Dalila Ali Rajah
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OpEd: AIDS/LifeCycle, A Five-Year Journey Through Pain and Kindness

OpEd: AIDS/LifeCycle, A Five-Year Journey Through Pain and Kindness

While I may have shed some tears of pain during my big fall, one of the best memories from any of my rides is the tears of joy from a female rider I didn’t even know. I was standing at a rest stop on the last day of the ride, and a girl comes up to a group of fellow riders on our team, known as Team Popular, with tears in her eyes and says, “I just want to thank you guys, every time one of you pass me on the road you say something nice and give me some encouragement. So many times I wanted to pull over and stop, but you all pushed me to keep pedaling. Thank you!” It was such a simple thing to us, but just putting the positive energy out there was helping other riders, and made me want to go even further to encourage and help more riders. I think we probably just got bored saying “on your left “ repeatedly and it morphed into “keep up the good work,” “you’re rocking it,” and “almost there.” On the reverse, I can’t tell you how many people have passed me singing our namesake song “Popular,” made famous by Kristin Chenoweth in the musical Wicked. I’ve always felt that doing the actual ride is way easier than training. Being surrounded by so many people is just an extra motivator to keep pedaling. 

Sometimes the littlest things turn out to signify major accomplishments. When I first signed up, I was worried about being able to set up my tent. I quickly mastered that task, but changing tires was something that this princess took a little longer to master. Well, "master" is a little strong. Maybe "able" is more appropriate. I didn’t change my own flat tire until midway through my third ride. Let’s put this in perspective: I’d probably ridden 5,000 to 6,000 miles at this point, and had at least 20 flat tires. But with the ever-so-friendly AIDS/LifeCycle community, someone was always there with a smile on their face to kindly change my tire. There is a bit of a running joke: "If something is wrong with your bike, find a lesbian." Well, I didn’t see one, and I was on the side of the road with another rider who also lacked the skills necessary to make my tire work again. After 30 minutes and several attempts, I finally popped my tire-changing cherry. Once I’d done it once, the situation quickly reversed. I became the veteran rider, eager to lend a hand and change a tire for anyone in need. Since then, I must have changed 50 tires over the next year, surely paying back all the kind deeds others had done for me.  

Training, fund-raising, and completing this amazing event will literally change your life. I know It has changed mine. It’s really like adult summer camp, bringing back so many amazing memories, and wonderful people I have met over the years. With the ride just a few weeks away I need your support to reach my fundraising goal. Please make a tax-deductible donation and be a hero today.



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