I'll be honest, I'm not a big fan of that voice. But I am very familiar with it. It's been talking to me for a very long time. So I wasn't surprised that a couple of Sundays ago I was having, shall we say, second thoughts. Why? Because after saving up for over two years and having bought transatlantic flights, I was headed to Orlando the next morning to join the 2016 Friends For Life conference. This was something I really, really wanted to do and had been excited about ever since I'd hit that 'OK' button for my registration. This was going to be my first holiday since a trip to Belfast 10 years ago. My first time out of the UK since 1993. My first flight since being diagnosed. My first international trip alone. Big, scary, financially-consuming stuff. Stuff that I wanted to do, but yes even this had me having cold feet. What if no-one liked me? What if it wasn't what I hoped it was going to be? And don't get me started on the horror stories I'd heard about trying to get through airport security with a pump and a CGM on!
When we finally landed, I was struck by a couple of things. Number one was how much bigger everything seemed to me (along with the distinct lack of pavements - how do you get anywhere if you don't drive, like me?), but the bigger and more important thing was how FREAKING HOT it was. When I got off the plane and walked through the airport, I found myself thinking 'Wow, yeah, that's hot - people weren't kidding me.'. Then I walked outside. Yeah. THAT'S hot. And I will talk about what the heck that does to my levels another time.
I was dying to get into things by this point, to meet the amazing Cara finally in real life, share a room with her and thank her for being wonderful and dealing with so many bookings, phone calls, emails and reservations on my poor befuddled behalf. But first, I walked around the hotel on a strange circuit for longer than I care to admit. Was I really here? Was anyone else here for FFL as well? Was I hungry? Did I want to sleep? And more importantly, what time was it? No, really WHAT TIME WAS IT and WHY WAS IT SO HOT? And why were there so many irish dancers everywhere?
Answers in order: Yes, yes there were, yes I was, yes I did (but not yet), I still don't know, Orlando, and...stupidly large competition.
I needed to get over that first stage of 'what the heck is going on?'. And when I did, I relaxed into the spirit of things. I'm going to go into various particulars in more detail over the coming weeks, but what I found were things I didn't expect and didn't even realise that I was looking for. People at home who saw my photos and posts on social media told me 'Becky, you look so happy', 'Becky you look like a different person'. I don't think I was a different person. I think I was me. The me that feels most real when I'm really thinking about the sort of person I want to be. Swimming in the cool(er) night at about 10:30 one evening, I found myself turning to Cara and saying; 'I feel the most like me that I have in over two years. I feel like myself again. I'm not saying all my rubbish has gone away, because it hasn't, but I can see it for what it is now. I feel like I can try and take it on again.'
And why was that? Because amongst the amazing sessions and socials that I went to, I met wonderful, wonderful people. Some of them were people I had Skyped, tweeted, Facebooked, emailed and all that good stuff over the years, but they were there, right in front of me. I could have a drink with them, exchange a joke, give them a hug. It was something really tangible. They joined those that I can't overlook - those people that I didn't know, but now can't imagine my life without. It was people understanding that (even if I had to do some quick calculations) a number actually meant a real-world feeling. It was laughing, it was crying - sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a cathartic, unexpected way. It was finding complete and utter joy in the mundane. It was feeling confident to jump in the pool wearing a bikini without body shame, with my (sadly non functioning!) Dexcom and my (thankfully functioning just fine) pump on full show without the majority of the pool giving it a second glance. It was sharing low remedies, mucking around in photo booths, debating the carb values of Starbucks Cinnamon Morning buns when balanced off the amount of walking we were doing between sessions. It was being terrible at roulette, dancing to Journey, debating coke versus pepsi. It was bacon and fruit punch. Iced tea.It was seeing green and orange wristbands everywhere you looked. It was standing at registration and finding an orange-banded d-sibling I'd met only the day before wrapped around my waist because they were just that glad to see me.It was everything and it was more than I could have ever imagined. It was feeling completely safe. Normal. Wanted. Valued.
At the family banquet, there was a slide show of photos, set to Cyndi Lauper's True Colours, a song I don't think I'll ever be able to listen to again without finding a little part of myself tearing up. This time in a good way. So many pictures, so many faces, so many wristbands - the green for those of us living with Type One, the orange for those there who love us. All in that one room because they were part of this - this tribe, this family of people who would probably never have met, but have each other's backs and hold each other's hands throughout all of it. Seeing green and orange and green and orange, grabbing hold of life and living it to the fullest.
Yep. True Colours. With the 'u' and everything.'
I think there were some people at home who didn't quite get why I wanted to go to a 'diabetes conference' for my holiday. The couple of days doing theme parks after the conference? That they all got, that was completely understandable, but the rest of it? That was just weird. Maybe it is, but I honestly couldn't care less. I found what I needed. I found a new home.
At the banquet, they also played Green Day's I Hope You Have the Time of Your Life. I did. I honestly, truly did. I thought this was going to be a once in a lifetime trip. I'm not sure how, but it won't be. Because I'm hooked.