Friends for Life 2012: Part 2

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Editor’s Note: This entry is continued from last week, when Maryam recounted her arrival at the Friends for Life conference and shared two of her favorite things about living with diabetes…

It didn’t hit me until about 15 or 20 minutes into our icebreaker session that I’ve had diabetes longer than any of the kids in my group have been alive. I know that 9 going on 10 years isn’t THAT long, but I can honestly say it made me feel old. Growing up is such a fickle experience. One minute all you want is to get older, and the next you realize time is flying by faster than you can keep up.

Maryam and the Elementary Group
Maryam with her elementary-aged group.

The experience of working with the elementary-aged group was not only with the kids themselves, but with their parents as well — especially first-timer parents! Many of them had never left their child with anyone else before, so to gain their trust over a span of 48 hours was incredible. You could see how the parents went from initially being very nervous to suddenly becoming a lot more comfortable with whichever group leader their child was with.

That night was the banquet dinner sponsored by Novo Nordisk, and the entire place was set up with a beach theme! It was so fun. The best part of the banquet is finally being in a space with everyone. It’s so fun to see our parents sit together at the tables in their group of friends the same way we teens and young adults do. This conference isn’t just about our friendships, it’s about everyone’s family and friends.

That night was the night I received the Unexpected Hero Award, and like I said before, it truly was unexpected. It was so incredible, and it still makes me smile uncontrollably when I think about it. I can never truly express what this conference means to me and just how much has been done for me because of the efforts of so many others, namely Jeff Hitchcock and Laura Billetdeaux.

Friday was the last day of sessions, and it flew by! That morning was by far the roughest to get up. I immediately went down to the Starbucks and ordered a double shot iced Caramel Macchiato. (I needed all the caffeine I could get!) Rather than working with the elementary-aged group on Friday, I started out by running a session for the tween group with Paul Madden, Kelsey Martin, and Crystal Bowersox. Yes, THE Crystal Bowersox who was runner-up on season 9 of American Idol! I actually saw her in line at the Starbucks and wanted to say hi before walking into the session, but I was so incredibly exhausted that I couldn’t muster the energy to be bubbly enough to talk to her for the first time. (I didn’t exactly want to make my first impression with her as a zombie).

The session went incredibly well and made me realize that in the future I would love to keep working with tweens, and possibly teens, at the conference. It was exhilarating to sit there and hear all of the stories they desperately wanted to share about their experiences with Type 1. I had a group of tweens hang around after the session was over because time ran out before they could share their stories. I felt very humbled.

The rest of the conference was amazing. Saturday we went to Magic Kingdom (and I got to see Aladdin, my future husband), and I had the opportunity to chat with some really amazing people in the world of Type 1. Phil Southerland and Paul Madden are just two of the legends that I got to chat with, and if you don’t know who they are, I highly recommend you look them up. They are world changers with a vision and the work ethic to back up all they imagine. I pinch myself when I realize how unbelievably lucky I am to know them.

Magic Kingdom

Maryam and friends at Magic Kingdom.

I know that I write quite a bit about the conference, and perhaps for some of you it gets a bit repetitive or redundant. The truth of it is, I am who I am because of this conference. I’m able to blog about my life with diabetes because Children with Diabetes has prepared me for a life of making mistakes, but facing them with confidence and knowing that mistakes happen. It’s how you choose to deal with them that matters. If I pretended to be perfect or didn’t share any of my struggles, it would make all of this disingenuous.

If you take one thing away from my blog, please take this: It’s not about your A1C, how perfect your sugars are, how well you calculate your carbs, or how many times you check a day. Those are the easy things to change because they’re physical habits and routines. What it comes down to is how you feel about having Type 1 diabetes. If you think your life is doomed to misery or unhappiness because you have this disease, of course it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be hard and only will get harder as time passes because you choose to make it such.

If you can just take the circumstance, acknowledge that it’s not easy, but that it’s also not the end of the world, you’ll do just fine. Diabetes isn’t the worst thing in the world…not by a long shot. If you’re reading this blog post, it means you have access to a computer, and I think I can safely assume access to the basic supplies you need to manage diabetes. Others aren’t so lucky. In the near future, I want to get involved in projects where I can change the circumstances of those with Type 1 who are truly in need. It’s OK to have ups and downs, but every once in a while just give yourself the reality check that someone really does have it worse.

Stay tuned, because I have some exciting news in the works!

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