I am JJ: People who live with food allergies must find ways to enjoy the moment.

Photo by Cristian Palmer

Photo by Cristian Palmer

This Post Originally Ran In July.

My message in yesterday's CANspirational video for young people was simple: Be present. Live in the moment. With our busy lives seemingly becoming even busier each day, taking time to stop and look around seems like common sense advice. Yet most of us don't do it. We run and run and run and run. No time to stop.

Indeed, it's sage advice for everyone. But when you have a food allergy, truly being present and enjoying the moment is even more difficult, especially when food is involved. Because we are constantly monitoring every step — and trying to anticipate anything that might happen — we rarely let our guards down. We rarely can enjoy the moment. 

Who can enjoy the baseball game when you're worried about the drunk guy eating unsafe food behind you? Sure, maybe those cheese nachos hitting my head won't send me to the hospital, but it will probably send my dad into a rage. 

Who can enjoy a movie when, after retrieving your phone from the side of the seat, you inadvertently touched a Goober or a Raisinette or a Thin Mint? Now I have to get every person in the row to stand up so I can go wash my hands. 

Who can enjoy the birthday party or the family function or the school event or the church family night or the bowling party when you're focussing on avoiding hazards that could harm you. It's like telling someone who is walking through a minefield to take time to look at the clouds.

They say that being mindful is a learned skill. We have to force ourselves to do it. So let's start forcing it.

Let's find time to live in the moment. Once we know a situation is under control, let's force ourselves to dial down that radar detector, even if just for a moment. Maybe we can temporarily hand over the duties to a helper. You enjoy the first part of the concert, and I'll keep an eye on Austin. And if the situation is too much for us to turn it off, let's create situations at a later time where we can turn it off, where we can be present, where we can savor what's important.

There IS a balance, and families living with food allergies can learn to achieve it. That's a life skill that will benefit your children. That's a life skill that will benefit you.


JJ Vulopas is a senior at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. An advocate for young people, JJ has lived with food allergies his entire life. He is the author of the children's book, Land of Not. You can read his daily blog at www.thelandofcan.com and follow him @thelandofcan on Twitter and Instagram.