May is often a busy month for people. School years come to an end, milestone celebrations such as graduation take place, and many of us start to participate in summer activities. When I started my last year of college in the fall of 2015, I couldn’t wait for May. For the entire school year, I had been counting down to May 7, 2016: Spring Commencement. All my hard work over the past five years was going to finally pay off when I walked across that stage and I was handed my diploma. College wasn’t easy, and my five years spent at university were met with a fair share of hardships. The finish line was all I had eyes on at some points.
I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I started college. I had every intention of going to school to receive a bachelors degree in biology with the hopes of eventually getting accepted in medical school, but I found myself bored in college. I had little interest in any of the classes that I was taking besides my biology courses, and it was apparent in my performance. I had no desire to study the material I was being taught, and it reflected in my grades. On top of struggling to figure out how to be successful in college, I was also an athlete. I had the added challenges of balancing classes and studying with practices and competition, all while trying to maintain a social life. I got so discouraged at some points, I even contemplated dropping out. It took me five long years, but I figured out how to be a successful student-athlete, and I walked across the stage with degrees in biology and biotechnology.
But then what happens? You graduate college and you’re pushed out into the real world to either start a career with a job you took prior to graduation, you begin to search for jobs, or you continue your education. Graduate school wasn’t for me. I applied for a few jobs prior to graduation, but wasn’t offered any. Like many of my friends, I worked multiple jobs while searching for a job in my chosen field. I worked 39.5 hours a week as a lifeguard, swim instructor, and I even manned the front desk at my local YMCA. I moved into a new apartment with one of my best friends, and we did our best to navigate this new thing called adulthood. While this was an uncertain time in my life, I also found it exciting. I applied for almost every job that I was qualified for as long as it had something to do with science. It didn’t even matter to me where any of these jobs were located. I was excited about every potential job. It felt like every door was open and every day was a new opportunity to see where my life could go.
It wasn’t too soon after graduation that I started noticing grim warning signs that my life was going to take a much different turn than I anticipated. Shortly after moving into my brand new apartment, I developed a thirst I couldn’t quench, frequent urination, and eventually I realized that I had lost almost fifteen pounds without trying. I knew those symptoms meant something was wrong with me, but I had no idea what I was in for. I went to my yearly physical a few weeks later, and that’s when I found out that I was a Type 1 Diabetic. From that day forward, my life was entirely different.
I talk a lot about how my diagnosis affected me; how it changed my life forever. I’m open about how my diagnosis affected my mental health, and how I wish I was told to see a mental health professional earlier into this new life. But I think one of the things I’ve never touched on was how it felt to be diagnosed during that awkward transition from college student to ‘real’ adult. A time in life that can already feel so overwhelming. I mentioned earlier in this post that I felt like there were so many open doors to walk through, but there was also a lot of anxiety. What if I couldn’t find a job? What if no one wanted to hire me? How would I pay rent? Sometimes it felt like I was going to be a lifeguard for the rest of my life. When I received my T1D diagnosis, it felt like that whole part of my life was put on hold. All of a sudden every door that was once open slammed shut. Not only was I a jobless recent college grad, but I now had a very expensive incurable disease.
After my diagnosis, I stopped looking for jobs for a few months. My friends were getting what seemed like their dream jobs, but I was trying so hard just keep my head above water. It felt so unfair. While I was in school I looked forward that time after graduation, and I felt like diabetes really robbed me of that time. I didn’t get to be irresponsible for a couple more months. I didn’t get to go on any last hurrah trips with friends. Instead, I was arguably forced to grow up faster than my peers in what felt like a weeks time. I think diabetes may have robbed me of some things in life, but I never anticipated it to be something like a period of time. Diabetes never fails to surprise me though.
It’s been four years now since I’ve graduated college, and in August, it will mark four years with Type One Diabetes. Life has worked out pretty well for me, even if the transition from college to the working world is something I only really remember as a dark blur. While I’ll always wonder what might have happened if I wasn’t handed a diabetes diagnosis during that transitional time in my life, I sometimes think my diagnosis lead me to the exact place I needed to be. It’s a good reminder that you have to get through the rain if you ever want to see a rainbow.