As I think back on the joys, struggles, lessons, and triumphs of 2012 I can’t help but think about who and what I was ten short years ago. 2012 marked a decade of living positively with an AIDS diagnosis. Ten years ago I was a depressed, despondent young woman unsure of how or if she could accomplish anything worthwhile. My memories of 2012 say to that uncertain woman not only can you accomplish the unimaginable but you will accomplish anything you put your mind to. This year I successfully completed three semesters of graduate school in a field that nourishes my mind and soul. I traveled to and fell in love with distant land and her people and made major contributions to the cause to End AIDS.
This academic year has proven to be the most challenging of my entire scholastic career. My beliefs and convictions were questioned in a way like never before and I hesitantly welcomed it. I found that the only way I could truly be sure of what I believe is to ask the questions why and what is it that I believe. Through much discussion, thought, and prayer I found that not only am I solid in my beliefs but I am secure in them even when they cut against the grain. Through numerous reading assignments, papers written, and class discussions I finally have the confidence to know with assurance that my voice is not only valid but is needed. In numerous conversations around social, political, and economic justice issues I realized that my views as a person of color, a woman, a PLWHA and a human being matter.
The opportunity to travel to Kenya opened my eyes to a world so far beyond myself that I am forever changed. Although I experienced Kenya as somewhat of a tourist, the pride and resilience of the people influenced me in a way I didn’t expect. I witnessed a people determined to establish themselves as a nation with dignity and respect, which is quite contrary to images of despair and hopelessness shown in Western media. I saw strong men and women working together to create solutions for the issues that plagued their communities. The people of Kenya displayed such persistence and determination that they inspired me to press forward despite the adverse circumstances that surfaced in my personal life throughout the year.
I entered the fight to end AIDS in a major way this year. I had the honor of attending the 19th International AIDS conference, joined the wonderful A Girl Like Me team, co-chaired a committee for and acted as a panelist at the Loyola University World AIDS Day Summit 2012, and facilitated my first creative writing workshop designed especially for women living with HIV/AIDS. More important than all of these activities I utilized ordinary moments as opportunities to educate those around me about stigma and prevention and dispel myths about HIV/AIDS. Because of these experiences, I know now more than ever that the desire I have to help others is more than a simple aspiration, it’s a calling.
This year has been an unfolding of accomplishments that I never imagined in a million years. I am so thankful that the young woman who received that AIDS diagnosis ten years ago chose to fight for an abundant life instead of allowing her circumstances overcome her. I’m excited about the all of the opportunities that 2013 has in store and I hope that I am prepared to fulfill each of them successfully. I am grateful for those who love me through with their prayers, encouraging words, and kind acts. As 2012 comes to an end I reverently reminisce and envision a future filled with unimaginable blessings. Look out world because I have a feeling that this is only the beginning of greater things yet to come! Happy New Year!