To every thing (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
—Pete Seeger, songwriter
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did, but people will
never forget how you made them feel.
—Maya Angelou, author
Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.
—Bette Midler, singer, performer, the Divine Miss M
When I first stepped up as interim editor of Positively Aware in 2004, I had three issues of the magazine that I had to work on right away: the current issue that hadn’t quite been completed by my predecessor Charles Clifton, who had died suddenly and unexpectedly; the 2005 HIV Drug Guide, a behemoth of an issue every year; and a special issue on pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, a highly technical topic which I knew little to nothing about. It was kind of a sink or swim moment, a baptism by fire if you will, but with the help and support of my friends, colleagues, and co-workers, I was able to meet the challenge head on, and persevere—and the rest, as they say, is history.
Flash forward 18 years later, and the time has come for me to move on from TPAN and Positively Aware for a new opportunity. I have been with this amazing organization for 30 years, and during that time have been incredibly blessed to be able to share my journey with you, and give a voice to the voiceless, a rare opportunity that I don’t take lightly.
My very first editor’s note was actually never printed, and discarded long ago. It was basically an 800-word tirade against people and organizations who, I wrote at the time, held their glitzy self-congratulatory AIDS fundraisers, wore their red AIDS ribbons once a year, and then moved on with their lives, while the rest of us with HIV had to continue to live with it every day. When I showed it to my sister Wendy and asked for her feedback, I’ll never forget it. “What are you trying to accomplish?” she asked. “What is your end goal?”
We are spiritual beings having a human experience. So, this is not goodbye, maybe just call it a change of venue.
It was an angry piece, but I realized my anger was misdirected, and I began to understand how important it was that I set the right tone from the beginning, and bring the reader along, not just piss them off for the sake of pissing them off. Since then, I’ve always written my editor’s notes from the heart, from my own perspective, sharing my own journey, in the hopes that it might help someone else, that it might resonate somehow. A lot of it was really a leap of faith, faith in myself, faith in others, faith that my writing and ramblings somehow made sense to someone other than just me. I don’t want to speak for others, because I can’t pretend to know what their experiences are, only my own. It was, and continues to be, a valuable lesson for me.
I will miss this incredible platform I’ve been entrusted with to speak my own truth, but it’s time for a new, fresh perspective for Positively Aware, and I’m so grateful to be leaving it in such good hands with interim editor Rick Guasco and associate editor Enid Vázquez.
Everything changes, and nothing stays the same, at least while we’re here on this planet—you’ve probably heard the saying, “we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” So, this is not goodbye, maybe just call it a change of venue. I’ll still continue to advocate for people living with HIV, with a focus on those with HIV who are aging and long-term survivors. Still connecting, still fighting, still making sure there is a place for those who are not at the table, even if that means I have to give up my seat at some point. I’ll be glad to make way for the next generation of fighters and dreamers. We need you.
Until then, be kind to each other, know that you and your life have meaning, and that your story is unique—it belongs to you, and you alone. Never walk in shame, but instead hold your head up high, and use your gift as a way to help others who, while you may not realize it, may be going through the same thing. Sometimes when we take that leap of faith to share our deepest and darkest secrets, it allows someone else to break free from the chains that bind. You may realize that what you were holding in, was holding you back. Learn to forgive others, and most of all, forgive yourself.
Oh, and one more thing.
Please take care of yourself, and each other.