Thursday, July 5, 2012

IT’S MY LIFE TO GOVERN, NOT YOURS TO CRITICIZE

IT’S MY LIFE TO GOVERN, NOT YOURS TO CRITICIZE  

This ongoing pattern in my life is beyond frustrating.   Just when things seem to go so well for me is when my entire world crashes before me.  What makes it worse is listening to everyone’s opinions about what I should and shouldn’t be doing.  Actually, instead of opinions they are more like criticisms towards me.  People think they have the right to say whatever they want in judgment towards the way I live my life (as if theirs is so perfect) without knowing anything about the demons inside me.  And if there’s anything I can’t stand is when people state the obvious to me like I didn’t consider all avenues.

For instance, when people ask me what I want to do with my life and I don’t have an exact answer for them they freak out on me.  The best is when their response is, “Well, you need to figure that out.”  You should see their faces when I respond with, “And why is that?”  No response.  When was it decided in our society that one HAD to have a plan?  I’m sorry but people don’t hold jobs for thirty plus years anymore- in fact people change careers like bed sheets these days.  Sure, I have goals and ambitions, but I’m not one to talk about them as freely as one might think.  I get annoyed when everyone seems to think they know what’s in my best interest when they can’t figure it out for their own lives.

Let me rewind for a second so you can understand where I’m coming from.  I quit my job.  It was a hectic environment filled with ungrateful superiors and lack of productivity that made me a bitter person with “knots on top of knots” in my back, as my friend quoted, and unnecessary stress.  Being HIV positive one of the best medicines out there is to relieve any unwanted stress and that’s just what I did.  People told me to stay because of the money.  Of course finances are important, but I don’t let it dictate my sanity.  Next, I’ve decided that Florida isn’t the place for me to pursue my time.  It was only supposed to be a two year pit stop so I can take a program at a local college.  When I didn’t get in I found myself stuck in a state that lacked jobs for the unemployed and no resources for HIV positive people. 

So, I’ve been on the fence about returning to New York or trying Los Angeles.  In come the criticisms.  People tell me I need to stop moving so much.  “Why?”  Do they forget I had longevity recently in New York for a few years, holding a steady job in a horrid economy?  Do my close friends forget that I’ve wanted to live in Los Angeles since I was in middle school?  Not to mention does one think I enjoy moving from place to place?  A major reason not to stay in Florida is because with a waiting list still in place for HIV and AIDS individuals I’d be cut off from my medications and treatments.  My response to my critics, “Is my health a good enough reason to return to NY or consider CA where the programs are vastly funded?”  No response.  Again, you should see their faces.

Since I was a child I allowed myself to influence my life (from the clothes I wore to the activities in school I chose to partake in) around what others would accept.  It was about halfway into my college years when I was also freshly out of the closet did I sit down one day and had a long conversation with myself that made me come to a saddened realization; I wasn’t talented at anything and didn’t have a desire to pursue anything in particular.  The only thing I tried to do after that was to take a stand and say, “enough is enough.”  Unfortunately, I convinced myself that I already lost precious time from doing the things I’ve wanted to do.  And as I approach thirty I’ve tried my best to make up for the time I lost growing up isolated and finding the things I enjoy in my time.

 If I could hit the rewind button and was able to do one thing over again it wouldn’t be to take away my HIV status.  HIV was the stepping stone to finally take control of my life.  No, it would be to start school all over again.  This time I would be a better English student so I could be a better writer.  I would have pursued those dance classes and starred in the school and community plays and really got on that stage.  I wouldn’t have quit the piano, the violin or singing classes.  Oh the humanity!

 Going to school for medicine was only to play it safe in an unsure economy.  I’d love to help people, but I don’t believe my heart would’ve been in it.  Going to school for teaching would have been nice, but again I only wanted summers off.  I’d be passionate to help children learn math, but I don’t think I’d be truly happy.

 Which brings me back to the question, “Why?”  Why do I need to have a plan or an answer right now?  I didn’t get to back pack through Europe after college, I didn’t get to travel the country “finding myself” and do all those wonderful things others were privileged to do in their younger years.  I’ve been working since I was ten years old because my family was poor and when I was in school I spent every waking hour studying in the library trying to be a straight A student- in my head I was doing all the right things because I was told this was the right thing to do.

So, when people don’t let me be on my life and how I live it I tell them, “I’m an HIV positive individual that made a lot of mistakes in life and I’m trying to pay myself back for all those lost years.”

With that said no more fooling around and wasting time.  It’s time for me to really focus on my writing under the proper set of palm trees- a place I’ve wanted to be since I was in the 8th grade- Los Angeles, California.  Perhaps I’ll pick up the violin again while I’m there- you never know. 


Monday, April 30, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

ME AND MY HIV: TWO YEARS LATER


Two years.  I sit here and write this and I can’t believe how much time has dwindled before my very eyes since the day of my diagnosis.  How much I’ve experienced.  How much I’ve learned.  How much I’ve changed. 

In the relatively short period I’ve gained a worldwide family and support group (while losing some close-minded acquaintances in the interim), blogged about HIV topics, co-hosted radio shows, worked in advocacy for the less fortunate HIV positive and AIDS patients and made a choice to be vocal and a front runner to the world about my HIV status regardless of opinion.

I’ve held six jobs (still working at the sixth), lived in three different states and vacationed less than four days in a row.  I’ve committed to a life of work and activism, showing the HIV negative community that being positive doesn’t mean I belong in a hospital bed.  Rather, I’m a person with goals like everyone else.    

I cried a total of three times in the two years.  The first was in the shower a day after I discovered the news that would forever change my outlook on life.  The second was in the arms of a friend who shared my experience and purposely got me loaded to “let it out.”  The final cry was the evening I was scheduled to drown my bloodstream with antiretroviral medications.  Forever.

When I finished letting it out I brushed off my sorrows and kept going on with my life.

When one is first diagnosed a minute can feel like an eternity.  As time heals the minute’s spirals down to a day, then an hour, and finally returns to a minute.  Life returns to normal on the surface. 

Normal?  A word that I wish I couldn’t associate with a world still clinging to the many prejudices towards men and women living with HIV.  A world that accepts the overpricing of life-saving medications at the expense of a patient’s rent or food.  A world that has placed HIV and AIDS on the backburner simply because it is a “manageable disease.” 

What does that even mean?  These past two years I’ve been in and out of serious debt and forfeiting necessities, trying to maintain my blood work and doctor visits.  My fatigue is constantly bombarding my days.  I thank God when my insomnia is ceased over a six hour nap.  My weight fluctuates like the sun’s rise.

Sure, HIV and all the provisions it accompanies has it negativities.  There are times when I want to throw in the towel and just give up.  And that’s when I tell myself that I’d be letting my HIV win.  (Yes, I’ve characterized my HIV as my own unique strain.  An actual name TBD)  I would be letting a lot of people down in the world, including myself, if I didn’t parade on with a smile for the world that HIV is part of me.

I may not agree with opinions of others regarding social aspects, political aspects and the physiological aspects of HIV.  I may wish that one day the HIV community can reunite- to continue the fight for our brothers and sisters of yesterday.  And I also may wish that the complacency we bestowed on HIV disperses.  I wish a lot of things.  Such is life.

But, when I was out this past weekend swallowing my medications with a two year anniversary cocktail with dear friends of mine and was asked the question, “What would you have done differently?”  My answer wouldn’t be to have never been infected with HIV.  Call me crazy, but what would I have learned?  I would never have met the Christopher I am today.  I wouldn’t have appreciated life- and how much of it I have to live.  

My answer is truly this- “When I got my test results I wish someone would’ve said to my face, ‘Chris you are HIV positive.’”  A computer screen told me.  It was the loneliest moment in my life. 

Here’s to the health of all my infected brothers and sisters out there.  Here’s to the families of the infected and lost.  Here’s to the millions of people worldwide who have lost the battle against AIDS.  Here’s to the thousands of people being denied their treatment and medications.  Here's to the supporting communities out there aiding in the fight against HIV and AIDS.  

Here’s to two more years, and two more after that.  And so on.  Till there’s a CURE.