Last week I turned 30.
A lot of people have anxiety about this milestone. Something to do with leaving their free and easy twenties behind. It’s the start of a decade that didn’t begin when you were still in college.
I know I was supposed to get the Turning-30-Jitters, too. I waited for them all month, but they never came. Where were they?
You see, I’ve always felt older than my chronological age. (I believe I have something to thank for that. Ahem… Diabetes!)
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 12 – the beginning of my awkward phase. Not only was I an awkward pre-teen. I was an awkward pre-teen who pricked her finger at lunchtime.
From the moment I was diagnosed, we all know the story… life changed completely. A sudden jolt into a world of medication, doctor appointments, and responsibility. A new vocabulary filled with strange words like glucometer, ketones, and hypoglycemia. Not exactly SAT words.
This was back in 1996, when I should have been meeting up with friends at the mall, at the movies, and in AOL chat rooms.
When you’re a kid with diabetes, of course, there’s plenty of opportunity to have fun and live a normal life. But you do grow up faster. There’s no way around it. Doing the adult things that diabetes requires is a flashing red light that says You Are Not Invincible. It’s the adult secret that kids with diabetes learn early.
Through high school, college, and even living in Manhattan as a single twenty-something, I was never carefree. I never partied till the sun came up. I never binged on pizza and ice cream. I never went to sleep without testing my blood sugar.
Outings with friends have always been filled with swaps. I swapped in more mature (diabetes-friendly) alternatives for whatever it is my friends were having or doing. They baked brownies while I sipped coffee. They drank margaritas while I nursed a glass of dry merlot. They indulged in baked ziti while I ordered “a salad, hold the croutons.” They stayed out at the bar for another round of beers, while I called it a night.
On the rare occasions that I “let go,” I always paid the price…. which is why I’ve been behaving like a 30 year old woman (incidentally, on a diet) for at least fifteen years.
If you’ve had an experience similar to mine (you turned 30 before your time), don’t feel bad. 30 is the time when people are just starting to become more conscious of their health, their diet, and their choices. As a person with diabetes, you’ve already got that covered. You’ve been paying close attention to your health for a long time.
Also, things have a way of evening out. As your peers hit 30, some of them will have prescriptions to fill, too. More of them will have serious responsibilities. And I bet a lot of them want to go home and go to sleep!
A few years ago, I attended a support group for young women with type 1 diabetes. At one of the meetings, someone in the group said that having diabetes for two years makes you feel fifteen years older. Everyone in the room nodded their heads.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 12, so, by that calculation, by the time I was 14, I felt 29. That means, right now, if I’m 30 in regular years, I’m 149 in diabetes years (and I’m 210 in dog years, in case you were wondering).
What an accomplishment! You might be wondering if I really feel like I’m 149.
Well, no. I think that’s taking it a little too far. But, am I ready to officially be 30?
You bet. Diabetes has prepared me for this moment.
I’ve read that being in your 30s is all about real life – the life you’ve begun to build – and the life you’re still creating. It’s tough and it’s busy, and it’s also filled with rewards.
It sounds to me a lot like diabetes.
*In the group photo, clockwise from left: My twin brother, Mike, who feels differently than I do about turning 30. He says, “30 is the new 20.” Grandma Rhoda, who also celebrated a birthday this week. She turned 39. Grandpa Manny and Maya, who are in the picture just for fun. And me.