On New Years eve each year, I look back at the prior 12 months and wonder what the next 12 will bring. 2011 was no different. It was a strange but interesting year.
It was the year I got married, the happiest day of my life. The year I became Jeannie Wraight, a name I cherish as much as my amazing husband who was definitely worth the wait. It was the year my husband and I finally put the passports away and were able to be together for good.
It was also a year of waiting. Waiting for Martyn’s Visa to come through (he’s a British citizen) and waiting for our life together to begin. During that wait I spent a lot of time on my own.
Last year was the first time since I was 17 that I lived alone. Since moving to the Bronx 15 years ago I had grown accustom to having a lot of people around me - neighbours, friends, the workers who cared for the animals we used to rescued, other rescuers, an occasional home care attendant etc. Morning coffee usually involved between 5 and 8 people crammed into my kitchen.
Times change and this past year I found myself spending most of my time alone with the exception of Marty on Skype. I have to admit, I quite enjoyed the solitude and the idea of spending most of my time with just my husband. But with him away it did give me a lot of time to think. And think I did!
In 2011 I did enough thinking to last me a life time. I analyzed myself, the people around me, the AIDS pandemic and the world. I tried to figure out why I am the way I am, why other people are the way they are, how the AIDS crisis became so out of hand and how the world got to the state it’s in. I analyzed, theorized, hypothesized, philosophized and cried. I came to one singular conclusion – it’s all about perception.
Everything depends on how we perceive things and everyone perceives things differently. Perception is how people can do horrible things and still sleep at night. It’s what makes life livable or unbearable. It’s what makes 10 people see the same thing and describe it 10 different ways. Our perception comes from our experiences. Our experiences and people we interact with, the opinions we are exposed to etc. create the way we view the world. Perception is how we justify our actions as human beings.
Last year was also a year I learned that I can’t live anyway I want to anymore – if I’m going to continue to live at all. I guess I still have the same rock and roll attitude I had when I was 15 years old. I LIKE to drink Jack Daniels, I LIKE to smoke Marlboro’s and I LIKE making happy hour last until 4 am. Unfortunately, my body doesn't. My occasional bouts of working out, practicing tai-chi, eating better and laying off drinking are now (not that they weren't before) more vital then ever and are slowly being incorporated into daily life.
2011 was also the year of Jeannie HIIV Plus, an account I created specifically to interact with other people with HIV/AIDS. I’ve met a lot of great people from all over the world. I've made 5 or 6 people who I consider close friends and am very thankful for having gotten to know.
I’ve also met some people on Facebook that I wish I hadn’t. I’m completely amazed at how some can’t see through other people’s bullshit. It’s really quite fascinating how a group of people follow the pack without ever stopping to think that maybe this isn’t right. Particularly offensive to me are those who have decided to make the AIDS crisis about there own self promotion.
Really, if you call yourself an activist, talk about the issues, not just about yourself. Shouldn’t the ratio be something like – 90% issues that effect people with HIV, 10% you – not the other way around? If you can’t talk about the issues because either you don’t know what they are or they are not your agenda, then keep your self promotion where it belongs, in groups and HIV blogs where your personal experience might help someone. But stop calling yourselves activists because other people might follow what you do.
Activists fight for change, not their pictures on the cover of magazines. If you’re going to go out to the media, what you say is going to be heard. So you damn well had better have something to say that’s going to help other people, not just yourself, because like it or not, intended or not – by doing interviews you speak for us all.
Looking ahead at 2012 I have some pretty big expectations. This year I plan to move out of the Bronx. I want, no – I will, find a nice small town somewhere, collect my rescued animals together from their various temporary homes, settle down and start living our future. With a new home, a little bit of land, my cats in a big barn behind the house, Marty and I will start a new, uncomplicated, quiet life together. A nice home, a wonderful husband and a few good friends is really all I need in life.
I want to write a lot more this year. I’m working to break out of writing solely about HIV and into the mainstream media. I’ve also started my first book.
I’m hoping to have the time this year to start working on a couple business ideas I have, one particularly. I’m going to start writing a business plan, look into incorporating and keep my eyes open for a partner.
Personal growth is important to me and I plan on continuing to read about new things and learn all I can. I’ve started reading Friedrich Nietzsche but am cautious about becoming analytical again!
I’m excited about the future and I hope you all are too. The saying ‘life is what we make it’ has never been as real to me as it is right now and I’m making it the best, most awesome life I possibly can.