It's been a hell of a year. It feels like a big blur, lots of time passing by without growth, without progress, without learning, without achievements. Burnout does that to memory. Luckily, I've kept notes. And I can now look back, and realize how far I've come anyway.
What went wrong
I'm still torn on how much to say about Frostbite. About what happened, what didn't, how I felt, why I really really wanted to punch some people. I'm not afraid of career bridge-burning: I'm scared it would get attention from gamers. What I can say is that I left the team in January and it was both the hardest and best decision I ever took. I'm still struggling with an immense amount of anger and guilt. I miss some people. I'm left with a master key of a resume and mental health issues. If you envy me anyhow, please do consider how fucked up that is.
I'm tired of engine coding and pondering what to do next. C++ bullshit kills me, week-long hunts for one-character fixes kill me. I'm not having fun working on engines professionally. It might or might not be due to Frostbite and anxiety triggers. I don't know. But it means rewriting the story I've been telling myself for three years, and that is difficult.
Burnout, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia. My old friend trichotillomania had never really left but I had some really bad episodes this year. My guts are broken. I spent the year hunting tests down, which yielded only all-clear. So I keep on inflating and being in pain and having emergency bathroom trips. It can add up to days wasted in pain, or two hours stuck on the throne over a day's work. Yeah, it's gross. Imagine how fun it is living with it. I don't know what's wrong. Probiotics seem to help, a bit. Lactose-free seems to help, a bit. Taking a break helps a bit. But it's still bad and I don't know why. And it scares me shitless to be broken at 23.
3: Being French
Hollande, the French president, started January hoping for a quiet year. He... did not get his wish. January exploded with Charlie Hebdo's office. Cabu's death hit me hard. His art was special to me. I watched gears turn into gears, as old agendas came to life in an overreaching surveillance law. I watched gears turn into gears, as France's old racism and islamophobia came crashing down once again. And then round 2 happened in November. I'm heartbroken for my country, for my nation. I weep for everyone who doesn't look, sound or behave French enough, whatever the hell that would mean. We're treading to road to Vichy once again. And I can't do anything. It hurts like hell.
I have always been very, very bad at keeping in touch (Sorry, friends). I don't ask for news, I rarely give any. Like many, I feel that everyone secretly finds me awful, and that asking them to hang out would just waste their time. I also look horribly busy all the time due to my ridiculous hobby count, so people never ask! As a result I have been extremely isolated my whole life, and it was worse this year due to the loss of my immediate DICE social circle. I would vow to do better next year, but odds are I won't.
I didn't take enough time to play games. I love the medium, what it is, what it can be, but I didn't take much time to enjoy it. When I did, I kept going back to the same games. From Bloodborne and my complex love-hate relationship with it, to the consistent masochistic comfort of Risk of Rain, I didn't discover all that much this year. The new The Room and the new Monster Hunter don't really count as new faces. Splatoon, Dungeon of the Endless and Ziggurat were the only really new things I touched this year.
What went right
Leaving Frostbite was good. Working with Uprise was good. Working with Bitsquid was great. Leaving Bitsquid was hard, but what I needed to start healing. Getting praise from Niklas Frykholm meant a huge lot to me, and I am extremely glad and thankful I got to work with him.
2: The boyfriend
We found an apartment! We moved in together! We got a cat! We went to IKEA plenty of times, assembled furniture and did not kill each other in the process! Hard to say much about it but it's a huge deal. He's great, we're happy and he's been a tremendous help over the rough year.
3: On the road to recovery
It took me a while, too long really, to admit I was in very bad shape. It took three job switches, more than six months of half-time, and a whole lot of therapy before I just gave up and stopped. And now I'm getting better: not just not getting worse, but actually healing. It feels wonderful. My memory's starting to work again, I feel productive, I feel... well, happy's never really been my thing, but not-awful. Proud of my achievements. Almost at peace.
4: Arts and crafts
I learned so much. I tried to hold an art streak and failed: but I drew a lot anyway, and completed Inktober! My sketching has gotten a lot better, I've kinda maybe somewhat figured out ink, and I made some very decent watercolours early this year. I figured out Modo. I did some real-life sculpting. I want to do more, but argl time, as always. I finished UFOs (UnFinished Objects): an old biscornu and a scarf. I also made some progress on The Fortunate Traveler. I did dyeing experiments. I tried out woodcarving and glassblowing during Medieval Week in Visby. I finally figured out knitting, and got pretty darn good at it. I learned spinning, from my dreadful blobby first try in January to very nice chunky yarn and a lovely thread-like merino single now. I started weaving, from a tablet weaving kit, to inkle weaving, to a tapestry class.
I kicked ass at GGJ15, helping my teammates create a portfolio piece they were super proud of. It wasn't much for me, but it felt good to deliver. I made several prototypes this year, from Processing quick hacks to a feature-complete game prototype. Hell, I even finished something for Ludum Dare 34. I almost made a thing for Revision but ran out of time, and noticed that Web and PC were the same compo after all. Not a chance. I do still love programming, and I'm bloody good at it. It just can't be the same thing I used to do, and think I wanted to do professionally.
I remade my bloody website and moved away from Wordpress. It had been bugging me for a solid year, but I finally took the jump and did it. Enjoy the static, PHP-free awesomeness.
Bonus: Misc awesomeness
- I did half of the french subtitles for Game Loading: Rise of the Indies. The movie's good, go buy and watch it!
- I tried out Crescent Bay and I'm now sold on VR. I am, however, not sold on it finding a market.
- I finally spent some time reading again. Lots of great comics: The Wicked + The Divine now has a very special place in my heart.
- I forgot my shoulder bag in the metro, with an iPad and a 3DS in it. I got it back and it still feels amazing thinking of that glorious moment at the lost and founds.
- I have a note from Medieval Week that says "too much ice cream" so clearly that was a good time.
- I graduated SFI, which means I now have a piece of paper saying I can speak Swedish!
- I bumped into a fellow textile nerd on the metro - she asked about my tapestry frame - and ended up invited to a crafty hangout.
- I got a gradient club spot at Hilltop Cloud and that is WAY more amazing than it sounds.
The way forward
The plan is to setup shop as a sole trader in January. I'll freelance code to pay the bills, and setup a mini-textile studio on the side. I want to try out the indie dyer gig, and probably sell some handspun and handwoven stuff when I get good enough.
My plan is still to get into HV Skolan, a local textile handicrafts school. I ended up first on the waiting list this year due to a late application. I need some time in art school to learn the process and find what I want to focus on. And I want said school to teach me either sculpture or textile. HV Skolan's one-year base education seems like a good start!
2015 has been complicated. It brought bad, ugly, horrible things. But on a personal level it feels like I touched rock bottom and started going back up. I'm hopeful. I'm glad to have a safety net, a wonderful-if-tremendously-annoying family, and a great boyfriend somehow putting up with weirdo me. Who knows, the cat might even become pettable next year.
Whatever happens, 2016 will be exciting. I'm giving up stability for freedom and experimentation, and I am of course scared out of my skull. But I'm also really, really excited! I hope it works out. I have no idea if it will. But you know what? I'm young. I'm a solid programmer. I'm a better engineer than most. I learn fast. I'll be just fine. And hopefully, I'll be able to support others who don't quite have it that good.