Near the end of my 2nd semester away at college, a portion of the AIDS quilt came to our campus. I had recently started coming out to a few close friends and was just past my 19th birthday.
Up close each colorful panel of the quilt told a story of someone whose life had ended because of the AIDS crisis. The pieces that were shown in our gymnasium covered most of the floor with some room to walk around and through the exhibit. I did NOT have the skills or knowledge of the more mature and experienced man I am today 25 years later.
Seeing memorials of dozens of victims from this terrible crisis was both touching and demoralizing to my 19 year old self. Chances were good that I would have my life ended by the disease and I would never get to grow old. I remember viewing from a second floor perch and thinking to myself…this is how I am going to die. I wonder what my quilt will look like. I wonder if my family would even make one for me?
It is not difficult to see how I have had an easy time viewing things from the worst case scenarios. Yet those things just have not come true. Quite the opposite. These days I am grateful for my health and the lessons of HIV and self-care have brought to my life. Looking at life from a positive, yes HIV-positive, lens has allowed me to get closer to the mortal truth that our physical bodies perish at some point.
I am thankful to have learned that we can in fact bring hope everyday to a sometimes scary and dark world. It is up to us to choose and cultivate our outlook. We can indeed change our beliefs and challenge the stories we tell ourselves.
I am indebted for the stories shared of the millions who passed before me and for the countless numbers of advocates, fundraisers, and organizers who fought so hard to make the care I have available today. Through the wonders of modern medicine, I can take a daily prescription that keeps this virus at bay. It also keeps future partners with me safe from contracting it either. Much like insulin for a type I diabetic, it is a necessary part of my daily self-care if I want to live a healthy and thriving future. So I do my best to nourish myself with good food, exercise, family and friends, and a passion to serving others in a way that transforms the story I once told my 19 year old self.
To my younger, still healing self: You are worthy of health, love, and belonging. You have the opportunity to live to an old age and to live out many dreams and passion. You can find healing from your past and still keep your heart full for the future. Live every day to your best. Learn. Play. Create. Connect. Move. Nourish. Renew. Repeat.
With love and light