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“You can be gorgeous at thirty, charming at forty, and irresistible for the rest of your life”. Coco Chanel

It was my birthday last Friday. Not an unusual occurrence; it happens once a year. Most people experience the same thing. According to the World Population Clock ( I probably share this birthday with about 20,535,940 other people. That’s a lot of people! So I’m not alone. But perhaps what is a little bit more special about my birthday to me is that I shouldn’t be here. As I count down (or up?) to the fast approaching next big 0, each birthday becomes more of a time for reflection than for a merry round of social activities.

I shouldn’t be here because when I was given a surprise diagnosis of HIV and AIDS nearly nine years ago, I was told I had two weeks to live. Being hit with that kind of information tends to stop you in your tracks. It did me. It makes you realise the fragility of life. The shortness of it. The importance of it. And yet, at the same time, how unimportant it is in the grand scheme of things. It only becomes important if we can make something worthwhile out of it. Leave some kind of legacy. For some, their children may be their legacy. I don’t have children. So, for me, my legacy will be the positive impact that I have had on others. I don’t want my name in lights but just for one person at least to remember me by saying “yep, that Roland really helped me”. Hopefully not too much to ask.

How many others are given the opportunity of that moment of clarity to think about what your life really means? To rise above the daily trudgery and evaluate the purpose of being here?  To simply wonder why? And in the moment of calm stillness to understand what it means to be here, to be alive.  I feel very lucky, and very grateful, to have been offered that opportunity.  And now I have to make the most of it.