My First Speaking Gigs

My first speaking gig back in the day.

I almost started my speaking career not long after I graduated from high school, but life sometimes has a way of sending you on a long detour before you get on the right path.

Seattle Children’s

The first big speaking gig I did was at a country club that was doing as a fundraiser for Seattle Children’s Hospital. They wanted me to come out and share my experiences there as a patient, saying how great they were. I was happy to do it, because they were great, and I would know – I spent a lot of time there as a child.

There were around 50 people in the audience. It was really intense for me, being thrown into the fire since I hadn’t done anything like that before. I was so nervous that I don’t even know what I said, but fortunately someone was videotaping the event, and the video become one of the first things I posted to my YouTube channel. I guess I just shared a little about my life story, and what it was like getting surgeries and spending time recovering at Children’s. Actually, what I remember most was that they had the singer Kelly Clarkston tune in via video, and give her own message as well. I don’t remember her story, but she was obviously a big supporter of Seattle Children’s.

WSU College of Education

The same year, my sister was in Pullman, WA attending WSU to become a teacher. When she chose her final major I was thinking to myself “wow, ok” and I was really proud of her. She was so driven, always pushing toward the goals she had. S

My sister knew I wanted to do public speaking, and she arranged for me to speak to one of her classes, asking me to share my thoughts about how teachers could handle kids coming to their classes who were disabled. I spoke exactly on that.

I shared that in my experience, some teachers panic a little bit, not knowing what to do or how to handle things. I told them that in reality, it really isn’t a big deal: just treat them like other students; but then again, if that student also has learning disabilities, they’d need a para because they would need more time than other students.

I’m not sure how deeply the college students listened to me that day, and one kid fell asleep which actually reminded me of myself in school. In fact, I didn’t know that still went on in college! But the main problem was there wasn’t a lot of time for questions before the class period ended. It’s usually the main bummer about speaking gigs – when there’s limited time for questions.

Youth Investment Center

Another place where I spoke around that time was at the Puyallup Youth Investment Center where I used to go when I was in Jr High. Downtown kids in Puyallup could go there, hang out with each other, and kind-of get away from home life. Basically, it was an after-school activity center.

They invited me to speak to the new crop of kids attending the center, wanting me to give my life story and tales from back in the day. I just told them about me, and a few stories about what would happen when I would hang out there. I also talked about bullying, and one of the kids asked about it, but I’m not sure he liked the answers, but that’s me: telling it as I see it, not what I think people want to hear.

One of the kids thought I was really amazing and inspiring. That felt good. In fact, everywhere I spoke seemed to go great, like people were really into it, and I thought to myself, “Maybe I found my calling.” So every day, I would expect more invitations. Little did I know, pursuing a speaking career takes a lot of work. People aren’t just going to come to you if they don’t know you’re out there.


I was starting to live the dream, but then for reasons I didn’t understand at the time, everything stopped. I think summer came, schools let out, no one else called to invite me to speak. I really got depressed because I didn’t know how to keep it going. Not getting any more offers to speak made me feel so defeated – something I now know is a fundamental self-esteem problem I have.

I said to myself, “you know, maybe this isn’t something I’m going to be able to do.” I sat around and became more and more bored, more isolated, and started going out to the bars a lot, found people to talk to and hang out with. A lot of them were great, and some of them were bad influences involved with along with heavy drinking, and that became my life for the next few years.

I also started having problems with my back, and so I went to a pain clinic, and it was only 10 minutes from my house. I guess there’s no reason they wouldn’t have prescribed those pain meds to me since the pain and scoliosis were real. Now I was addicted to pain meds along with alcohol. Anything would set me off, full of anger.

Thoughts of suicide started coming, not hurting myself or others, but just going to sleep and not waking up. I didn’t want to be here, no meaning or purpose, like I was wasting my time being alive. I don’t think my family even realizes how dark and close to the edge I was at the time.

Back On Track

I’m going to save the story of those dark years for a future post on addiction and recovery, but suffice it to say for now that a huge part of me getting sober was so that I wouldn’t put my family through anything like those times again. As my caregiver, I put my mom through a lot of hell, and I’ll never be able to take those years back, no matter what I do moving forward.

What I am going to do moving forward is stay on track working to realize my dreams. That includes public speaking. I guess it was all the videos that I started publishing to YouTube, and the encouragement I received from people who were inspired by what I said, that helped me remember this original dream.

It took some work over the last couple of years to figure out how to launch my public speaking career, and we’ll see how well it goes now that I’m putting it out there! In association with the schedule I set up for monthly topical gatherings online, I’m working on a series of slideshows that focus on all the topics I like to speak about. Here’s what I’ve come up with, and I’m looking forward to hearing from people who want to hear what I have to say:

Speaking Topics Scheduled for Release
Just found this old video of me speaking at the Lion’s Club! it was before my jaw surgery.

Meet Matt

Hey guys! I’m Matt Budzak. I’m turning 30 this year and live in my hometown of Puyallup, Washington where my adoptive parents raised me since I was a baby. As you may know from my social media posts and videos, I was born with Multiple Ptrygien Syndrome and Scoliosis.

I spent most of my childhood in and out of hospitals, always trying to make the best of things. I did not have use of my legs, and by the at age of 12, I knew that having them removed was going to give me the best possible option for a better quality of life.

School was also a struggle for me. but movies and video games got me though the hard times. It was especially hard to fit in and be accepted socially, and that’s probably why I still rely on my favorite celebrities for inspiration, sometimes making videos talking about them.

Jr. High really was the worst. Learning disabilities made math and other subjects difficult. I spent a lot of time arguing with my special ed teacher and being disciplined, never feeling like I was being treated as an equal, and receiving little to no positive feedback. In 9th grade, it came to a head being blamed for an accidental mishap, and only one person – a friend to this day – stuck up for me. I was sent home and after that, decided I would lock myself in my room, and never come out again.

Fortunately, my parents weren’t going to let me do that. They made sure I wasn’t failed, and with their prodding, I made it all the way through high school. It was still a case management learning situation, and I was sent to the office once in a while, but things gradually better. I made more friends – sometimes even with the security guards that were called to bring me to the office. Ironically, those security guards treated me with respect and helped get me through the tough times.

It’s not like I woke up and was all of a sudden a trouble maker – a lot happened that made me the way I was – sad and angry. But with time, I learned some living skills. To this day, people don’t know how much those school experiences affected me, eventually leading me to using pain meds, and turning to alcohol after turning 21. I’ll share more about that journey in blog post next month, but it’s important to remember how school trauma still affects me today even after a couple of years in recovery.

My low point was a night I stayed up drinking late. I remember it was about 3 a.m., and I got the worst pain I ever felt – which says a lot – centered in my lower back. I ended up calling 911 while my parents were asleep upstairs in the house. The paramedics didn’t want to take me to the hospital, but I insisted that I needed a doctor, so my mom took me into the E.R. It turns out I had a kidney infection. They put in an I.V. and had to drain all the alcohol from my system. I felt like a sponge being squeezed, and I was in shock – couldn’t talk or think straight, just messed up – and ended up stayed in the hospital for a week. I was released with a lecture about how I couldn’t drink anymore, but I had already come to that conclusion through self-reflection over the course of the week, the longest time I’d been sober in years.

I remember going outside and seeing a beautiful, clear blue day. I looked up into the sky and felt good, so clear-headed, with a presence of mind like nothing I’d ever experienced. I knew had to make a decision. Was I going to stay awake like this, or go back to how I dealt with grief and depression in the past? What things could I keep, and what would I have to eliminate from my life? I was broke, had no one around other than my parents, and they were frustrated with me. I had no clue about a meaning for life, no purpose, and I knew that if I didn’t try doing something productive, I wouldn’t make it.

Not long afterwards, the pandemic hit, and like many people, I knew I needed a pet to make it through. I had tried getting a rescue dog in the past, but was turned down – maybe for the same reasons I get rejected when applying for jobs. But Max came to my rescue. It was a bit rough at first with his past behavior issues, but as soon as we understood one another, we really hit it off. I realized what he liked doing, and he realized what I liked. We had nothing but time together, so we went to the park and played a lot. Needless to say, we bonded, and really, he saved me.

Then someone suggested I start. a YouTube Channel. I can’t remember who, but I do remember them noticing how much I got a lot out of the online world myself, and joking that “I love to talk.” So I did it, and the video posted above was the very first one I made. To my surprise, I got a lot of positive feedback. I hadn’t heard anything positive or encouraging in a long time, so I kept it up. I did quit for a while after receiving my first negative feedback – being called a freak. It hit me hard and pushed those old buttons from school. I thought about going down to the nearest bar again, but I just couldn’t let that troll control me and my feelings. So I made another video.

Now, even with positive social media feedback, life can be rough at times – like right now when we’re snowed in and I can’t even get my wheelchair onto my driveway. At times like these, I need to collect myself every few days, so I take a break from making videos and my social media sites, and just go listen to music on the couch, maybe play some video games and watch a movie or two. I find I have to step “in and out” of reality, eventually returning to face the world. Counseling has helped with that, too. I talk with someone every week. It’s another way I’m building skills to cope, and all these things are working. I keep coming back, making videos, getting out there to speak, and hopefully, inspiring others to realize their dreams as well.

Now I’m launching my website, putting it out there that I’m available to speak, consult and schedule educational activities on living a good life despite obstacles. Something that happened on a recent shopping trip with my mom that inspired me to take this step. A lady recognized me from Facebook and said she loved what I was doing. She had a homebound son, and she said that watching my videos together was great for them. Listening to her made both me and my mom emotional, and if I can be that for them and any others in life, it makes everything worth it. In the end, I want to be remembered for doing something constructive, or at least for making it through a lot and never giving up – instead getting up, and keeping on.

My goal now is to have a series of good experiences in life, memories of having fulfilled a “bucket list” dreams like traveling, and knowing that the commitment I made when I left the hospital a couple years ago made it happen with help from family and friends along the way. Now for me, the sky is the limit, chasing my dreams and succeeding at times, staying healthy, and living my life the best I can. My new perspective seems to be paying off, and I’ve never been happier.

Really want to get to know me? Click here for a great podcast – so precise – done by my friend who started a “Community Heroes” channel on The Distrupters Podcast Network.

Launching My Website!!!

Hey Guys! I’m really excited to be launching my business website! Over the last couple of years, I’ve been wanting to get back into motivational speaking as well as working to improve accessibility in the community. Check out the educational events I have scheduled for the upcoming year, subscribe to my blog for Tuesday updates, and in the meantime, follow me on my social media sites. Thanks!