So who said a midlife crisis has to happen in your mid 40s? I think that it can happen anywhere from your mid-to-late twenties. At least, that is what happened to me. As part of Generation Y, I guess that is more likely to happen, but still, nothing could prepare me for an identity crisis in my late 20s!
As many of my generation, I was educated that I must succeed and make money in life, and in order to do that I need a certain education, profession, social economic status, etc. As an ambitious person I grew up wanting to be successful in the eyes of my peers, my family’s, and of course mine. I didn’t really put much thought into what kind of life would make me happy and fulfilled. I wanted to be a doctor (like my father the professor of course), and never let any other thoughts or doubts cross my mind. When I didn’t get into medical school and couldn’t be bothered to try and get into other schools, retake exams or do anything to actually change the verdict, I told myself that I actually never really wanted to be a doctor because I am actually slightly misanthropic, and what I like is the science (which is actually true, I really do find medical sciences fascinating…). So I began my studies in medical sciences to become a scientist.
I found the studies very interesting, and I couldn’t think of anything else that I could do instead, so I continued the academic route with a certain degree of inertia and laziness. Before I started my PhD, people would ask me if I want to stay in the academic world, and I would answer that I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, so I might as well continue, right?? Wrong. Things began bubbling under the surface, the doubts that existed in my subconscious for years were finally becoming conscious, and I knew something was very wrong.
To make a very very long story short, between my master’s degree and PhD I flew to India for a few months. And there, I met many people that I probably wouldn’t have met anywhere else. And I searched my soul. A lot. And I began to understand that I don’t like what I am doing. I am missing art in my life. I have always liked art, but it was always dismissed as a hobby in my house. I know it is so very cliché but that is what I felt. It will still take me years to understand how to make art my profession (and I am still hoping it will work), but the seeds were planted there. I flew back home, and started my PhD nonetheless. But, eventually, less than a year later, I decided to leave science move to Europe, because what the hell? why not.
For approximately 6 years after I left my PhD I was searching. Searching for a job I liked, a country I liked living in, a partner in life…. I had a lot of fun, but I was still confused. I worked in a lot of places, started to doubt my choices, was angry and depressed for a while, until I met Oscar, my soon-to-be-husband. He was the first to bring up the idea of making games and doing what I really liked.
I grew up in the 80s, so of course I grew up with the first video games and consoles. My brother and I used to spend hours playing classics like Super Mario Bros, Sonic the Hedgehog and Tetris, and dozens of other games on our Mac and later PC, notably Carmen Sandiego, Oregon Trail, Sim City, Crystal Quest and Dungeon of Doom (nobody seems to know the last two but I LOVED those games). Somewhere in high school I became interested in other things like boys 🙂 so my gaming life sort of paused except for occasional bursts of playing Red Alert and Prince of Persia with my siblings. Then I bought my first smart phone around 2010. Once I started playing casual games, it was as if I never left gaming, and dove deep into all of the trendy mobile games and started looking towards new PC games. I was amazed at the artwork and the huge difference technology had brought to gaming.
At this point I still didn’t think of the possibility of working in games, as I didn’t study anything that was even remotely close to that. And of course you must study in the university for a profession, like I was taught. But once I was fired from my job in a biotech company and couldn’t find any other job I really liked, Oscar (who is a genius self-taught programmer) brought up the idea of opening our own game studio. At first I thought he was nuts. But he pushed me to start learning 3D design while I was receiving unemployment, and see if I like it. He figured I love games, I want to work in something more artistic, I am capable and intelligent, so why not learn and see if I like it? Games are the perfect combination between art and technology. He can program and I can do the art. Sounded reasonable to me, so what the hell? I started an online course in Blender (opensource 3D design software), and after about 6 months of trying to master Blender, Photoshop and Unity, we started brainstorming for our very first game and founded Mooi Studios!
I am still learning new things every day and my work is still far from perfect, but I am getting better fast. I do have days that I am crippled by the imposter syndrome which so many of us have but they are luckily few. This whole experience has left me amazed by human capacity to learn new things and by the online world for giving people the opportunity to completely change their lives with the right information. The long road to a successful business in the game industry is still ahead of us, but I am finally doing something I surprisingly love, and actually working with art. So I don’t have my big house, labrador and white picket fence I thought I would have at 35 (not!) but I am having fun and doing what I love. It is never too late to make a radical change, you only live once so why the hell not!