Why I’ve Found Myself Here

Matt Shaner
4 min readAug 30, 2023

1-The headlights on my 1984 Oldsmobile cast dull yellow arcs on the back road. I’d just started driving. The hill crested and turned to the right. I’d pushed the engine far enough that the tires jumped, action movie style, and the car stopped on a hillside of thick weeds, looking down to the road in silence. I put the car in gear, drove off the hill, and went home.

2-The yard to my father’s house looked on open farmland. On the weekends I would take his golf clubs, a few balls, and walk to the back of the property. I’d hit the balls into the corn. I used to take my pellet gun to the same spot and imagine I was a hunter looking into the mystery of the rows. When I was a kid, riding my bike, I’d crashed and decided to walk across that field to get to his house.

My youth was marked by collision.

3-The diner was open all night. I sat in the booth next to the girl who would become my wife. A group of kids sat three down from us and I remember making eye contact with one. When we left, he followed me out to the parking lot and asked what I was looking at. Did I have a problem? I said no. I called my friend later that night and he told me to pick him up. We’d find the kids, he said, and teach them a lesson. We never found them.

4-I sat in the cafeteria holding my brown bag lunch. It took a few moments before I realized I was the object of a joke from the other end of the table. I looked at the clock, not hungry, and wished the minute hand would move faster as they laughed and the heat rose in my face.

5-The first day of my first college class, a morning Introduction to Psychology, I spilled a drink on my sweatshirt. I swiveled my head around the lecture hall. No reactions, just students writing in their notebooks as the professor went over her slide presentation.

Photo by trail on Unsplash

6- The moment I knew I’d found my wife, I was sitting in the parking lot of a hospital. She was admitted, spending the night and I had just visited. My heart broke at the thought of her sleeping in the dark room. Something broke inside. I realized later it was not a break but a connection, a bond I’d hold since that moment. When I left her side, part of me remained. It still does.

7-Both of our sons spent time in the NICU after birth. Both recovered. Both are healthy. There is no creation without struggle. We’d suffered a miscarriage with a third pregnancy. I left the emergency room that morning to a dull sunrise. I called my father. He answered and I apologized for waking him up. I told him we had lost the baby. I swallowed. The air stopped moving and it was quiet.

8-The hotel room in Connecticut did not have enough heat to fight off the inches of snow outside. I’d enjoyed college and chased writing all the way to a residency program. I had just hung up with an editor who told me my thesis novel was not worth his time. My publication history did not matter. The teachers and friends offering affirmation. I had entered a program to get credentialed to do something wired into my soul. The negative opinion hurt. The power dynamic shifted.

Affirmation can be confused with permission. There is no permission needed to exist.

9-For years I believed I had nothing to say. Silence is not the same as omission. Your voice never disappears. It waits and changes. The need to speak is always there.

Photo by Andraz Lazic on Unsplash

10-There is no Hollywood in life, no grand climax moments. Life is a string of days and abstract colors that form images in time to show you beauty. There is no grand rescue. The miracle is in the understanding, the acceptance of identity, and the first step past the point that holds you. It is not getting stuck, growing in cynicism, and turning into one of Dante’s trees. We were never meant to calcify.

The sum of a life is not a sum at all. It is relationships and family, alone and away, together and close. It is turning off the noise in a loud world.

It is understanding that part of you remains in those past moments.

It is looking in the mirror, noticing the new gray hair, the lines from laughter, the darkness from sleepless nights, the fact that you are not who you were.

And that is fine. And somewhere, the kid-teen-young adult You understands what you’ve become and that they are free from what they’d thought mattered, from the pain and trauma that changed them, and from the expectations they’d imagined in a world they would not know.

That is how you end up here.



Matt Shaner

Matt Shaner is a writer, husband, father, and believer living outside Reading, PA. You can find his blog and other writings at matthewdshaner.com.