A Year of Experiences #3 – A Different Kind of Life

By | 2015-12-29T13:06:03+00:00 Dec 26th, 2015|

[cs_section style=”margin: 0px; padding: 2px 0px; “][cs_row style=”margin: 0px auto; padding: 0px; ” inner_container=”true”][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″][cs_text]On most mornings, I am fortunate enough to engage in a routine comprised of various creature comforts. At around 6:45AM, my Philips alarm light begins its 30 minute process of gently bathing me in warm, simulated sunlight so that, at 7:15AM, my eyes are open. Next, I spend about 15 minutes cuddling with my two dogs, Kodak and Simon, on my plush, cushion-top bed before swinging my feet over and into a pair of memory foam slippers.

Around this time, I hear the grinder of the espresso machine in our kitchen kick into gear, grinding and pressing a serving of coffee beans. This is followed by 12 ounces of 200 degree water being pushed through, resulting in a consistent, perfect-tasting Americano. With cup in hand, I grab a protein bar—my breakfast of choice—and head to my home office where I begin my day as the sole employee of my company, Matiash, Inc. When that’s done, I’ll give myself 30 minutes to take a hot shower, brush my teeth, and resume the course of my day.

This is what a typical day looks like in my life. Sure, some days look slightly different and there may be weeks where I’m traveling but, all in all, this is a faithful account of my day. It’s safe, comfortable, and predictable and I’m very thankful for it. However, until this past summer, I don’t think I fully appreciated it. It wasn’t until I visited the vibrant and beautiful Granada, Nicaragua that my eyes were opened to just how good I had it.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section style=”margin: 0px; padding: 2px 0px; “][cs_row style=”margin: 0px auto; padding: 0px; ” inner_container=”true”][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″][cs_text]BrianMatiash_BrianMatiash_20150726-DSC01100_ILCE-7M2_ILCE-7M2[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section style=”margin: 0px; padding: 2px 0px; “][cs_row style=”margin: 0px auto; padding: 0px; ” inner_container=”true”][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″][cs_text]My decision to travel to Nicaragua was not a whimsical one. I didn’t throw a dart at a map with my eyes blindfolded. Earlier in the year, I was asked to lead a workshop in Nicaragua for The Giving Lens, a photography-centric organization that partners with local NGOs in developing and third world countries. For this Nicaragua workshop, The Giving Lens partnered with Empowerment International (EI), a local organization that focuses on working with the area’s youth by educating them and preoccupying their time, which could otherwise be spent on the streets, in gangs, and engaging in a variety of unsavory activities. The opportunity was one that I didn’t want to pass up, so I accepted the invitation and, in late July, found myself with a group of workshop students in Granada.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section style=”margin: 0px; padding: 2px 0px; “][cs_row style=”margin: 0px auto; padding: 0px; ” inner_container=”true”][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″][cs_text]BrianMatiash_BrianMatiash_20150731-DSC02488_ILCE-7M2_ILCE-7M2[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section style=”margin: 0px; padding: 2px 0px; “][cs_row style=”margin: 0px auto; padding: 0px; ” inner_container=”true”][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″][cs_text]Over the course of the workshop, EI organized a number of wonderful activities designed to tightly integrate the workshop students with the local kids and their families. Day after day, we immersed ourselves in their culture, their customs, and their way of life. And, lest you think that this experience was sanitized or dampened in effect, we were privileged to experience their lives as they lived it—the good, the bad, and the ugly. At times, it was very raw and very real.

On the several occasions when we visited the barrios where these kids lived in, the initial, knee-jerk response was a cocktail of emotions ranging from disbelief, to pity, to sadness. It was such a departure from anything that I had ever experienced—a total and complete juxtaposition from my live.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section style=”margin: 0px; padding: 2px 0px; “][cs_row style=”margin: 0px auto; padding: 0px; ” inner_container=”true”][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/2″][cs_text]BrianMatiash_BrianMatiash_20150731-DSC02552_ILCE-7M2_ILCE-7M2[/cs_text][/cs_column][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/2″][cs_text]BrianMatiash_BrianMatiash_20150731-DSC02521_ILCE-7M2_ILCE-7M2[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section style=”margin: 0px; padding: 2px 0px; “][cs_row style=”margin: 0px auto; padding: 0px; ” inner_container=”true”][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″][cs_text]But, that initial emotional response was quickly wiped away as I saw the way “our kids” carried themselves. Their demeanors were proud and dignified. They didn’t need or want pity. Their perspective of life was a source of strength and the tenacity in which they expressed curiosity made it impossible not to smile. These kids, some of whom were already young adults, fully embraced the potential of what the future could hold, never focusing on what they didn’t have. And when we were graced with hearing the stories of adversity that some of these beautiful kids experienced and surmounted, it was impossible not to be impacted and thrusted in a state of awe.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section style=”margin: 0px; padding: 2px 0px; “][cs_row style=”margin: 0px auto; padding: 0px; ” inner_container=”true”][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″][cs_text]BrianMatiash_BrianMatiash_20150731-DSC02639-Edit_ILCE-7M2_ILCE-7M2[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section style=”margin: 0px; padding: 2px 0px; “][cs_row style=”margin: 0px auto; padding: 0px; ” inner_container=”true”][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″][cs_text]I feel confident enough to speak on behalf of the entire group when I say that we all left Nicaragua affected with a new outlook and appreciation for our lives… not just for the obvious things—the material possessions and creature comforts—but for all the tiny privileges that are so easily taken for granted and forgotten, as if we were owed it.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section style=”margin: 0px; padding: 2px 0px; “][cs_row style=”margin: 0px auto; padding: 0px; ” inner_container=”true”][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″][cs_text]BrianMatiash_BrianMatiash_20150726-DSC01147_ILCE-7M2_ILCE-7M2[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section style=”margin: 0px; padding: 2px 0px; “][cs_row style=”margin: 0px auto; padding: 0px; ” inner_container=”true”][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″][cs_text]The first few weeks after returning home were challenging. I had bouts of guilt and blame over all the stuff I had. I began resenting the sniveling, whining posts that dripped through my online streams, going on binges of unfollowing people who complained about the most trivial things. I lost the desire to associate with people I knew because I couldn’t stomach their egos. In other words, I was spiraling down into a pit of apathy and guilt. I questioned why I was allowed to be so fortunate while others went by with so little.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section style=”margin: 0px; padding: 2px 0px; “][cs_row style=”margin: 0px auto; padding: 0px; ” inner_container=”true”][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/2″][cs_text]BrianMatiash_BrianMatiash_20150727-DSC01299_ILCE-7M2_ILCE-7M2[/cs_text][/cs_column][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/2″][cs_text]BrianMatiash_BrianMatiash_20150730-DSC02271_ILCE-7M2_ILCE-7M2[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section style=”margin: 0px; padding: 2px 0px; “][cs_row style=”margin: 0px auto; padding: 0px; ” inner_container=”true”][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″][cs_text]It didn’t take too long to realize the trajectory I was set on, so I began researching how others coped with similar experiences. The first thing I learned was that this behavior was not uncommon at all. That was reassuring. The second thing I learned was that this behavior led to nothing useful or productive. Allowing myself to wallow amounted to absolutely nothing and it helped exactly no one. Instead, I needed to allow myself to be grateful for the experiences I gained in Nicaragua. If none of the kids I met wallowed (and none of them did), why should I?[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section style=”margin: 0px; padding: 2px 0px; “][cs_row style=”margin: 0px auto; padding: 0px; ” inner_container=”true”][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/2″][cs_text]BrianMatiash_BrianMatiash_20150730-DSC02193_ILCE-7M2_ILCE-7M2[/cs_text][/cs_column][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/2″][cs_text]BrianMatiash_BrianMatiash_20150730-DSC02159_ILCE-7M2_ILCE-7M2[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section style=”margin: 0px; padding: 2px 0px; “][cs_row style=”margin: 0px auto; padding: 0px; ” inner_container=”true”][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″][cs_text]Instead, I made two basic resolutions:

1. I would do whatever I could to have a direct impact with at least one person I met in Nicaragua. After collaborating with EI, I learned that the best way to do this was to sponsor a student. My donated funds would help directly pay for education, books, transportation, etc. Wonderful! I loved the idea, so Nicole and I ended up sponsoring three students. Now, we get photos, progress reports, and hand-written letters (remember those?) from our kids. I don’t know if I’ve felt satisfaction quite like that before.

BrianMatiash_BrianMatiash_20150728-DSC01663_ILCE-7M2_ILCE-7M2[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section style=”margin: 0px; padding: 2px 0px; “][cs_row style=”margin: 0px auto; padding: 0px; ” inner_container=”true”][cs_column style=”padding: 0px; ” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″][cs_text]2. I would allow myself to appreciate everything that I have and not beat myself up over it. I can’t begin to explain why I was born into this station of life and I won’t allow myself to apologize for it. Instead, I will continue to work hard and not squander all the opportunities that present themselves to me. I owe myself that much.

BrianMatiash_BrianMatiash_20150728-DSC01817_ILCE-7M2_ILCE-7M2

I’m so grateful for all of the experiences and growth that I’ve had in 2015. It’s reassuring to know that even at 37 years of age, I’m still learning and developing. That’s a great feeling and one I wish for all of you, as well.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section]

2 Comments

  1. Tami Howard December 30, 2015 at 3:00 am - Reply

    Great article Brian! I had the same feelings when I went to Honduras on medical missions a few years back. Your insights ring true with me. It was an amazing experience and I ended up sponsoring a couple of kids education. I know that I got as much or more back from the people and then trip as they got from me.

  2. David Kinnear December 30, 2015 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    Brian: Stick with it. My experience was in El Salvador on church missions. The first student that we sponsored did not keep up with his schoolwork and was dropped from the sponsorship program. That was sad. Next, we sponsored a young University student. She has now graduated from University and has a good job. Another young man has completed an auto mechanic course at a vocational school and is now working toward certification as an airplane mechanic. It turns out that a number of airlines, including U.S. airlines, have their maintenance done in El Salvador because the cost is lower. The families of these young people were internal refugees from the civil war that ended in 1992. They have come up from nothing and now have a shot at making a contribution to their country and to their families. It is wonderful to have helped in a very small way. I hope that your students do well too.

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