March 24, 2008

Why Am I Here?

No, I do not mean this post to be some metaphysical analysis of existence. I mean why I am I here, where I am, doing what I am doing. If you asked my 6 months ago, I think I could have answered it in a flash, but every day I feel like the answer grows a bit dimmer in my mind. Every day, I grow less sure of why I am putting myself through this. I think it goes without saying that this will be one of the most depressing posts I have written to date.

Generally, I try to keep these posts somewhat impersonal to maintain some tone of professionalism and I try to keep my breakdowns relatively vague. But as they seem to come more and more frequently, I'm left trying to find more numerous outlets to vent my frustration, especially at around midnight. Right now, this place has just made me so angry, and frustrated, and stressed, and about seven hundred other different emotions along the same line. The expectations are unreasonable, the timelines are ridiculous, the pressure is immense, and the recognition and reward are pretty much non-existent.

I mean, I've worked 12-16 hour days every weekday and 8 - 12 hour days each weekend for far longer than I care to remember, and what has a gotten me? A few better grades? A boatload of high expectations? A good chance of an ulcer and high blood pressure? I'm not really sure, all I know is I keep going and every day it seems like it gets a little harder. At some level I think I'm still excited to go to school and learn this stuff, but at the same time, I know what awaits me when I get there: stress, ridicule, and a complete lack or recognition or even understanding of what I am putting myself through just to stay here. And I know I'm not the only one, in fact, I don't know if any of the level designers feel any different.

Every time I think about it, I just want to give up. Sometime I forget what keeps me here. Is it some belief that finding a job myself would be that much harder? Just not wanting the stigma or guilt of letting the program or the faculty "beat me?" Not wanting to have wasted the last 9 months of time and money? Sometimes I really, really don't know, and that's where my problem comes from. I feel like, if I can't even remember why I am here and why I am enduring this, than why do I stay. Maybe it's those few small nuggets of joy and accomplishment that drift by every once and a while, or maybe it's the dream job I feel is just on the other side of this (enormous) hurdle.

The truth is I'm really not sure, and this place takes it out of you like nothing I've ever experienced. The university where I attended undergraduate, Case Western Reserve University, was often remarked by it's students to "suck your soul out through a straw." If that is in fact the case, the Guildhall does it with a coffee stirrer and a black hole on the other end. It's actually kind of sad just thinking about where my friends and I where a scant few months ago. Still optimistic, idealistic, and excited, though tempered by our first exhausting term, but still generally in high spirits. Now, the smiles have died, and the spirits are anything but high. Typically we only smile and laugh as we complain about our workload or the many ways in which the school is utterly hosing us.

As I said, this place really takes it out of you, and I'm just not sure how much I have left to take. I'm not sure if one day I might just wake up and realize I can't do it anymore. I'm not quite there yet, but the idea certainly isn't inconceivable to me. I'm generally of the opinion that nothing worth having in life comes easy, and you really have to work to achieve the things you want, but it doesn't have to be this hard. It can't. Anyway, that's my bitter diatribe about my place here at the Guildhall right now. I hope that in sharing it in some small part I've been able to get it out of my own head, at least for a little while.

I'm just so close to giving up that I feel like one minor thing could tip the scales, and that frightens and infuriates me that I should be so close to that all the time...


  1. Hey Tom-o,
    Just hang in there. I know you can do it. You have great inner strength you just need to draw on it. That dream job is just around the corner.Know that we are all plugging for you and are here if you need any moral support or just a kind word now and then. We are really proud of you in oh so many ways.

  2. *HUG*

    I'm sorry things are going so roughly right now. Is this just a function of Guildhall squeezing so much into a compressed program, or is this what working in industry will be like too?

    If it's just the former, then you'll soon be back to something more normal.

    Gimme a call or shoot me an email if you need to vent more.


  3. Hang in there. In general, grad schools are designed to make your life hellish and see if you can survive. It's definitely a right of passage sort of thing. You have much more pressure than I do, but I get it spread out over a longer time. You can get through this. Just keep it in mind that it's only temporary and it will be over in a fixed time.

    And, if it makes you feel better, ulcers are actually caused by a bacteria (Heliobacter pylori) not stress. ;)