I failed creatively at half a dozen things before I succeeded at one.
And then, I failed again.
This isn’t meant to inspire you. Life’s what you make of it, not what you glean from other people. I tried things, I failed, I got up and got better. Does that mean you can do it, too? Maybe so, maybe not.
If you’re looking for the cut-and-dry professional spiel, see my LinkedIn profile.
Statistically speaking, it’s unlikely for someone like me to be where I am today.
I was born in a small town in western Romania, in an unheated maternity ward where the lights only worked some of the time. Two years later, the revolution that toppled Communism swept away any hope my family had at financial stability.
For the next two decades, my family’s livelihood was at the mercy of increasingly incompetent governments, rampant inflation, and the uncertainty that comes when your country can’t decide whether it wants to be socialist, capitalist, or somewhere in-between. It took my parents, who taught at a public school, two decades to recover and stabilize. By then, I’d already fled the country, only to find a nasty truth on the other side of the world:
You can’t run away from your problems. They’ll just follow you wherever you go…
…unless you face them head-on.
Content warning: From here on out, I talk about mental illness, including suicide. I want to be candid about this stuff because we still have a long way to go towards normalizing mental illness and ending the stigma that comes with it, but if this isn’t your cup of tea, please stop reading now.
I was 19 when I first got diagnosed with depression, but I know I’d been living with it for most of my life. Depression followed me to Japan and back, from a failed scholarship to a failed attempt at graduating from college while trying to survive on a meager income and smoking two packs a day. (If I had to choose between food and cigs, I chose the cigs because I was, and I say this unapologetically, an absolute f*cking idiot.)
It took a cancer scare and working several jobs so I could afford therapy before I started to get better. I finally finished college, got a “real” job (full-time, corporate, with dental insurance!), and I even got myself a car that didn’t flood whenever it rained.
Around that time, I got lucky. Someone found my professional website (such as it was) and offered me a freelance gig to translate League of Legends into Romanian. It was like the Finger of God pointing down from Heaven. Y’know that game you love so much? These guys will pay you good money to work on it.
The Finger of God
This gig opened the door to opportunities I didn’t even know existed. In late 2014, I interviewed for a position with Riot Games in Dublin. I thought I was interviewing for a LocQA role. Halfway through the day, I found out that they were sizing me up for localization management instead. I didn’t get the job. I was crushed. I moved on.
Around that time, I worked a full-time job and several other part-time and freelance gigs to make ends meet. I was still attending university, in theory, but after I tried (and failed) to hold a homophobic professor accountable for her words and actions, it’s a wonder I managed to graduate at all. (Reminder that Romania was not, and is not, a nice place to be if you’re anything but straight. I got death threats.) To say I was burned out would be a massive understatement. I went on antidepressants that made me swell up like a toad in heat. I contemplated suicide a number of times. I tried it once.
Opportunity came again in the summer of 2015, when a different vendor offered to move me to Dublin to work on League of Legends full-time. This was going to be #thedream, except… well.
Things happened. People sucked.
Eight months later, I became jobless and my apartment was burgled on the same Friday, which happened to be April 1st. Can’t make this shit up.
I spent that week-end in utter shock. The door to my apartment didn’t close and my roommate had fucked off to Paris for the week-end, so I slept with an armchair propped up against the door and flinched at the slightest sound. My then-boyfriend (he’s my husband these days) was there for me, at least. Monday morning, I got up, went out, got a cuppa, came back home, and started looking for work.
I interviewed with Google and failed. Tried my luck with Twitter, failed again. Applied for a job with Riot, but all the people I’d worked with for the past eight months were conspicuously silent.
Eventually, a small start-up – LoyLap – took a chance on me (fun fact: a recruiter from Slack called me as I was on the way to the LoyLap interview to tell me they’d decided to go with another candidate, and I had about five minutes for a mental reset). I freelanced with LoyLap for a while. Then, I interviewed with Workday.
I had one good pair of jeans, one good t-shirt, and a plaid black-and-red shirt to wear over it. I hadn’t slept much the night before, so I was running on Red Bull and an unholy amount of post-traumatic ennui. I left the bullshit at home. They liked that.
Good things, finally.
I spent three years at Workday, honing my skills and learning to use such fun terms as Scrumboard Safari and Irish Coffee Storytime. Month one, I had no clue what any of these things meant. Month thirteen, I was on my way to becoming a Sr.
Those two letters went a long way to reassure me that the imposter syndrome I was still dealing with was, in fact, just that: imposter syndrome. And, maybe – just maybe – this was okay. I’ve never been one to settle for “okay”, though. I was (and am) a gamer, and I wanted to work in games.
Enter – New Year’s Eve 2019 and a LinkedIn message that changed everything. Again.
Break for Brexit Britain
January 1: Food poisoning. It was terrible. Legit thought my stomach was going to crawl out of my [redacted] and strangle me with my own guts.
January 2: Still sick as all heck, I jumped in a Zoom call with a Unity recruiter to talk more about an opening they had in Brighton, UK.
I did a writing test. It went well. Met my future boss. It went well. In March, Unity flew me out to Brighton (and my husband as well, because they’re awesome like that) for an on-site interview. That went well, too.
And so it was that, at a time when every non-Brit I knew was thinking of moving away from Britain, I uprooted my whole family (which consisted of myself, the husband, and our many, many rats) and moved to Britain to see what the heck this gaming industry thing was all about.
#Thedream, take two.
TO BE CONTINUED