Why I Ride: Dan Burns
When I sat down to write this I realized it wasn't that simple of a question to answer, having been involved in HIV/AIDS for nearly 20 years. My riding began in 1998 when I hopped on my bike for the first time from Boston to New York to save lives and remember those that had passed. At that time, besides the several walks I had completed, riding my bike seemed to be all I could do to stop the epidemic.
While writing this piece, I began to see that I was riding for reasons from the past, for the epidemic that I first heard of while in high school in the mid-’80s. Or when I started going to gay bars and hearing of men dying day to day. Or the phone call I got from one of my best friends on a freezing cold February morning back in 1994, saying that he tested positive and all we talked about was when and how he would die. I rode my bike so I had the chance to scream at God for taking my friends away. I rode my bike hoping to find a cure. I rode my bike because I realized I just might be able to make a difference. I rode for all those and even more reasons.
Over the past few weeks, I met with several of my Funky Monkey teammates and began to wonder why we ride. Could it just be this simple, that I care? That we care? My dear friend and teammate David said it’s because I care. But I kept saying to myself there has to be more to it than that.
Then one Saturday evening, after having dinner with my friend and teammate Nick, I got into a taxi to head home and while looking at the beautiful crisp Manhattan skyline the tears began to roll down my face. Then it hit me why I ride. I realized that all those reasons I stated earlier are still important to me, but the difference now is that I am riding for the future, not just the past. I ride so that those dealing with HIV/AIDS have a future, a future of love, a future of healing, a future. A very long and beautiful future.
I ride so that the young man of 22, who just last week tested positive, has the support, the access and love needed to live a great future. I ride so that the kids in high school get access to important information about HIV/AIDS. I ride so that those who are positive, and those I know who have survived for a long time, continue to have a bright future. I ride so that people who we lost are never forgotten in the future. I now ride for the future of HIV/AIDS. In the past, a diagnosis meant death. Now, because of research, education, medicine and riding my bike, a diagnosis no longer means death.
This past year I completed my third AIDS/LifeCycle ride and it changed my life, yet again. It was an opportunity for me to let go of the past and begin to see a new future for myself and others. I let go of all of my fears that I grew up with, let go of my anger and resentment. I let go of the stigmas that surrounded my community. I let go of the fight, and what showed up was a whole new future for HIV/AIDS. A future of living!
A future where I could live again and meet the man of my dreams. Where I could let go and someday marry him. That’s my future now—and he is positive and wonderful! You see if I lived in the past I would have never said yes to our first fabulous dinner when he visited me in New York. I would have never walked down the street that evening and held hand for the first time. I would have never had that first kiss where my world changed forever. I would have never looked into his eyes and for the first time in my life see my match. If I kept living in the past I would never have a future where I too can be happy. Oh, and yes, I met him on the ride!
So now I am training for my fourth AIDS/LifeCycle ride, and though the reasons have changed over time—and all are still valid—I realized at the source of why I ride is that I do care. This year I will ride for the future—your future and my future. A future where living with HIV/AIDS is a future of living!
So, why do I ride?
Simply put, I ride because I care!
And a special thanks to my monkeys Dan, David, Justin, Keith, Dennis and Nick. Thank you for being on this ride with me!
And to my Dion, I will never forget you in the future!
For more info on AIDS/LifeCycle, visit http://www.aidslifecycle.org,and register to ride with us next June by entering discount code: INSTINCT. If you’d like to support Dan in his ALC efforts, visit his page here.