It’s an expected reaction on the news that you’ve contracted a serious illness to ask ‘how long have I got?’ I would think that most people receiving a diagnosis like HIV would have contemplated this question at some time or another; it’s quite natural and endemic in western culture for human beings to look at the journey of life by considering its end and death.
When I found out I was HIV Positive I did initially believe I had come to understand the way I would die. I thought that was all tied up, done and dusted; on the one hand it was quite liberating to think that I didn’t have to think about it anymore, I no longer had random thoughts about how I might pass from this world into the next. But after receiving my first set of results after starting medication and learning more about the virus it soon became clear that the consultant and nurses weren’t just saying I could ‘live with HIV’ and live “normally”, they actually meant it.
This wakeup call meant that I started to get on with business as usual. I remember going back to the gym after a few months of avoiding it, trying to eat healthier again and generally trying to look after my health so that I could live as full a life as possible.
I got over the ‘this is it, this is how it ends’ mentally of the virus and realised I wasn’t going to ‘kick the bucket’ anytime soon. And I think because of going from one extreme of focusing on the future to focusing on the here and now I have never felt the need to create a wish list or a bucket list, of things to do ‘before I die’.
Friday night I experienced a buzz that I am still excited about even now a couple of days later and it has got me thinking. I first started listening to Rasputina when I was 16/17 and fell in love with their music and how different they were from everyone else (they’re a cello ‘rock band’). As a teenager they’re style and direction suited my personality well, there was a parallel to them and their position in the music scene as to how I felt I fitted in with the rest of society at the time, or more specifically my peers and college friends. I never in a million years thought they would tour in the UK and that I would not only get to see them but actually meet the bands founder and first chair/ singer but on Friday my dream came true! I began to think that if I did have a do-before-I-die list this would have been up there in the top five…
…so now I’m left pondering, do I want to start thinking about what I want to achieve and complete before I die or do I need to remain content but focused in the here and now? Do I treat each year like it’s my last, or do I treat each dawn as a new day, a step at a time?
I didn’t plan the gig on Friday, it happened by chance; I randomly came across the tour on the internet and realised: ‘OMG, one of my FAVOURITE bands is going to be 100 yards down the road’ and that’s where half the excitement and the high I’m still riding has come from. If I had connected the event to something I MUST DO then I don’t think those same emotions would have occurred, and if something had gone wrong I would have been severely disappointed. Treating every achievement as something I had to conquer to fight HIV would not empower me, it would not make me think ‘I’m beating this virus’ rather it would put too much of my energy and focus on thinking about it, when it doesn’t have to matter. HIV isn’t the be and end all of my life, it’s just a diversion to the path I thought I would be following.
So for the moment there’s no change of plan: I don’t intend to kick the bucket anytime soon and I plan to continue to kick the idea of having a bucket list.