What you have to understand is, it has taken some time to be able to tell and share my story. Although there are somethings to this day I'm not ready to talk about, I think things get better with time. I never share for a few reasons. One of them being, its long and unnecessary. Another reason is I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, to see me in a different way, and I don’t want a handout. I don’t want any pats on the back and I don’t want any sympathy, I have always just wanted to be equal and like everyone else. I love hearing peoples upbringing or their life story. We all have our own story, some are harder than others and some are blessed, to not have struggled. Over time I have learned that if you love the life you have now, then you must love your story.
I’ve also learned that pain is a strange company keeper, it brings us misfits together. You feel for the other person because you can relate their struggle, with your life and your experiences. If you never had something bad happen in your life or you have never truly struggled with something then we wont get along. I can’t relate to the a lot of rich people and there is so many things I just don’t understand about their lifestyle. I'm not envious at all, I'm just curious what its like to be well off, that's a dream. You don’t know why I am like I am until you have been where I have been. If you haven't faced something tough, don't sit there and tell me to be a man, take it and don’t cry. You don't know what I'm fighting, you don't understand, just because you read some books and took a psych class, doesn’t mean you’ll understand. If you don’t know my struggles you will never understand my successes.
As a kid I remember reading Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events and the only thing I would think was, I am reading about my life. How nothing could go right and for every great thing, came a really bad outcome. I will also say this, as this post may be long, It will help you connect the dots on my life. It is almost like finding the missing puzzle piece in a sense of understanding why I am the way I am. Why my thoughts are so deep and why I'm always motivated. I suggest that you don’t read this one because it may be too deep for you to handle. Sometimes things are better left unsaid, secrets are better left untold. I have thought about not posting this for months. I thought id post it before I change my mind again. In life everyone has the chance of becoming successful and it all lies in your choice. You have the choice to read this blog, you have the choice to expand your knowledge, the choice to quit, and the choice to take the easy road. I can’t relate to any of the above. Looking back on my life, on how I got to where I am, I don't know if I was running towards success or running away from failure. I don’t know if I was running towards the finish line or if I was running away from my past and all the things that I was labeled. You figure out that you can go anywhere you want in life with a little bit of hunger and motivation.
I grew up like any other kid, I had my father and mother under one roof for the first eight years of my life. To be as short as possible I’ll say my parents didn’t get along that well. My father wasn't the best man to my mother he could be. On the other hand my mother is sometimes crazy. We were living around Tarpon Springs Florida at the time (close to Clearwater Beach). I don’t ever remembering struggling that much, all I remember was what ever I asked for, I received. My mother had a brand new van, this was the time when the electric sliding van door was first introduced into the market I believe. One day we got a call that my grandmother in Dayton Ohio was dying and that she had a 15% of living, she was going into an emergency open heart surgery. With a 24 hour notice we packed up our van, I remember my mother saying you can only bring five of your favorite toys.
So my mother, sister, and I drove up to Ohio and I didn't tell my mom but I snuck a lizard named lightning into the car. Well I have some good news and some bad news, the bad news is my lizard died and the good news is my grandmother lived. We weren't prepared to live in Ohio, we were just passing through. We thought that these would be some of my grandmothers last days. Personally I believe my mom didn’t want to go back to the life she had with my father. She told my sister and I that grandma wont be alive much longer, so we will stay in Ohio until she dies. My grandmother ended up living 8 more years.
Luckily my mom grew up in Fairborn, Ohio so she had a few friends that still lived in town. We would stay at their houses for a little while, then rotate to someone else's house. For a while I forgot what it felt like to sleep in my own bed. Couches, pullout beds, air mattresses, and pillow built forts is what we slept in for a long time. We got on a waiting list for a homeless shelter for needy families. It was called interfaith hospitality network or something like that. How it would work is we would sleep at a church for a week and then switch to another church and it would just keep repeating. We were in there for 8 months and we would sleep on cots every single night.
As a kid, it wasn’t that bad, there was great people in each church and they would give me blankets and coloring books and etc. I knew my mom was embarrassed and hated it at times but we really didn’t have a choice.. There was a few families in there and some had mom and dad and I would always wondered why they were in there. This may sound weird to you but I can really feel people. I don't know what it is, I'm not psych or anything like that but I can feel when someone is corrupt, on drugs, or just an evil person. I can feel when someone doesn’t like me and when something is wrong. I think I just have instinct and I remember having it as a kid. Sadly, I always remember feeling that, a lot of those families in the shelter had drug problems. The shelter wasn’t all that bad because my wonderful uncle and aunt bought me a PlayStation 2 one year and I don't think they knew we were in that shelter. So every time we were in a new church for the week I would plug it into a T.V. I still remember there would be some really small T.Vs and I would be playing my game and everybody in the shelter would be crowded around this little TV watching me outrun the cops in Driver 2.
The next point in my life is very interesting and important to me. It was something I believe that changed my life. I always have respect for what people believe in. I can’t say that enough, I don’t try to convert anyone to Christianity but this is my story and this is how it went. My father at the time, didn’t believe or maybe he was just a bad example in that area. My mother has always been a believer and still gives me Bible lessons at the breakfast table. I remember one time going to church with my father and the offering plate came around. He had taken his gum out of his mouth and put it in an envelope and said “ ill give this to God” At the time I was in first grade, so I laughed. As I look back, that was terrible. I always wanted to be like my dad so I wasn't too big into the whole Jesus thing. I would say things have changed in todays time with my Father as well, so that's good.
When we were in that homeless shelter I started to hate it and ill never forget, I remember getting down on my cot and praying: lord I don't belong here, I'm not like these people. Please take me out of here, far way, it was almost like Jenny in Forrest Gump. One week later we were out of there, I believe God answered my prayer and that is where my faith in Christ began.
So what had happen was, we were on a housing voucher for Hud housing, public housing, or Government Low income housing. It wasn't the first time, but I'm trying to keep this short. Anyways, we now had our own house, and I was in the 3rd grade. Finally I had my own room and my own bed. Still to this day I just really appreciate sleeping in my bed. I thought our lives would be fine from there and we would live happily ever after. But that wasn't the case, my mother was working a job and she was always on call. Sometimes she would only work two days a week because she was the new person and didn't have her own shift yet. Then she got a second job, making minimum wage.
I remember one time mom woke us up, and was going to drop us off at day care. She went out to start the car and came in 2 minutes later crying. She thought someone had stolen our car, so we all cried. Looking back at it now, our car didn't get stolen it was repossessed.
My close friends have asked me, did your parents have a drug problem, like what happened? I always say no, this thing called life hit us and it hit hard. What you have to understand was, at the time my mom was working a few days a week, then picked up a second job because we didn't have enough money. My mom had a $300 van payment and I'm not sure what insurance was but it was full coverage. My Father at that time was not paying child support as well. I forgot to mention, my mom had racked up $12,000 worth of credit debt in Florida. I don't want to throw any of my parents under the bus so ill leave that reason unsaid. So with credit card bills, van and insurance, housing rent, no child support, one income, and child care cost it made it almost impossible for us to survive.
Fast forward to the start of 2016 when I applied for this $1000 scholarship that they give 10 students at the college I attend. I walked into a room of 10 VP’s of local companies and high profile business people at a round table. They were all dressed very nicely and you can tell they were really wealthy. They asked me a few questions about my resume. They asked me how I did $37,000 in sales on the internet in 2015. They asked me how I was on pace to do $60,000 in total sales in 2016. They Asked me what motivated me to do this at the age of 21. They asked me what really drives me in life. I looked at them all directly in their eyes and said that things haven't been easy, they haven't been easy for any of us and I just let loose what was on my heart. I said: In order to save money, I still live at home with my mother and commute to college. I live in a three bedroom house and its a government low income house and its not even 800 square feet. Every single day I wake up and I'm not happy with where I am. Every single day I wake up pissed. I can stand on one side of my house and give you a tour without even taking a step. Do you know what it feels like to be on food stamps? Do you know what it feels like to not have enough money for all your groceries and your mom sends you to put some stuff back and there is a line behind you and everyone is staring at you? Do you know what it feels like to jump house to house because you are homeless? Do you know what it feels like to have your car repoed and now you have to walk or take a taxi? Do you even know what it feels like to go to bed hungry? Some Thursday nights were rough man, mom got paid every two weeks. That Thursday before pay day was the hardest day of each pay period. No food in the fridge, and you wonder what you are having for dinner so you ask your mom and your mom says “listen kids, you will have to go down to play with your friends and hopefully you can eat with them”. “I will fill the fridge tomorrow I promise” she would say. Thank God I have great neighbors and today he's one of my best friends after all these years. I cant speak for my sister, I think she ate at her friends, I cant speak for my mom, I don't think she ate anything. Thank God for the neighbors down the street. Little did I know they would change my life forever. 3 out of 4 times I would eat dinner with them But that one time out of four they would have already ate or they were not home. I raised my voice and said do you know what it feels like to go to bed hungry? Your stomach hurts so bad and you cant fall asleep. Somehow you fall asleep, wake up, run to school, and get your free breakfast. You start trading Pokémon cards for pop tarts because you didn’t eat dinner. Do you know how that feels? At this point everyone in that room was speechless and then it hit me, I don't know what had come upon me but I took a deep breath and said, that is what motivates me, that is what drives me every day. Its something I can’t forget and when things get hard the memories play over and over in my head. Like, I hate school but I'm here today because I don't have a choice, if I don't get a degree then ill live their my whole life. I sit in the library and study for tests, usually with a friend. I'm studying because I don’t like the situation of where I live and where I'm from, my friend is studying because his parents made him go to college. If he fails his parents will be upset with him, if I fail, I know exactly where I'll live. Getting a college degree is my ticket out and I'm so close. I walked out of that room and felt bad for blowing up but then again they shouldn’t of asked.
In school as a kid I never rode the bus, I never got bullied or beat up but kids would make fun of me for my thrift store clothes (to this day I still shop at goodwill and am proud of it). I think one of the kids that made fun of me, didn't graduate with me in 2013. I remember a girl in school would always make fun of me for wearing Kmart clothes, I always loved Kmart clothes. I was an angry, emotional kid with no father and no guidance. Sports was my outlet and those wonderful neighbors down the street paid for my first year of football. I could channel all my anger into the game of football or into track. I was always a scrawny kid and one day when I was 14 a man tried to break into our house late at night. I remember seeing the fear on my sisters face and my mom was asleep at the time. Adrenaline hit me and I took action, luckily he took off into the night, if he would of engaged in a fight I probably would have been killed or beat down. I've been the man of my house since the second grade but at that point I realized I needed to lift as many weights as I could because I was the protector of my family whether I liked that or not. I remember doing pushups till I couldn't do them any more. As a freshman in high school I had the highest bench press of my class and its because of all the pushups and sit-ups I did. You have to understand I went form 120lbs my 8th grade year to 165lbs from lifting by the time I was in 9th. I transformed myself and my body and I give that credit to football and that guy that tried to break in to our house. I just think it’s crazy how much fear can motivate you.
I channeled all that anger into work and I reaped the harvest so to speak later in athletics. Breaking multiple school records in track, running in the state championship and a lot of newspaper articles and touchdowns. Honestly I was running from failure and that dark past.
I ended up taking a football scholarship but after I hurt the shoulder I just had surgery on at the time, I transferred back and went to a university close to my house. The last thing I wanted to do was come back to the town I just left but a lot of things began to surface about my life. I ran into my old principle from 2-5th grade. She began to tell me how she couldn't forget who I was. I guess the government gave my mom a gas voucher because she drove us to school from all these different churches. I guess the principle had to sign off on it. Another thing that was really impactful to me personally was that I didn't have a car for two weeks so my mom had to pick me up at the College I attend now. One time I told her to pick me up at Millet hall which is a building on campus. Another day I told her to pick me up at Rike Hall. After she picked me up at Rike, I thought about it and I said how do you know where these buildings are located? She said Matthew its something I never told anyone. She said when I was on call, working two days a week I didn't work enough hours each week to get food stamps. So they placed me here and I worked 40 hours a month and I was a custodian in the evening she said. I said why didn’t you ever tell me? She said Matthew, it was embarrassing, I mopped floors, changed the trash, and scrubbed toilets and those toilets were spotless. She said she hated it and the only thing that motivated her to get the job done was her kids. She said when I cleaned those toilets, I thought about my kids and how we had to have food on the table, I didn't have a choice.
My mom has thought me so much, like when losing isn't an option you have to do everything possible to win and its that simple. My mom has been a great role model and I often think if someone else was my mother they would have gave my sister and I up for adoption when times got hard. My mom doesn't believe in quitting and she has really instilled that in my life. I have been an underdog my whole life and I enjoy it. I love it because an under dog has nothing to lose and everything to gain and that's how I approach life. Every day my goal is to make it out of my house, every day I have a chip on my shoulder and no one is going to stop me. I would rather die than go back to what I grew up in. When success is all you think about, success is what you will become. There is this massive ever lasting hunger and motivation inside of me and I cant explain it any other way. Its like a navy seal mentality because ill die trying before I ever give up or quit. I hate the fact that we live off the government, most people will never say they do, I have no filter and am always authentic. I could care less what anyone thinks as well. Understand I'm thankful for the help, we would of never made it without the help. At the same time we have lived there for almost 15 years. After all those years I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am one year away from graduating college and finally making it out of Public housing. The system is built to help people but not for people to live on it their whole life. I'm thankful for the help and close to beating the odds. I'm so close to a $50,000 dollars a year job and just contributing to society. They can’t break me, I was built for this and they will have to kill me for me to stop this pursuit. As I look back on the long journey, I have to be honest and say I would have never made it Without God and these wonderful people in my life. So many people take care of me. I feel its my job to pay them back. What ever they gave me as a kid or growing up I feel I owe them my life. What ever they gave me, one day I will repay 2x over. It’s always interesting to me how much love you can have for someone that isn’t your blood family. Almost like, I've been adopted and I love my mother and the people that care for me just the same.
You have to understand you are not a product of your environment, you are a product of your decisions and your choices. The choices you made, have gotten you this far.
Its funny how my life found new meaning and new purpose. Its funny how my perspective changed. If you are happy with what you have now, you have to be thankful for those hard times. I'm thankful for all the hard times we went through because it built me as a man. Sounds so dumb, but I'm thankful I didn't grow up wealthy. We never had a Christmas because we struggled to pay our bills in the winter because of the heat bill and we still do to this day but kids would get the new game system and I would get socks and jeans. When they would ask me what I got, I would always lie and say a lot of stuff!
I'm glad I never got anything, because now I appreciate everything. TD Jakes says it best about those wealthy kids. He says Rich people give there kids everything they never had... Expect what made that person rich in the first place, like discipline, hard work, dedication, drive, and etc. Money doesn’t buy those traits they are learned and its the same with patience.
Its funny what I appreciate in life, I never noticed it until I got older. One time this wealthy family had me over for dinner and they made lasagna. Its my favorite dish and I never get to eat it. I devoured it and thanked them so much with a big smile on my face. The woman who made it said “I just don't get it, why are you so happy its just lasagna”. It was like time froze, a million thoughts rushed through my head. Just a meal? It was one of the best meals I ever had and I was hungry. I appreciate every warm meal. I'm thankful just to have something to eat. they have it every week, and in my house we have it once a year. I wonder if she knows what's its like to go to bed hungry. I snapped out of my thoughts and replied good food makes me happy. That's the thing, she doesn’t get it and she never will. People take things for granted but I guess we all are different. Oddly enough I have found that food makes me happy. In a relationship or marriage if you feed me I will always be happy and loyal, even though that sounds like a stray dog. In life its not about what has happened to you, its how you respond to what happened to you. In my case it was just like a bird, my mom pushed us out of the nest too young. We didn’t make excuses, we didn’t have the chance to because it was fly or die. I think its easy for people to get the wrong perception of you. As this blog comes to an end I want to say, it's a happy story not a sob story because its not about where you start, its about where you finish.
I'm almost done I swear,
I think its easy for people to get the wrong perception of you. After someone hears your story and where you are coming from it gains more of an understanding. When it comes to something you want in life, whether that’s losing weight, making money, running a marathon there has to be something deep down internally. If you are doing something for yourself that's not a good enough reason. If you are doing it for yourself you will never make it. You will run into something that is much bigger than you and you will quit. There has to be a deeper motivation. I have to make it because my mom is counting on me. My mother worked her whole life for her kids to have a future. I realized at a young age that I'm the Heart Beat of my family. If I quit my mom quits. I set the example in my house. If the heart beat stops beating, the body dies its that simple and its the same in your home. Think about it if your mother just one day said I'm not working any more.. Well then you would be in the homeless shelter as well. Set the example, inspire, motivate, and be the leader… be the heart beat and realize that you cant quit there are too many people counting on you. Make your mom proud, your parents worked to You effect everyone else around you, be strong, do it with a smile, and be the heart beat…..