As an action-packed year for the HIV/AIDS community draws to a close, TheBody.com takes stock of 2010 in a new series of articles, "HIV/AIDS Year in Review: Looking Back on 2010 (and Ahead to 2011)." Read the entire series here.
The year 2010 is coming to an abrupt close and as my days grow shorter and colder I am looking back at this interesting year. You know, ever since my diagnosis in 2007 my message has always been one of hope. But the events that I witnessed and participated in in 2010 shifted my point of view a little. To get an understanding of what I mean I write the following illustrations.
Hope is defined for me in the terms of a Soldier. Imagine a Soldier stuck in a war trench. Shots can be heard being fired off in the distance. Random explosions shake and rock the trench every now and then. I am the Soldier lying there in this dirty, rotten, cold trench. I feel exhausted, hungry but most important angry being in this situation. I look up to see my commander staring me dead in my eyes. Without hesitation he bellows out: "Hold the line at all costs! Help is on the way."
Now, what I've been through, especially this last month, in 2010 gives a slight variation to that scenario. The only difference is that THIS time the commander yells out: "Hold this line at all costs!!" That's it, nothing more. No help is on the way but you gotta continue to hold the line. This is how I define perseverance. There are times when I must persevere, even when I just don't feel like it or when I know NO help is on the way.
Isn't this true for most of us though? Don't you find yourself in a situation where you KNOW there is no more help out there for you but you MUST hold the line?
We use a lot of different sayings in the Army and one of them is to STAND FAST. Because there will be times when you are forced to hold the line no matter what else you might be going through. So where exactly am I going with this?
I want to share with you my year-in-review interpretation. I want to express with you how I discovered another useful variable in life's complex equation. Living life on life's terms carries many variables. Hope is most certainly one of them, but it is not the only one. So how did this come about for me? Well let me tell you.
In this past year I have had the opportunity to really get active in the HIV/AIDS community. It all came about when I was offered a position on the National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) Committee. This started around early July. About two weeks later, I was offered to co-write an article for the Arizona Daily Star about the importance of HIV testing. The article went so well that I started receiving interview offers. Also, my friends on the NLAAD committee arranged for some key spots to advertise our coming event.
About one month prior to the event, which took place in October, I was called in to interview for the Arizona Daily Sun. It went pretty well. One week later I was interviewed by the Telemundo News people. I briefly spoke about my story and getting tested. That also went well. Two weeks before the event I had the privilege to speak at an event at Pima Community College about living positive and openly gay. That speech went very well as the students were more than eager to ask me everything they did not know about HIV. In MY mind I started thinking: WOW this event is getting pretty good coverage. I'm pretty sure the other committee members are also doing their part so this event should be overflowing with people, right? No.
On our National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, as I walked into that auditorium I was shocked. There were roughly 15 to 20 people that showed up. My heart sank a bit. I was the keynote speaker there and started losing my will. I played it off to my fellow committee members, putting on that fake smile. And as I waited there in the background for them to introduce me, questions started fluttering in my mind:
Are you kidding me? Do I really have to go on with this speech? I mean, NOBODY really bothered to show up. Don't they get how important this issue really is? God, help me. Help me get out of this one, please. Why even bother?
The gentleman called my name and I calmly walked out to the podium. I remember looking into the darkness. The spotlights beaming down on my face. The sound of my finger tapping at the microphone. I looked out into the audience and began to give my speech. Do you wanna know why? Because, sometimes no matter how bad it gets or how hopeless it looks, you have to hold the line.
And a song comes to mind when I think about this lesson. It's a famous song from a great and beautiful performer and man. The song is titled "The Show Must Go On." And it is sung by Freddy Mercury. And those lines to this song are so true at times. One of my favorites is when he says: "Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking but my smile still stays on."
Yes indeed, hold the line. The show must go on. Persevere. That is the key lesson I will take with me from 2010. This is an interesting ride I am traveling on. Just when I think I'm beginning to see the entire picture, something else gets thrown at me. No worries. That's just how it goes sometimes. But, I am honestly grateful and happy to be able to share my experiences not only with my family and friends but with all of you, my extended family here online. For however I have this opportunity I want to extend a deep hearted THANK YOU to the ones who read what I write and also share comments. My family here in Tucson, Arizona, wishes you all a very Happy Thanksgiving and a VERY MERRY Christmas. God Bless and see you in 2011.
Send Enrique an e-mail.
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.