It was always about the bread… and the cake, muffins, bagels, and buns. How they smelled, how they felt, how they tasted, and how they appeared on the outside. It was never about the inside. All of that changed for me in the summer of 2012. I was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, leaving me with nothing but gluten-free bread that disappointingly crumbles to pieces with the gentle touch of a hand. Suddenly, I had to look at all foods in a different way. I had to learn to appreciate food that wouldn’t harm me. I willed my mouth not to water when I thought about donuts, and I learned to regard my favorite restaurants and bakeries as just distant memories.
For the average person, a sandwich comes with two thick, soft pieces of bread enclosing the inner components. For me, when I make a sandwich, it comes with a fork and a knife. My sandwich is just about the inner components. Nothing holds it together. The outer layer is also the inner layer. People eat food because it appeals to them, and more likely than not, it will taste good too. I don’t choose to eat something because of how it looks, especially since gluten-free foods are not the prettiest; I eat foods simply because of how they taste and how they can nourish me. Before, when I could eat gluten, my mindset was that it did not really matter what was inside the sandwich because the bread was the most important part. Now I realize that so much more goes into it. There’s more to a sandwich than just the bread.
That’s how I’ve learned to appreciate what’s inside of people, situations, and even sandwiches. Everything can be viewed more meaningfully when looked at from the inside out. There’s more to a person than just what he or she looks like. There’s more to a situation than just what you witness. There’s more to conversations than just what you hear. Learning to love the inside of the sandwich has made me learn to love more than just what is easy to love. I have learned to give everything a chance because the deeper you dig into something, the more layers you can uncover and the more you can learn. There’s a whole world to experience beneath the surface. I can’t help but look at life in a completely different way now.
Since this period of realization, I have learned to consider the entire situation before making a judgement, which has inspired me to dive into new opportunities. I began to welcome vulnerability and leave my comfort zone, visiting third world countries to explore the region and provide community service. During these trips, I stayed in small cabins on inactive volcanoes, repelled three hundred feet down a rock into a black hole, lived in a treehouse in the middle of a jungle, learned a new language, and tried new foods. My pre-gluten-free self would have never allowed myself to step foot on a volcano, hike up to three hundred feet despite my fear of heights, push myself to comprehend a new language, or taste exotic, foreign foods. I have become someone who takes advantage of opportunities without hesitation.
Because my immune system responds abnormally to gluten, I am able to see the world through an intriguingly unique light. As I begin the next chapter of my life, the growth I have experienced is what will encourage me to take new classes, study abroad in an unfamiliar country, reach out to professors and students, start a club to share my passions, and ultimately thrive in this new community that I will be a part of for the next four years and beyond. Who would’ve thought that a simple piece of bread would have such an incredible impact on the person I am today?