A tale today, if you don’t mind…
Five years ago, I spent 100 hour weeks trying to be in charge of a video game the wrong way. I was thrown into a situation (will my full permission and enthusiastic coaxing) where I made up for sheer inexperience with a ridiculous amount of time invested to learn. Late nights, frustrating mistakes I had no one else to clean up but myself – it’s as if someone game me the violin I had always wanted, but with a frayed bow, no rosin, and no sheet music and said… “ok, now play a concerto”. I flailed at it and did the best I could, and I certainly learned a lot, but I was no virtuoso.
I left that position, taking all the knowledge gained from those 3am lessons and weeks of undoing things that only took a few hours to screw up, and was ready to apply it to my new position. Well, I was in for a surprise – while the draw of a significant raise, about 50% of the cost of living while still being in a cool city, and finally shipping a title (and getting my name on the credits) would have pulled me away no matter what, I was disappointed with taking a step down in responsibility. Even though my title was the same, I added my touch wherever I could – but the amazing thing about having a full team means you don’t have to do everything. And I found out that what was left were not my favorite things about the game industry.
Meanwhile – Zliten was on a journey of his own. He was pretty burnt out from his time in the industry. In fact, he was the one pushing us to relocate and do something different, however, I got the job first so we made the 1200 mile trek from San Diego to Austin and moved into the smallest shoebox we could across the street from my office just in case – so I could support us on one income for a good long while if needed be. After spending a few philosophical nights talking about it, he decided to put out a few halfhearted applications.
Less than a week later – he had a job making way more than me.
We called it ridiculous money. In that tiny little apartment, with our living expenses – we were able to tuck away more than half of what we made. Effortlessly. We immediately started searching for a house, which we found the next month. That year I also bought a car – a prius with all the bells and whistles, and though I could have almost bought it outright – I put down only about 1/3 just because you never know, and made plans to pay it off over the next year – but took a 6 year loan anyway. We hosted bbqs and parties almost every weekend, and when we didn’t we were out at the bar or the movies or shopping or doing stuff to remodel the house. I’d get huffy sometimes that we spent too much money and declare us broke and cut down spending for a month, but I had no idea what was to come…
That August, Zliten was laid off. I was in the throes of massive overtime and in utter despair at my job. Things were kinda miserable. I admit – I was jealous. I wanted to be the one laid off. With my heart and soul. I didn’t really, but I was stressed, tired, pouty, and irrational. I hadn’t had more than 2 weeks off since I was 22 and just out of college (still haven’t), and I finally, for the first time in my life, understood what Peter from Office Space meant by, if he had a million dollars, he would do nothing. “I would relax… I would sit on my ass all day… I would do nothing.” Now, I know I didn’t really want that, but I felt defeated. I felt burnt. I felt like I just wanted to both sink into myself and fade away and stand on top of any soapbox that would have me and scream as loud as I could.
I started running. No matter what else was out of control in my life, there was something about setting a goal and pushing myself physically until I felt broken and battered and torn down. Sort of like how I felt at work and life but *I* was in the drivers seat here. I could turn my mind off or mull things over. I could space out or watch myself in the mirror – and get prouder and prouder by the day that I was looking more and more like a runner. Sometime I imagined myself doing races, sometimes I imagined myself at my goal weight, sometimes I imagined things going better at work. That became my happy time.
I also started this blog. I missed the creative outlet and had no idea what I wanted to do with it, but dangit, I was going to start writing again. I had no idea if anyone would ever read it, but I just needed, as I said before, my own little soapbox. I felt like I had a fairly unique weight loss story (just like everyone else, heh) and was definitely not like all the other weight loss bloggers I had read. I mean, for goodness sakes – I still smoked every day, drank a lot, ate takeout most of the time, and worked in freaking video games. If *I* could do it, anyone could and felt like if nothing else, I could share my perspective on that.
That year, Zliten’s attempt at a startup never got off the ground. The job market was so vile here that there were at least 50 designers for each position, and he was at that weird stage of 5-6 years of experience, so he was overqualified for most positions and there was too much competition for the ones he wanted. I spent that year still unhappy with work, though I did get a bone thrown my way and got to spend 6 months doing voice over casting, recording, and other sound work, which made me complacent for a while, and I went from jealous to sympathetic to Zliten’s plight. I wanted a month or two off. He was going on a year. He ended up taking a contract job out of desperation and thought the game might be cool and land him something full time. I ended up changing teams at work and at first thought it was an opportunity, and then thought better of it once I got there.
Nothing was working out. I spent some time thinking about leaving the industry and pursuing education – although it’s frustrating when you’re looking into taking a huge pay cut from your position even after 4+ years of schooling for pretty much anything you consider doing. I was feeling very lost. The money aspect – we were making do but not tucking much away, and definitely had to budget. We would stay home more often to save money and do without some of the things we wanted. I am a spoiled brat in this regard, and I know others that had to make more sacrifices – but we were the only one of our friends in that position. No one else really understood when we bowed out of things due to money.
Then – things got…better. I got a mini-opportunity to prove myself at work. Then another larger one. I rocked them. I rocked them without working the 100 hour weeks and being a kiss ass and doing things in a way that felt unnatural to me just to get the job. I poured my heart and soul into work again and it felt GREAT! Other things changed and Zliten started looking into getting into my company.
So I am proud to announce, after this 3 year journey…after leaving my first real job and opportunity to move halfway across the country pursuing a dream and a better life, that as of today, I am now officially a full fledged Producer – in charge of a very successful game team. I am also extremely proud to announce – as of this Monday – Zliten is also working as a designer on the ground floor of a creative and fledgling project, and after almost two years of being un- or underemployed, finally getting to use his potential again. And the return to stupid money doesn’t hurt (we have some catching up to do for the last two years of being *broke as shit*).
And, oh yeah – I lost 110 lbs and ran two half marathons and a billion other races. But that’s not the focus here. After both of us almost lost faith in our industry, in our careers, in our capacity, in our abilities – we had thought about giving up. However, we both found the way back just when we needed to. And now, we celebrate. Have a great weekend all, and that thing you very very very very very very much want but feel like it’s out of reach? Maybe just keep slogging along and it will be closer than you think.
**Apologies for the lack of silly pictures. I can have a serious Wall of Text everyone once in a while, yes?