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Aberrant: Wild Card - Matt McShae

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Matty McShae

Series: Wild Cards
Concept: non-traditional student
Eruption: n/a??
Nature: Caregiver
Allegiance: self, family

Background: Matthew - Matty to most of his friends - graduated high school in Iowa, he went to a local community college. After getting almost two semesters done, his high school sweetheart had news: she was pregnant.

Everything else in life was put on hold for the kid. A wedding followed immediately. Matty managed to complete his second semester, but all further schooling was put aside. The child, a boy, was stillborn, and Matty's wife turned on him, accusing him of everything from bringing toxins home (from his job as a painter) to not wanting the baby, which it sensed. Matty knew that she was having a nervous breakdown, but that didn't help his emotional state. Mandy got better, in time, but their marriage never recovered, and he was divorced before he was twenty.

He kept his job as a painter before drifting on to carpentry and even a bit of electrical work. He even started dating again, and after a long courtship was married at twenty-five. His new wife, Cynthia, was also married to her career, but Matty ignored that, letting her focus more on it than him. Gradually, Cynthia more or less calmed down, after several years of marriage. Her focus turned to family, and they began to try to have children.

Because he'd had one before, Matty knew he wasn't at fault when she failed to get pregnant. Cynthia had never been denied anything she wanted, so when she couldn't have the child she wanted, she became angry and bitter. Matty became the focus of that anger. A trip to a reproduction specialist confirmed that the issue was with Cynthia, and Matty once again had to deal with his wife dropping into an emotional downward spiral. This was worse, though.

Cynthia attempted suicide three months after learning she was infertile; Matty found her before the sleeping pills sent her into a permanent rest. For saving her, she railed at him for leaving her in misery.

Matty held on, but after he found her trying to kill herself again, he filed for divorce. Feeling like he was abandoning her, he nonetheless knew that she was destroying him as well as herself. Cutting ties to her completely, he moved to the West Coast, as far away from the plains of Iowa as he could imagine.

Five weeks later, his mother told him that Cynthia had succeeded. Guilt-ridden, Matty struggled to come to terms with who he had become. He'd always thought himself strong, but he'd abandoned someone who needed him, to his mind. After one dark night spent searching his soul, he quit his new job, which was doing the exact same thing as his old, and started to rethink his life. He decided to return to college, pursuing a degree in psychology. Maybe next time, he could help instead of fleeing.

Matty's just finishing his second semester at UW-Tacoma. He's excited about starting his next year, which will be his core classes. He knows he has a long way to go, but he doesn't mind. He's learning how to help people.

Father: James McShae
Mother: Wilma McShae
Siblings: Rodney (brother), Angela (sister, adopted from Russia)


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From the March 22, 2009 edition of The Ledger, UW-Tacoma’s student newspaper:

Talk ‘o the Mornin’ to Ya: an interview with Matt McShae

By Jessie Simms

As part of an ongoing series exploring non-traditional students, we’ve managed to find Matthew McShae and twist his arm for an interview. After he yelled ‘Uncle’ and was released from the student clinic, he graciously agreed to speak with us for a while. He also was kind enough to not press charges.

JS: Matthew, let’s get the basics out of the way. Age, year, major, favorite color and the right way to pronounce your last name.

MM: Heh, Okay. Thirty-one. Sophomore. Psychology. Blue. Mac-SHEE. Oh and call me Matt.

JS: Okay, Matt. McShae is Irish, right?

MM: Yes, family is Irish all the way back. We bleed potatoes and shamrocks.

JS: (laughs) What a distressing image. Tell us why you’re at You-Dub.

MM: I was living in Tacoma when I decided to return to school. This was the closest school, and it’s really nice. Wasn’t a hard call.

JS: Why did you decide to come back to the hallowed halls of learning?

MM: (laughs) My life wasn’t doing what I wanted, so I made some changes. Decided to go back to school and get a psych degree.

JS: Was it hard to come back?

MM: Oh, yeah. All you young kids scare an old man.

JS: (laughs) I’m sure we’re terrifying with our Gucci purses and G&D belts.

MM: I understood purses and belts. (laughs)

JS: Do you find your age to be a handicap when dealing with other students?

MM: Not at all. Thought it might, but most of them got over the age thing pretty quick. Still get some teasing about needing a walker or Depends, but those same kids teasing me are the ones looking to me for advice later.

JS: So you’re a kind of mentor to classmates?

MM: Oh, no, not like—not at all. But when you’ve been around the block a few times, people who are just starting that circle are going to want guidance. Even if all they want is to hear that they’re not alone in screwing things up.

JS: You mean sharing your experiences with others?

MM: Sorta. It’s not like anyone else is going to walk in my shoes. They’re going to have their own experiences. Best I can offer is what I’ve learned from my situations, see where they fit their experiences.

JS: You’re wearing a wedding band. Are you married?

MM: No, not anymore.

JS: While I’m sure the ladies are dying you know that story, we’ll leave some mystery about you for them to discover.

MM: (laughs) So kind of you.

JS: You just saw hordes of campus girls stalking you, didn’t you?

MM: (pauses, laughs) No comment.

JS: I bet. So why Psychology?

MM: (pauses) I was close to someone who was going through some emotional issues and I couldn’t help her. It was the worst feeling ever, watching someone you love hurt and not being able to help. So now I’ll at least have the tools to try to help.

JS: What was the best thing about returning to school, and the worst?

MM: The best is the culture; was at a community college for my first attempt, and it was like going to advanced high school. There really is something different about living and being on campus.

The worst is the sticker shock. It really made me doubt what I was doing.

JS: But you kept going?

MM: Some things are worth the cost. Being able to help people is worth some fiscal hardship on my part. I totally believe that.

If you want to meet Matt, he can often be found in his apartment in Court 17, where he likes to argue movie trivia with his roommates and play his guitar. He also spends time working for the Psychology Club and studying. He welcomes friendly visitors but asks that you leave his arms alone in the future.

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