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rebirth
Words by Cole Barrow

hange is never easy. Just ask Matthew Gideon,


47, who has had more than his fair share of
collective highs and lows along the way. From
living a life of upper-middle class comfort and security,
down the insidious road to divorce and sudden loss of
his job, Matthews experience is a testament to the everevolving nature of life, and the bleak uncertainties that
remain hidden around every corner.
This is the story of one mans journey on the path of
rebuilding in the aftermath of chaos and destruction.
Embracing the ephemeral nature of pain and despair,
Matthew remains focusedriding the waves of change
as any man should: calm, collected, and balanced.

t is almost noon in Los Angeles as I walk out of my apartment to a peculiarly


overcast day, but the mood is far from dreary for my uncle Matthew Gideon,
47, who greets me at a nearby coffee shop with a boyish grin and conspicuous
enthusiasm. I think Ive just met my future wife! he quips, as he pulls out his phone
and shows me a picture of an attractive blonde woman. Embracing the facets of
internet dating, Matthew is reeling from his date last night with a woman he met
on Tinder; a dating app suited for the instant-gratification tendencies of our current
generation, and, as it seems, middle-aged bachelors. At 47, I never pictured my uncle
resorting to internet dating, but Matthews life, as we shall see, has been far from
predictable.
Matthew Gideon was born in the small town of Greenview, Illinois. He was the
younger of two siblings, and had a very normal upbringing. That is, until the death
of his older brother and father, which forced Matthew to grow up very quickly and
imbued him with a sense of resiliency that he still carries to this day. He went on to
attend Illinois State University to major in criminal justice around the same time that
I was born. My earliest memories of him were when he would visit me and my mother
on his breaks from school, accompanied by a statuesque Black Labrador named Rex
that would stampede around my grandmothers house like a seasoned race horse.
Given that I was around 3 years old at the time, Im sure Rexs intimidating character
was a bit exaggerated in my mind.
By the time I entered school, Matthew had already graduated from college and moved
to Chicago to work as a law enforcement officer for the state police academy. After his
tenure in Chicago, job offers pulled him city to city; he found himself spending time
in Seattle in his mid-to-late 20s, before finally settling in Los Angeles in his mid-30s.
By now, he was seen as the cool uncle that never quite seemed to grow up, yeton
the contrarywould impart important life lessons within me when he came to visit
us on the holidays; simple, yet pervious crumbs of wisdom, such as: the smartest
people are those who ask questions, which remains the most important piece of
advice I have been given to this day. When it came time to graduate high school, he
proved worthy of my self-ascribed label of cool uncle when he became my ticket out
of rural Illinois and gave me a chance to get myself established in Los Angeles.

I eventually met up with my uncle and


moved in with him in May of 2006. My
new residence was an upscale oceanfront
apartment in Santa Monica where he was
living a very comfortable life and had a great
job working for the U.S. government. By
this time, he had been through a few failed
engagements, but he seemed to be enjoying
the single life and the unadulterated freedom
that came along with it. Finally, in 2007, he
began dating a woman named Tracy whom
he would go on to marry. After the luxurious
wedding accompanied by an egregious
best man speech by yours truly, he enjoyed
the consistency and normality that came
along with married life for the first time in
his lifeor so he thought. He and his wife
encountered many irreconcilable problems;
one of many being the sudden loss of his
job. In 2013, after 6 short years of marriage,
Matthew finalized his divorce.
Fast forward to 2015. Matthew is bouncing
back from his divorce, and he is displaying
the same sense of resiliency that has stuck by
his side all of these years. He is struggling,
yet optimistic; weathered, yet happy and
healthier than I have ever seen him before. I
sat down with Matthew to ask the question
that I have long pondered myself: Is marriage
really that complicated?
Yes and no, he says, responding to my vague
inquiry. Respecting each others time, space,
feelings, wishes, hopes, dreams, aspirations
those things, they all come into consideration.
Without mutual respect, youre going to have
a break down, and marriage is doomed to
fail. [Once that happens] Its a hard hole to
get out of. I find myself agreeing with his
words, as I reflect on my past and current

relationship and the role that respect plays


in a partnership. A partnership is exactly
how Matthew models a functional marriage
out to be. A lot of women like to refer to
marriage as a partnership; well, when I hear
the word partnership, I think of business.
He continues, I dont think people take
marriage seriously, and I dont believe that
they consider it an institution where they
view it more as a business arrangement or a
financial arrangement.

A business arrangement? I have never


thought of marriage like this. It seems very
formal, and elicits thoughts of financial
success superseding real, unconditional
love. This is clearly not what Matthew is
alluding to though, and this man has been
through the ropes; so Id better listen. As
he continues on, Im
getting a glimpse
Respecting each
of what marriage is
actually like versus others time, space,
what our expectations
are before going into feelings, wishes,
such a partnership, hopes, dreams,
and Im enlightened
to
a
different aspirations
perspective that I have those things, they
never once considered
as a potential culprit all come into
for conjugal discord consideration.
between even the
most sincere of people. Hes definitely on
to something; perhaps this is why we see
so many marriages come to fail. In the
U.S., it is estimated that around 40% of all
marriages end in divorce (Kreider, 2001).
Matthew offers his thoughts as to why he
believes that is.

I think before people get married, they fail


to look at the variables that actually make a
marriage strong. Lifestyle, hobbies, finances
are a big issue. If these problems can be discussed
and agreed upon before going into marriage, I
think the result would be that the success rate
of marriage would be somewhat higher. He
adds, I believe one of the key components to
a great, sustainable marriage is friendship. This

will be the overriding factor which determines


whether a marriage succeeds or fails. His tone
and demeanor hint at the fact that this was one
of the many things that were missing from his
failed marriage. He seems to drill this point
through with an unequivocal certainty that this
is a non-negotiable prerequisite for overcoming
obstacles together in a marriage.

Aside from the importance of friendship in a healthy marriage, I took to inquiring


about how his divorce may have affected the relationship between him and his now-exwifes mutual friends. Another two-pronged question. In one way, our neighborsour
supposed friendschose sides. She [Tracy] decided to remain in the residence and they
had to deal with her on a daily-to-weekly basis, so they felt obligated to side with her, I
guess. They [our friends] have not made a proactive attempt to check up on me and see
how Im doing; so were they really friends, or were they just neighbors? At this point,
the far-reaching implications of divorce are becoming all too apparent, and I question
how a man can lose his job, his marriage, and his friendsall in two short yearsand
still retain his sanity. Somehow he does, and he rides the waves of change as any man
should: calm, collected, and balanced.
At this point, our interview concludes and we direct our conversation towards his
future job prospects and horse racing: Matthews favorite pastime. I casually suggest
that he find a way to merge the two, but he resists. Right now, it is about survival
and Matthew knows just the amount of mental alchemy required in order to turn his
vicissitudes into something positive to be able to get back on to his feet. As we walk
back to my apartment, Matthew prepares to head off to work at a temp job and makes
plans for a second date this weekend with the woman hes been raving about. I ask him
if he sees this as an opportunity for another shot at love. His response: I gave her a
choice between going to see American Sniper or watching Seabiscuit; so well have to
wait and see. n