I know it has been some time since I last wrote, and I apologize. I can’t begin to say how vital your support has been in the forms of letters and well-wishes, so I do want to make sure that I continue to share back. I guess I should start by explaining why I felt I needed to take a break. I had read the things I had been writing and I didn’t quite like the voice that I had at the time. It became clear to me that I still had things I needed to experience and grow from in order to find my true voice. I realized I needed to just put my head down, grit my teeth and persevere on my own path before really being able to embody the person I want to be. Retreating and withdrawing from things had always been my MO in the past when things felt tough, but it was not that- this was about growth.
This past year has been a time of deep sadness but also immeasurable joy, like I have never felt before. My grandfather passed away on October 11th, 2016 and my grandmother followed him on February 13th, 2017. I was able to attend a viewing for each of them, which I was extremely grateful for. I remember standing in front of my grandfather’s body while in chains and thinking that I was so ashamed, that I had let him down. It was in the months following his passing that I feared I had not really changed. I felt myself wanting so badly to let myself be destroyed by the pain I was feeling, which is how I “dealt” with things before. My grandmother was also very ill in those months after, and we knew that she would follow my grandfather before long. She suffered from dementia, so phone calls from me more often confused her than not. However, the weekend before she passed we had a conversation where she was almost entirely lucid. I will forever be grateful for that conversation. When she passed and I had the opportunity to say goodbye in person, I no longer felt shame but instead felt an overwhelming feeling of warmth throughout my body. It was then that I realized that taking time to really reflect on and face my own issues had helped me to become a different man. I would not selfishly give in to my own hurt because I was able to see that doing so takes me away from the people that I love and causes them grief. The pain of losing my grandparents further reinforced the fact that I never want to inflict those feelings of loss on anyone else ever again.
So I’ve been staying positive and continue to work on myself mentally, emotionally, and physically. I keep taking classes and pursuing my degree like my grandfather always wanted for me. I’m proud to say that I earned my Associates Degree in Social Sciences from Ohio University towards the end of 2017. This is not the end of my educational path, but it is a step to get to where I want to be in the Psychology field. It has not been easy, but not a moment goes by where I don’t cherish every breath that I am blessed to take. The night that I took away Vince’s life nearly four and a half years ago I forfeited my life along with his. It was only by an unfair chance that I received mine back while stealing his. In every moment I remember that, while my chest rises and falls, and my heart beats, his does not. His family and friends feel that every day. So in every struggle I have, I realize that it is a privilege to struggle, and I had damn well better endure it. I will end for now with this. We are all facing our own battles every single day, and in those battles you will struggle and there will be times when you feel like giving up. Those times are the most important moments to discover who you truly are. During those times, hold on dearly to the reason why you keep on going. That next second that you keep on going when you don’t want to is all the proof you need to know that you can overcome it…because you just did a moment ago. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this year hasn’t been all struggles. My family has also had plenty of highs that I’m excited to share with you in my next post. I’ll also be sharing an exciting idea I have around helping others reap the benefits that I now know working towards a degree can bring. I realize that the gift of education is the greatest opportunity that can be given to someone and I want to pass on that opportunity to both offenders and victims of destructive decisions to enhance their lives and give them the chance to establish a productive path forward. I’ll need help with ideas on how to accomplish this goal and I’m excited to work together on it!- Matthew