Ten Years in the Making.
Awhile back, when I was still living in Manhattan, I attended the ACT1 Diabetes support group meetings on a regular basis. One night, I was chatting with this girl who works as a freelance graphic designer. She doesn’t have any health insurance, and I was completely shocked when she rebuffed the idea of getting a corporate job. She said, “When I wake up in the morning, I love what I do.” And I thought that was such an amazing concept. To truly love what you do, everyday, no matter the consequences. At the time, I was working for a public relations agency and realizing that it wasn’t my passion. Eventually, I got a job at a healthcare PR agency, I thought I would be there for the long haul. But clearly, it was not meant to be.
After I lost my job last summer, I was forced to examine the direction of my career. Was I really happy doing what I was doing? Did I want to sign myself up for another job in public relations? Where did I envision myself going? What skills was I hoping to use and improve? What was I hoping to accomplish? What kind of difference did I want to make? There were so many choices, and with a severance package quickly running dry, I had to decide quickly.
Throughout all of that, the feeling that I should love what I’m doing rang so true. It seemed everywhere I turned, there were girls I knew who were seeing their dreams become a reality and I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to be someone who could answer, “Yes!” when someone asked, “So, do you enjoy what you do?” I wanted to be enthusiastic! Excited! Rarin’ to go! I wanted a life filled with exclamation marks!
But all I had were ellipses of doubt…
Last spring, I was at a rooftop bar in Manhattan with Jen Dyer, the coolest endocrinologist on Twitter. As we were talking, Jen said to me, “You should be a patient advocate!” I laughed and begged her to tell me how to do that, thinking it was a brilliant idea, but not having a clue how to do it. In the fall, I had my conversation with Visionary Man, which encouraged me that there was no time to waste. That I needed to pursue my passion now.
My passion is undoubtedly diabetes, but it wasn’t always that way. For the first seven years of my life with diabetes, I never really did anything beyond the annual Walks to Cure Diabetes. But I never really thought much about diabetes advocacy and awareness. Ten years ago, I changed my mind. I decided I wanted to start talking about diabetes more. I realized that people faced a lot of injustice and discrimination, and that not everyone had the kind of support network that I had. I also realized that not enough people understood diabetes, even the people who lived with it. I submitted an application to be part of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Children’s Congress 2001, nearly ten years ago. And that, as they say, is history.
I’ve always enjoyed writing. After Children’s Congress, I started this website called CureNow. It was about the research and science of diabetes, because I didn’t think enough people understood that. Of course, as a 16-year-old, neither did I. Looking back, I wrote some pretty crap articles. Thank goodness that site isn’t accessible anymore (I stopped paying for the domain, so the whole thing went poof!). I started writing a few longer freelance articles and hosting Teen Talk at Diabetes Station (both of which don’t exist anymore, sadly). After the company that supported Teen Talk shut down, I started my own website in college. I also started Lemonade Life in 2005. I wrote articles for JDRF’s newsletter. I wrote op-ed pieces and “day in the life” columns. I wrote for Diabetes Health and Diabetes Self-Management.
I didn’t think writing about diabetes was going to make me much money because there are only about three publications for diabetes. I didn’t even think regular magazine writing would pan out, a decision I stand behind considering the state of our publishing industry. So in college, I got my degree in public relations, because I thought it was an industry that involved writing that would actually make me money. And I was able to get a job, but that’s all it was. A job. I realized, after awhile, that it wasn’t my calling.
Through it all, I kept writing. For the past ten years, starting after Children’s Congress 2001 and through high school, college and my career in New York, I kept writing about diabetes. But it was always on the side. It was never my real job, even though it was the only thing I wanted to do.
But that’s all changed now.
I am thrilled to announce that writing about diabetes is officially my real job. I have been hired as Assistant Editor for DiabetesMine.com as part of their new partnership with Alliance Health. For all the details on that arrangement, I’ll leave you to read my new boss Amy’s post. I’ll be working from home, but I am really excited about all the opportunities I’ll have to connect with the diabetes community. I’ll still write about diabetes on Lemonade Life, when appropriate. The idea that my job is to help educate people about diabetes by raising awareness of our cause, bringing hope to people, and sharing tools and strategies to those who are struggling, is what I have been dreaming about and pursuing for so long.
Now when I wake up in the morning, I can finally say, “I love what I do.”