What now?

It’s been a while since the last entry. I’m still here, alive and doing mostly fine. A lot has changed since I have written it. However, I feel like the time experienced back then left me with quite a lot scars and bruises, mentally, and it will take time to get back. I definitely believe in “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, so I plan learn from that experience. I don’t think I can make myself immune to pressure, expectations, disappointment, be it external or internal, but at least I know where the road leads to if I push myself too much.

So what’s going now? Currently I’m at the airport waiting for my flight to San Francisco where I’m going to attend Game Developers Conference. Thanks to being involved in organizing Global Game Jam, I qualified for one of the All-Access passes to the conference. Getting it is like dream coming true. My first possibility to face the gaming industry in person, and not just reading articles and books about it. I can’t be happier! And in San Francisco out of all places! I don’t even know how many years it’s been since I dreamed of going to US, and SF in particular! Even as I’m sitting waiting for my flight I think I still haven’t fully acknowledged this is all true. I’m as calm as never, and I was during all the days before the trip.

But that calm is also something that arrived after my breakdown. Shortly after the last entry I decided to take a break from studies. I’ve been thinking about it since mid-November, but I didn’t have the courage, I thought I can force my tired mind to push through. In December I learned that I got the pass to GDC, and with the new goal on the horizon trying to focus on the school became even more difficult, juggling all my responsibilities at school, and being afraid of losing “chance of a lifetime” if I don’t prepare right and get rest before GDC.

A few days ago I watched a couple of TED talks, and as usually with TED, they were very inspiring. I can relate very well especially to this one about the the inner “hum”. I got tired, overworked, by my own ambitions, I liked what I was doing, maybe I didn’t love it but I liked it a lot at least. But as the pressure continued and I had barely anything to balance with it, I just burned out. Seeing my motivated classmates and feeling guilty for lack of that motivation made me retreat. What I wanted was not to be as good as the, but have that passion that they have, because I know I used to have it, but I lost it somewhere along the way. However, my passion is different from their passion, mostly in how much I value entertainment (i.a. video games) and amount of non-profit things I like to engage in.

I was a vice president of the student union, chief editor of the school magazine with the unwavering sense of responsibility that that magazine has to come out every week, and no matter how little time I have and how tired I am, I will make that happen. At the same time I was organizing Global Game Jam in the city where I study. Trying to work on my portfolio to have something to show for myself. And of course the regular 6+ hours a day school work. Sounds pretty impressive. But it completely doesn’t feel like it to me. I did most of those things because I wanted to, not because it was expected or to get any direct benefits or recognition. I recently read about an “impostor syndrome” – people who do great things but don’t give themselves credit for it. Can that be? I don’t have any particular one great thing I did, but all of it together makes something, right? I feel uncomfortable when people praise me for those small things, because they don’t feel anything special to me.

I’ve spent 3,5 years in Sweden now. People ask me if I plan to stay here, and I always answer the same: I want to work on cool things with cool people, no matter where it is. And I was working on cool things, maybe they were small, but they had a lot of meaning for me and were enjoyed by people who were just receivers. But then the problem became the “with cool people” part, which was lacking, made me feel very isolated and alone in what I was doing. I don’t like working alone, I’m not looking to take all the credit for myself, I want to enjoy what I do with a reliable team of people with similar values. I didn’t feel that was the case. The social frustrations became so exhausting I had to quit.

Of course I can put all the blame on other people. I can’t change other people. I can change myself though, and be cautious about falling in such situations again. But changing one’s mindset is not easy.

It’s been a month and a bit since I started the break. It was the best decision I could have made and I don’t regret it one bit. But I still haven’t found my lost motivation. Another TED talk I watched was about “finding home”, finding your way back to the passion lost in the face of adversity. I realized that my entire life I wanted to design, graphic design, web design, game design, but always design. Being at UID made me feel that I can call myself a designer, even if I subconsciously knew I am a designer. I never wanted to do any other thing in life. I always wanted to design things for people. And I still do. I just have to find my path back. I know the destination, I just need to find the way.

I’m gonna wrap up this another insanely long entry of my personal reflections on my “luxurious problems” of being too ambitious, and not working with the right people.So what I do now other than waiting for my epic trip to start? I stay at home play games and try to survive the ups and downs delivered my brain, and find my lost motivation.

As a concluding thought I want to share this entry by Marc Merril, the CEO of Riot Games, because I found it very inspiring, and relevant to my case.