My First Live Online Event!

My segment on Q13’s Driver on the Street with its focus on “bringing people together and lifting each other up” helped put me on a path toward offering my own educational events with the same mission. Here’s the story of how I got to this important milestone….

At that time Q13 interviewed me for its “Driver on the Street” segment in 2020, my goal was to promote my YouTube Channel and get more subscribers. When I had launched my YouTube channel, it was a few weeks after the pandemic started. All the businesses were closed, and I had absolutely nothing to do.

I thought to myself, “Oh my God, I’m stuck at home feeling all alone again, and all I have is my phone and my iPad.” Then I said out loud, “Well, here we go.” I wanted to be a star, be Jimmy Fallon! I kept turning on the TV seeing social media stars getting their reality shows, so why not me? I’d give anything to be seen, to be recognized, to be heard. In reality, it became so much more than about me: it was that I could potentially help people by doing this.

I posted a few videos but within a few weeks, the country seemed to turn upside-down again with sheer panic after George Floyd was murdered. 2020 was like people started to learn what having a real hard life was. Summer came and went, and by fall, I think people were looking for stories about overcoming hardship.

Michael Driver from Q13 News in Seattle was producing a series of feel-good success series called Driver on the Street, and I guess he saw some of my videos, came all the way down to Puyallup, set up spotlights and cameras in my room, just went all-out. He even took the whole production out into the neighborhood for a walk with Max and me.

It was still near the start of the pandemic and before vaccines rolled out, so everything was in that context, like how to get through it, showing how people can make it. The story was positive, but of course he had to edit and cut it down into pieces of interest to his viewers, so it was a limited perspective. Fortunately, there was good feedback from it, and it did actually drive more subscriptions and followers my way.

In fact, strange things started to happen when I’d go out or take my for a walk downtown. People would look at me, wave and yell at me, saying “Hey Matt.” They’re was one guy who made a u-ie, turned around and came back to me, said “saw you on Q13, thought that was really cool” and stuff like that. Max and I would just look at each other and say “whoa.”

Breaking Isolation

I also started noticing how the pandemic affected the disabled community. People we know would look at us like “Oh, you’re disabled so I’m not going to go near you or you’ll get Covid” and so some of my family members don’t even talk to me for fear that I’m going to get it. I imagine old people might be feeling the same way right now.

I think that mentality went to an extreme and caused a pandemic of mental health for almost everyone. I know the alone factor definitely increased for me as a human being, and as a man, on a personal level. Literally the only way it seems I don’t feel alone is by being with my dog, Max. I do have my parents and sister and niece living around me, but the pandemic created social awkwardness for everyone.

Neighbors and extended family don’t even seem to know know what to say, how to talk any more. Even me, I’m guilty of that: I’ll see someone online and then a few hours later I’ll see them in person, and bam, I don’t know what to say, and so the first thing we talk about is the pandemic.

It’s the reality, but it’s also the news. The way that it’s all presented, it literally gives you anxiety. I want to give people comfort, acknowledge that we’re going through unbelievably hard times, but showing people how we can get through this, how people can still live their lives, go out, do things. The news just says “don’t do this and don’t that – lock up, mask up, stay inside, close this and close that” so people are in their houses, afraid.

That’s where all the crazy thoughts come in, and the self medication, the deep depression. I definitely don’t see people smile as much any more. Okay, maybe it’s the mask, but you can tell, people are fearful. I’m guilty myself, worried that no matter what I do, I’m going to be treated by half the people as if I shouldn’t be there, like I’m doing something wrong, like I don’t belong.

You also hear the news talking about suicide prevention, but what about pushing the things we need to do before getting to that point? The pandemic shouldn’t stop people from living, but instead, make people find new and better ways to live.

If this virus isn’t transmitted very well outdoors, why aren’t outdoor events at the top of every news headline if they want to help lift people up? If some masks keep the virus from spreading better than others, and some masks allow people to speak and hear better than others, why aren’t those masks mass produced and advertised by the government, appearing on every web page and show for everyone to see?

Getting Together

All I can do is my part, so it’s time for me to see if I can counter how we’re trained to think by the news. I think trying things like my online gatherings, and especially things like our in-person hikes starting in the spring, are what I can do to help break the ice and social barriers that have built up over the last couple of years.

It might not happen right away, but over time as we get together in new ways, it will give people some hope and confidence. I look back over the past couple years and notice that there are people making it, living life creatively … while other people just didn’t make it, struggling more than ever. I have to say that if I was still drinking – still out there raising hell – there’s no way I’d be making it.

I’m just grateful that I got sober before all this stuff happened, because I would have literally just drank myself to death in my bedroom. We would definitely not be having these Thursday conversations if I had not quit. Everything going on would just be more fuel to the destructive fire that was I was feeding with alcohol.

I’m definitely nervous – excited but also nervous. My hopes are that maybe at the end of the day, people will be able to think “Well, wow, he’s been through a lot but he got stronger,” and hopefully that will give people some kind of inspiration. I know for me, it was about choosing a dream to focus on – no matter what people who knew the “old me” would say – and then work a bit every day on my goal to inspire people through these dark times and to realize a dream for themselves.

There was no turning back after that Driver on the Street – Life Lessons with Matt segment aired. From my YouTube videos a few people saw, to my social media sites like TikTok that blew up with views, I say to my followers: let’s take it to the next level by joining together on Zoom!

Published by Matt Budzak

My name is Matt Budzak, and I was born in Tacoma WA and raised In Puyallup. I am a Double amputee trying to make a differance

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