This may look strange to read at first, but I kindly ask that you continue after this next sentence. I live by a certain adage; Nothing we do in life matters. I mean this in the most inspiring way possible, because, nothing in life matters, other than our happiness. Our personal happiness is the catalyst for the success and greatness that is embedded within all of us. On January 1st, 2009 – Five days before I turned 18, I started my transition into this mindset. I had answered a phone call, half asleep at 6AM to a voice saying “Garber is dead.” Over the next few days I lost a monumental portion of who I was, which in return set me on a different route of who I would become. In a moment I lost my adolescent innocence; reality tossed the naive thoughts out of my mind as the realization ate at me – one of my best friends since childhood was dead.
Five days after I turned 18, I gave my first eulogy. In a hazy 10 day span, my life had become something I never could have imagined. It became something I would have been unable to comprehend without the set of circumstances that were now filling my waking moments. The grieving process was quick; but at the same time, everlasting. The pain of denial faded within days, the anger came and went over years, but the acceptance resonated immediately. This is life, this is reality and this cannot be changed. This is what happens: we die. We no longer physically exist. I wasn’t the first person to lose someone they love, and I won’t be the last.
I understand that losing a best friend at any age is unbelievably tough, but my experience came as a teenager. I can only assume that if Nick died when I was a child, fear and confusion would set in, but the memories would have faded through the years, as we forget a majority of moments during those ages. If I had lost him as an adult, we may have been more distant or in different parts of our lives and communicated less often. But as a teenager, when a friend dies, you lose a bit of your identity. I was in the midst of becoming myself, and then suddenly a large piece of who I was, and who I was growing with, was immediately and completely taken away. It wasn’t all loss, there are things I gained: experience, knowledge, wisdom and the appreciation of time and existence. But, I will forever have a piece of ME missing. It is a valuable lesson that is completely soul-crushing to learn, yet I believe there is no other way to absorb or digest this aside from personal experience. It seems we often come to understand the importance of appreciating every moment only after a traumatic experience or painful loss. My wish is that others can learn from my experience before learning it the way I did, how so many do – the hard way.
This lesson has been, singlehandedly, the most important factor in contributing to who I am as a human being. Although it may not be entirely true, I often feel that who Matthew Paul Roberts is, stems directly from that sole experience. What I do, how I think, my emotions, my entire thought process can be tied down to hearing the words “Garber is dead.” Other people have had amazing influences on my life, and I’ve definitely been shaped and molded by my family and friends, but the way I look at everyday life comes from a viewpoint of – take advantage of every moment, create happiness and share your love with others.
After we lost Nick, I realized how many things were left unsaid. How many feelings and emotions I had that I never expressed to him – even though as a group we shared plenty of drunken nights discussing and outpouring our love for each other. I try my best to not take that chance of leaving things unsaid anymore. Any emotion I have involving a family or friend, I let them know – immediately. There is absolutely no reason to hide our emotional and vulnerable thoughts. They deserve to hear these while they are still breathing, and we deserve to express them. As Kanye West spoke, “people never get the flowers while they can still smell them”. We seem to have a hard time appreciating things, or at least verbalizing our appreciation, until the moment or the person is gone.
On Nick’s headstone reads, “Do Great Garber Things”. I try to honor him and what those words stand for each and everyday. To realize the fragility of human life. To truly and wholeheartedly take no moment for granted. To see how precious human connections are; and to live, love, laugh and cry each and everyday until you are no longer able to participate. To open up and say what is on your mind, at all times, leaving no word left unsaid – in hopes that those you love are aware of your feelings. To give all friendships and relationships your all, at every moment. To take the time out of each day to reach out to someone and see how they are doing. To talk to strangers and create new connections. To realize the things that matter in life are YOUR personal experiences, journeys and stories, especially those moments shared in the company of loved ones. To ignore everything that stands in the way of your happiness and creating happiness for others.
This is how I’ve been practicing PEAR since 2009. I am open. I may be too open for some, and that’s fine. That is who I am, I don’t hide my feelings or my thoughts. I may go overboard and say too much. I may try to be too connected and communicate too often with those I love. To me, these connections, these relationships with the people I care about, are all that matter in my world. This is what I truly care about in life. When I am old and taking in my final breaths, I want to look back at the great times that were spent with even greater people. This is what drives me each and every day. I need to tell someone what they mean to me, I need to hear about their day, I need to “catch up”. I now understand that any conversation with someone can be the last I have, so I always try and end that on a good note.
I try my best to only worry about the situations that I actually have control over. Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it. Everything that doesn’t go your way is a learning opportunity. If you make an irreversible mistake, learn from it and move on. Don’t worry about others, with their judgments and expectations, because this is your life. Be yourself, and be the person that makes you genuinely happy and carefree. If you can live this life, then you’ll live a life of success. If you can live a life of happiness while making others happy along the way, then you’ve lived a GREAT life.
This life is attainable. It’s a mindset, it’s absorbing and grasping the concept that this will all come to an end at some point, so make the most of this time you have. It’s easy to get into a routine and realize a year or two have gone by, and nothing has changed. If you’re happy, fantastic, keep it up! But, if you realize there is something making you unhappy, work to change it. Immediately. None of us have time to waste, not even a moment. If everyone tries their best to create their own happiness, if they can chase their passion and their dreams, amazing things can be accomplished. I believe the world is a better place when individuals can put their enthusiasm and energy into something they are truly passionate about, rather than discard their dream in order to appease someone else or settle into someone they are not.
Always try your best to remember; nothing in life matters, other than happiness. This thought process allows us the freedom to create something amazing with our lives and not get caught up on the little things. All I ask for you to take away is this: Never lose that childlike creativity and curiosity, always believe in yourself and your imagination. If you feel you’ve lost it, try your hardest to recover it; it exists for a reason. So take it, run with it, and create extraordinary things along the way. Try your best to not let moments slip out of your hands, love with everything you have, smile true and often, greet each morning the way your dog greets you after coming home from a long day, believe in yourself and construct a life that leaves you fulfilled and proud. Every one of us has greatness within ourselves, so please, share yours with the world.