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The Day My Life Changed Forever

The Day My Life Changed Forever

Five years ago, I told the world my deepest secret. I’ve never regretted it.

We rarely know our lives are going to change before they do, nor can we predict the date of such momentous occasions — yet, I knew everything was about to change on November 31, 2012 as I watched a movie in sweats and a T-shirt, and made myself sick on candy and soda.

For a while I had been pouring my heart out into an op-ed I blindly submitted to The Advocate. I told myself if it wasn’t picked up, that meant it was total crap — but at least I could chalk it up as a good therapy session. I expected to wait days for a response, but got one in less than 24 hours. An editor enjoyed the piece and wanted to run it right away.

My fate sealed, I went to the movies and took advantage of my last chance to truly be anonymous because the next day my biggest secret could be trending. I had been wrestling with a decision for months. Living in fear of other people’s judgment, I could feel myself losing confidence and strength, bit by bit. I was 28 years old and hiding in plain sight. This newfound closet I found myself in was suffocating my spirit. It was time to come out, again.

On December 1, 2012, The Advocate released my coming out story, “Confessions of a Newly HIV-Positive 20-something,” timed to coincide with World AIDS Day — which, since 1988, has been the annual awareness day for people worldwide to unite against HIV, support those living with the virus, and honor those who have died from AIDS-related complications.

Suddenly there it all was: my heart laid out online for everyone to see. Up until that point, I had vacillated back and forth about what to expect. You can never fully appreciate the impact that coming out with your truth will have until you take the leap. Now, five years later, I can say in retrospect that the first day of living openly with HIV was the best day of my life.

At the time, I didn’t know that coming out would give me an incredible platform to help others. I only knew that telling the truth would help me finally move beyond my own crisis. Since my first essay, every word I have written has been inspired by the stories and experiences so many others have shared in response. Sometimes, the best way to help yourself is to push past your own perspective and learn how to help others. That was the opportunity revealing my status gave me, and I am forever grateful. My life is better because of it.

The path to finding yourself begins with who you are at this very moment. There are no shortcuts because every time you avoid the scariest, messiest part of your life, you end up right back where you started. You begin to change for the better by accepting the whole of who you are today, and more importantly, by allowing those around you to accept and love you as well.

Two months ago, I took time to reflect again. My life certainly isn’t as exciting as it was five years ago. What was once a dramatic tsunami of emotional highs has calmed, becoming a placid sea of community involvement and steady growth. In the beginning, I was anxious and overly excited when giving advice to others struggling with their own HIV status. Now, it’s second nature to take them to coffee, throw my arm over their shoulders, and begin from square one.

As a not-so-newly HIV-positive 30-something, I know there are still obstacles to face in the future. But when you aren’t wasting energy trying to hide pieces of yourself you can’t change, it’s that much easier to take on whatever life has in store. And that, right there, is all the advice I have to give.

Everyone has their own interpretation of what being open means to them. If I had one wish it would be for everyone who is still hiding their status to come out of the closet and live in the light. Don’t just tell your truth — live it, breathe it, and sink all the way into it, until you no longer recognize the person you were before.

I’ll see you on the other side.

Tylercurry_by-cody-scott-kinsfatherEditor at large Tyler curry is also a contributing editor at The Advocate magazine and the author of A Peacock Among Pigeons. (@IAmTylerCurry)

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Tyler Curry

Editor

Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.

Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.