I could sit here and tell you that in those 11 years, 4,015 days have passed, I’ve pricked my fingers approximately 25,000 times, I’ve taken god knows how many units of insulin, and so on. However, why? That would be analyzing data; this isn’t a statistics class. Diabetes sucks, I’m not going to lie. I could tell you about what life with diabetes is like, I could sit here and complain about it, I could sit here and be in denial and not take care of myself, I could sit here and list facts about diabetes. I’m not going to though. That would be pointless.
I want to talk about three of the most important things I have learned that you will never learn in school. The first thing: age is just a number that can’t stop you from doing anything (assuming it is legal for your age). As I write this looking back on the things I’ve experienced in my life so far it amazes me. At 17 I’ve met CEOs of airlines, flown a plane by myself, achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, have been recognized nationally for volunteer work, met famous people, traveled the United States, worked at an airport for two+ years, met with elected officials, toured countless aviation facilities across the country, flown over the Hollywood Sign, met countless incredible people, and so many other things. I hate hearing people my age say they can’t do things because they’re too young. Your age only limits you as much as you let it.
Walt Disney once said, “it’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” While flying planes with Type One Diabetes is far from impossible it has its challenges. It took me three months to get my medical certificate back from the FAA. Doctors and pilots have told me that they are sorry but that flying with Type One just couldn’t happen. Every time I strap into a plane and start its engine I’m reminded I’m doing what I was told I could never do. That’s the second thing… never take no for an answer. I always say I owe my thanks to those who encourage me with flying as well as those that tell me it would never happen. You have to turn others negative crap into inspiration to do what you love and know you can do. Sometimes doing what others said you couldn’t do is the best feeling ever.
I always skip school on the day I was diagnosed and do something cool. Today, I had the privilege to take my mom and grandma up for their first general aviation flights. My instructor, Brenda, was there because she legally had to be… but I did all the flying. Twelve knot cross winds and they both still loved it. My landings were some of my best. In all the years I can recall I don’t ever remember seeing them both so amazed with me. I really felt great.
As I move forward with my quest to becoming a private pilot I have my ups and downs (no pun intended). This summer I had the opportunity to fly with a gentleman in Palomar, California and something he told me has stuck with me to this very day. “Oh, I love flying.” He said, “My training was a blast and it made me feel on top of the world… Until I thought about the money, then I got depressed.” Flying is ups for me until I think about the money. But hey, most dreams have a monetary price to pay. I’m at the point in my training where it’s really starting to become real, I’m closer then I have ever been to becoming a private pilot. This year I will finish up my training, take and pass (fingers crossed) my written test and practical flight test. It will be really cool to finally be able to fly my family friends up front with me.
I figured I’d go ahead and throw this out there… I’m going to Europe in the spring! London, Paris, and Barcelona for 10 days total. I’m going with a school tour and I am absolutely ecstatic to experience my first time outside of the United States. I found this out last night. I was already excited for my flight today and couldn’t help but be even more excited after finding out I was for sure going to Europe.
Before I move on to the third thing I’ve learned about life I want to stop for a second and say thank you to everyone that has gotten me to where I am today. I obviously want to thank my mom, dad, and all of my family and friends. A huge thank you to my friends at school that always support me and are always asking about my flying. I want to thank everyone I’ve met in aviation; the people who always look skyward like I do when they hear a plane. Some of the best people I have ever met, I’ve met through aviation. Also, thank you to Brenda and Ernie. Brenda has taught me how to fly and made me the pilot I am today. Ernie is her husband that always offers valuable insight to flying. He has so many great flying stories and I thoroughly enjoy every conversation I have with him. I also want to say thanks to the T1D community, the response I’ve received to my flying is absolutely humbling and I’m honored to show that diabetes doesn’t have us, we have it.
The third thing I’ve learned about life is a quote from Muhammad Ali: “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” The more I think about this quote the more I relate it to my life and what it really means. A cure for type one diabetes will happen someday. Flying was supposed to be impossible. Now, over a hundred years later, we’ve made the world a smaller place. I was never supposed to act as pilot in command of an aircraft; I’ve now done that multiple times. We can’t measure things with the notion of how difficult they are to accomplish. If there’s a will, there’s a way.
I may be a 17 year old high school student but I like the direction my life is going. I’m confident next year as I celebrate 12 years of life with T1D I’ll be able to start by saying I’m a private pilot. One day I will be in the left seat of a commercial airliner burning jet fuel for a living. Until then I’ll continue living with diabetes. I’ll continue to fly. I’ll continue to experience awesome things. I’ll continue to see the impossible becoming the accomplished. Always remember… Impossible is nothing. Always have the courage and persistence to follow your dreams. Oh yeah, always look up. Looking down is pointless. The sky is filled with planes flying around the globe providing an incredible visual representation of how impossible is nothing. I may have diabetes but it sure doesn’t have me!
Until next time,