The Member Spotlight showcases the Planning Council's most valuable asset - Our Members! Each month members get the opportunity to share their various backgrounds, experiences and interests.
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I Did It, I Found My Purpose
by Lisa Holden
Growing up in a poor family with an alcoholic father and a mother who enabled him, all that I knew was destruction in my life. Misery became the normal for me, that when things started going well I would self-sabotage my own happiness. I truly believed that my life didn't matter and I was not worth having even a little bit of joy. Don't get me wrong I have a wonderful family that I adore. My children are so supportive I would not be where I am if it wasn't for them being there. So many times I would begin to put the pieces of my life together I would start to feel afraid and I would mindfully put myself in a situation where I would lose everything I had worked so hard for.
After the loss of my dad in 2010 and then my mom in 2015, I truly re-evaluated my life for the first time. I began to think "What is my true purpose?" "Why can't I be happy?" Not the living like the rich and famous kind of happy, but the I don't owe any debt and I have everything I need with no struggles kind of happy. You guys know what I'm talking about, genuinely happy.
I began utilizing the services at the Boston Living Center and going to support groups to help me deal with the loss of my mother. The more I got to know people the more I started to open up. The outpour of love and support that I got from the people around me boosted my self-esteem and helped me start to chase after my purpose. The more groups and workshops I did the more I wanted to know. Most importantly, I wanted to learn what makes me genuinely happy.
I started taking care of myself again and got back into medical care. I started taking Triumeq for my HIV and Harvoni for my HEP C. I began to feel physically better so I wanted to find more ways to find my purpose. I joined the Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) at the BLC where I felt my confidence start coming back. People began coming up to me for advice and to help them with projects, and it made me feel valued. I was feeling worthy, something I had never felt before. I was looking forward to getting more connected with myself and my future journey. A friend of mine brought me to a workshop on the Boston EMA Ryan White Planning Council and I was amazed at the work that they did. I thought "Yes, this is my next step." I have to admit it was scary. The Boston EMA Ryan White Planning Council was big business for me. I never in a million years would have thought I could do this.
I found myself smiling all the time and I wasn't thinking about failure. Good people wanted me around and I was feeling like my input mattered for good things. My confidence kept growing and my self-worth started to soar. I wanted to do more. I was feeling more productive and I wanted to live to my fullest potential. I was beginning to learn who Lisa was and what she was now meant to do. What truly makes Lisa happy.
I am a productive member of both the Boston Living Center's CAB and the Boston EMA Ryan White Planning Council. I have an amazing job working with great people where I am a case manager for inner city youth who have dropped out of school, now want to get their HI-SET (GED), and go on to post-secondary education. I never thought I would have such an important job. My first real job in almost 20 years. I am doing speeches at important functions. I have major input into important government funding. I am being asked to do interviews for articles and to spread the message of hope. I have incredible people in my life that want to be in my life because they like the person I truly am. I'm taking college preparatory classes and I plan on starting Bunker Hill Community College in September to earn my associate's degree in sociology.
One year later and I look at my life now compared to where I was then and it's amazing to me how much has changed in such little time. I sit and I think " Is this really my life?" "Am I really doing all these things?" I don't have as much free time as I used to and I have lost some friends that do not understand my journey but I am happy. I enjoy what I do and the feeling I get when somebody comes up to me for advice and support. My life is so busy these days I really don't have much free time to hang out with my friends and do social things, but it is such a good feeling to be tired at the end of the week because It was productive. I feel like I did something that matters.
So one year later I can say, I did It! I found my purpose. All these things that are important in my life today make me happy. Genuinely happy. Yes, I said I wanted to be happy but this just exceeds my expectations. It's amazing to me how happy I am and it all started with a workshop.
Lisa Holden is currently a first year Planning Council member.
Hello From The Other Side!
by Allan McClendon
Every year when May comes around, I get a little sentimental. I get to feel the Earth warm up and feel energized by the blossoming newness of spring. I get to go back to the beach to dip my body in the water and let the elements touch my skin. I get to celebrate the lives of my two mothers and will make time to remember and memorialize the fallen soldiers who were once part of my life. Fallen heroes, some of whom were military soldiers and some who were not. But still they fought their battles to the death in their own individual wars.
When my partner lost his fight to AIDS in 1993, I was devastated with grief. And because of my gay lifestyle, I had no support from church or family members to console or comfort me. My life went completely out of balance. Things only worsened when I let my anger with the leaders of my church drive me away from worshipping God for more than twenty five years. I had no real community or place to go and grieve except for being at home alone. The sadness weighed me down as I felt the losses of my closest friends accumulate over the years. I isolated into drug and alcohol addiction to bear the burden. As they increased over time and I grew more certain that I was unworthy of God's love. I went for years believing that my sins were unforgivable and almost gave up on my faith in God and about ever living a happier and more accomplished life.
Then in 1998 I began to wake up after my reckless attempts at suicide failed one to many times. I began to actively seek help for my severe depression and substance abuse after going to the social service agencies in my local community. They gave me the psychological, medical, and peer psychosocial support that I needed that saved my life! I responded well to their alternative therapies which led me back to rediscovering my Baptist church roots.
Over the years, my prayers were answered as I saw the baggage of my life begin to melt away and the sorrows of my heart begin to change.
My life got transformed:
from the other side of self-hate from the other side of addiction
from the other side of loneliness from the other side of fear
from the other side of suffering
And now I am blessed to be a long-term survivor of HIV who wants to live to the fullest and be a living example of God's love. Each day I live in loving memory of my beloved partner Rudy and for all of those soldiers who have lost their lives to HIV and AIDS. I want God to use me as a spiritual leader to do whatever service and ministry I was meant for, and to prove to LGBTQ people that we are not mistakes but are beautiful living creations of God's master plan that are wonderfully made.
My spirit, soul, and body has been recycled by God for me to become an actively productive citizen again. And I continuously put my faith into action knowing that my prayers are being answered after finding out the recipe to the divine that has caused the universe to open up for me.
In lieu of money or children, my urgent need to help others make healthier lifestyle choices will be the legacy that I will leave behind when I die. Until that day comes I plan to help encourage others to figure out how to navigate through to the other side of whatever pain they may be going through.
And when I am dead and all of my personal battles on this Earth are over, my spirit will be meet up with the spirits of all of my fallen soldiers, relatives, and loved ones. And I will look down from heaven (or wherever I wind up in the afterlife) and I will shout down to the next generation of springtime children in May trying to figure out what their sexual identities and orientations are. And I will throw up my right hand, perhaps with a celestial handkerchief folded in hand (like an old Baptist church lady), and I will wave it high at them shouting. "Hello from the other side!"
Allan McClendon is a member of the Planning Council and Vice-Chair of the Consumer Committee.
- Community Engagement: Beyond the Consumer Advisory Board
- Living with HIV/AIDS: What Can I Be Grateful For?
- Time for A HAART-to-HEART