Book about finding a purpose

Finding a purpose when there is none


• By Dave H Donahue

• 2012

• This book and all rights are subject to copyright laws.

• Chapter One

• Chapter Two
On My Own

• Chapter Three
No Purpose, No Future

• Chapter Four
What’s The Point?

• Chapter Five
Illness and Finding A Reason To Live

• Chapter Six
Simple living

• Chapter Seven
Small Steps To Achieve Goals

• Chapter Eight
Back In The Day

• Chapter Nine
Why Do This?

• Chapter Ten
Coping With A Newfound Illness

• Chapter Eleven
Past Generations And Their Purpose

• Chapter Twelve
Veteran’s Woe’s

• Chapter Thirteen
The Final Say
Finding A Purpose When There Is None

By Dave Donahue
April 2012
Hi, my name is Dave Donahue, I have been researching for years now, I’m not really sure why.
I do know that it may be because a few years ago I found myself in a precarious situation. I got
Extremely sick and almost died. Previously I had worked as an electrician and a Marine. I also worked a
Multitude of different jobs which more or less led nowhere. I’m not saying they were bad jobs, just jobs
that left me in a situation where I needed more money or I wasn’t sure where the jobs were going. In
the end I found myself 43 years old, an electrical degree and 10 years of construction behind my belt, 6
years Marine Corps and 2 ½ years as a Navy Reservist and a few other jobs I feel I should list. In the end
I found myself wore out broke and no future. I became sick from meningitis and had to hang up my hat
as far as construction went. It was disheartening and I became extremely depressed. I had a wife, a 4
year old son and knew nothing about filing for disability benefits or anything like that. So, after a few
years feeling I had a wealth of information, knowledge in life and living, I decided to sit down and write a
book about my life and what I had been through and how I have learned to cop or not cope with it all. I
met so many people and heard so many stories that in the felt I had enough information to at least
I know where to start. Writing a book seemed like a honorable endeavor although I knew it probably
wouldn’t make me tons of money. That’s ok, I’ve had money and lost money, I’ve also pondered life and
the purpose of it all and came to the conclusion that it is what it is and there are no shoulds. There are
the could of’s and I heard people tell me, I should write a book, which eventually turns into could of
written a book. A couple of years after I got out of the hospital I decided that I would write a book and I
did. It wasn’t a long book but I put my heart and soul into it and eventually decided to try and get it
published. I eventually submitted it and it was returned for revisions. I went over it again and returned
it once more. It was returned again. Finally the interior was approved and the cover and bio were the
next things I had to do which I basically went through the same process, fix,submit,fix again. It was a
difficult process but in the end I had a published book. Sure I could of gone to the library looked at all
the books and decided, no who would read it but then I said why not and pushed on. To this day, I
honestly do not know what the purpose of life is, I’ve lived a very tough life, I’ve been homeless, I’ve had
my share of drugs, I had friends die young (40’s) and myself have been diagnosed with HIV. I don’t know
how it happened I never really lived promiscuously, except maybe when I was in the Marine Corps. I also
donated plasma in the mid-eighties and through the early 90’s. Could be how I got it, through a dirty
needle. I just don’t know for sure. I found out in 2005 when I was hospitalized and had my wife told I
may end up brain dead or even wheelchair bound. I spent 3 weeks in a darkened room on the 9th floor of
a hospital in Chapel Hill NC, needles hooked up to my arms and feed like a baby. I had lost 60 lbs. and my
wife was told I may not make it during the first 2 days in the hospital. I had spinal taps and the results
came back for an increased spinal fluid pressure in my brain. I came as close to the other side as
humanly possible and yet survived after 3 weeks of care. I shouldn’t of made it, I know that, especially
now. I remember a 24 year old girl was also in the hospital with the same condition and she didn’t
survive. Life is unfair and some people go through life unscathed. Some people never have a chance
and their lives get cut short before they can even begin. This brings the whole topic of GOD into play. I
was raised Catholic in the 70’s where nuns could beat the living daylights out of us. I’ve seen people
who use the church as a crutch to either validate their shortcomings or find a purpose to continue. I see
this as an interesting topic but am in no position to judge people and their reasons for believing in what
they believe in. I do believe that there is a higher power that felt it was not my time yet. I have
towards some of the things I’ve been through and regret but I’m still here and I think that’s more than
anyone would of expected in my immediate family which is very small. My own father jumped of the
Coronado Bridge in San Diego in 1980. I didn’t understand it at the time, I knew he was sick but in my
eyes that didn’t make it right to kill himself. But he did and it was his decision. It’s a final one too and
the people that it directly affects will forever be somewhat damaged by his doing. I have a son 9 years
old, I no longer work a traditional job, I put my time in and now at 48 I have almost 30 years of paying
taxes behind me. It doesn’t make me feel like I’m a superman or anything, I was forced to work, I had no
On My Own
When my father died I was kicked out of the house by a stepmother who in the end owned all 3
of my dad’s houses he had bought in the 1960’s. He paid a whopping 80,000 for them when he
purchased them and my stepmother who beat and abused my brother and I inherited all of them
through a joint tenancy clause. She knew he would kill himself and neither stopped him or told anyone,
the joint tenancy was formed 6 months prior to his suicide. On the night he died I got in a verbal
argument with her, he was at work at the time. Her final retort was “Your father is not coming home”
after I said I would tell dad about this when he got home. Today the property she still owns is valued at
1.5 million dollars and she never paid a dime for them. From what I know she has never worked a job
for any stable amount of time. I realize that because of all of that life is indeed just not fair. Some figure
it all out, loop holds, scams whatever; all I’ve ever known is hard work and struggle. It was my destiny I
guess but it also made me grow up extremely fast. As I write this I am still struggling, I’ve bought a
Couple houses through hard work but also lost them, its ok, I don’t mind, it’s all about the ride right?
My purpose in life has changed, it’s not about busting my ass anymore, and it’s about staying alive. People
Who see me probably see a strong looking man, I’ve regained my weight and I weigh over 200 lbs. Looks
Can be deceiving though, the meningitis and AIDS has made me have cognitive issues that I will never be
Able to reverse. I could of just lay down and died and said forget it I’m done. I could of done that and
believe me I’ve thought about it. I thought about why am I here, if it’s not to go out and work. I realized it
was to share my story in the hopes others can relate and maybe get some insight from what ive been
through. Other people go through stuff I know I’ve seen them. I’ve seen people curled up on fire pits at
The beach with nothing but a blanket, washed up. I’ve even been there in my late 20s. Sleeping on the
Beach with nothing but a backpack but I picked myself up and moved on. I went from being homeless to
getting an electrical degree to buying 2 houses and having a career as an electrician. I’ve also lost that
when I got sick. It sucked but I keep trying why I have no clue. It doesn’t make sense even to me. You
can only get kicked so many times then the teeth get barred. I’ve also realized that pride will take a
person to the deepest darkest depths of despair. I have pride; I don’t like asking for help, I never have
but I eventually had to. I had to get medication to control my illness so I went through the VA which I
hadn’t used in over 20 years. I’ve learned to be humble to, to realize that I can only do so much, I cant
conquer the word, at times I can’t even handle my own emotions. I feel at times life just isn’t worth it,
why bother, I’ve even considered suicide, to just end it all because it wasn’t worth the effort anymore.
Then I got angry, angry at myself, angry at the situation and wanting answers to it all. I realized there
are none, it just is what it is. I have no answers and no solutions to life except to be happy do the best
you can and treat others as you would want them to treat you. It doesn’t always get reciprocate I know
that but still I try and live that way. A few weeks ago, I was at the store early in the morning after going
to a local gym where I use the treadmill. A lady saw me walking in the parking lot, her grocery cart filled
with food and other things. She had just finished loading up her big SUV and rolled the cart towards me
saying, “You wouldn’t mind taking this back for me would you?” it was 6:00 am and all I could say was
“Once a Marine always a marine” grabbed the cart and started to take it to the store’. Her reply, “Once a
gentleman always a gentleman”. I’m not sure if it was a slam or a compliment. It made me think that
wherever we go people will come into our lives whether it be good or bad, it just happens. Someone
may come up and ask for something like a dollar, a cigarette, whatever. In the world we live in now
there is a lot of desperation, a lot of lonely souls and a lot or despair. On the flip side there are those
who have no need to ponder life, their lives may move along as they expected, never thinking twice
about others and their unfortunate situations. I have been through so many different spectrums of life
that it makes my head spin. I’ve been up and I’ve been down, I’ve lived and lost. I don’t expect a whole
lot anymore, maybe a purpose. Mine at this point is to just be a dad to my son, to watch him grow and
help him through tough times. I’m lucky a lot of people do not have that opportunity. They go through
life living for themselves and finally one day find themselves alone and miserable, financially stable or
not. It’s the way it is and balance is key in my eyes to living a happy life. Everything in moderation and
nothing in excess.

No Purpose, No Future
I once had a friend who thought his purpose in life was to become rich and that was it. He worked
different jobs, mostly blue collar types and he always had a get rich quick scheme running through his
head. It never worked out and in his early 40s found himself back living with his dad who was an
alcoholic. My friend turned into one as well and whenever I saw him he wreaked of alcohol. I am sure
by now he is probably dead or best case scenario in a shelter. I don’t blame him for wanting more but
the wanting is what eventually led him down the destructive road. He wasn’t a bad guy just never got a
real break. We were raised together in a little beach town and he spent almost his whole life there.
When I was moving he came over and again smelled of alcohol acting like a fool. I haven’t seen him
since. He never really had a purpose, he was always looking for one. I realized that I was heading in that
direction too, no purpose, just existing and surviving. It really doesn’t bother me anymore, I have what I
Need for the most part, I mean I have a potentially fatal disease now but I’m not dead yet, I’ve lived a lot,
I’ve had stuff; I surfed all over the world. I have lived in Japan, I’ve lived on the beach, I’ve ate muscles off
The rocks, I’ve had good credit and I have had bad credit. I’ve lived with no running water and I’ve lived
With a surplus of everything. I realize that what you have is what you have no need to want more.

What’s the point?
Since my illness I’ve been told find a purpose, my response was always ok, should I get a job? The
answer was no, just find a reason to get up in the morning. It got hard for me and still does to this day.
Why get up if you have no job no deadline nothing to do? I get money because now I’m on the disabled
list but it doesn’t make things really any easier. There is still crime, still things that are unfair, I still have
dental work to be done, my meds break down my teeth and make me feel lousy yet I manage to go and
treadmill a couple miles a day. I’m only 48 but Im no idiot and know that what I have been through is
enough to stop any man dead in his tracks. I figure it like this, what’s the worst that can happen by
trying, what’s the worst that can happen by me writing this little book about purpose? Nothing, and
that’s what I mean by purpose, in life having a purpose is something we all create. It’s not a given, some
people volunteer their time by working at soup kitchens, some at other agencies volunteering their time
as an office helper. I tried working at habitat for humanity and lasted about 6 months, my body just
can’t handle the rigorous work anymore like it used to. When I worked as an electrician I installed
electrical panels, underground conduit and other stuff pertaining to the trade. I got good at it but it felt
to me the purpose was to complete the job. The purpose or end result was always a dollar bill, a check
to cover the bills. I would do whatever it took to get the job done but I was also exposing myself to
some hazardous conditions. If anyone tells me construction work is an easy dollar I would tell them they
are insane or worse. It is a hard job and can beat a person down. The same with the Marine Corps,
when I went in at the age of 17 again I thought this was my purpose, to be a part of something big and a
contributing member of society. I was introduced to drinking and smoking in the Marines, I worked as a
Postal Worker which meant I had to offload mailbags sometimes all night long. It was my introduction
to the real world and it beat me down but built me up and also gave me pride . Pride is what takes a lot
of people down which is why I honestly believe so many veterans find themselves homeless or alcoholic.
When a person is taught early on to be tough and just deal with it, the end result means either burn out
or a life of complete despair. I’ve been there and attribute it to my upbringing and the Marine Corps.
I’m not bitter but realize that my purpose was not to become a Lifelong Marine dead at 50 because I am
retired and have no purpose in life anymore. I am grateful for the experience but definitely do not agree
with the lifestyle for myself personally.

I’ve met a lot of people since I was diagnosed; many are sympathetic and think that what I do is
commendable. I ask them what they mean by commendable. I’m told just being a father that doesn’t
bail out is commendable. I’ve written for online publications about the importance of being tested for
HIV. Again I’m told wow that’s commendable. I wrote my whole life story about what I’ve been through
and seen and have been told that’s very commendable. Does that mean that this is my purpose in life,
to write and try and get my story out so others don’t follow the same steps? I don’t know, I started
writing because I honestly didn’t know what else to do with myself. I felt like the whole world was
saying no to me, like go away, your of no use anymore. It hurt emotionally no doubt, especially when I
knew what it was like to be needed, to work. But then I also realized that the work was just that, hard
work in exchange for a monetary compensation. Beyond that it was nothing more, so that couldn’t be
my true purpose either. I enjoyed the experience of working hard but it also wiped me out both
physically and mentally.
Illness and finding a reason to Life
In the past few months I’ve had a tough time sleeping, my mind wanders a lot because I have an
illness and I’m constantly trying to fix it, there is no fixing It though, it just is. I remember back when I
was a kid I would have crazy dreams and eventually found out they were because I had a problem with
my ears, my eardrum had a bony growth growing over it and it had to be removed by doctors. My
parents were told if the surgery didn’t go as planned I may end up deaf. It is these kind of experiences
that make us who we are as life goes on, sometimes our pupose in life has to be reinvented according to
how our lives unfold. I realize that more now than ever. I am very lucky I can still walk and even run
although I’m careful about that. I live in a town with a lot of problems, lots of people in desperate
situations who if you aren’t careful will bring their problems on you. I’ve seen it first hand, I’ve walked
out the door to seeing a neighbor holding up jumper cables to see if I would jump his truck, I’ve had
people hit me up for money, just about everything under the sun. Normally I help those in need but I
also have to be careful not to help too much. My wife is Jewish and comes from a Jewish family. They
are very careful with money and keep to themselves and allow no strangers in. It’s understandable,
friends are people you can count on, for a lift, for a positive comment, not for a hand out. In this day
and age with the economy bottoming out more and more people turn to neighbors they may not even
know for help. The only problem with this I see is it can really wear a person down giving and giving and
receiving nothing back but a thanks. A thank you still doesn’t pay the bills.
I once knew a guy who my dad went to high school with, he was a bit strange and had a habit of going
around the neighborhood and digging in trash cans for stuff. His house was filled with junk he had
collected, antennas, clothes, bikes, anything he found that he deemed valuable. He had huge eyebrows
and dark curly hair and never owned a car. He rode a bike around the town year after year collecting
junk and stockpiling it in his yard and house. Eventually his mother who owned the house died and he
was left with the house. The city came in condemned the house and neighbors came and took the
house somehow saying they would care for the man the house was left too. He would continue
dumpster diving and lived in their basement. To this day as far as I know he is in his 70s still riding a bike
picking up junk. He never got tired of doing it, never burned out and I figure that was his purpose in life,
to find junk. It seemed strange to me but I honestly feel he enjoyed what he did. That was his purpose
in life, to find and salvage junk. So I guess purpose is what people say it is to them.

If you look in any library or the internet and look to see what the definition of purpose is you will
find a myriad of definitions of purpose. A purpose could be “Why do we eat” “So we have energy to do
what we need to do”. The purpose of all animals is to exist, to eat and to find shelter and to procreate.
That is the sole reasoning for living, a least that is what we were designed to do. I don’t think we were
designed to live as long as we do either. I think this is why we have so much disease and illness, we have
doctors now who prolong life but our bodies still age. Our initial reason for living has been replaced by,
I’m here to be a model, to be an electrician, or a musician or whatever. We now define ourselves by what
we do which began thousands of years ago when Pharaohs’ ruled lands and the people in them. We still
have that to this day, everybody needs a purpose to live and survive, some see it for what it is while
others question their purpose.
Helping those in need

People I have met with chronic illness all have the same thing in
common as I have “What is my purpose?” Years ago I met a man who was in his mid-30’s , I knew he
was gay and had a gay lover. I also had a friend of mine who would come over and hang out and drink
beers and shoot the sh((. The gay man was nice and friendly to us and even pretty funny. I didn’t see
him for six months. I figured he was working or whatever. After 6 months I saw him again coming out
of his apartment. He had a small dolly and was moving a chair out of it. I noticed he was extremely frail
and he saw me and I went over to help him move a chair to his truck in the back of the apartment. He
said thank you and I helped move some other things for him. The next day an ambulance arrived and
the paramedics went to his apartment. They came out with the man on a stretcher. He had
hemorrhaged in his apartment and the ambulance took him away. As he was being wheeled out he saw
me, gave me a weak smile and wave and off he went. A couple days later I learned that he had died in
the hospital. So, I guess at the time my purpose was to help him move and do what I could for him. He
really didn’t even ask, I saw he was in need and I helped him…It seems that in today’s society people do
not help like they used to, a person can be dead and nobody will do anything but look and move on.
Their purpose is obviously not to help but rather to get to where they are going. In the end it always
seems to come down to money, which in society equals survival. No money, no honey as the saying
goes. I also used to live for the money, I would be the first out of the gate to make money, I lived for the
day I would have money and it came eventually when I sold my first house. It was a nice house and I
made 50,000 off of it. Big money to me and I felt like I finally had options. I had a Camaro, drove across
country to North Carolina and low and behold 6 months after arriving became sick and was hospitalized
and diagnosed with AIDS. It’s just so ironic how things transpire, my bill for the hospital was 140,000 and I ended up with poor health and completely broke. I eventually lost my job and my Camaro but I
survived and to be honest I guess that’s all I could really ask for. I’ve been through therapists, doctors
and who knows else and most just say “Wow, you have been through some SH*(!” All I can do is say
“Yep”. But I’m alive, that’s the upside, I could very easily be dead. I’ve had many people tell me I should
write a book about my experiences and figured maybe that’s my purpose at this time. So, that is why I
wrote my first book which really wasn’t intended to be one. Therapy tool is what they called it. I also
wrote another book called “A Day At The Zoo”. It is about a boy who has a father who is sick yet they
on a wild trip to the zoo and experience all the joys of seeing giraffes, monkeys alligators, etc. Obviously
I wrote this in parallel to my own life but sometimes I can only envision the experience then actually live
it. This is due to my condition however I have recently had the opportunity to travel back to my
home state and take my son to the beach and try and teach him to surf. It was amazing for me to
experience with him and to see his face when trying to paddle and stand up for the first time. It
brought back memories of myself and my own father who taught me to surf on the exact same beach.
That was my purpose at the time and it was time well spent with my son, I thank God I was given the
Simple Living
I recently talked to a person, one of the few I do where I’m at. He is an African American maybe mid
40’s. He doesn’t work and receives no money and his mother actually helps support him from what he
tells me. He doesn’t look to be in very good health so I’m assuming he has some issues going on. I asked
him did he ever sit down and write and his reply was, “I don’t have the time”. It kind of made me feel a
little weird, I know that even not working can bring some pressures in fact more for that matter but
writing is something that I think is good for anyone, it helps a person think and process information,
when I was told I suffered some major cognitive damage from the meningitis my thoughts were “When
can I go back to work”? It seemed like I was almost laughed at, like uh that’s not an option. Still I
wanted to and actually did for 2 years before I finally had to hang it up. It was no longer my purpose
because the purpose for me doing it was no achieving the desired outcome. That was fine I thought,
and that’s when I started questioning my purpose in life. I knew it wasn’t to become a dumpster diver,
or a bum sitting on the beach or an electrician anymore or the Marine I once was. Purpose in life
changes as life dictates is my final assessment. Sounds strange but I can only see it that way. A week
ago I went in for a sleep study at the Veterans Hospital. It was a strange experience for me, I was
hooked up to a bunch of wires and told to go to sleep. It took a good three hours before I could even
begin to fall asleep. In the morning when I was woken up I felt exhausted and knew that now they knew
I had trouble sleeping. So, I’m sure I’ll be issued a Cpap or something to help me sleep, maybe it will work
maybe it won’t but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. I’ve suffered panic attacks or I guess they call them
anxiety attacks that have nearly turned me into a statue.. That’s not good but I’m informed it is from the
condition I have and there is not much I can do about it. I’ve even gotten attacks when trying to publish
a book, especially when conversing with publishers and marketers. I forgot how pushy people can be
and I sometimes can be a pushover. I used to never be that way, I was always on the ball and was on
top of everything. I’m fortunate in a sense, I have a spouse of 14 years who looks after me, fixes what I
mess up and finds a way to make things work. We don’t live an extravagant lifestyle, we are pretty poor
in fact but we survive. There is no yelling in the house at all and there really never has been. It’s usually
pretty quiet and well…boring. That’s fine with me at this point, I really don’t look for anything that is
exciting and new except when my kid hits a baseball I throw to him. Simple is better even though so
many people will tell you more is better, I’ve been there and don’t believe them.

Small steps to achieve goals
About a year ago I started water coloring, making little miniature canvas pictures. I kept at it for
about six months and eventually even put some of them up for sale on Etsy. At Christmas of last year I
sold 20 paintings but that wasn’t really what this was all about. Through my interactions on Etsy I also
met a woman who was selling her handmade things and we became virtual friends. She too had
become disabled and I learned she was creating handmade shades so she could make extra money and
at the same time it was fun for her. The moral or story of this is, if I had never picked up the brush none
of the events would have unfolded, some could say If I never would of went to that bar, I would never of
met my wife, ironically this is also how I met my wife, at a bar in Ocean Beach California. It’s all cause
and effect, there is a result from all of our efforts or lack thereof. I’ve also realized I wasted a lot of time
persuing a purpose, In 1988 I found myself homeless in the pursuit of finding a purpose. I had a
beautiful girlfriend but I also developed a drug problem which eventually led to me being homeless and
the loss of a girlfriend. I attribute a lot of my misfortune from my upbringing, living in an unstable home
and never knowing what to expect. There were no plans at home, no college fund, no braces and nice
clothes, brown bag lunches and scrounging for food is what my childhood was like. At the time it
seemed normal and I’m sure my dad did the best he could but it wasn’t enough. He lost control of
everything and eventually took his own life due to failing health and a feeling of hopelessness. I’ve also
seen friends I grew up with fall victim to barroom fights, teeth knocked out, concusions, and the latest
was a childhood friend who died of Melanoma cancer at the age of 44. He was a good guy but had a
rough side to him too especially when pissed off, he beat the cra( out of a buddy who made him angry
and broke all of his front teeth out. Later he told me, that he just saw red, and didn’t even remember
half of it. That was the last I heard from him until I was told he died from cancer. I feel bad about it but
I honestly believe that his purpose whatever it might have been was fulfilled and God called on him. I
believe I will suffer the same fate, more than likely when I sleep, maybe from sleep apnea or something
like that. I don’t believe the HIV will kill me, it will be something entirely different. The one thing I know
while I am still here is that whatever I am writing about here and now will be around long after I am
gone and will hopefully serve as guidance of at the very least food for thought.

Back In The Day

I remember back in High School in 1978, I was 15 years old and in the 10th grade at a private school in
San Diego. At 9:10 am on a hot September day I heard helicopters overhead the school. I didn’t know
what they were doing, we were actually watching a movie in class at the time. The next thing I know we
were all told over loud speakers to go out to the courtyard of the school. Once there we were informed
that we could go home because a plane had crashed about a half mile away. It was a Pacific Southcoast
Airliner (PSA) that crashed in an old neighborhood called North Park. 150 people died in the crash and
our gym was used as a makeship morgue for the victims. I remember it was also one of the first times I
realized this life can be weird and crazy. It was a beautiful day, no clouds at all in the sky and an airliner
crashes in a highly populated neighborhood. Life is unpredictable, precious and all of us never know
what will happen next, the one thing I do know is not one of us, poor or rich is immune to tragedy or
growing older and dying. It’s the process of life and has been for millions of years. I think we all get
stuck in the “Once I get here” I’ll be happy. It doesn’t work that way the only way to happiness is to live
in the here and now honestly and happily. There is no when I get this or when I get there, that is the
road to despair and disappointment. I’ve been there and believe me it does not work.

Why Do This?
Some people may think what I write about is stupid or boring or may wonder why I bother. I ask
myself the same question and wonder who or even if people even read what I write. I guess at this
point it really doesn’t matter, people do what they do and think what they think and most would
probably think I’m just rambling on about my views of the world. In a sense I think I may be but I have
also received some positive feedback on my take on things. I started writing for an online publication as
a HIV spokesman for my hometown. I got a lot of views on it but rarely any comments. Finally I wrote a
commentary that basically said I had been writing about HIV and the importance of testing and testing
sites and so on. I also in this commentary said I don’t know if anyone reads my blogs or even cares. A
few days later one of the directors of the company wrote back and said he cared and appreciated what I
was doing. I made little money doing it, in fact it wasn’t even enough to really call an income but
nevertheless that little comment made the last couple years of blogging seem worth it. It seems that a
lot of the things we do comes back to us in a positive way in little snippets . That’s what I think life is,
our purpose, it’s not to make a boat load of money and horde it and turn into Howard Hughes, or to
become rich and famous and live in the limelight. I believe our purpose is to just try and find someway
to make a difference that’s all. It doesn’t mean make the world a more beautiful place by picking up
trash, that is a job and most people that do it are looking at the end result, a dollar bill. My health
declined from breathing dust in warehouse buildings I swept as a laborer and from suffocating in
insulation in attics where I installed electrical devices. I was the guy that would be sweating it up in the
ceilings of office workers while the employees below complained about the dust. It is amazing what
some people become accustomed to and require, entilated offices, benefits, 401 k plans and yet they
still complain about things. I would hate to see these people live with a health condition and no
benefits and no 401 k plan. I’m sure the suicide rate would skyrocket. This is why I feel I have survived,
I’ve been through the depths of hell and still lived; I have been homeless and have also been on top of
the world. I think by struggling in life I mean truly struggling; it is the only time small things can be
appreciated. I am thankful for what little I have left and don’t need more. Just love and a kind word.
Nothing else really matters at this point, especially when you have been living with HIV, which I have for
16 years and AIDS for 6. My cd4 count when I was hospitalized was at 102, the number for an AIDS
diagnosis is 200 and below. My viral load was 750,000 which should be 0. Now 6 years later my cd4
count is 815 and my viral load is undetectable. I feel my keeping busy and connected has helped me
tremendously, if not I would have been dead years back. I don’t drink or really do anything but eat
Tuna, Salads and Chicken anymore. My diet consist of Oatmeal for breakfast, maybe a Tuna sandwich at
lunch and fish or chicken for dinner. No fried food, boring but it’s helped my immune system. I also
wake up at 5:00 am every weekday and go to a local gym and walk on the treadmill for 3 miles a
morning give or take, about 1 ½ hours a day. The gym costs me 30 bucks a month and I am on a fixed
income. My son goes to a private school which costs 500.00 a month, leaving me with 1000.00 a month
to live on. Minus 100.00 for medication through the VA. So, it could be worse, it could be better, I
could be out running marathons but I’ll leave that to the next life. Every year since I got out of the
hospital I run a 3 mile race with my son through some hills that his school sponsors. I have made it 4
times and this month will be my 5th race. Not bad for someone who 6 years ago was near death. I don’t
know how long I have left, I don’t think about it, I don’t really care about where this is coming from or
when I will get it. I just try and live for today and be thankful for whatever I have. That’s my purpose at
this time in my life.
Coping With A Newfound Illness
In 2004 I was 41 years old, I was sitting on top of the world in my eyes anyway. I had a nice new car,
50,000 bucks in the bank and I felt I could not lose. I embarked on a 3000 mile trip across country to
North Carolina in my car loaded up with pots and pans and a bunch of other crap. I travelled through

most states the 10 freeway and honestly felt I was going somewhere where I could raise my son and
settle down…I was getting older and definitely starting to feel it. I was feeling optimistic that I would
find what I was looking for. At this point in time all I really wanted was peace, maybe a job with benefits
and a future. I stopped at various hotels and motels along the way, I had money in the bank so I wasn’t
worried about anything really. I had paid 5000.00 for 6 months an apartment in Chapel Hill
North Carolina so I had a place when I got there. I also had a few connections on jobs available in the
electrical field. When I finally arrived after a week of travelling, I moved everything into the new
apartment and called my wife who had stayed behind in California until I got settled. I was feeling a bit
tired and I felt like something was out of sorts. I didn’t feel really sick just different, like something
wasn’t quite right. I didn’t think much of it, called up my electrical company I was going to work for and
got set up for my first job in Pittsboro NC. This was an old folks retirement home, the building was huge
, 3 floors and rooms all up and down the hallways. My job was to install lights, chandeliers and other
electrical stuff. I worked this job for about 4 months but I felt my health declining day by day. My wife
had already arrived and took up a teaching job just outside of Carrboro. NC. I continued to work and
went one day to see a doctor to see if they could help…I had a chest x-ray and was told to take some pills
for pneumonia which I did and over the next few days started feeling better. A week later I noticed my
tongue was developing a white filmy coating over it and became alarmed again. I went back to the
doctor and was told it was nothing. By this time I was having nightly sweats over and over again. It
caused me to lost 60 lbs. and I also noticed I could not concentrate properly. I finally completed the job
in Pittsboro and went home and found myself still sick and not feeling right at all. In July of 05 one night
I finally collapsed and was taken to the hospital in Chapel Hill called UNC Hospital. I remember being
taken down the stairs in a saddle, not a stretcher, a saddle for people carried by two paramedics. Then
things began to get dark. I was taken to the 9th floor and hooked up to some antibiotics being fed
through my veins. I remember doctors coming in the room, looking down at me, shaking their heads
and then walking back in the hallway. I honestly don’t remember a whole lot, it was a surreal feeling, I
just know that there was a team of infectious disease doctors trying to figure out what was going on
with me. It took a few days but eventually the antibiotics began to stabilize me. It was also at this time
an African American nurse came in, sat on a chair next to me and my withered body and matter of
factly said. “You have the HIV virus and we have diagnosed you with AIDS” She also had me do some
cognitive test over the next couple weeks, showing me pictures of dogs or cats and 5 minutes later
asking me what the pictures were. I never got them correct. I underwent 2 spinal taps, the first one
which was inserted in the wrong spot. I remember my entire body locking up and a pain shooting
through my whole body. I assume they hit a nerve and I refused to let them do it again. It didn’t work, a
new doctor came in and promised me it wouldn’t hurt and to be honest it wasn’t that bad but, having
needles stuck in your body is never fun. I was also given three blood transfusions over the next 3
weeks. I remember the steady stream of blood going in and out as a machine spun the blood separating
certain cells and replacing them. It was a harrowing experience and from the looks of pictures I have
from my stay I would say that yes I almost died, there’s no question about it at all. The bill for my stay at
UNC was 140,000 and I had a social worker come into my room and start looking at my finances. At the
time I had close to 30,000 in the bank. I was told in order to get hospital financing I would have to get
my bank account under 2,000.00. I ended up writing checks to people I knew, 1000.00 here, 2000.00
here, 500.00 here. Finally I had it down under 2000.00. In the end it all wiped me out completely,
emotionally and financially as well as physically. I was left a shell of a man I once was, beaten town to a
proverbial pulp. So, in the end, I ended up broke and tired. I had been there before though, it wasn’t
new to me, I’d been homeless before, I even ate wherever I could get it; I was raised in an abusive home,
beaten down to the point of no return and yet still got up and eventually earned a degree and bought my
own house. Life is weird that way but my last endeavor of cheating death will be my last great
achievement which is why now it’s more important for me to define purpose. I know it’s not about
money, I get disability payments which help somewhat but it doesn’t go far. I don’t worry about it, I’m
alive and that’s all that matters anymore.

Past Generations And their Purpose
In the past, say before 1990, I see that people who were in my generation had a distinct purpose,
these were the baby boomer. They worked hard and learned from parents that hard work is what made
America strong and continued to follow in their footsteps. I remember my own father was a workaholic,
he never asked for anything from anyone, no money or rides or anything. He was a pianist and worked
at private parties in San Diego. He was a determined man but in the end it cost him his life. He had a
purpose which was provide for his family and do the best he could to accomplish that. In and around
1978 things changed for him when he developed a tumor in his left leg. His leg over the next couple
years got smaller and smaller until one day I saw him in our back yard almost to tears rubbing his
withered leg. The doctors did all they could just short of amputating his leg below the knee. He wouldn’t
have it that way and I believe his thinking was all of nothing at all. In the end he took his own life by
jumping off a 200 foot bridge. I think he believed he no longer had a purpose, no longer able to provide
and killing himself was the only solution. However he was a Baby boomer, grew up on strong work ethic
and believed that a man works until he can no longer function and then the purpose of his life is over. I
too am a baby boomer born in 1963 and was taught to work hard. I had chores I had to do, mow lawns,
wash the van, wash dishes and whatever else my parents wanted me to do. In today’s society I don’t see
this as much, strong work ethic is defined as someone who can sit and work at a computer all day or
work in an office setting. I see nothing wrong with this except the fact that it does nothing for the
physical body. We were designed to move, to hunt and gather and now it’s all be replaced by different
Ideologies of work and the meaning of it. I am not a college educated person, my college consisted of a
four year apprenticeship program but I think a person should be judged by moral and ethical character
versus what they actually do. Times and ideals have changed in this country which is why, I believe we
are in a state of economic downturn. Nobody ever promises anyone a rose garden but to get anywhere
in life, a person needs to set goals and strive to attain them.
Veteran’s Woe’s
I have seen a lot in a mere 48 years but I have also experienced empathy for my present situation. I
have to be honest with myself, I am living with AIDS now, I have suffered from Cryptococci Meningitis
and was given a poor prognosis when I did enter the hospital. I don’t have a lot anymore, no fancy car,
no real money, in fact I’m pretty freaking broke. I have in the past thought maybe it would be better if I
wasn’t here, I don’t have a lot to offer, I’m not even in a position to offer a lot of answers or suggestions
to those who are trying to find their purpose. I think the key to success is to find something you like to
do and peruse it with passion. I only think that life is easier when lived simply, not wanting what
you can’t have and accepting where you are at the present day. I also believe that helping others is our
main purpose in life, whether it may be just saying hello or giving someone a compliment. In the past
few months I have seen a guy standing on a freeway overpass. He is a veteran and has lost both of his
legs and uses a prosthetic. I usually give him whatever change I have in my old Chevy SUV even though I
could probably use that for myself. I finally talked to him and asked him if he ever used the VA. He said,
no thanks, been there done that. Some people I guess would rather go it alone than seek any
professional help. I see him standing on his artificial legs stoically holding the American Flag. I’m sure he
has a sense of pride which if you remember I talked about that earlier. It is the pride of who we once
were that can bring a veteran to their knees. In a society where people shine and wax their vehicles and
keep all their ducks in a row so to speak, it’s hard for a person with nothing but pride. The world doesn’t
care where you have been or what you have done, the people in it only see where you are now at the
present moment which I’m sure is why many veterans like me are homeless and living in destitution. But
I have a purpose, to see my son to the end, to hopefully watch him graduate high school and grow into a
young man. God willing it will happen and if it doesn’t, he will bury me and stand at my funeral. I would
hope he remembers my laughing and joking and playing with him and not the pain of living with the
AIDS virus. He doesn’t need to know about all that right now, he deserves to have the best possible life I
can provide for him.
The Final Say
If anything I hope that anyone that reads this can take something from it. Maybe they can see life
through the eyes of someone who suffers and can find a bit of empathy for others in similar situations.
There is a saying in life, “Always look to the bright side”. I’ve heard this time and time again sometimes
directed at me other times when I have been in certain places or in meetups with other people.
Everyone wants to look at the bright side but they don’t always do it. It is very easy to get depressed, to
throw up your hands when the pressures of life, illness and debt take over. I remember before my
hospital stay I had perfect credit, I could get anything I wanted, my life was moving in the right direction.
Almost instantly I found myself with poor credit, medical bills and declining health. It seemed like no
one wanted anything to do with me. Like I was a leper, an anomaly that should just be cast out on an
island to survive on my own. It was heartbreaking and depressing for me, I contemplated suicide,
realized I would never get back up and that my options were limited. To this day my options are stil
l limited; there are days I sleep all day after trying to walk on the treadmill. My legs hurt, my mind hurts
but still I continue to try and do what I can. I don’t go on trips or vacations, I don’t even have money to
take my wife out to a nice dinner, yet we make it work by combining incomes and just dealing with what
we have. It’s not easy but it is what it is. My purpose in writing this is to show people in situations
similar to mine that there is no all or nothing regardless of where life leads you. You don’t have to turn
to drugs, to crime and suicide to be at peace with where you are in the world. Life for all accounts and
purposes is neither fair nor easy, I know this. I also know that if I do one thing every day to better my
situation or someone else’s then I have made the day worth living. In the end none of what we acquire
in life gets taken to the grave, and as far as I know everyone dies eventually. I do not believe the person
with the most toys wins, rather the person who lived life with purpose.

Dave H Donahue

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