An Ode to You, Matt

Ever since I found out the news, I’ve been searching for the right words to say; the most potent string of sentences to express the profound impact you’ve had on my life, Matt. I take a cold, hard look at the person I am today, the things I care and write about, the music I listen to, and the life experiences I’ve been blessed with all as a direct result of our friendship and I can quite confidently tell you that I wouldn’t be the woman I am if it weren’t for knowing you. You were one of the kindest, smartest souls I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and I’m heartbroken, honestly, that you’re gone.

We met in one of the three classes we shared together in our first year of college and instantly hit it off. You were a total weirdo tree-hugging type and I knew I’d found a soul mate in you. I’d had such a shit time in school being bullied relentlessly and having struggled to make friends after moving back from the US just in time for my GCSEs. I couldn’t wait to put that place behind me. South Downs offered a whole new opportunity for me to come into my own, and I did. You played a pretty significant role in my happiness there. The cozy feeling of finally having met “my people”.

You lived right next door to South Downs, so on breaks, we’d wander over to yours and play with Cleo, bimble around the garden, and play video games before bouncing back to college to do work. You introduced me to all these cool documentaries that I’d never heard of but were somehow perfectly aligned with the environmental awareness I had been cultivating for a couple of years prior. Then there was Jeremy Gilley and World Peace Day. Remember that? Remember when Sharon let us ditch our Environmental Science class so that we could go see him speak at my old school? She was the best. Do you remember how pissed off we were when that shitty administration didn’t let us interview him afterwards? So rude.

Then I started that beach clean-up group. You were my biggest supporter. (And Sharon, obvs.) You were there encouraging me every step of the way and I’ll never be able to thank you enough for that. We did some good work during that time! Even if we were in the minority in caring about litter. I guess that’s pretty uncool when you’re 17? Fuck everyone else though, right?

One thing you had so very right was your music taste. I stormed into college all angry with my Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson and you brought some skank into my life. All. That. Ska. God, I wonder how differently my life would have turned out if you hadn’t introduced me to Capdown. That tiny little band that no one has heard of. You burned me that CD and I listened to it on repeat on my drives to and from college. Remember the time we saw them, when you came to visit me in Plymouth while I was at Uni? That was such a fun night, even if I did get properly smacked in the head. Totally worth it. And I think about how a strange friendship of mine unfolded a few years later over our mutual love of that band. I had just moved into a new house and the neighbor’s kitchen door was open and it faced mine. Blasting out, into the chilly winter sunshine was Capdown! I instantly became pals with those guys and ended up in a relationship with one of them. I wonder where I’d be now if that chain of events hadn’t happened…

There was also that time during Uni that I came to visit you in St. Austell. You were working at the Eden Project and living in the middle of nowhere. Man, was that place a sight to behold though! What a delicious treat! I’ve never been back since, but I will one day – I promise.

After that, you were doing PhD life on the east coast while I was slaving away in my lab in Bristol. I love that we used to write letters to each other and send postcards from our travels. Hardly anyone our age does that. One of those postcards came from you while you were in Tenerife. It sounded so unbelievably beautiful. Those dark skies and bright stars. I went to visit as per your recommendation and it broke my heart that I couldn’t get a hold of you afterwards to tell you all about it. We did everything you suggested while we were there and it blew our minds. All of it. I wanted to tell you how right you were. How I saw the world through your eyes in the way that you wished so many others did. I never got to tell you about my stay at the hostel up Mt. Teide, or the trek down through Masca and the kayak sesh round the coastline to Los Gigantes that followed. I don’t know anyone else who has done those things and all I ever wanted was to tell you about them. You understood.

I know you’re in another dimension reading this and raving about how much cooler things are in the afterlife. One day I’ll meet you there. Maybe we’ll finally get to interview Jeremy Gilley, eh? I love and miss you and think about you often. May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.

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