Leaving People Behind

When I left my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky 12 years ago, I had no idea the budding relationships I would be leaving behind. I left because I wanted to see the world and gain a bigger perspective about the plight of current events. I also left because, like my dad, I have an adventurous spirit, and like my mom, I love my comfort zone, so I knew it would take more than just attending a new school to get me out of that comfort zone.

But with each move comes sacrifices. With each new turn, I was leaving behind opportunities to develop relationships further and explore new connections through those relationships. And while I have come to terms with leaving people behind for my own personal growth, there are two men, in particular, who I feel like I abandoned, and I am still trying to reconcile the significance of that sentiment.

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Always Dreaming of a Better Life with a Pre-existing Condition

A little more than a week ago I had the AC on and was basking in the midday sun. I felt excited for the day even if my new social energy pushed me to physical exhaustion. Life seemed full of hope again.

Then the work week arrived. And rumors of a new health care bill surfaced — one that would destroy protections for those with pre-existing conditions. I reached out to my representative. I spent a troubling amount of time trolling Twitter and tweeting about advocacy opportunities as well as sharing my own story.

On Thursday morning, a few hours before the bill was put to a vote, I went to the bathroom and cried. I just let it all out — the anxiety of a future that goes back to a time where I had to struggle to access the supplies I needed to live; the emotional devastation of living in a country that does not support my right to live; and the empathy for all those who may die (possibly millions) as a result of this bill. Continue reading

The One With the Silent ‘G’

“Guhhhhnadinger,” my third grade classmate attempted to pronounce my last name as he handed me my name tag. It was the first time I realized there might be something wrong with my last name, and that I would struggle with this deformity for the rest of my life.

When I was in fifth grade, my teacher pronounced it with a hard “g” at the end, and although my classmates corrected her, technically it was correct. In fact, even though most of my immediate family pronounces our last name with a soft “a” and second “g” at the end, most of the rest of the family pronounces it with a hard “A” and second “G.” And according to my dad, this is the closest pronunciation to the original spelling.

It’s a rather simple last name if you take away the German “G.” Instead of “Gnadinger,” you would have “Nadinger,” and I think everyone would know how to pronounce that, but it’s that damn “G” that throws everyone off. Anytime I attend a conference, go to the pharmacy, or any place that must check me off a list, I always introduce myself as “Gnadinger … G… n…a…d…” Always.

It comes naturally. And growing up, I thought how easy it would be if I didn’t have this German conundrum. Apparently, when my German ancestors migrated here in the 19th century, they changed the spelling to make it more “American.” Yet they couldn’t get rid of the silent “G.” Continue reading

From Here to There Yet Nowhere

When I’m in Louisville, Kentucky, on the border of southern Indiana, I see large Maple trees and gravel pathways lined with yellow patches of grass and fallen crisp leaves. A Beagle-Greyhound mix runs in front of me, sniffing at the brown speckled frog camouflaged by rocks and pebbles along the path. A man of 20, just starting out in the world, lights a cigarette nearby. And another man of 26 attempts to restrain the dog and keep her out of the way of the oncoming cyclist.

When I’m in Bethesda, Maryland, on the border of Washington, DC, I hear ambulance sirens and beeping horns of SUVs and BMWs. I sidestep an upraised brick in the sidewalk and bypass an orange cone of a construction zone, the latest in a series of luxury condo high rises. I pass by commuters listening to headphones and carrying laptop bags with their eyes glued to smart phones. I also attempt to drown out the noise of the city with my mood’s latest trend – this time dubstep. And then I move out of the way of an oncoming cyclist.


More than a year ago, I made the move from Baltimore to DC. And four years before that I made the move from Cincinnati to Baltimore. And five years prior to that, I left my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

So exactly 10 years ago, a few weeks from today, I ventured from my roots with no plans to return. Of my two brothers and various family members, I have so far been the only one to do so (not including those who left before me). But what I didn’t realize then was what I would be giving up and what I would never be able to have again: a home. Continue reading

‘It’s All About Perspective’

More than a week ago, I was in Louisville, Kentucky for my 10-year high school reunion. In addition to that, I spent a wonderful extended weekend with family and friends celebrating birthdays and life’s successes. And all of this while sleeping on a cot (because like myself, my parents do not waste space — as soon as I left for college my old bedroom was turned into a bedroom for my brothers and then an office for my parents).

And although I may complain every time I visit about the sleeping accommodations and the fact that I lay exposed in the living or dining room, I am secretly proud of my parents for not keeping my bedroom as a shrine, for making the most of what they have.

But since that weekend, I have endured countless awful days of stress and anxiety. And I sank into a small depressive hole, questioning what I was doing with my life and why my personal and professional lives could not co-exist in the same city.

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Devastating News

That is until I learned one of my best friends was almost beaten to death on his bike over a cell phone. Suddenly my questions about a meaningful existence seemed irrelevant. Because all that mattered is that my best friend made it out okay. All that mattered was that someone I loved would survive this tragedy without too much scarring. Continue reading

Life Lessons From ‘The Thief and the Cobbler’

The ThiefIn 1993, Miramax came out with the animated film, The Thief and the Cobbler, with character voices by such notable names as Vincent Price, Matthew Broderick and Jonathan Winters. A few years later when my dad found this hidden gem, little did my brothers and I know the controversary surrounding its production.

Sheltered from the criticism of the masses, my brothers and I merely loved this movie not for the animation and the storyline, but solely for the presence of the thief. I was recently reminded of the film a few weeks ago when my brother texted me at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday with this: Finally, something easy. Just walk up the stairs, grab the balls, and go home; I’ll be in bed by 8!

There was no context, but I immediately recognized the origin and voice of this quote. For the next 12 hours, we continued to text back and forth only quotes from the character of the thief. I admit towards the end I had to look some up, but my brother shelled these out straight from memory.

How does a film, most notably recognized for its botched up rendition of one of the most acclaimed animations in history, stay in the minds of a brother and sister? And why? Continue reading

Looking Back From 1993

I’ve never seen anyone jump in front of a Metro train, but it seems to happen more frequently in the DC area than I would like to admit. And most times when it does, people grumble about the delays and inconvenience, myself included.

Sometimes, I think of what was going through that person’s mind. And when I walk down the stairs to the platform, and then along the raised, bumped edge to get through the crowd, I think how easy it would be to just fall or jump to my right. In a split second, I would be no more.

But then I think about the train driver – how they can see the entire scene play out, and there’s nothing they can do about it. If they try to brake, it may only put the passengers at risk, whereas the jumper knew the consequence of their actions. And even though the driver is not responsible, that is something they must take with them for the rest of their life.

Mental health, an often overlooked sector of health care, is so important to surviving the daily grind. It is why we shouldn’t take for granted that someone won’t jump in front of that train. And we should always ask why. When the mind starts to reason ending life, then it can reason a lot of things. Continue reading

Christmas in Cookietown

Photo-Dec-30,-9-29-39-PMThere’s something to be said about being diagnosed with a chronic condition as a young professional. For one, you skip the growing pains and hormonal changes of adolescence. Two, your family never has to reconcile their lifestyle habits as a result of it so when you return home for the holidays, there is no reminder of your disease.

In fact, every sweet-toothed temptation surrounds you. It’s not inconsiderate. It’s nice, actually. Your family may have not changed their holiday menu line-up based on your diabetes, but that just means for once a year, you can splurge and forget you have this haunting disease.

That is until a few days later when the sight of another chocolate truffle makes your blood sugar soar. Your aunt offers you a piece of pumpkin pie, and when you check your continuous glucose monitor (CGM) receiver to see that your blood sugar has been a steady 250 for the past two hours, you politely decline. You fall asleep on the couch, overwhelmed with exhaustion, but really, your body is suffering the effects of long-term high blood sugar. You haven’t been running in a week, and the short walks with the dog in 20-degree temperatures are not enough to increase your energy levels.

You suddenly miss green vegetables and juice. Every time your blood sugar drops as a result of overestimating your insulin to carb ratio, you run for the kitchen because across the green marble countertop are rows of cookies, some homemade and some store-bought. You start with chocolate chip, then pecan sandies, and finally fudge. You feel nauseas, and even though your blood sugar is no longer low, it doesn’t take it long before it soars high. Continue reading

Sister, Sister

It seems to be staring at me, although I don’t see a face. I only see its black rectangular body and a few mechanical buttons that I suppose could be eyes – they are my life source. It’s buzzing at me, but I ignore its demand for attention.

There was a time I didn’t need you.

It doesn’t hear me. It doesn’t seem to respond, but it moves across my desk, as if inching closer to my exhausted body.

You are gray and ugly, and I don’t want you … but I need you.

I have a weird relationship with my insulin pump. If we were on Facebook, it would read, “It’s complicated with Gizmo.” Yes, I’ve named it Gizmo. I figure if it’s going to share my bed, it should have a name.

In approaching the holidays, I realize even though Gizmo has only been with me for two years, diabetes has been in my life for almost five. That’s not a lot considering most people with Type 1 were diagnosed when they were seven. What was I doing when I was seven? Oh yeah, playing beneath the Maple trees of Kentucky and going to church with my family every Sunday.

When I was in college and realized the brain doesn’t fully develop until we’re 20 or 25, I considered this might be why childhood seemed like the happiest years of my short life. I hadn’t met reason yet. I didn’t think about the horrible atrocities happening in the world or feel stressed about how quickly my next paycheck would disappear.

No, I lived in the present – my only concern was what fun things I could do with my day. My brother, two years younger than me, and I used to make lists during the summertime and then vote on the items on that list, planning out our free time and deducing what activities we would engage in that day.

We built Lego cities in the basement, played “house” in the church parking lot across the street, and pretended to be sisters. One time my father came home and found my brother dressed in a witch costume, answering to the name of “Susan.” I don’t know why he liked that name so much, but when we played “Sister, Sister,” I always let him choose his female name. To be fair, we also played “Brother, Brother,” but after my dad found my brother wearing a dress, we never played sisters again. Continue reading