How quickly life comes at you. How things can change at a moment’s notice, for good or ill. A few days ago, I launched my first podcast: MegaSound Waves. It was something I always wanted to do, but because of fear or lack of time, I never followed through. But something changed. It wasn’t monumental or a bolt of lightning, it was just a realization that I was living my life in a way where I was relinquishing control; I was being passive. I was waiting for something to change. And it was partially because of school.
I was an adult student. What I mean by that is this: Your prototypical college student is between the ages of 18-23. I started school when I was 25. But not an “ordinary” 25-year-old. By that age, I was married with one daughter and another on the way. My wife, who had just spent the 10 years prior getting her degree, decided to forego her career to be a stay-at-home mom to our kids. WOW. It was a decision that I couldn’t understand at the time, and truthfully, am only now beginning to understand how tremendous a decision it was. She made the right decision. I supported it. But that meant that our family’s financial well-being fell squarely on my shoulders.
So at the age of 25, I was a full-time student, working full-time as a retail manager to support my family, and still learning how to be a dad (something I’m STILL doing. It never ends). Oh, and I was still finding time to game. Long nights became the norm. Eventually, I ran out of funding for school because I didn’t put forth my best effort. I was failing classes and using up all of my money retaking them. I was also a dual-major student so I was going to end up taking MORE classes to graduate. Eventually, the burden became too much, and I burned out. I took a year off from school. And what that year taught me was this: I was unhappy.
Don’t misunderstand me! I am MADLY in love with my wife (I think she’s the hottest, most beautiful woman that I have ever had the chance to lay eyes on, and super supportive to boot), and don’t regret a single second of being a dad. But we had fallen into a cycle. We would fall into debt during the year and use our income tax money to dig ourselves out a bit, only to dig in even more later. It seemed like no matter how hard I worked, or no matter how much I sold, it was never enough. Around the time my wife became pregnant with our son, I had decided it was time for a change.
With the birth of my son, I had a newfound focus to finish school. It was the only way to break the cycle. So I dedicated myself to my studies, participating in mostly online classes. If you, dear reader, have never taken a college course online, consider yourself lucky. I’ve always learned best by being in a classroom, reading a textbook and then hearing a lecture about it. Every in-person class I took, I passed with at least a B. But trying to study, after working a 12-hour shift, with kids and a wife that needed attention was damn near impossible at times. On my days off from work, I tried to get as much schooling done as I could. But my kids saw it as a chance to spend time with Dad. My wife, bless her soul, did her absolute best to give me as much time to study as she could. She would take the kids to her sister’s house for hours at a time, just to afford me the opportunity to study in solace. I tried to maximize this time as much as possible, but the damn draw of the 6 inch screen of my phone was too much at times. I started failing again. And then something unexpected happened: The Covid-19 Pandemic.
Crazy, right? I was put on furlough from my management job in March 2020. I never worked another day for that company again. Thanks for the nine years of memories Men’s Wearhouse! Since I was not technically let go from that job until the following August, I started to claim unemployment checks since we still had bills to pay. “It’ll only be for a few weeks”, I naively thought at the time. How wrong I was. I didn’t end up landing a job until a month ago. A month ago. I went nearly a year without a steady paycheck. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Remember I said I was running out of funds for school? They eventually did run out. And the only way I could finish school was asking my Dad to help me get a loan. Me. 34 years old. Asking Daddy for money. I tried to get the loan on my own, but remember: my wife and I had racked up considerable debt by this point, so my credit was non-existent. Somewhere in the 500’s. So my dad agreed and helped me get the loan I needed to finish school (thanks Dad!). I finally completed my Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Information Systems with a specialization in Software Engineering! Now I’m just waiting for it to come in the mail!
But wait, there’s more! Since I knew I would be graduating soon, I started applying for Software Engineering jobs everywhere. Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Garmin, Electronic Arts, PlayStation, Nintendo, Activision-Blizzard. And every single one said no. I wasn’t applying for high level positions mind you, I was applying for associate, junior, or even intern-level positions. The answer was the same from all of them. But you might be asking yourself something as you read this that, honestly, I didn’t consider until recently: “Does you wife want to move where these jobs are?”
I messed up. I made a grievous miscalculation. I assumed the person who had supported me all throughout my undergrad years would just follow what I wanted. How wrong I was, and how right she
was is. Let me provide some context: we are incredibly close to my mother-in-law, and my wife’s siblings. She talks to them multiple times a day, everyday. Before the pandemic, they would help us watch the kids when we had to leave them, like for doctor’s appointments. My suegra (mother-in-law for my non-Spanish readers) and sister-in-law even made me lunch at times if my wife couldn’t. That’s how close we are. Not to mention I have some awesome nieces and nephews that live within a few minutes drive of our house, and my own wonderful mother who still lives in my hometown of Clint, Texas, a mere 45-minute drive from where we live. So if we were to leave, THAT’S what’s staying behind. THAT’S what we’re losing. But how was I supposed to give up my dream of being a game developer? It’s all I’ve wanted to be since I was five. I just spent the last 9 YEARS getting a degree, just to have a chance for these companies to look at my resume. How do I just let that go? Simply put: I had to.
See, before I’m an employee, before I was a student, before I’m a husband, I’m a dad. I have 3 kids looking to me for support, for guidance, and for an example that they can follow. How can I lead them from hundreds of miles away? And how could I possibly leave the struggle of raising children solely to my wife? “Thanks babe, for all of the support over these past 9 years, but now I’m getting a job in Canada with UbiSoft. Since you don’t want to move, you stay here and raise the kids on your own for the next few years.” ………..Sounds stupid right? I couldn’t do that. Not to my wife, and certainly not to my kids.
Growing up, I only saw my Dad on weekends (my parents divorced when I was four). I promised myself that when I had kids, I wouldn’t be a “weekend dad” to them. And if I had moved on my own, I wouldn’t have been. I would’ve been a “quarterly dad” or a “semi-annual dad.” The mere thought made me sick to my stomach. So, as I prayed and contemplated more, the decision to not pursue out-of-town jobs became easier.
I write all this because I thought school was my way out. And it will be, to an extent. I now have a degree that makes me very marketable, so even outside of the tech hubs, I can still make a decent living. But since I was so laser-focused on school, I was left oblivious to other opportunities. Not academic or financial opportunities, but to life opportunities. Now that I’m done with my undergrad, I have the time to do the things that I’ve always wanted to try, like my podcast, or this blog. I’m meeting up with a buddy next week to talk about real-estate prospects. And, get this: I’m teaching myself how to use the Unity and Unreal game engines. See, not being able to leave stopped many opportunities, but created so many more. I can make a game on my own, on my terms. If it’s successful, I’ll make my OWN studio, and provide those game dev chances that I missed out on to others who might find themselves in similar situations, in my hometown. Imagine how badass that’ll be, that I’ll be the one to bring a game studio to El Paso, Texas. It’s crazy how a simple “no” can transform passivity into action, how it can violently destroy a dream only to give birth to several more. I have my wife, my kids, and my determination on my side. To quote one of my favorite Frank Sinatra songs, “[The] Best is yet to come and babe, won’t that be fine?
You think you’ve seen the sun, but you ain’t seen it shine.” The best is yet to come for myself and my family, and what’s crazy is that it’s not a degree or a company that’ll make it happen, it’ll be me and the things I do that allows it to come to fruition.