Author’s Note: Hey there! Welcome to the first post in my More Than Meets the Eye (MTME) series. MTME is a collection of personal narratives surrounding the topics of mental, physical, and emotional health in gaming from my unique perspective. I hope to inspire other gamers to take charge of their IRL characters and level up in the game we call Life.

As an only child in a privileged, white household, college was always in my cards. It was something I “had” to do, according to my family, despite fighting back. I had big shoes to fill as a first-gen, and it felt like I had no other choice but to wear and grow into them.

At first, I thought I wanted to be a forensic pathologist. Dr. G: Medical Examiner was my favorite television show as a teen. The idea of solving mysteries and bringing closure to mourning families was something that resonated with me.

So, I traveled to dozens of schools to try and find the best biology program at a small institution that wasn’t too far from home.

I landed at Albright College in Reading, PA—a small, private liberal arts school that was known for its natural science programs and state-of-the-art equipment.

Too bad I never got to use any of it.

After earning a D- in my first college-level biology course, I had to sit down and re-evaluate my life trajectory. In hindsight, I set such a high expectation for myself to achieve this “doctor” status that I ignored my true self and talents.

The truth was that I did not enjoy science and math. I had always underperformed in these courses in school. Where I excelled, however, was in creative writing, art, and in my free time, video games. I was always afraid to admit that these were my strong suits because I was typically met with:

“Well, what are you gonna do with THAT to make money?”

Great question, “Karens” of the world. I’m prepared to answer it now that I’ve graduated: it doesn’t matter. What matters most is following my passion, no matter what other people think or say.

After the re-evaluation of my path in my freshman year, I thoughtfully chose two majors that really challenged my natural writing talent: communications and history.

When I finally welcomed and started honing these talents, things started falling into place almost magically, and I even had multiple opportunities to tie in my passion for video gaming.

Upwards of 80% of my communications papers and presentations were about video games. I deeply examined the male gaze in regard to female character design, video game violence, and its psychological effects, and I even developed a faux business plan for Blizzard Entertainment.

For fun, I occasionally played League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm with a diverse group of students, but my college did not have a recognized club or program dedicated to esports—until I graduated.

I remember signing a petition in my final semester of my senior year for an Albright Esports program. Despite being underwhelmed at the reality I wouldn’t be able to participate, I happily signed and gave the fellow gamers some words of encouragement.

Unknowingly at the time, this moment was my springboard into achieving my life-long, true-to-myself goal of working in the video game industry.

Following graduation, I accepted a role as an Admission Counselor at Saint Joseph’s University. About six months into the job, I realized I was pretty disconnected from the campus community, so I reached out and discovered they had an esports club.

It started with a conversation with the students who informed me that, much like at Albright, no one took the gamers very seriously. Not on my watch!

One thing led to another, and soon I was in the athletic director’s office regularly talking about bringing esports to campus. Then I was sent to a conference. Then I was told that I had 4 months to bring a vision of an esports program to life. Then, I realized, this is it.

Bringing recognition and opportunity to such a talented, intelligent community of human beings (gamers, I’m talking about you!) is my passion. With stigma haunting us daily, my goal is to shed light on the love and passion that exists in the gaming world, despite what others may think or say.

College certainly isn’t for everyone, and I am beyond grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to attend, but without it, realistically, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

If you’re feeling lost and scared as you begin this new transition of your life, I’m here to tell you it’s normal and OK.

Don’t forget to breathe and set the future you up for success in the ways that feel right, even if that means playing video games.