Internet! Help!

I’ve been meaning to write a personal post for a while now, I just never knew exactly how I wanted to frame it. Well, that frame, with all its filigree and polish is now finished, and I just need the right picture to put in it. At the moment, the image is a crossroad. I’m at the juncture of my life where it either falls apart or becomes something truly outstanding. I’ve consulted with friends and family and therapists, but I thought I’d widen my scope a bit further and ask you, the collective internet (however much of that it reaches anyway), “What should I do?”

First, a little backstory. (If you don’t particularly care about who I am, and just want to participate in this social experiment of helping me determine my life’s next direction, please skip here.) I am depressed and have always struggled with high levels of anxiety. “Waah, waah,” I know, right? Who hasn’t? Mine was fairly benign at a young age, mostly dealing with social anxiety interspersed with the occasional existential crisis in which I would literally pray for God to kill me. And the thing is, I don’t even remember what spurred this bouts of angst, because I had a very happy childhood — good family, stability, some modicum of intelligence that got me through school without much grief, and moderate artistic skills which I enjoyed… oh, and I was spoiled rotten. That last one, while pleasing at the time, has unfortunately hampered my skills at being a responsible adult.

Anyway, as I entered college, my social anxiety began to really tip the proverbial scale and I started down a long and winding path of medication. I won’t bother enumerating the pills I’ve been on, but rather say that none of them have worked. I’m a drug-resistant depressive. This lead me to try Transcranial magnetic stimulation which turned out to be a $12,000 bust. (I’m so sorry mom.) From Wikipedia:

In January 2007, an advisory panel of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not recommend clearance for marketing of an rTMS device, stating that the device appeared to be reasonably safe but had failed to demonstrate efficacy in a study of people with major depression who had not benefitted from prior adequate treatment with oral antidepressants during their current major depressive episode.

Should have done my research a little more than just accepting my doctor’s sales pitch.

That brings us to the present. I’m now seeing a good psychiatrist who has me on time-release xanax — the only thing that marginally helps me deal with my anxiety — and has also narrowed down my symptoms to a personality disorder. Turns out, I’m a ‘Cluster-C’ avoidant with a bit of dependent mixed in. Basically, this means I’m chronically antisocial, have an extreme fear of rejection and/or criticism, and severely low self-esteem. (If you read the Signs and Symptoms part of the Wikipedia page, you’ll have a better understanding of who I am than these last few rambling paragraphs have provided. I’m also in the process of getting an appointment with a psychologist who can hopefully help me cope with some cognitive behavioral therapy.

So there’s all that. That’s me. But I am determined to not let it always be this way. And now we’re back at that crossroad I mentioned earlier, where I hope you can help me. One of my major stressors , and the thing I think I need to most get straightened out is what exactly I want to do with my life. I just turned thirty, have been out of school for almost six years, and have barely used my bachelor’s degree for anything. I currently have a retail job, and my wife, a highly successful school teacher, pays most of our bills. This has to stop. I have to contribute more, both monetarily so that we can entertain the thoughts of being homeowners and parents one day, but also for my sanity, for my happiness. Here are my options as I see them now. (Ordered by level of difficulty, I suppose.)

Option 1: Art & Design

My degree in Studio Art did not prepare me for my goal of becoming a (competent) graphic designer. My only real proficiency though is in Photoshop, and to be serious, I need the same level of skill in Illustrator and InDesign. That’s if I want to make money. I’ve had a couple of jobs at print production companies, but they paid barely more than retail. Now, among my choices, this seems the most doable. I taught myself Photoshop and I’m sure I could do the same with these other programs. The conundrum I face is that I don’t really care about design anymore. I mean, I never had a passion for it — I just saw it as a way to leverage my artistic abilities into a career that would provide decent pay. When I was a kid, my dream was to be a concept artist for video games and/or movies. That hope was dashed when I had a brief stint at the Art Institute of Atlanta and saw some of the raw talent my competition had. I haven’t drawn with any frequency in years and only produce the occasional Master Chief or zombie portrait. (More of those are available at Zombize.com, if you’re interested.)

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In short, I don’t practice my art enough, in either drawing or design, to measure up to the pros. So, at this point, the only allure in this path is that I might be able to quickly re-familiarize myself with design and and its applications to hopefully secure a junior position with some firm or small business and be on my way to that white picket fence.

Option 2: Game Enthusiast Writer

As you may have guessed from the title of this blog, I love video games. They are my escape, and for a while, I had dreams of writing about them for a living. So, I started this blog as a first step, but as you can probably ascertain from the infrequency of my posts and their general lack of any real substance or profound thoughts, I’m not actually that good at it. On top of that, through following some game journalists, I’ve discovered many of the horrors a job like this entails, not the least of which being that I fear covering games as a profession might lessen or even obliterate my love for them. I’ve had some first-hand experience in this by writing some guides for 1UP.com and IGN. Although I’m extremely grateful for these opportunities, by the time I’m finished playing a game to 100% completion and then writing up that process, I’m not only drained, but often have an avid hatred for it. On one bright side, I did attend E3 in 2009, though I didn’t get much more accomplished than an awkward (on my part) interview with Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario.

 

So, I have my reservations about this path, but am still entertaining the notion.

Option 3: Start a small business

Now, this option is straight out of left field — I’d kind of like to open up a bar in Nashville. There are already a lot of bars here, so competition would be steep, so I knew I’d need a niche to to succeed. The idea is that it would be a board game bar, and not one of those with a couple of ratty packs of cards, Jenga, and a broken Connect Four hidden in a dark corner, but a proper wall of games with everything from old-school games that pluck nostalgic heart-strings (Mouse Trap anyone?) to more current and serious games. Like my previous options, there are some major caveats to this path. For one, I have no business sense and barely even know where to start, although I do have a couple of “How to open a successful bar” books. Then there’s the house — working from 4 or 5 in the afternoon to last call would not only be stressful, but I’d also never see my wife. And of course, most small businesses fail, so this option is the riskiest. Oh, and money — I’d probably need some of that to begin with, huh? Also, I don’t really play board games that much. I’m more or less just banking on the idea that people would like to drink a beer while destroying their friends at Monopoly.

Option 4: The Final Frontier

Finally, we come to the most intense, time-consuming, and possibly outlandish idea I have. I’d like to be a bona fide scientist. I haven’t quite nailed down which discipline yet, though I know it has to involve space in some capacity. Maybe planetary science or astrobiology. Of course, this would mean starting over; wiping my slate clean and embarking on a completely new path. I’d need to go back to school, getting a bachelor’s in geology, biology, or something of the like, moving on to a master’s in astronomy or some sort of space studies, then Ph.D and research and post-doctoral studies and… and… it all just makes my head spin. On the upside, I was always a good student and was most adept in science. On the downside, there’s a lot of math and physics required to really understand the underlying nature of your universe, and, well, numbers and I were never buddies. (I mean, I made solid B’s from algebra on into calculus, but I never really feel like I “got it.”) So this path would require the most dedication, add debt to our lives, move us around a lot depending on the universities I would need to attend… and be just plain difficult. But I love this stuff. I’m truly passionate about new discoveries in space and want to be a part of the human expansion into it. I mean, we might even be landing people on Mars by the time I was doing real research, so that would be an immensely exciting time.

I didn’t really intend to go on at such lengths about myself and my ambitions, but I guess I just needed to get it out there: out of my head and into the ether. So, if you’ve read this far, what do you think I should do? I don’t even care if, having not connected with my story, you’re coming at it from a completely detached and simply logical perspective. In fact, I’d probably prefer that. Data devoid of emotion and empathy is probably more valid. So please, leave your comments below, and if you are in, or happen to know anyone in any of the fields I’ve laid out who could give me advice, please put me in contact with them. Thanks so much for reading and contributing.

Help me internet community. You’re my only hope. :)

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Chris Robertson

About Chris Robertson

Originally from Scottsboro, AL, Chris currently resides in Nashville, TN where he freelances for several gaming outlets, watches a lot of horror movies, dreams about space travel, and hangs out with his two awesome dogs and wonderful wife.