“I moved to Boston on January 4, 1994. I didn’t know anyone, didn’t have a job, and didn’t have much money (maybe enough to float me for a month). But, I did have a plan, more or less. I was going to study acupuncture and get a job at AIDS Care Project (ACP) – a public health clinic doing incredible work with Boston’s AIDS community. After losing my partner Stephan to the epidemic the year before, I wanted to help in the fight somehow. When I heard about ACP, it was a done deal – this is where I wanted to work.
I know my decision to leave Philadelphia was a bit impulsive, and bordered on the ridiculous. Aside from being poor, unemployed and alone, I knew nothing about acupuncture, never had a treatment, didn’t know anyone who had. I didn’t do any research on other schools, or explore other options for work. On top of all this, I’m a bad student and a chronic procrastinator who struggled through every science class I took.
None of that mattered. At the time, my focus was on getting out of Philly. I had to. The longer I stayed, the deeper I could feel myself sinking into a black hole of anger and depression. First, there were the continuous aftershocks of living in a town where every place I looked held another memory of my life with Stephan, and every friend’s face smothered me in sympathy. A ten minute walk through town was like crossing an emotional minefield.
To make matters worse, I had my family to deal with. Ten siblings, two parents, who never offered to help out when Stephan was sick. There were no cooked meals in Tupperware dropped off, no phone calls to see how we were, no one visited, nothing. They hid in the suburbs behind faith and fear while I watched, helpless and heartbroken as this once powerful dancer faded into a demented skeleton.
I knew that the only chance I had to heal the fractured love I felt for my family was to get away from them. Boston was the perfect distance.
So there I was, an AIDS widower in a new city, completely alone, jobless, and not 100% sure I could pull off this weird plan I basically hatched overnight. But for all of the fear and uncertainty I felt, I kept coming back to one thought. I had a community. And like every other GLBT transplant who moved to the city looking for acceptance, and support; I trusted Boston’s gay community to welcome of me, guide me, believe in me – and they did.
I graduated acupuncture school in 1998 and immediately started working at AIDS Care Project. Over the next eight years, I provided over ten thousand acupuncture treatments to Boston’s HIV/AIDS community. I was working on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic, with some of the most talented, dedicated clinicians in the field. Together, we developed treatment protocols that were changing people’s lives. It was an incredible experience that remains one of the best decisions I ever made.
And it was made possible because I had a community.
I can remember, six months after I moved to Boston, standing on the roof of an apartment on Tremont Street during Gay Pride with my new friends, in my new city, watching thousands of men and women celebrating; and I got it.…we create the unity in our community.
To find more of Terry Connell’s writing, check out his blog and first book “Slaves to the Rhythm” at www.terryconnell.net.”