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Dessert First

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Me? I’m lactose intolerant? Are you kidding me? I just found out this sad fact recently, and I was so upset I burst into tears – yes, real drops flooding my cheeks and turning my face bright red. I would never eat chocolate, ice cream, Oreos with milk – ever again! I immediately sprinted through the first three steps of grief within a matter of seconds – denial, anger, depression. My mother tried to calm me through the phone, drawing a silver line with a, “Well, it could be worse. At least you know what is wrong now and how to cure it.” I barely heard her cheerful encouragement through the sobs. Yes, I had suffered countless stomachaches and had developed a sincere love-hate relationship with my meals, but I never thought it would come to this. Mom said she had to go set up her next case, and I could hear doctors in the background. So I reluctantly let her go, hearing the sharp and heartless beep of the phone, as our connection was lost. I sat there in utter despair, staring at the blank wall in front of me with a vacant expression. Suddenly I jumped from my seat, stumbling over the back of my couch, charging my book sack to extract my laptop. I wasted no time returning to my spot on the couch, but collapsed to the ground in place and jerked open the screen.
My fingers ran across the board back and forth, urgently searching for information, keywords to hand over the facts I insisted on finding. At that moment I felt alien, an outcast – was I not normal? And then the computer screen slowly crammed up with statements I never thought possible, eagerly reaching around Earth to grasp the thoughts and research of millions and at the same time cracking that small gap of hope wide open to ease my hysteria. Over half of the adult population struggles with exactly what I have experienced for the last couple of years. My mom’s colleague and pediatric gastroenterologist, Dr. Albert, said it was extremely common, and I had been too angry to believe him at the time. But now I found his assertion to be true. I also learned the cause of this horrid condition, a lack of the lactase enzyme that breaks down lactose (the problem chemical in milk), and that this enzyme is usually lost as a toddler. And then website after website gave me a completely new vantage point to embrace. No other species drinks milk after childhood, so why should we? It’s a mutation, a strange mutation that has occurred in the human race. Perhaps I’m not the abnormal one after all.
The next few words I typed into the Google box consisted of “cure,” “treatment,” and “fix,” and eventually I found what I was looking for all along, something to comfort my fear and put the entire discovery in reasonable perspective – a pill. A magical pill that would give me my world back, a world that involved ice cream on a Friday night after my favorite movie, Pride and Prejudice, a world that gave me the right to call Papa John’s after a long basketball tournament and order a double cheese pizza, and most importantly, a life that gave me the joy and utter satisfaction of a Godiva Milk Praliné Heart. And right then, I found myself on the edge of several crucial epiphanies, the kind James Joyce would be proud to incorporate into his collection of short stories, overseeing a vast valley of knowledge and wisdom that had remained, up until this point, a solitary region in the back of my mind.
First and foremost, I found the true significance of gourmet food and the taste of life to its fullest – something I now treasure and hold close to my heart. Living without your true desires is not living at all. What is the point of driving fifteen minutes to the nearest Outback to eat a fried onion and a steak if you cannot indulge in the Thunder Down Under, which consists of a luscious chocolate brownie drowned in melted chocolate syrup and a huge helping of smooth vanilla bean ice cream on top decked off with tiny, delicious chocolate flakes? What is the point of taking three plane rides, one of which lasted 12 hours, to Australia if you don’t swim in the Great Barrier Reef? It is the necessary cherry on top. I have one life and though the concept is cliché, and I believe this adjective to be an understatement in the least, it is crucial to live a vibrant life full of experiences that will enable you to say, with that last breath, that your time on this earth has been unbelievably incredible and despite the hardships, encompassed a journey that will ultimately leave the world marked by your legacy.
Secondly, I learned that even when I feel dim, I am not alone. It is my choice to walk alone because if I choose to reach out, people will be there – the community, doctors, friends – and they will work to help me. I’ve realized that I only alienate myself when I silently take the pain, the numerous stomachaches and the hurt of lying awake with a cramping stomach at one in the morning, or the anguish of a lost one. I am only alone if I choose to be so and not only that; I’ve learned that it is my duty to my health and welfare to let people in, let them help me. Had that doctor never diagnosed me, I would be continuing that silent submission.
And thirdly, no matter what the situation, whether it be finding out you’re lactose intolerant, suffering an excruciating defeat against an arch rival in volleyball playoffs, or experiencing the disappointment of an irresponsible father, there is always a way to cope, and soon enough time will pass and life will continue its course. My new pill will cease to be a routine but shape into a second nature habit, and the grief encountered with any setback will fade while new opportunities and relationships will sprout. My experience has taught me several lessons and confirmed shaky beliefs I’ve had in the past, as well as made me cherish my time and the simple delicacy of a nice glass of milk, even if it doesn’t seem to be a mind-boggling event at a stranger’s first glance.





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