By Enrique Franco
October 19, 2010
I've been thinking about how my life was before getting HIV for the past few days. I've been allowing my mind to wander in some of those lost and forgotten rooms buried deep inside. And it is comforting for me to say that these memories and thoughts are more of a reflection rather than self loathing. It's funny because, and you make think I'm weird for saying this, when I take myself to my past this Stevie Wonder song plays. I hum it to myself and listen to the tune. The song is called "Yester Me, Yester You, Yesterday." I love this song so much because it makes me feel good to hear but also gives me brief moment of sadness. In shorter terms: it is bitter sweet. Just like my life and the many experiences I have encountered. But, hasn't anyone else done this? Don't you find that certain songs, foods, places, and people take you to certain places or moments of your past?
I'll share with you an example. Think about cotton candy. I bet that when you did your mind took you to an old memory. You can even taste it in your mouth. Maybe it was when you were a small child at the fair or on a date with a special someone, or maybe with your kids at the circus. Every person's reflections will be different. And that's fine. But the thought still took you there didn't it? Well, be it a happy or sad occasion that is fine too. But, getting back to what I was mentioning earlier: I've been thinking about the yester me.
I've been thinking about how I was so free and able to go out and get with ANYone I felt like. I was so carefree and fearless. I drank a lot, I partied hard, and I slept around a lot. I didn't have to worry about taking any medications. I didn't need to worry about having to tell the other guy I was HIV positive. I was an absolute normal human being right? No. The truth is, I was simply a person who didn't have HIV or AIDS. That's all.
And, for me, when I think about this, ALL of those memories, good and bad, really hit home. They all have a meaning. They all have given me experiences in areas I thought I would never find myself in. There was this one friend of mine who would sum it up in one single saying whenever he saw me having difficulties. He would put his hand on my shoulder, look me straight in the eyes and say, "Hey stop your worrying. It's building your character".
You know, when I first became infected I had moments of longing for the yester me. I would think that I lost the fun. This damn HIV robbed me of the partying and the boozing and the playing around. It robbed me of my health. It robbed me of being normal. It robbed me of truly feeling and being happy. These thoughts echoed quietly behind that Stevie Wonder song and those memories I would think about. I was right in having those thoughts. But I was absolutely wrong in believing them.
Has HIV stopped me from the partying, boozing, and messing around? Of course it did! But you know what: THAT WAS A GOOD THING. My HIV didn't "rob" me of those vices. It stopped me from self inflicted damages. It opened my mind to learn more, and not only about the disease, but about others living with it. In doing so, my HIV is maturing my compassion. It is also opening my mind to acceptance. It is building character.
HIV did not steal my health. I gave it away thru my own actions. And even though I have a compromised immune system there are activities I STILL do and enjoy. I still lift weights at the gym. I still avidly run 5 to 6 miles at a given time. I still enjoy playing sports. I have the strength to lift and work hard. The HIV now shows me that I must adhere to a good diet and my treatment. My self-discipline is improving. It is building character.
HIV didn't take away my normality. If anything it has put a stamp on it. I am human, I make mistakes. The big mistake cost me to become infected. I am still capable of going out to restaurants with Devin on our date nights. I still enjoy watching my movies and having a good laugh. I cry when I see or feel something that touches my heart. I love my son, Charlie. I love my partner, Devin. Aren't these things normal people do? But, now with having HIV I have become aware of how important my life really is. I have a greater appreciation for the time I get to spend with the people in my life. I take to heart how important and meaningful time is. It is building character.
HIV cannot take my happiness away. It cannot steal my hope. It is incapable of denying me joy. I know this because of ALL of the other things I have written before this part. And, because I know this, I can say that HIV will never defeat me. I respect the fact that I am living with HIV but I will not permit it to ruin me.
I once read a Hallmark card that said what Cancer could not do to a person. I apply those same things to HIV/AIDS. HIV cannot take away my joy. It cannot take away my love of life. It cannot break my spirit. As for remembering the yester me, I believe that it's healthy to look back every now and then and think about how it once was. I understand that it is impossible to get back to that person, but that's why it's called the yester me. The me of today is grateful for getting to live the yester me. The me of today is sharper, more dedicated, and more in tune to know what choices and reactions are acceptable and correct.
I am happy to have lived the yester me. I will never forget him, but I will leave him where he properly belongs. In the past. Then, once more, I can get up, calmly brush myself off, and look straight toward what lies ahead.
A Brighter Vision
The U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy got Enrique Franco kicked out of the Army. It also, oddly, was the reason he found out he was HIV positive.
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