Hey there. I hope you’re having a good last day of 2021.
This year felt a lot like the last, where the isolation, loneliness and general confusion of the pandemic got to me. I don’t think I went nuts or anything, but it was easy to feel like something was just off, and I don’t like that a lot.
On the other hand, there was a decent amount of good that came out of this year, mostly as a result of breaking through barriers that’ve existed for a long time.
I only worked for two months this year, which, looking back, was probably not a good idea. I did some contracting here and there, but a lot of 2021 was picking up the pieces of leaving esports; I didn’t exactly know what to do, where to go next, or where I was even valuable. I just knew that my burnout cycle was shortening, and I needed to take control of something in order to gain a foothold back to stability.
The nice thing is that by luck, I connected with a couple people that enabled me to get that stability, and pushed me towards forming some confidence. I’m starting a new gig in a couple days which takes me out of esports, but puts me closer to a position to be able to do what I want with my life.
That whole “what do you want to do?” question is a hard one, and I don’t necessarily have an answer. I had a therapy session three-quarters of the way through the year that basically said “Hey dude, your whole definition of success was set by someone who was scared, and who didn’t have the support that he needed to do that in a healthy way.”
That hit me kind of hard, because over the years I’ve written about how, in the desire to be self-aware, I’ve been probably unnecessarily hard on myself. In an effort to not be what I felt was a failure, I was pushing myself towards unhealthy goals that weren’t attainable.
The funny thing is that I’m writing these paragraphs and I’m pretty sure I’ve put them in previous years’ end-of-year blogs.
I guess the difference is that things have actually started changing, and at this point I’m not in that defensive one-foot-out-one-foot-in place. I’ve taken the leap to saying “this no longer works for me, and I’m not going to think about whether that’s my fault or not.”
While that isn’t exactly a bad conversation to have with yourself, I don’t think I’m at a place where it’ll be healthy for me. I’ll just end up ruminating on that, rather than getting myself to a place where I won’t. I basically am looking to set a better, more solid foundation for myself, and then (maybe) work backwards. If I don’t, I’m going to be continually putting out mental fires while also dealing with real life.
Pretty much anything in my way of that “dealing with actual, tangible things” is something I’d like to avoid at this point.
I was always really scared of being in a place where if I had a non-esports/gaming job, I’d be too tired to pursue hobbies or interests afterward. The inflexibility wasn’t something I liked to think about, because I’ve always struggled with setting my own structure; I didn’t know if I was capable of pushing myself towards those things that I thought I cared about.
It’d be pretty shitty to think “okay, is this all there is?” at the end of that tunnel. I’d be stable, but I’d feel boring. I’d be safe, but I’d feel like the chance at something better passed me by. “If only I had been better, I wouldn’t be where I am now” is/was a common thought pattern, and it isn’t serving any positive purpose anymore.
Hilariously, the job I’m getting is just as flexible as my esports work, and more stable/structured. This is probably the best think I could hope for.
On a medical note, I’ve also gotten assessed for ADHD, and I’ll be starting medication for it in the new year. During the process I’d gotten a look at my medical records from my childhood, and they were pretty illuminating; having an adult’s perspective (through my parents, teachers, doctor) of my mental health history meant that I had a more objective look at what I “really” went through.
If you’re a kid, you’re going to process events in one way, and as an adult, I’m mostly just trying to access a memory. Seeing it in “adult’s English” meant that suddenly I don’t feel as guilty about the struggles I had as a child, and that habit of minimizing my issues became a little harder to do — that’s definitely a good thing.
So with a combination of ongoing therapy, ADHD meds and just a little space, I’m hoping to quiet the voices that tell me that I’m behind in life, and need to catch up.
That’s going to be difficult, but what can you do?
Despite “retiring” from esports I’ve found a bit of freedom writing a newsletter about it, and doing some consulting for related companies. It’s been nice from a confidence-building perspective because I’m realizing that I do have experience and I know valuable things.
The ability to take it at my own pace has been nice so far, despite still suffering some major FOMO about the things I’m not participating in. It’s still a work in progress, but I can at least look at some of my peers and think “okay, they’re doing fine, and they’re not on TikTok.”
I think that’s okay.
I’ve also streamed a bit, and consistently; in looking at last year’s post, I streamed a lot less in terms of raw numbers, but I feel a lot better about how and why I’ve gone live. I like the participation aspect, and I like that I’ve only missed a single week, broadcasting once a week.
With the newsletter, that’s been biweekly, and oddly enough, in both cases I haven’t felt like it’s been too challenging, exhausting, etc. This is what I probably should’ve started with all along, instead of trying to do a weekly newsletter or a multiple-times-a-week stream.
I’m gaining confidence with both of these things and there’s no expectation of success; there’s no pressure saying that I need to stream three times a week for four hours each, or else I’m wasting my time. I’m also coming away from a two hour stream with enough positive energy that I’m not thinking “wow, you’re not cut out for this.”
That’s nice, because I know that I can do these things; it’s just been me putting more circumstances than I should behind them. I’m not sure if I’m going to expand the schedule for more in 2022, but if I did, it would be because this currently workload feels attainable, or even easy. I’m not sure how my new job is going to affect that, so hey, that’s not a decision for now.
That sense of “being on a timer” is probably my biggest piece of anxiety, and if I can focus on anything positive this year, I can say that it’s slowly starting to lose its hold on me. It’s probably the biggest thing that’s gotten in my way in terms of projects or undertakings: the idea of “this isn’t happening on the timeline I thought it would”, or trying to track a metric that at least implies progress.
It’s less so that I’m expecting something unrealistic, or being unwilling to commit: it’s more that a lack of confidence or self-esteem means I’m turning to metrics (any metric) to build some kind of proof in my head that I’m not wasting my time.
In short, my bad brain is becoming less bad, and I’m excited to see what I’m able to achieve without it in the way. I’m nowhere near close to “cured”, and I’m not sure I ever will be; I just know that I’m not giving up any time soon, and I’m internally proud of that.
I hope you have a good year, reading this — I’m going to keep making stuff, no matter how weird or terrible, because this is how I build a better me.
Amazon links on this post may be affiliate links to help support Matt.