Food Allergy 101: Mr. A. 1 - Kids w/ food allergies 0

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What if my food allergy was a real, live person? And what if I could talk to him about what he's taught me over the years? Every Thursday, I get that chance...

I wasn’t looking forward to my weekly meeting with Mr. A., my allergy. I knew he’d be gloating that I missed my CANpaign goal of reaching 1000 schools.

“There he is,” Mr. A. announces when I arrive.

“I don’t want to hear it,” I say as I pull up a seat.

“You must be exhausted,” he says, feigning care. “Running around for 50 days. Making videos. Making teacher’s guides. All those calls behind the scenes.”

I say nothing. He continues.

“All that work and you failed, failed miserably,” he says with emphasis. “And it was even bullying-prevention month. How embarrassing?”

I let him talk. Actually, I need to hear him talk.

“Everyone loves advocates when they’re not asking for anything,” he says, before peppering me with a series of jabs. “Maybe your goals are too high. Maybe you’re naive. Maybe you don’t know how the real world works. Maybe your book really isn’t that good. Maybe no one takes you seriously because you’re a college kid.”

I just look at him. I’ve heard those phrases time and time again, some from others, some from my own head. Every advocate has.

“I had awesome supporters throughout this CANpaign,” I say. “Amazing supporters. And I’ll be forever grateful to every single one of them who bought a book for a school or who shared my posts. Reaching 217 schools — that could be more than 100,000 kids — isn’t failure.”

He nods, almost mockingly.

“You’ve only reached about 22 percent of your goal,” Mr. A. says. “You ran around like an idiot for 50 days pleading and begging. You spent hours and hours and so much of your own money. And you created all those fun videos calling on nurses and librarians and principals. All for 22 percent.”

I let him talk. He’s speaking the insecurities that are running through my mind.

He continues with the jabs: “Almost every big player in the food allergy world probably knew about your CANpaign, too,” he says. “Only a select few contributed.”

His words hurt. He’s trying to steal my hope. I won’t let him.

“This CANpaign is about the kids so wipe that smirk off your face,” I say. “You don’t know what it’s like to have someone bully you over something you can’t control. You don’t know what it’s like to have someone bully you over something that could kill you. If you haven’t lived with a food allergy, you don’t know what it’s like to constantly define yourself by the very mark you fear most. I know what’s it like. And I refuse to sit back and let it happen to others.

“Today is a victory for you,” I concede, sitting back in my chair. “Throw your hands in the air and celebrate, big guy. There are 783 more schools that won’t see our CANpaign today, 783 more schools where you can still freely roam the halls and wreak your havoc on innocent lives.”

He chuckles.

“Laugh away,” I continue. “Your taunts will only make the victory dance that much more enjoyable the day my friends and I from the food allergy community finally destroy you.”

He sits back. I lean in.

“You better rest up. Round two has just begun.”

 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 Follow him on Instagram & Twitter @thelandofcan.