First of all, happy birthday!
Two years ago, your Mom and I were unsure if you’d ever leave the hospital, let alone ride your rocking horse like a precious tiny cowboy.
(We’ll have to work on the hat if you’re hoping to keep the dirt out of your eyes.)
Two years ago, we didn’t know if you would make it out of @ChildrensPgh.
This morning, you just ate your body weight in breakfast.
Happy second birthday, Lukas James Gajtka. Forever may you ride. 🐎 pic.twitter.com/ff4JveVHa0
— Matt Gajtka (@MattGajtka) November 1, 2018
In a span of a few hours on Nov. 1, 2016, we went from over-the-moon excited to meet you to complete terror when nurses at West Penn informed us you’d stopped breathing overnight because of multiple seizures. Only the fact that you happened to be in the nursery for routine tests saved your little life.
Two weeks after that day we’ll never forget, we finally got to bring you home. You’ve been a perfectly healthy boy ever since Day 1 — literally — but an experience like that has a way of changing all involved.
I don’t want to speak for your Mom, but ever since you arrived the way you did, I’ve looked at the world differently.
Namely, I care less about perception and more about reality. I care less about external measures of success — money, praise, accolades, acceptance — and more about whether my activities are meaningful by my own standards. Some of the standard is faith-based; some is derived from a desire to contribute to worthwhile projects.
Sounds great in theory, but it also has had the side effect of rending some things I used to care about as rather trivial. As it turns out, there’s a fine line between enlightenment and ennui. (Look it up, bud. It’s French. Pronounced on-wee. Trust me.)
Despite some negatives, this new perspective gave me the motivation to extract myself from a very negative work situation about nine months ago. To a lot of people on the outside, I’m sure it looked like I had the dream job. My younger self would’ve agreed, since I was reporting on Pittsburgh pro sports for a website run by a former role model of mine.
But during my three-year tenure with said outlet, I frequently received signals that things weren’t on the up and up. Actually, those signs had come even before I got promoted to full time in August 2015, as multiple people I trusted told me to have caution.
Nevertheless, I was overwhelmed by the glamour of major-league sports and the chance to advance my sports media career. I even left an old job on less than adequate notice, giving in to pressure from my new boss to do so. (That episode stuck with me for a while, until this summer when my old job became my new job again.)
By the time a national website reported myriad ways in which my boss had mishandled the company and the many employees he burned through, I was months into trying to find a way to gracefully get out. Once that dropped, I felt I had no choice but to resign immediately.
I felt guilty about leaving several co-workers behind, but I felt I had no choice. Maybe if I hadn’t gone through those two weeks in the Children’s Hospital NICU with you and your Mom, I would’ve convinced myself that it was more important to keep my career ‘on track’ than to walk out on principle.
It’s hard to say for certain, but with your Mom’s steadfast support, I decided I couldn’t send the message that what my boss had gone/was doing was acceptable.
I tried to tell myself for more than a year that just because I worked for him didn’t mean that I endorsed his erratic behavior. Past a certain point, that stance lost its luster in my heart and mind.
Some might say — and some have — that I only jumped off the ship when it became publicly shameful to stay. In other words, I only left as a method of self-preservation, as opposed to high-minded moral reasons.
Truth be told, I’ve beat myself up about that accusation. Maybe they’re right? I could’ve justifiably left earlier, based upon what I knew. I did feel a responsibility to continue to help your Mom with paying the bills, but I probably should’ve had enough faith in my ability to cut bait.
At the same time, I might still be working there if I had been operating under my old worldview. I suppose we have to take our small victories when they come.
Now, it wasn’t easy to walk away, even after the public revelations. This ain’t no fairy tale.
Unlike a few of my old colleagues and several acquaintances around the continent, I did not join the Athletic. (That’s another sports website.) Although plenty of people were supportive of my decision, I took some heat on social media, getting called everything from an ungrateful traitor to a ‘liberal snowflake.’ Furthermore, I might never work a major-league sporting event again. Jobs like the one I had aren’t plentiful, and even less so now in a downsized media environment.
But the greatest gift I’ve received is the priority shift that arrived two years ago yesterday. With a living miracle like you in the picture, the scales fell from my eyes. I don’t get as worked up about career-related stuff as I used to. Maybe that decreases my chances of reaching the pinnacle of the media profession, but so be it.
Actually, check that. I don’t get as worked up about my career-related stuff as I used to. I still get angry when I think back about how certain people I care about were treated … or still are being treated.
When that happens, sometimes I can’t resist reminding folks that the emperor still has no clothes, even if it makes me look petty or vindictive in others’ eyes.
I know, I know. That isn’t exactly the personification of turning the other cheek. ‘Vengeance is mine, says the Lord‘ … and last I checked I’m not God.
Old Matt wouldn’t have done that, for better or worse. He would’ve been too concerned about how something like that would look to others, or whatever we’re supposed to worry about. New Matt still respects others’ viewpoints, but wants the truth out there.
It’s messy. But we move on.
Your complicated Dad
Calories burned (active): 768
Minutes exercised: 30
Hours stood: 14
Steps taken: 7,925
Activity: Four-mile treadmill run at 8 mph
Hours shirtless: Zero