Matthew McConaughey recently shared that an experience he had as a teenager helped shape him into the wise man he is today. The 53-year-old actor is well known for being a sort of Hollywood sage, and that reputation helped his memoir, Greenlights, turn into a New York Times best seller.
The book teaches readers to be their best and happiest selves. In it, McConaughey uses his personal experiences and beliefs to help people understand the why and how.
One of those experiences came when he took a student exchange trip to rural Australia at 19 years old. The Serenity star wrote about that time in his pages, and he further explained the story while chatting with the former deputy prime minister of Australia, John Anderson.
Matthew McConaughey took the trip in 1988. At the time, successes were coming easily, and he had dealt with very little conflict in his life. And living abroad gave him a rude awakening to the real world.
Strangely, it was a request from his host family that reframed his worldly outlook. A few months after he moved into their home, they asked him to call them “mum and dad.” But the request didn’t sit well with him, and he had an epiphany moment that taught him he was his own person and had the right to say “no.”
The Experience ‘Stripped’ Matthew McConaughey of His ‘Crutches’
When they initially asked, the actor wondered if it was “a cultural thing.” And he thought that he could be overstepping boundaries if he refused. But he quickly decided that his own boundaries came first.
“It was clear, and I told them ‘I will not call you that,” McConaughey continued. “That gave me such identity and strength, to [make a decision] without having to check in with my own mum, dad, or friends.”
“To have the clarity gave me a sense of self, it gave me a sense of stance, it gave me agency,” he added.
Matthew McConaughey explained that the exchange trip completely “stripped” him of the “crutches” that his easy life in Texas gave him. Not only did he stop asking for permission to follow his own truth, but he also stopped relying on them for other support. While he was living abroad, he took six jobs and had no friends or social life.
In Greenlights, he made it clear that he didn’t actually enjoy his time Down Under. He shared that once the book was published, fans wrote in and asked why he didn’t just go home.
“I began to realize how valuable and enduring that year in Australia was for me, how I wouldn’t be the man I am today unless I had taken that year,” he explained. “I wouldn’t have learned the lessons if I would’ve come home early.”