What being an ADVOCATE taught me.

Advocate – “a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc.”

When I first heard the word “advocate” I thought it sounded BIG. A little intimidating. Very official. But mostly like I had to know all the right answers in order to be one.

I believe everyone is an advocate – we all have something we are so incredibly passionate about and could talk for hours about to anyone who would listen. I never knew that being someone who loved talking about my own experiences with type one diabetes was called something, but I had been “advocating” since middle school.

At first, my advocating was limited to volunteering with the American Diabetes Association, I would help them with walks and fundraisers. I would make flyers and get the word out for events. They would run ideas by me for youth groups and I’d give my input on what else should be incorporated. I LOVED IT! I loved feeling like my ideas, opinions, and thoughts could go into something that would help so many people. But I also knew, deep down, that even if all it did was help ONE person, that I was happy. That one person would then carry it with them and pass it forward, and that’s how advocacy worked in my mind. Years later, I still believe that the true magic of advocacy is passed by individuals who have been touched by the efforts of advocacy and pass it on to others.

I became an “official” advocate in 2014. I applied for the National Youth Advocate position with the American Diabetes Association, and my peers and mentors at the ADA knew I would be the perfect fit. By then, I had been volunteering with the ADA for quite some years, so I had already began speaking at various events throughout the year and helping them reach out to more youths to raise awareness in the diabetic community.

When I got the position as 2014 NYA, it changed my life. I had been so hesitant to share with others my life with diabetes and my diagnosis, but this helped me with breaking that wall down. I learned so many amazing lessons during this once in a lifetime opportunity. Although the cut the program after my year as NYA, I know that to all the previous National Youth Advocates, we are so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to have helped our community grow and learn, to have met the most amazing kids and mentors, to have a chance to make a difference in legislation and share our own experiences with the world.

I learned so much during my time as NYA – and I wanted to share with you all what being an advocate has taught me throughout the years…

  • You don’t stop at “no” – You push through the cold stares, the uninterested glances, the rude comments, and all the “No’s” when you try to educate someone on diabetes. You push through because you know how crucial raising awareness is and how much it makes a difference.
  • We all share similar stories – I’ve met hundreds if not thousands of people through advocacy and public speaking. We may look different, come from different backgrounds, and speak different languages, but we all SHARE our stories of adversity, challenges, and struggles. Our diabetes brings us together in an unspeakable bond. At the end of the day, that is what makes us stronger – our stories.
  • You learn that being “different” isn’t so bad at all – People always say that as type one’s we’re no different then others. I think being different is amazing – we have something that we can teach others that allows us to be special in our own ways. Can we do the same things as non-pancreatically challenged people? Hell ya! But being different isn’t bad! Being different just means we bring something unique to the table, and I’d be lying if I told you everyone in the world doesn’t have something special to offer that’s unlike the person next to them.

Diabetes doesn’t stop you from anything – Diabetes has actually given me the strength and courage to do SO much more in life. Some of it is to prove that I can do anything I set my mind to, but the other part is that I am continually showing myself just what I’m capable of. Just because our pancreas can’t produce insulin, doesn’t mean it has to stop you from living your dreams and making them come true. I think it’s so crucial to remember never to doubt your abilities – you are so much stronger than you give yourself credit for.

But most importantly, being an advocate has taught me that this is my biggest passion in life – helping people share their stories, experiences, and challenges with others. Meeting others who inspire me in so many ways to give back to my community and do more to raise awareness. To educate people around the country and the world on various platforms about how much you can truly accomplish by living a strong and healthy life with type one diabetes. Because together, we’ll go from type one, to type none ❤

I love being able to share my thoughts with you guys every week, and I hope these posts bring you as much joy as it brings me writing them.

Be kind, be strong, and be YOU. Until next week friends!

xoxo, Bas

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