I met a guy a couple of weeks ago who, after finding out I had a peanut allergy, looked at me and said “You’re the reason I couldn’t bring peanut butter sandwiches to school! I’ve never met one of you before!”. His enthusiasm provided the entertainment for our entire “Friendsgiving” dinner.
When I decided to move across the country I came up of a list of things that people didn’t need to know about me within the first few days of meeting me. Largely, this consisted of things building the case that “if I don’t tell anyone I’m awkward… nobody will know” (which I can proudly say I upheld – I think). The most important factor though, was that I was under no circumstances allowing myself to gain the nickname of “Peanut Ashley” once again.
In retrospect, there is nothing wrong with the nickname. After all, I’d prefer people know before proceeding to feed me peanuts or something. But in all honesty, my allergy has been a little more of a defining factor of who I am than it ever should have been – and I’m thankful to say it’s become less of one since I moved.
I thought perhaps the food industry in B.C. was just wildly more aware of allergies than those in Ontario. So far, I haven’t been to a single restaurant that’s had an issue serving a customer with an allergy (and I’ve been pub-hopping like mad). But I think it actually has a lot less to do with the restaurant’s, and more to do with the fact that I’m just not staying within the confines of the safety net I had created.
A couple of weeks ago after telling someone about my desire to travel they asked the necessary follow up question of, “where to?”. I said Australia first, which, while it’s a completely valid answer, isn’t the entire truth.
For a long time, I had been struggling with the conclusion that there were certain places I could simply never travel to. Between language barriers and specific foods that certain countries relied on, it seemed there were a fair amount of places that would simply be out of the question for me. While doing a restaurant tour of Thailand would probably never be the safest choice I could make, I’ve come to learn that there’s simply such an abundance of options within the realm of travelling, that I’d be able to navigate my way around the issue of food allergens anywhere.
More than the requirement of resources, this required me to actually be willing to do so. I understand that there are a million and one things worse than having a peanut/tree-nut allergy – I would never argue otherwise – but I will also say that if having your throat start closing up after a cross contamination scenario with a hamburger doesn’t breed a fortune of anxiety, you’re either lying or simply way more hardcore than I can ever strive to be.
It’s scary, and the epi-pen will never be fun no matter what you think of adrenaline. When you go your life believing something can kill you (and easily), it’s not often that you feel completely safe risking it. I played it safe. The only problem is, I played it a little too safe.
I allowed it to build a bubble over my life – certain restaurants I could eat at, certain countries I could travel to, ect. And I didn’t have much interest in breaching this bubble.
Then I had this strange and unfamiliar moment of needing to completely change the way I was living my life – in every aspect, including the allergy one. This kick started back in Guelph when the turmoil of broken relationships were at their highpoint and change was the only thing that I felt was absolutely necessary. To put it under one big umbrella point, I couldn’t handle living within limits any longer.
So while I am still your completely cautious peanut allergy kid – it’s no longer a limit (aside from the actual limit of not being able to eat a peanut). I live in a townhouse that thrives (and when I say thrives I mean we have at least 3 tubs of Nutella on the go) off plenty of peanut/nut products, and I make do just fine. Trying new restaurants has suddenly become a new favourite of mine – especially since the food in Vancouver has never ceased to be amazing.
More than that, if you asked me where I wanted to travel first, I’d tell you I don’t actually know. I’m still a little amazed by the options I’ve now allowed myself to have.
Spin the atlas, cover my eyes and set a finger down – and I’ll go.