Speaker addresses students about HIV, life

Amy Knop-Narbutis

Scott Fried, author of “My Invisible Kingdom,” came to the University on March 16 to address students about his experiences with HIV and what the disease has taught him about life in general.

Fried’s talk began with three important questions, “Who are you? Who do you turn to when life hurts? And when you don’t have an answer to the first two questions, how do you survive?”

According to Fried, we live in two separate worlds: our outside and our inside worlds. Despite our public appearances, Fried claims we all live in our own “closet,” our own “invisible kingdom” in which we deal with our fears and anxieties. Suffering in what he calls the “existential void of adulthood,” we want others to listen to us, to remember us and to make us feel complete because we feel that we are not enough on our own.

Fried’s talk centered on the importance of recognizing self-contradiction as normal and healthy, learning how to be a person in pain, and recognizing that we are sacred despite our insecurities.

No matter what their initial impression of Fried might have been, many students seemed to leave the talk with a new perspective.

“At first, I didn’t know what to make of Scott,” sophomore Jonathan Messing said. “I thought he was trying too hard to make an impression on everyone, but as the talk continued, I realized that he’s simply trying to open our eyes to the realities of self-esteem, AIDS and life as a whole.”

Others experienced shock. “I always knew that you can’t just see whether or not a person has HIV, but for some reason, my first thought was, ‘He has HIV?!'” freshman Amy Tam said.

Midway through the talk, Fried stopped to take his HIV “cocktail,” about one-third of the 100 pills he must take daily, in order to reinforce the reality of his condition.

“When he was taking all of his pills, it just struck me as very powerful, like we became part of his life in a sense,” freshman Mike Cunningham said.

“He wasn’t afraid to take them in front of us.”

Amy Tam noted that Fried connected with his audience on a personal level. “As he was reading some letters that he received from other teens, I felt like I could relate to them on some level and also with Scott.  I just felt like he understood me, even though we never talked on a one-on-one basis.”  

Senior Christopher McMenemy, who worked for years to bring Fried to campus, said, “He made me think, and realize whom I have become thus far, and whom I may become in the future. Scott has made me appreciate those experiences which I may have taken for granted. I only wish everyone had the opportunity to hear his message of self-love and self-worth.”