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 perspective.

As an only child in an upper middle-class household, college was in my cards. I had big shoes to fill as a first-generation college student, 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 one of 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/pre-med 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. As cool as it would have been to work as a forensic pathologist, it didn’t look like I was cut out for a life in medicine. In hindsight, I set such a high expectation for myself to achieve a “doctor” status that I ignored my true self and talents.

The truth was , after reflecting on my interests, I did not enjoy science and math that much. I never scored too high in those classes, either. 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?”

Well, great question. I think I’m prepared to answer it now that I’ve graduated: it doesn’t matter. What matters most to me is following my passion, no matter what other people think or say.

After the re-evaluation of my college 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 my natural skills and talents, things started falling into place almost magically, and I even had multiple opportunities to tie in my passion for video games in my coursework! Upwards of 80% of my communications papers and presentations were about video games. I researched 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 PC gaming or 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 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 to a few folks and soon discovered they had a gaming club. It started with a conversation with the students who informed me that, much like at Albright, no one took the gamers very seriously at first.

One thing led to another, and soon I was in the athletic director’s office regularly talking about bringing esports to campus in an impactful way. 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 shine light on the love and passion that exists in the gaming world. College certainly isn’t for everyone. I thought it wasn’t for me. But, I am beyond grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to attend. Because without this exact experience, I wouldn’t be where I am today doing what I love.

Some last words of advice: 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.