By Matt Mataxas
“If you can write about yourself, you can write about anything.”
These were the words that were said to me after I was instructed to write a personal piece, which would ideally illuminate what has shaped me into who I am today. I don’t struggle with being introspective, as I’ve always had a strong sense of self and commitment to my own personal convictions.
But, when you’re asked (ordered) to share your personal narrative, there is this underlying expectation that it will focus on some sort of unknown tribulation or inner conflict.
What if you don’t have any conflict?
Sure, I have experienced struggle in my life. I have experienced adversity. But by the same token, those struggles and adversities were small potatoes compared to the daily obstacles that many others in this country and abroad face each and every day.
I didn’t grow up in a neighborhood riddled with violence or drugs. I was raised next to stoic marsh grass and underneath oak trees laden with Spanish moss. The only disturbances were the incoming tide and raccoons looking for easily available food.
I didn’t grow up in poverty. Were we the most financially secure family on this planet? No. Far from it. But my mother and grandparents made sacrifice after sacrifice to ensure that my two siblings and I never wanted for anything.
John Wooden was once said that “things turn out best for those who make the best of how things turn out,” and I agree with him wholeheartedly. I could use this space to belabor how difficult it was for me growing up without my father around, but ultimately that story does a disservice to the true story of me, which is one founded in the constant belief of a silver lining.
Too much time is spent focusing on the hardship of life. Every single individual on this planet experiences heartache, sorrow, anger, and defeat. Additionally, we have all experienced jubilation, love, and bliss.
I choose to vigorously chase the silver lining. I choose to fervently believe that things turn out best for those who make the best of how things turn out.
I became the man of the house when I was 12 years old. I was a support beam for my mother and took it upon myself to be a role model for my two younger siblings. Pressure can either bust pipes or create a diamond.
Forgive my arrogance, the pressure of growing up as the oldest sibling, in what was a severely broken household, resulted in the formation of a dazzling diamond. Divorce was the most difficult experience I have dealt with in my short lifetime.
But it was not akin to growing up in war-torn Afghanistan. It was not comparable to dodging stray bullets in a Chicago neighborhood. Our family experienced a fissure, much like a crack in a sidewalk, and it was up to me to make something of it.
Some cracks have small plants growing in them, others simply have a dirt patch. I chose to be a plant and grow through the fissure, rather than sit idly by and let the fissure determine my productivity.
Pedestrians walking along a city street don’t care about how a crack in the sidewalk came to be; they only care about what came next.
I am next. Things turn out best for those who make the best of how things turn out. Even if you only have one blessing in your life, it is more than enough. I implore you to cling to it.
When you spend your time looking up, you’ll find that you very rarely feel down. Don’t let your fissure, whatever it may be, prevent you from adding life to the world’s cracked sidewalks.
2 Comments Add yours
That was beautiful Matthew. You rocked it out.
I have known both your mother and your father for years. I remember when they were dating, and I was at their wedding. We moved from Savannah in 1995, but through the magic of Facebook, I reconnected with your mother a few years ago and have “virtually” watched you and your siblings grow up. I read Sidewalking on Sunshine this morning and am so proud for her of the man you have chosen to become. My son was 4 when his father and I divorced after 20 years of marriage, and the past 6 years for him have been hard. I’m going to share your post with him today after school. It is inspiring to see your optimism and the determination not to let a tough situation define who you are and how you think. Give Misty a big hug for me and tell her she did an amazing job! Good luck to you, Matt! Sharon Jones