedly sharpened my awareness and increased my tolerance of others’ food sensitivities, since I completely understand what they go through. Moreover, whether someone is lactose intolerant, of another race, or from a different religion, I empathize with their feeling “different.” No matter how careful I am in monitoring my actions, there is an inevitable margin of error that can only be avoided by literally sealing oneself within a protective barrier, making oneself a “Bubble Boy” (or girl), which I clearly refuse to do. In that way, my allergy is a direct metaphor for going off to college: I will be leaving my comfort zone to enter a much bigger-and potentially threatening-new environment. Since the cafeteria is laden with potentially hazardous foods, I can only rely on myself for protection. Depending on my parents’ vigilance when I have a lapse in judgment, food-related or otherwise, is no longer an option. More importantly, the people I will encounter may not be as sensitive to those who are distinctly different, as I am. I may have always been deprived of peanut butter and jelly, but I possess an allergy that-despite its negative aspects-has constantly reminded me to be open-minded and respectful of others.

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