matthew takes

Guilty Conscious



Reflection is important.
That sounds so ridiculously obvious, I’m sure.
In fact, probably a lot of what I’m about to say is obvious, but it hasn’t always been for me.

There is a right way and a wrong way to deal with self reflection. For most of my life I did it the wrong way.

As long as I can remember, I have always been hyper aware of my “self”. I don’t believe I’ve ever been too egotistical, narcissistic, or overly confident or anything, but I’m always reflecting on myself. That being said, I’m sure there are some people out there that would ascribe some of these attributes to me. Perhaps rightfully so based on my interactions with them, but I know deep down they are mostly untrue. If I had shown any of these characteristics it was surely out of insecurity or an attempt to hide my flaws. I’m confident making that claim, as most of my awareness has been hyper focused on the negative attributes of myself and almost zero directed towards the positive.

For most of my life, guilt has been my most treasured annoyance. I have written about it here excessively, so I won’t go into too much detail, but the debilitating nature of my guilt held me back from some pretty amazing things: Relationships, career opportunities, everyday life, etc.

I was constantly aware of my past sins and unable to forgive myself. There was a running tab of all the horrible shit I had done playing through my head 24/7 -weighing me down each and every day.

Want an example?
In second grade I scammed a fourth grader named Tyson out of a foil Blastoise Pokemon card by convincing him that the less evolved squirtle was “cuter” and therefore more valuable to him. I knew the monetary value of both cards as I had a magazine that listed the current trading prices and he did not. If you know anything about pokemon cards, you know just how maniacal I had acted. He didn’t know that a Squirtle was one of the most common cards (non valuable) and that the foiled Blastoise was deemed a “rare” card (valuable). I took advantage of his ignorance and have felt guilty ever since.

I use that as a pretty “cute” example of my guilt, but it’s not when I think about it. It’s a perfect example of how unhealthy my guilt had become. I carried that with me my entire life. In high school, Tyson’s mother passed away and my immediate reaction was immense guilt over a Pokemon card. As illogical and ridiculous as it is, I couldn’t stop thinking, “Oh no, I screwed him over a Blastoise and his mom died.” I know these are unrelated and would never ever register as comparable, but that was my honest reaction. I held onto my sleight against him without ever rectifying the situation allowing my guilt to build and build.

I have struggled with depression most of my waking life and a big part of that was feeling guilty about things I had done. I never once thought of a happy memory. I just associated my past with the negatives and would solely focus on those experiences. I would get so down on myself for my past behavior, that I wouldn’t exist in the moment. Because I was too busy wallowing in the past I failed to make corrections in the present which naturally doomed the future. I was aware at how the circle perpetuated itself, yet I couldn’t seem to forgive myself enough to change it.

I have since made some enormous changes in my life, my attitude, and my relationship with the past. In talking with so many patient people in my life, I was able to get to a point where I could start forgiving myself a little bit. I still hold on to a lot of things, but I hold onto them because I’m not done with them yet. If I look back at something I don’t like, I make sure I don’t repeat those behaviors in the future. I actively strive to become better as a friend, brother, significant other, and person alive in this day and age. The things I still hold onto, I haven’t figured out a way to adjust, but I’m confident I will.

I am still hyper aware of my flaws and shortcomings, but I promise I’m working on them. I’m not sure I’ll ever be “done” becoming the person I think I should be, but I enjoy that thought. Who I am right now is a much better person than I was just one year ago. I hope that I look back in a year and acknowledge the strides I’ve made this coming year, but recognize some more of the things I’m still holding onto.

I think I may finally be to a point where I’ve got this whole self reflection thing down to a healthy and manageable way.

Reflect on past behaviors/situations.
Identify what is immoral, unwanted, or cringeworthy. 
Accept that it was me.
Either make amends, or forgive myself.
Make adjustments immediately.
Be aware of the adjustments and practice them until it’s my nature.

Move forward a better human.




Matthew Forgives (himself)

"Long Time No See"



I rarely feel strongly moved by anything. I could be in the presence of some great art, or witness an alleged “awesome moment”, and still feel very blasé about it. I’m constantly looking for the next thing and tend to hate when moments linger.

This week I was moved. I saw something truly beautiful. And amazing. And awesome. And just fucking good.

It all starts with a girl named Sam.
Sam and I met on tinder.
Don’t give me that look, it’s 2017 and the world is weird as shit and this is just how some people meet these days. Whatever.

I don’t think it’s a secret that I despise first dates. People having the whole “getting to know you” conversation always feels like some strange recital everyone has studied for their entire lives. The conversation is usually well practiced, uninspiring, redundant and boring beyond belief. “My name is Matt, I’m originally from a small town in Washington, I do this, I hate this, I sort of want to blow my head off as I’m speaking, I’m judging your drink order and I really just want to go home and read.”

Generally speaking, dating can seem a little cold and robotic. It’s as if everyone is running on autopilot, while presenting a curated self, while also trying to decide if there’s a connection to other person’s masked personality. It’s weird.

Sam and I briefly touched base on a few of the usual topics one would cover on a first date, but mostly just skipped right passed all the boring shit. It was nice. We left the typical “date night” bar we met at and ended up getting drunk at some Star Wars bar in Hollywood with her friends. I don’t know that I would ever go hang out with a date’s friends, but Sam is different.

The thing about Sam, is that she has a giant personality.
Right when one meets her, one can tell she is charming, incredibly beautiful and funny as hell. Within moments, one could tell she is a complete badass, has a world class wit and speaks with a rare bluntness you hardly see in my generation. She reveals herself, and cuts through the bullshit. I was immediately convinced that I wanted to hang out with her all the time.

On one of the earlier dates, Sam brought up the subject of family. Now, in similar situations in the past this topic has often been the worst of ‘em. I don’t mean to sound like an asshole, but I just don’t know if recalling one’s normal ass family doing normal ass things is riveting conversation to tell to a borderline stranger for an hour and a half.

Sam’s family story is different, though.

Sam was born on the east coast, moved to Orange County with her Mother when she was younger, and she didn’t know her father. She had two pictures of him growing up – One was blurry. She did, however, find him on Facebook and found out he lived an hour ish away. She told me flat out that she had always felt like something was missing, and she suspected that not knowing him was a huge reason for that. She then told me that he had other children: a boy, and two twin girls. She just kind of casually mentioned it. Like, “Yeah, I have a brother and two sisters who have no idea I exist.” She opened up their Facebook profiles and showed me the resemblance and was kind of like, “Isn’t that weird?!”.

Fuck me, I wanted to meddle so bad. Of course it was weird! You can contact them right now! What’re you waiting for?!

I asked a bunch of questions and joked that I wanted to message her brother. I was partially serious because I wanted her to know them... or them to know her? I kept thinking of how fucking awesome this girl is and that these people sort of deserved to know they have this person as a sister. And by this point I was already convinced that Sam deserved everything she wanted out of life. I didn’t message her brother. Though she was fairly casual about it, it seemed like one of the more inappropriate things I could have done. The conversation eventually turned and the night carried on, but the whole issue never really left my mind.

Weeks later, Sam was enjoying one of her favorite meals from one her favorite establishments: Snow Crab legs and wings from Hooters. A waitress she was friendly with had just gotten off work as Sam was finishing up her feast, so they started talking and drinking. While drinking with the hooters waitress, the topic of her family came up again. The Hooters waitress convinced her to write a message to her brother on Facebook. I can’t remember the exact details, but it was probably something like: “Hey, I’m not sure if you know about me, but I’m your half-sister. Hello!”

I think it was possibly the Hooters waitress who was the one who hit the send button. Regardless, Sam messaged her brother.

She met up with me shortly after this happened. Slightly buzzed and completely nervous, she told me what had happened and was convinced she had made a mistake. He hadn’t read the message yet, and she was sort of freaking out. I kept telling her that because they weren’t “Facebook friends” it was sitting in the “other” inbox that no one really checks, but it’s only a matter of time. She sent him a friend request in hopes of him getting the message quicker.

Her brother eventually accepted the request and read the message.

She was right, he didn’t know she existed.

After a few messages, they exchanged numbers and started texting and speaking on the phone. Her brother told his sisters, and I’m not sure how, but I can only imagine asked his dad something like, “UHHHH.... what’s with all of this?”. Regardless, you could tell he was handling it well, and Sam was excited. Like, really fucking excited. She told me she didn’t like hanging up when they would speak and that she thought maybe she finally had something she wanted her whole life: contact with her brother. It was no longer a casual topic she brought up. It was meaningful, real, and almost tangible.

After finding out her brother knew, her Dad finally reached out to Sam with the intention of meeting up.
They set a time and place.
She wanted this her entire life.

Again, she was nervous as hell. She would go back and fourth with anxiety and hope. She didn’t want to be let down, but hoped so badly this would be positive. The closer the meeting got, the more she cracked jokes and the more she got pretty worried.

“What if he doesn’t like me?”
“What am I supposed to wear to meet my biological father?

“This is so weird!”

On the agreed upon day, at a hipster café in Los Feliz, Sam met with her father.

In a very Sam-like move, she sensed the awkwardness as she walking up so when she reached him she quipped, “Long time no see!”. He laughed. They had a good conversation and though I’m not sure of what was said at the table, she was super happy and he wanted to see her again. I’m told it was “cute”. He informed her that his niece was getting married soon and a bunch of family were in town and there just so happened to be a family BBQ planned the following weekend. So, a father invited his daughter he didn’t know to a family BBQ where she would meet her sisters and extended family. She wouldn’t be meeting her brother at the get together, as he lived in another state, but would be back for the wedding the following week.

The night before the party, Sam asked me, “What are you going to wear to meet my Dad?” I had just assumed she would want to build a relationship with everyone before introducing them to me because we hadn’t talked about it. I was taken a back, but very excited. I started wondering, “Shit, what am I going to wear to meet her biological father?” What the hell does one wear to meet their girlfriend’s family who just found out she exists? ***

When I went to pick up Sam the next day, she aggressively couldn’t decide what to wear. She was, in her words, “freaking out!” Completely understandable, but everything she tried on seemed great to me. I was convinced she could have worn her usual outfit of an oversized band tee and black jeans, and everyone would have complemented her. Some people can just pull off anything. It’s annoying. Eventually she found an outfit she “sort of” liked and we left. She was immediately nervous. Like, wouldn’t-stop-talking-feeling-nauseous-wanting-me-to-pull-over type of nervous. It took 1.5 hours to get there, and as soon as we got off the freeway, she did in fact “freak out”. She started balling. She was nauseous to the point of needing air and asking me to slow down. She half- jokingly asked me to turn around and drive back. She apologized for crying a million times, ignoring me when I said “It’s completely OK! You don’t have to apologize.” I didn’t know how to console her, other than keep saying, “Everything’s going to be OK. They will all like you.”

When we parked at the address she took five minutes to cry, then took a few deep breaths, cleaned herself up, and we got out of the car. We walked to the front door which had a sign on it that read, “Come in, we’re all out back!”. Sam didn’t see the sign until after she rang the doorbell. We both laughed when she said “Oh shoot, I’ve already screwed it up!”. Her Aunts and uncles, her cousins, her grandmother, her sisters, her father, and her father’s girlfriend weren’t out back like the sign had said. They were right inside, seemingly waiting for Sam to arrive. They opened the door and an onslaught of handshakes, hugs and nice-to-meet-you’s came her way. She immediately started cracking jokes and exhibiting her wit, humor and confidence, all of which deescalated the initial awkwardness in seconds. You would never have been able to tell that moments prior she was about to throw up from nerves, crying uncontrollably and constantly “freaking out.”

Right away, I could tell everyone was so fucking nice -It was incredible. Within minutes of arriving it felt like Sam was part of the family. It just worked. She had just met most of these people, and it was as if they had known each other their entire lives. I have never seen anything like it, and I highly doubt I ever will again. I would randomly look over at Sam who was sitting next to her sisters while having a beer with her dad, and catch them all smiling and laughing with each other. It was inspiring. It was moving.

The day was filled with beautiful, incredible, and amazing moments. Like, one of her sisters gave her a matching necklace and it may have been the most adorable thing on the planet. I had never seen Sam happier. Hell, I’ve never seen anyone happier. They all seemed to like me, too. Or maybe they were just politely laughing at my dumb jokes. In situations like that, I can come off as either friendly or annoyingly friendly depending on everyone’s mood. I usually become that guy at the party who tries to make sure everyone else is having a good time. Regardless, they loved Sam. The day was about her, even though it wasn’t supposed to be. Her cousin, the one getting married, invited her to the wedding the following week. It was pretty adorable on all accounts. Plus, she could meet her brother at the wedding.

All in all, we were only there for a few short hours. We had a party to get to that Sam had gotten tickets for before all this started happening. She just casually looked at me and said, “Oh dang, we should get going to that other thing?” It was kind of strange leaving. Even though we had just met them all, and it was a huge day, it was more of a “I’ll see ya guys soon!” type of good-bye. Everyone hugged and it was great, but it was really... normal.

Then we got to the car.

She looked at me and I could tell she was starting to reflect on the day. She immediately started crying. Way harder than before. I have never seen someone cry so hard from joy. Instead of apologizing for crying, she would proclaim how happy she was, how much she had wanted this, and how much she loved everyone.

“You have no idea how happy I am, Matt!”

I didn’t.
But, I sort of teared up myself seeing her.

Hearing someone I care about so much say that while crying tears of joy... I don’t know. It just got to me. It was beautiful and I was moved. Somehow, just witnessing one of the biggest days in Sam’s life might of been one of the biggest days in my life. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I was profoundly moved.

The next weekend Sam was to meet her brother. Again she was nervous and excited, but had much more confidence after the first family gathering. That being said, she really wanted to meet her brother. He was the one she had initially reached out to, and more importantly he was the one that initially recognized her existence and accepted her. He was special to her, and it was another big deal. They finally met at the wedding rehearsal and it was the same situation as before: She was scared (yet no one could tell), immediately charmed everyone, was hilarious, and made it seem as if they had been friends for some time.

That’s the thing about Sam, she has a great personality. The same way I could tell I wanted to hang around her, they could too. She’s an amazing human being who can handle any situation. I’ve witnessed this woman help people out every chance she can get. She deeply cares about those she loves and would stand up for a friend against the world. She’ll make you laugh any time of the day, and you can count on her to tell you the truth when no one else will. She’s a fighter, she’s generous, and she deserves to know this new family just as much as they deserve to know her. I’m just happy I got to witness something beautiful.


-Matthew Reflects






*** Turns out I hadn’t done laundry and only had a dark T-shirt and black jeans to wear and no one seemed to care. So if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, wear that.