Dear 18-year-old me,
I have so much to say, and if you listen to 5% and act on 5% of that, your life will be much saner and happier than mine. Please understand that I am not trying to impose anything on you – simply asking you to pay attention to the potential outcomes of a few of your choices.
I know you are operating under the curse of your diagnosing doctor’s prediction. I’ll tell you what – I am writing this at 51, so he didn’t have any idea what the hell he was talking about. As much as you can, please realize that you will live as long as you want, but longer if you take better care of yourself. Be careful of the defeat and depression that will come if you believe that you will be gone by 33, as he predicted on that very first day..
Stop SMOKING! Please. Smoking will lead you to heart disease, and circulatory problems in your legs, and poor diabetes control, and ugly yellow teeth. And you won’t believe this, because I know you are paying $.75 for a pack of smokes in 1978, but today you would need $6.50 to buy that same pack. It will be difficult; you’ve been smoking long enough to make it a very tough habit to break. But please, quit as soon as you possibly can.
Even a modest control of your blood sugar will make a huge difference in your life, and that modest control may be all you need to avoid the multiple side effects and problems awaiting you. Please, try as hard as you can to keep your blood sugars at about the same level all day – the rapid changes you are allowing now mean just that many more difficulties down the road.
Please get some exercise. You don’t have to become a runner, or a swimmer, or a ball player. If you take a 20-minute walk 3 times a week, you will provide yourself with a great base health position from which to control your blood sugars so much more easily. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that walking from the parking lot to the apartment is a painful, daunting task, because I never got out and moved around if I could sit still.
Without these changes, you may well end up where I am now, and this is sometimes a scary place to be.
Finally, a bit of advice for other parts of your life. Don’t stop your music – you will have opportunities with the French Horn that you can’t imagine now, (including playing in a production of Tommy, which is a dream come true.) Avoid getting married until you are thirty or older, and respect yourself enough to believe that you won’t have lost your chance at love. Marrying at 19 is a mistake, and especially marrying someone you won’t meet till a blind date 3 months before you marry. Get right with your body now, as bad body image leads to some very ugly and dangerous situations. And convince your parents to talk to you about your diabetes. [I am adding to this post — I know now that the doctor told my parents not to have any part of me controlling my diabetes, or I would depend on them forever. They are simply afraid right now; they’ll get over that. But you need their help right now. And remember to love yourself fiercely enough to take care.