You know what’s funny? I never thought I would be writing this today. Seriously, I figured I would be dead by now. Ever since I was a wee little Dutch boy I had this vision of dying by my 30th birthday. Never really bothered me or frightened me, it was just this notion.
With that said, the day I was handed my HIV test results (2 months before my 30th!!) I couldn’t help but remember that notion and wonder if my time had indeed come. My diagnosis and the devastation that followed it were signs that I was on the fast track to my own self-fulfilling prophecy of doom. And for a long time I did feel that something within me had died. Something big and important was gone even if I, the physical being, was still around.
Then about 3 or 4 years into it something shifted. Around that time I started to realize that something bigger was at play here. This feeling of a new life, a new beginning, took hold of me and my focus shifted. It shifted from death and doom to hope and life. There were these amazing moments of clarity that started to happen in my life. Oprah calls them her “AHA” moments, I call them my “What The Hell” moments because they literally sneak up on you and startle you. So What The Hell!!!
I am going to be 40 years old in two months. I have passed the infamous “Dead by 30” mark by 10 years and have NO intention of going anytime soon. I am PROUD to be turning 40 because when all is said and done I have worked MY ASS off to get here.
10 years since I thought my life was done and gone. From where I was 10 years ago at 30 to here today at (almost) 40 feels like a lifetime has happened in between. And I wouldn’t change one thing about it. Not one thing. It was all worth it. This year, as an additional gift, the universe has bestowed upon me the great gift of closure; closure on events and relationships that were/are important to who I am today. I am humbled and grateful for each experience.
I used to say that part of me did indeed die. The part of me that wasn’t a very nice person; the part that was selfish and arrogant. I used to say that because of these last 10 years I have become this “new” person. I used to say that, but not anymore. What I have come to understand in this last year is that I always had all this in me. It just lay within, waiting for the right time to be allowed to blossom. I wasn’t as much selfish as I was insecure and with a desperate need to belong; a desire that would drive me to extreme behavior at times. I now realize that underneath all that insecurity and fear lay this man waiting to be let out. A man who knows he is worthy; that he is ENOUGH as he is; that he is loved and capable of loving. A man who knows he matters for who he is.
Nothing and nobody died in these last 10 years; rather a man was BORN in that time.
Looking back at 40 years now, trying to come up with the most significant parts; the biggest lessons learned is nearly impossible because the lessons are not done yet. I don’t think they will ever be done. I don’t believe we can ever learn everything there is to learn about life!
Listen, HIV is a hell of a S.O.B., I am not kidding. There are days that the affects from the virus and medication are frustrating beyond believe. It remains deadly and there is no vaccine, no cure. Long term effects are complicated and often yet unknown. Those are the facts. They suck.
HOWEVER, rather than to vilify it and get dragged down by its tentacles, I instead try to honor its importance in my life. I recognize its fierceness and I truly aim to CELEBRATE how life affirming it has become for me.
For me, the one thing that sticks out the most to me is the realization, better: the APPRECIATION, that everything and everybody is WORTH IT. Worth it because whatever happens, whomever you meet, it will take you to where you need to go next. My life right now, today, is perfect the way it is. And I never would have arrived at it if I had not gone through each and every thing that happened. If I had met one different person then my next step would have been different and I wouldn’t have arrived here, TODAY. If you FULLY grasp that concept, then everything becomes worth it. And by considering everything and everybody as a true gift, you have to let go of negativity. My HIV is in fact such a gift.
You have to let go of the negativity and embrace the positive.
Throughout the years you will get handed these pieces of papers that can change the course of your life, sometimes at random and sometimes more prescriptive. A birth certificate; a marriage license; a college diploma; a layoff notice or a green card, they will all impact your life’s journey.
To the point: ten years ago TODAY, I was handed my last piece of paper….and my life changed once again, in a very prescriptive way.
It changed for the positive.
On July 5, 2001 I found myself sitting on the kitchen floor, crying uncontrollably, and convinced that my life had ended because of what it said on that piece of paper.
Today, 10 years to the day, I know more than ever that I am alive because of what it said…
My name is Sven