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A Present to Myself, on My 50th Birthday

By Rusti Miller-Hill

October 25, 2011

On October 25, 1961, at 8:53 AM, I entered into this world a beautiful baby girl full of life and love and no expectations other than having a full, loving life. This year I am celebrating my 50th birthday. As my fourteen-year-old grandson stated, I am a half of a century years old.

I had to stop and take a moment of reflection. I have been around for a long time. I have had and lost much; but most of all I have had the pleasure of having some inspirational people in my life over the years. I thought about sharing some of my wisdom and decided to stop and breathe, enjoying each breath and the peace that it brings to my soul.

While this might not mean much to anyone else except me, this is huge. I have lived through the death of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X; the Women's Rights movement; the sexual revolution; racial integration of schools and communities; and most importantly, HIV /AIDS.

I have come to realize that each generation has something to overcome. HIV/AIDS has been our fight for the last thirty years. I have lived my thirties and forties struggling to bring voice to this fight. I can remember early on in my diagnosis, asking God to allow me through his grace to live another year healthy and strong, and was blessed to live through that and much more. I have reached a place in my life today that I know what living free from stigma and discrimination truly means; unfortunately, just because I have arrived at such a place does not mean that others have traveled with me. The freedom I am referring to is my own personal achievement of freeing my self from stigma and discrimination (for some self-imposed, and for some felt by others from the outside in, but always present) -- you know what I mean.

I have watched the matrons of my family enter senior age gracefully and with such anticipation that I was once envious of their journey, fearful that I might not have the pleasure of experiencing the aches and pains getting older brings.

This thing we embraced is called life; and I learned it's not about the destination, but the journey that counts the most. My journey has been a crooked and ever-winding path; I would not change my course for anything, including my living with AIDS. I can say that because if ever there was a question about why I was placed here on this earth, it was to be of good service to my fellow woman and man. We often lose focus along our road as we continuously look at ourselves to examine and reexamine all our wrongs and rights, living with the "I wish I did," "I coulda," "I shoulda" and "If only."

With all my children -- son and daughter -- soon moving on to living their own lives, I anticipate living the second half of live as a carefree, responsible adult without the baggage of yesterday or the uncertainty of tomorrow, and enjoying all that today has to offer me. Today I am grateful and as I look to the legacy I will pass on, I have the knowledge I did my best to be a positive influence on the lives I have crossed paths with; and in some form or fashion, imparted the importance of educating our youth about prevention of HIV/AIDS.

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