Matt With MS

I am uninspiring, fairly lazy, living in denial, and think I'm having the time of my life 90% of the time. Let's change that.

Month: September, 2014

Stuck…

Since I came home from New Jersey I haven’t written anything or even attempted.  Usually, things just come to me.  A lot of them came out of darkness, a lot of them came out of inspiration.

I’ve found it hard to find either lately.

I don’t know what this means.  I think it has something to do with how long this is.  It’s not an issue where I just get over it, and things are great.  And, it’s not a situation where if I don’t change immediately, the circumstances will be horrific immediately.

I’m stuck waiting.  I’m stuck trying to figure out life.  I thought that if I just got an idea to be better, than things would just follow.   I can do some exercises; I still have the same issues I always did.  I can change my habits; I still have the same vices.  I can change my outlook; I still have the same fears.

Coming home was the best trip back I’ve ever had.   I wished for more time with my friends and family, while at the same time being excited to get back to my life in California.  I was ready to leave when I traveled to the airport, but extremely sad saying goodbye to everyone before I left.

Then I got back here.

Being back means that I have to keep going with life, that I have to move forward.  I haven’t been great since I’ve gotten home, and I haven’t been bad either.

I’m focused at work more, and I’m still not being entirely unhealthy.  I’m not depressed, and I’m not anxious at all times, but I’m not excited or enthralled either.

That’s the problem with a disease that doesn’t end your life, and is still scary.  I feel as though I need to be an entirely different person to get by it, but I also don’t feel the urgency that I need.

I’ve been hit with some good old fashioned perspective recently, and it doesn’t really do anything.  My entire apartment building almost burned down, and I watched as my neighbors left their water and smoked damaged apartments.  I only lost electricity and hot water for a bit.

I have heard more and more stories of people diagnosed with MS that have had it more sudden and more aggressive than I seem to have.  I have seen other people with diseases that are way more dangerous and extreme.

I can’t bring myself to feel sorry for myself, or to feel confident that I have this under control.

I’m stuck in the middle, and I don’t know what that means.  I have a ton of great things going in my life.  I know this.  I am confident more than I have been in 4 months, and I still feel like I’m not in control of myself at all times.

I know that the inspiring conversations bring more comments and more support, and I feel like I shouldn’t just write on this blog to bitch and whine.  I don’t know what I should do though, because I feel like I need to write something.

I wanted to be honest on here, and I wanted to make this a story of my progression through everything.  What do I do when I am not totally progressing (or regressing)?

I have to set goals, and I have to get the engine moving forward before it goes backward.  Stagnation has never been good for me.  Sitting still has never been something I’m ok with.

Falling into patterns feels good when they are healthy, but I’ve always started to get bored then turn them unhealthy.

I’ve figured out how to get control of my emotional state.  I’ve figured out how to keep myself from swinging wildly.  I just now have to figure out how to just let myself be happy.

I deserve it, and I know what I need to do it.  I’ve written about guilt on here before, and I know that’s still something I need to get over.  Pride and guilt really don’t do anything productive for anyone.  They’re just remnants of the past that keep us content or push us lower.

It all really comes down to what do I want?

What do I want in my life?

I want to experience new things – too general

I want to travel – too general

I want to have a great time – too general

I want to have success – too general

All of these things aren’t real.  I have to just figure out exact things I want, and I have to set up a path to get to them.

When I was 25, I wanted to get married and have kids.  I’ve been 100% against both of those things for the past 7 years.  When I finished going back to Penn State, I wanted to move to California.  Well, I did that.  A few years ago, I wanted to think about grad school.  Now, I don’t have any interest in that.

I know I do want to travel.  I know I do want to meet tons of new people.  I know I do want to experience new things.  I know I do enjoy my life out here.  I know I need to find a way to fully embrace the now, while not just saying, “fuck it.”

I am going to stop planning things in my head for no reason.  I’m going to stop wondering why things happen the way they do, or what other people are thinking.  I’m going to have to stop over thinking every part of my life.  I’m just going to have a little fun.   I’m just going to focus at work.  I’m just going to talk to more people.   I’m just going to keep saying yes to new experiences.

Hopefully I have something to write about sometime soon.

The last 13 years….

highschool

Tomorrow during lunch I will have the opportunity to go into my old high school and former employer, South Hunterdon Regional High School to speak to a group of athletes during lunch. I’ve thought about what I was going to say for the last 2 days, and I couldn’t come up with a speech that felt right.

Sitting around tonight I thought about what I would say to myself if I sat down in front of 18 year old Matt Walker. What would I tell him?

I think I would start by explaining that there was no way to give an 18 year old a 31 year old’s perspective, but to just know that some things will be the same, and at the same time, things will be completely different.

I would say that times are going to get tough as you go forward through life, but that the whole “best time of your life” mentality is bullshit.

The best time of your life is right now. Nostalgia allows us to think that high school, college, and our early twenties were so much better than everything is now. But that’s not true. For me the best time of my life tends to be the moment when I realize that I enjoy what I’m doing at the exact moment I’m doing it.

Now, this doesn’t mean live completely in the moment and forget about the past without learning lessons, and that doesn’t mean never plan for your future. It just means to look for what you enjoy, and notice what is happening around you and within you in the present.

Never has wishing it was 10 years ago led to me feeling better.   Never has feeling sorry for myself made me feel ok. Never has regretting something I did or didn’t do changed the fact that it happened.

Since I’d be talking about athletics, I would highlight how much you wish you could play sports at the level of an 18 year old again. I would talk about how I didn’t try off of the practice field or during games to get stronger, to lift, or to run until I was a Junior, and that when I did that, I became a viable member of my teams. I would talk about how I wish I cherished the time with my teammates more, about how I still look back at my senior year in football and know that I actually gave it my all that one year. I would mention that there was never another time in my life when I spent 2-3 hours every day not worrying about anything other than the task at hand. It makes me wish I had that mentality for 4-5 years instead of about 18 months.

When I was a kid I was always worried that I was missing something. I was worried about having a night out ruined because I had to go home early, or because I wasn’t with the right group of friends. I would talk about how most of my memories are actually from those times at basketball camp, between double session in football, on the bus, or after practice, just bs’ing with my teammates.

I would talk about how things can change on a dime, and about how when that happens it is really easy to think about how much you missed a simpler life without complications. I would say that everything I did take away from competing on that athletics field did prepare me for these chaotic moments in life to some extent.

I would talk about how everything I worried about as a teenager wasn’t always what matters looking back with hindsight. I probably would say that I don’t miss much from that period of my life, except for the chance to compete in organized sports and time spent with family and friends.

I would talk about the significance of growing up in a small town where you could play sports with the same friends for 10-12 years.   I would talk about the opportunity awarded to a school like South, because of its underdog status.   I would talk about how coming into a game with 300-600 less students and competing prepares you for life, and gives you the chance to do something amazing almost every day.

I would talk about how that mentality helps me now, that I am fighting a disease that tends to win more than 50% of the time. I would talk about how important it is to keep going forward, to not say “fuck it” when things get hard. I would talk about how even if you fail 5-6 times, nothing will compare to the feeling you get when you get up again, and finally win, because not everyone understands what it means to come back again and again.

I would talk about how great it feels to look around you and know that everyone gave it everything that they had. I would talk about how dumb I was, even though 18 year old me would be looking at me as an out of touch old man. I would tell the teenager that your thoughts on everything will change over time, but that staying true to yourself was the only way to stay positive and to really experience the life you wanted.

I would make the 18 year old me promise me that he would never try tobacco, as it is the number one regret of my life. I would make the 18 year old me realize that he’s not invincible and going to get old one day. I would try to make the 18 year old me stop looking forward to things and wishing time would move faster, because I missed out on the now waiting for my driver’s license, for a chance to talk to a certain girl, for college, and to turn 21.

I would talk about how you couldn’t imagine a life where you work with people from Twitter, Facebook and Google daily.   About how you never even considered living in California as an 18 year old, and that now you couldn’t consider living anywhere else. I would talk about seizing the moment. About living without regrets, and about making good decisions in this area of your life.

I would talk about overcoming adversity, and how it’s in all of us. About how 18 year old me would be shocked to know where the next 13 years of life will take him. About how he will be still standing and on the verge of thriving at the end of this rocky path.

I would talk about how you can’t win if you don’t try. I would talk about how the fear of failure causes hesitation, and how I never look back happy about the chances I didn’t take towards positive goals. I would talk about how, as much as I loved Penn State, I don’t talk proudly the same way as I used to about only applying to one college after I got into Main Campus in 2 weeks.

I would mention how going as hard as you can towards a goal never ruined a person, and never made someone feel worse, even if the ending seemed like a loss.

I would talk about living for yourself, while respecting and caring for others, is the only way to go. I don’t mean this selfishly, I mean that only you can achieve the things in front of you. Sure, family and friends will help, and in my case they surely did. But, overall, you have to live life the way you want. You are the only person that can bring a sense of achievement to your life, and you are the only person that can truly make you happy.

I would tell me to smile more, to talk to more kids from school, and to actually listen to other opinions as you may learn something. I would remind myself that I feel best about the times I stood up for what I believed to be right, and that I never feel good looking back at times I did things I didn’t want to do, just to look cool.

I would want me to prepared for the future, when MS comes knocking at my door, when college falls through the cracks and when times seem so hard. But, I wouldn’t want me to fear these things, as I’ve made it through all of them to this point, and they are what made me the person I am. I would want me to be more confident, while being more humble than I ever was. I would want me understand that 31 year old me will still be that same kid that was wearing Abercrombie and listening to Eminem 13 years ago, but with a whole new perspective and with many new experiences.

Most of all, I would want to let myself know that life is about those experiences. Learning from the bad ones and fully experiencing the good ones is what life is about.

I would want 18 year old me to realize that 31 year old me lives 3000 miles away from Lambertville, yet still cherishes a chance to come home.   Because we may not get to pick where we grew up, but all of us who grew up here got very very lucky.

Lambertville

Along the Delaware River, sits a town of about 5000 people, that would be a perfect little secret if it hadn’t been getting write ups in national publications such as being named the “5th most quirky” town in America a few weeks ago in Travel and Leisure Magazine. 

The town has changed, arguably drastically, in the last 20 years.  This town could be a lot of things to those that look at it.  It’s a river getaway, it’s a charming place chock full of antique stores, art galleries, restaurants and shops.  It’s a throw-back town, with  old school architecture, playgrounds, and an elementary school that has only a few hundred attendees, or less. 

It is also a town of memories, a town that housed my dreams and ambitions, and a town of opportunity.    It’s a town where I was able to grow up part one of the last generations that was pushed by a whole community.  A town called Lamberville, New Jersey.

Lambertville is my youth.  It has been my failure, when I was made to come back without a college degree.  It became my savior, when I started to coach and work with kids and I realized that I like to help people.  It is now a place where I feel as comfortable as I ever did, even though I know that I needed to leave.

The memories are endless.  It all starts with growing up on Union Street in my grandmother’s house.  I remember playing GI Joe’s with friend and running around the yards next to the house, and setting up a fort in the front bushes.  It was cool and all, but I knew my army training was useless, because at 8 years old I was certain I would end up flying an F-14, and going to Miramar.   Nerf football games on the side streets were rarely interrupted by cars, but sometimes would be by other kids passing by to go play a different sport up the street.  Wiffleball was fun, but taping up the bat and grabbing a tennis ball made for the best afternoons.  Sure, there were breaks for Nintendo, but not so when they stocked trout in the canal 2 blocks from my house! 

On Sundays I would attend St. John’s Catholic Church with my grandmother.  I would beg to leave “right after communion” so I could get an early table at Sneddon’s Luncheonette across the street before the hordes of people made me wait to get some cottage fries.  Up the street I could always stop in Ennis’ Markey and see my Aunt Bonny, knowing a plain turkey and cheese, and a Stewart’s root beer was in play.  A few blocks away near Main and Swan was Phil and Dan’s where I ordered “pencil points with butter” almost instinctively, to the point where they would start making them when I walked in with my father.    Paesano’s had some of the best pizza, and the Italian sausage was the perfect topping.  Yet, nothing beat the best meal of all, after my grandmother would make some Italian red sauce for 10-12 hours, throwing in homemade meatballs, sausage, and chicken legs. 

I met my first friends somewhere in this town.  I had my first sleepovers, I had my first dates.  I had my first kiss.  I drove my first car (poorly).  Hence, I crashed my first car (a lot).  I took part in numerous stupid acts, I took part in some smart ones.  I laughed with friends until 3 in the morning just talking about stories from girls, or from classes or sports.  I got reamed out of the football field for being a “dumb smart kid.”  I learned what it meant to grow up.  I learned what it meant to fail when I had to come back.  I learned what it meant to be part of team, to be at the head of one, when I coached. 

I learned that I grew up in one of the best places to grow up, in America.   I learned that it wasn’t where my growth ends.  I learned that I had multiple sclerosis while living here shortly before heading to California. 

I came back here in the summer of 2012, for a few days, when my ear nose and throat doctor told me that I had “something” showing up in my brain that looked like MS or a tumor.  I came back in 2009 when my ex-girlfriend was the first person to break my heart for a short time before we got back together.  I came back last year after breaking my ankle so severely it was facing sideways.

I came back today as I struggle and strive to live a life that I have always dreamed of. 

I’m happy I’m here, and I will be around town for the next two weeks.   I’ll live in the past, surely, but I can’t wait for Lambertville to meet present me.