At age twenty five I decided to go back to college. I enrolled to an HBCU and majored in Sociology. I loved my major and made the Dean’s list every semester. In addition to being in school full time I also worked part time at an afterschool program. For the first time since my mother passed away I felt like my life was worthwhile. I was finally living a life that she would be proud of and it felt good.
One day while on campus I noticed large crowd gathered around a van in the center of the campus yard. Loud hip hop music blared from its speakers and the bright red AIDS ribbons that covered the van could hardly go unnoticed. As students danced and enjoyed the music we were encouraged to get tested for HIV and other STDs. There was an assortment of prizes, bags of condoms and hundreds of colorful pamphlets about HIV/AIDS on a display table. One of the prizes was a pair of white socks with purple and green butterflies on them. I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t leave campus without those socks. I even tried to convince the AIDS tester to let me have them without getting tested but she wouldn’t budge. Truth be told, I was more afraid of the needle than I was of getting the test results. After an hour of stalling, I hesitantly entered the van, signed a few papers and allowed the tester to draw a small tube of blood. I was told that if I didn’t receive a phone call in three weeks I was fine and I should get tested annually.
One week passed, two weeks passed, three weeks passed without a phone call. They were the longest twenty one days of my life and I partied like it was 1999 all weekend to celebrate being STD free. The following Monday, the partying ceased when I received a phone call from someone at the Department of Health and Environmental Control who instructed me to come to their office immediately. The next morning I went to the office and was told that I was HIV+ and that I had been infected for about ten years. Ten years earlier I was only fifteen years old. I walked out of that office feeling hurt, confused, angry, and ashamed not knowing how or if I was going to live through the same diagnosis I watched destroy my mother only seven years only.
That October day has been forever etched in my memory. Although ten years has passed, I remember that day like it was yesterday. I’d be lying if I said every day since then has been a walk in the park but the truth is that day saved my life. Because of that day, I made a decision about how I was going to spend the rest of my days on earth. Because of that day, I stopped simply existing and started living. Because of that day, I am accomplishing things that I never dreamed of. Because of that day, I sought and found a Power mightier than myself to govern and guide the remainder of my days. Because of that day, I now know that I can survive any challenge that comes my way. Because of that day, I am reminded on a daily basis that life is only a breath away. Because of that day I love, laugh, and learn with intensity and passion. I now live on purpose because of that day.