Dear future high school friends,

It’s 2021, which means we will graduate 8th grade in the spring and start high school in the fall. I’m really excited for high school and I can’t wait to meet new friends. Although I am very excited, there are a few things on my mind that I want you to know. I have a life-threatening allergy to dairy. If I accidentally eat any food that has dairy in it, I will go into anaphylactic shock and this could be fatal. I’ve had several anaphylactic reactions in my life, and I have spent many hours in the ER. 

The most important thing that I want you to know is that my food allergy does not define me. Yes, it’s a big part of my life, but I’ve learned to cope with it ever since I was little. When we are eating lunch together at school, sometimes I may be a little quiet or seem anxious. I always have to be on guard around food. It’s what keeps me safe. Some days I might be more anxious than other days. Please know that it has nothing to do with you. I just enjoy being social and hanging out with my friends at lunch. 

I am hoping to join the track team at school. I know that playing a sport will give me the opportunity to make new friends who will eventually become family. I also know that there will be times when the entire team will want to go out and celebrate a win. It might be going out for pizza or meeting at an ice cream shop. I might be a bit nervous about going but know that I do want to go. so please keep asking me to come along, even if you think I can’t have any of the food or snacks. I want to feel included just like everyone else and will do what I always do; improvise.

Going to the movies is one of my favorite things to do. I am really looking forward to many girls’ nights out. Catching a movie with my friends will be so much fun. Even though I may have to do things a bit differently like wiping down my seat and bringing my own snacks, please keep asking me to come along. I’ve been doing this my entire life, and it’s not a big deal to me. Plus, I always pack a ton of candy to share, so that’s always a bonus!

I want you to know that last-minute get-togethers don’t always work for me. If we are hanging out and everyone decides to take a trip to Starbucks, I might not order anything. Please don’t feel bad or feel uncomfortable ordering something that I can’t have. I am very used to this, and I would rather choose to have nothing than to put myself at risk by ordering something that could be very dangerous to me. Besides, I am just happy to hang out.  And maybe next time we can plan in advance to go together, so that I can bring my own coffee or snacks that are safe for me. 

I want you to know that being a good friend is something I am great at. Having to overcome these challenges in my life has taught me empathy, loyalty, honesty, and I can easily adapt to most social situations. Please ask me questions. I don’t want you to assume you know how I am feeling. I don’t want you to feel bad or uncomfortable because you think I feel bad or uncomfortable. Being truthful about my feelings is something I have always had to do in my life and I am not shy about sharing those feelings with you. I’ve had to be an open book and I am happy to answer any of your questions so that you can understand me better. I am excited to learn more about you as well. So what I am saying to you, future high school friends, is that I am so excited for all the great things that are to come and for all the amazing friendships I will make. I know high school can be rough and for me, I know navigating through high school with a food allergy will be even harder at times. I think if we keep communicating, get to know one another, and embrace everyone’s differences, then we will have each other to lean on when we hit those rough bumps in the road.

Shae Averaimo is a 13-year-old living in Connecticut with her parents, her sister who is 17 months younger than her (just saying), and her adorable golden retriever, Oakley. She lives in a beautiful coastal town and spends most of her summers at the beach and swimming in the ocean. She is an 8th grader who loves science, acting, art, and cooking. Her favorite foods are eggplant parmesan (minus the parmesan) and pasta fagiole (her dad’s recipe is amazing!). When she is not spending time with her family, she can be found riding her bike in her neighborhood, hanging out with her friends, and learning the latest TikTok dances with her sister. She has a life-threatening allergy to dairy and is very involved in the food allergy community. She has a website and an Instagram account dedicated to food allergy awareness. She especially loves taste-testing new dairy-free and allergy-friendly snacks and she reviews them on her Instagram. She is very excited to be joining The Daily Feels and she can’t wait to share her stories. Check out her website and follow her on Instagram @shaeallergy_07

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