AIDS Walk LA, 2014

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AIDS Walk LA 2014 – can’t fully explain how happy I am to have been a part of this.

(Read “Jon’s Story” for more perspective on today’s thoughts)

Somehow, I didn’t have an emotional breakdown at any point in the 10k journey today though I came close. Once as we started and again as we got to where someone was screaming “6 more blocks”, there were tears. Somehow, I forcibly sucked them back into my eyeballs.

Two things were behind the tears:
1- Jon
2- thinking: I wouldn’t have been able to do this last year

1- it doesn’t escape me, ever, that the disease that took my uncle is still stealing lives from the planet, often too soon. He died 21 years ago. As illnesses go, this is still a relatively “new” one in the blink that 21 years is to humankind. Still, it continues to be here and has found ways, in the ways that viruses do, to infiltrate every echelon of society. None of us is safe. The very thing that brings us so much pleasure and one of the most natural things our bodies understand how to do – can also end us. It is a cruel joke.

As we were walking, I found myself falling into moments of pensiveness. My colleagues asked, from time to time, if I was ok (we started out with 4 administrators, 48 students, and several other UCLA friends and family… eventually, we ended up all over the place in the swarm of 25,000 bodies). I couldn’t stop thinking about Jon being almost my same age (38, as of last weekend) when he died (39 and just shy of his 40th birthday) and being profoundly sad for all the names on backs of shirts that were being recognized (“I walk for… I walk in memory of … “). Why is this still the story? So many people, thousands more every year, are infected or impacted. There’s a calling here I know I have been putting off for too many years.

2- last year, at this same time, I was 84 lbs. heavier. And before that, years ago when supposedly in my prime and involved with a few walks in Miami, I was even heavier. Those walks were 5k’s and rough. Today’s walk was a 10k (6.2 miles) and, though tougher by mile 4, far easier given my current weight and the fact that I have been working out for several months now. But I just knew it today – last year I would not have been able to complete this. I would have cut out early and jumped on one of the shuttles perched around the walk’s perimeter. When I heard someone shout, “You’re 2/3 of the way done!” I decided: You WILL finish this; this is for JON (and this is for you). Physically, my body is in a better place at 38 than it has been for what is the majority of my adult life.

Today’s walk was a celebration and remembrance of Jon first. But it was also a personal triumph.

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Me and Jon. I say no more.
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Team UCLA 🙂
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And, because my life is full of wild connections, this is a friend (former student) I knew – from Miami. #FIU, #PantherPride. Yes, I ran into him at the AIDS Walk.

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