Bouncing Off Rock Bottom

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Hey folks, I figured before we get back to our regularly scheduled programming, you all deserve a bit of an explanation of what happened to the blog, why I needed to go on hiatus, and what’s been going on for the last six months.  This is a pretty lengthy post, so strap yourselves in, I promise it’s got a happy ending.  If you’ve found yourself in a similar position, I hope this post can help you out.

 


 

First off, we’re going to have to travel back in time to October of 2014.  My wife had managed to finally (after a year and a half of subbing) land a full time high school teaching job.  Though her subbing had been a great supplemental income, the majority of the money that was coming in was from my current job as an appliance salesman (a job that I really hated.)  I immediately wanted to quit my job and begin working on the blog full time.  My wife, Jackie, had some worries and misgivings about quitting so soon after she got her job, and in retrospect, she was completely justified.  I, however, was too sick and tired of my job to consider any other option, so after some persuasion I got her to say yes.

Hindsight Lesson #1:  
If the people you love and trust have misgivings about a serious decision you’re about to make, you should think long and hard about it before you make the big leap.

So, I started working extra hard on my upcoming eBook, “How to Be a Game Character.”  While it wasn’t finished yet, I had taken some preorders on it, and the response had been positive!  I figured the dozen or so preorders I had gotten were proof positive that I could do this for a living, and I was ready to finish the book and quit my job.  Around the middle of November I gave my store one month’s notice, so I wasn’t just abandoning them in the middle of the holiday season, and then set about trying to get my book finished to I could release it to my preorder people.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t really thought ahead about how much time I would have to work on the book.  We were heading into the teeth of the holiday season.  Between working retail during the holidays (anyone who’s done that before knows what I’m talking about), various parties and family visits, and my general lack of planning, finishing a full book became extremely difficult.  I didn’t want to sacrifice quality, but I also wasn’t sure I’d be able to make my deadline.  I rationalized that once I quit my job, I’d have enough time to finish it before the first of the year.  While that would be later than I originally planned, it wouldn’t be too much later than my promised release date.

Hindsight Lesson #2:
 Don’t let your hopes fill your vision so much
that you can’t see obvious difficulties coming down the road right in front of you.  Be patient.

I was wrong.  VERY wrong.  I assumed writing a book was just going to be like writing a bunch of blog posts.  In word count?  Yes.  In practice?  Not at all.  Bringing together and birthing a cohesive whole was difficult in ways that I hadn’t anticipated.  Also, I seriously underestimated what it meant to be your own boss.  I thought it would be all fun and free time, but the fact is, you actually have to be the boss.  Yes, I could set my own hours, but that quickly turned into staying up way too late, and then sleeping in way too late.

I fell off a normal schedule, and it took a while for me to stabilize myself.  I was still working on the book the whole time, but not nearly as efficiently or productively as I could be.  Finally, after lots of caffeine, several all-nighters, and a significant amount of stress, the book was done.  It was released almost six months after I quit my job, and we were not in a great place, financially.  I remember getting pulled over one day while out driving and getting hit with a $200 fine for not having current insurance cards in the car with me.  The car was insured, but not having the right piece of paper with me meant I had to pay $200 that we honestly didn’t have at the time.  It was gut wrenching.

We got by on my wife’s salary, credit cards, help from family, and general thriftyness.  It was rough but the book was finally finished, and the money was going to start coming in!

Sort of.

The response to How to Be a Game Character was positive, and there were some sales, but nowhere near what we needed.  I had expected to become an overnight success which, given the size of the blog’s audience, was honestly a bit much to expect.  The people that were going to buy it did, the ones that didn’t, didn’t, and that was all well and good.  The problem was, I just didn’t have enough people coming to the site to even come close to selling at the volume I needed to, and my own blind ambition had kept me from even considering this.

Hindsight Lesson #3:
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
If you absolutely must, then at least make sure you count the eggs.

Obviously, I needed to market the blog and the book.  Unfortunately, I’m a writer, not a marketer.  I also had basically no advertising budget to work with.  I seriously considered taking a loan or trying to get a credit card, but I realized we had enough debt already with the house we had just bought a year ago, and the credit cards we had already used to get through a long, difficult winter (which ended with my basement flooding horrendously.  Exciting!)

So I stumbled around, trying to market in a clumsy manner, hoping to produce some sort of viral video or image or blog post.  I had all the coordination and planning of a three legged dog navigating a dark room filled with furniture.  Sales continued along at their once-or-twice-a-month pace (the initial rush at launch having died out.)  I tried Patreon, to no avail, along with putting my books up on Kindle.  The bottom line was still that my audience, you fine folk out there, was too small.

We weren’t doing terribly until around May.  My wife had heard rumors about budget cuts at work.  She didn’t have anything concrete to go on, but she knew that since she had just been hired that year, if there needed to be layoffs she would most likely get the ax.  Last in, first out.  We had a month of nervous wondering and awful trepidation, when she finally got the letter on May 15th, the last day that they were allowed to give her notice.  It was crushing.  Due to how late in the spring it was, most of the other fall teaching jobs she could apply for had already been posted.  Her only options open to her were a maternity leave position for the fall, subbing again, or getting a job outside of teaching.  She took the maternity leave, but that left us without any kind of income between June and September.

My time was up.  I knew I had screwed up, but I refused to believe it yet.  I stubbornly kept plugging away, and started doing yardwork and landscaping with my brother on the side.  It wasn’t enough money, but it was some.  Summer came, and we began eating into what little savings and emergency money we had left.  Finally, I admitted defeat.  I needed to head back into the workforce.

I thought it wouldn’t be too difficult to get a job, but I was wrong.  Apparently being self employed for an extended amount of time puts kind of a black mark on your resume.  I began applying left and right, but didn’t get any calls back.  I couldn’t even return to my old job as the place I had been working had gone out of business.  Throughout all of this, I continued to update the blog on the regular schedule, but between the stress of the financial situation, my inability to find a job, and the lack of growth I was seeing, I actually began to resent it.

I started to dread writing each post, feeling like I wasn’t making a difference like I wanted to.  I felt like I was just wasting my time, that I wasn’t really reaching any new people, and that whoever was going to find and enjoy the blog had already found it.  On top of this I felt like any time I spent writing or filming instead of trying to find a job was doing my family a disservice.  I had a wife, and a son, and a dog, and a house.  I’m not a big “the man must be the breadwinner,” type person but we were in trouble, and we needed money, and I felt like I wasn’t doing my part.

Finally, one night, for one of the first times in my life, I admitted defeat.  I didn’t want to work on the blog if it was causing me such anguish, and I didn’t want it to turn into some negative thing in my life.  I quit my job because I loved working on this place, and helping people, and I didn’t want to poison that.  So, I filmed the video you guys saw back in August.  It was honestly one of the hardest, most painful things that I have ever done.  At the time, I didn’t think I was coming back here.

I was effectively in mourning for a few weeks.  Ceasing the blog, for what I thought was forever, hit me way harder than I thought it would.  I continued to apply for jobs, without any real results to show for it.  I also continued working my little yard work job with my brother (we had taken to calling ourselves “Strong Dudes with Great ‘Tudes,”) but I was lost.

This had been the first venture that rested solely on my shoulders, that I had put my heart and soul into, and it had failed.  I had failed.  The responsibility lay entirely with me, and it was awful.  I started to become depressed, feeling empty and hollow in a way that I hadn’t in quite a long time.  It wasn’t the first time I had hit “rock bottom.”  But it was the first time that ending up there was entirely my fault.

I pride myself on being a confident, strong, tenacious person, but this shook my to my core.  As if that weren’t enough, I applied to over seventy jobs at this point, with just four interviews and no job to show for it.  I had even been turned down for not one, but two jobs as a janitor.  No offence to any janitors out there, I’m not belittling your job, I was just upset that the people considering hiring didn’t consider me competent enough to sweep floors and clean bathrooms.

This was a really dark time for me.  Honestly, if I didn’t have my family there with me, especially my wife and son, I’d probably still be there.  What they say about hitting rock bottom is true, though.  The upside is, you can’t go any lower.

Hindsight Lesson #4:
When you’ve hit the bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up.

It’s funny, when you’re unemployed, you have a lot of time to think.  In fact, thinking was one of my primary occupations when I wasn’t applying for jobs or losing myself in video games.  Once the pain of ceasing the blog had subsided, I began to try and look at myself as, well, someone else.  Not myself.  I was always good at helping other people find their way out of problems, so I tried to put myself under that same lens.

I realized I had lost something.  Somewhere along the way I had lost a sense of who I was, and what I could do.  I had lost my confidence, and forgotten about my own latent potential.  I began to meditate regularly again, which was a big help on regaining focus, dealing with stress, and thinking my way out of my current funk.  I realized that I had taken an adversarial look at the world.  I had begun to see it as this big, angry, faceless entity that was out to get me, and I was standing alone in the face of this brutal onslaught.

The fact is, “the world,” didn’t care about me.  It was indifferent about me, as well as every other person out there.  I was painting myself into a negative, angry, self-pity filled corner, and it was slowly suffocating me.  I read or heard something around this time (I can’t remember which it was,) and it really struck me.

Hindsight Lesson #5:
 Happiness doesn’t come from success.  Success comes from being happy.

By being negative all the time, and angry, and feeling sorry for myself, I was creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I couldn’t always control what was going on around me, and I couldn’t make someone hire me, but I could control how I reacted to things.  I resolved to begin trying to react as positively as possible to whatever happened to me, whenever I could.  I woke up every day and tried to think of a positive quality I was going to embody that day.  Working hard.  Honesty.  Perseverance.  Helpfulness. Friendliness.

Then, it happened.  I landed a job!  I got a call to come in for an interview, and even though the interview was short, and I honestly didn’t even think it went all that well, I was asked to come in on Monday, and I’ve been gainfully employed ever since.  Now, the job is weird.  I’m a fish farmer.  I work overnight, 12 hour shifts 4 days a week feeding and cleaning up after fish.

…Mostly cleaning up after them.

I’m alone for most of my time at work, so I started listening to audiobooks, tons of them.  I’d chew through a book every night or so, and several of them hit me really hard.  I realized what I had done wrong with the blog.  Heck, I realized a lot of things that I’ve been doing wrong for most of my life.

I know this may sound a little outlandish, but over the past two or three months I’ve experienced something of a rebirth, as a person.  I’m thinking, acting, and operating on a level far above and beyond any level I was at before.  I feel like an entirely new person, and I’ve realized that it was only by going into that dark place that I was able to touch my toes to the ground, and gain the footing I needed to launch back up again.

Hindsight Lesson #6:
Rock bottom can give you a pretty solid base for rebuilding yourself.

Guys and gals, you all are like family to me.  After posting the video, so many of you reached out to me to let me know you supported me, that you cared, and that you were sad to see the blog go.  Quite a few of you had awesome success stories which helped cheer me up, or great anecdotes about how the blog had helped you.  Believe it or not, you also helped pull me out of the hole I was in.

So here I am, back writing for you all again.  I can’t even begin to tell you how good it feels, or how excited I am!  There aren’t words.  All I can say is that I’ve set out on a pretty grand adventure, and I’d like to take you all with me.  It’s going to be amazing.

There will be a special New Year’s Day post tomorrow, outside of our usual Monday/Thursday schedule.  Let’s take today to say goodbye to the doubts, pains, and lessons learned from 2015, and get ready for a bright new future.

As a final note, I’d like to take an extra minute and thank my wife, Jackie, for sticking by me, supporting me, and helping me in every way that she can, every day.  Whatever good I do for you can never be anything compared to the amount of good she does for me.  Also, as a final bit of good news, she, too, has found another full time job as a high school teacher.  We are doing pretty okay.  =D

Live boldly, change the world, and continue to be awesome.

Dan “DaRatmastah” Wallace

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5 thoughts on “Bouncing Off Rock Bottom

  1. Homo Sapien says:

    Dan,
    You make this angsty, typical, consider-himself-unlucky teenager feel lucky. You deserve applaud for outlining how the common man has trouble in pursuing some of his more outlandish goals. But don’t take this to mean you are common. You ARE pursuing your goals & have helped me tremendously since last year, personally speaking. Best of luck for your future endeavours.

    • DaRatmastah says:

      I’m so glad this post could give you a little improved perspective, and I’m glad I’ve been able to help you out, as well. Thanks so much for being here and being you. =D

  2. Pingback: Get S.M.A.R.T. – Becoming Superhuman | Be a Game Character

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