Last March 1, I found myself at an auditorium in the University of St. La Salle, Bacolod as a guest speaker for BanAIDS, a symposium on HIV and AIDS for nursing and medical students from all around Western Visayas.
Honestly, I was wary. I had just spoken eight days prior in the same venue for the student government and I felt that while I may have done my part in making the threat of HIV real and prevalent in the students’ mind; I felt that I did not connect with them. Not as strongly as I have before.
I have been doing this for five years now. What if I have run out of things to say? Tired of my own story — and my own story is all I have to share — what if I no longer do what it is that I had set out to do?
I was scared, yes, but I was also tired and exhausted. The same questions. The same things over and over again. I’ve had enough, really.
But the BanAIDS symposium was very different. For the first time, in a long time, when Dr. Joan Cerrada said “seminal fluid” and “vaginal fluid” in her presentation, the kids did not make a sound. They did not squirm or make known their discomfort, if there was any. And when the questions started to come, they were all new and they were different and they were digging deeper.
It made me feel useful again. I felt like I connected with them and when I tried to be funny, they laughed. When I tried to be serious, they quieted down and listened. When I had been asked how my life had changed since discovering my HIV status; I told them the new perspective of my life.
Time is short, I said. I don’t think about the future or dwell on the past. I will not trouble myself with what I do not have but will value and cherish what I have now. I’m sure I did not say it as succinctly and as clear as I just did now, but I said something of the sort and afterwards, they applauded. We are told that day-after-day but in the context of my life, it made sense. Hopefully, it made sense for them.
My lost and rambling days of my early twenties had left me a scar which I show to all when possible so that they may learn the lesson without the hardship that came with it. Some will not heed it or some may dismiss what I have to say but maybe, just maybe, there’s one or two in the audience who will listen and will be more careful. They will protect themselves and they will be smarter of their choices.
And maybe, then, I’ll realise that I’m not just talking and talking for the sake of hearing my own voice. That behind all this; there is a reasoning to it as well.
I was affected after my talk in BanAIDS last Saturday. I feel renewed a bit. I feel like I have not lost my way just yet and that I should (and can) keep pressing on.
This is a fight we cannot stop fighting. It’s for the future that I do not think of too much. Lemonade out of lemons. The choices we make dictate the lives that we lead. I think that’s Shakespeare. I will borrow some of the bard’s grace for my own, if I may be so bold.
There are days when I feel like my life is a play or a movie being written as I move along. But this my life and these are the choices I’ve made and I am accountable for them as I should be. I am still so shocked, so very often, of how lucky I have been to have been so fortunate as to be so cared for and loved. That this has been made surprisingly easy, as it is not that way for so many others. And of course, you always feel like you are undeserving of it. That there is nothing in your life that can measure up to such goodness and kindness that you have been given; so you pay it forward.
I pay it forward. Everyday that I can, I pay it forward.