I went to art school, and graduated in 2010 with a degree in Interactive Development and Game Design. I managed to land myself an internship at a startup game developer, which turned into a full-time job as a junior game designer. I started at $55k.
After a while, I decided (unwisely, in retrospect) to quit my entry-level job and try to pursue a career as a freelance game developer. This was back when indie games were really taking off, and I thought maybe I could do it too.
At first, things went well. I got a contract job as an artist for a game company, which allowed me the freedom to work from home and work on developing my own game in my spare time.
Things started going badly after that. I realized I was dealing with major depression and social anxiety, and began drinking more heavily. I continued working on my contract job, but my attempts to develop my own game went nowhere.
Eventually it got to the point where I felt lost. I tried going out for some interviews to get back into a game studio but they didn’t go well. Truth be told, I gave up fairly easily and fell back on my contract job to make ends meet.
Eventually, though, the contract ended and I was unable to replace the work. I was forced to start picking up odd jobs, which was a big blow to my ego and self esteem. I worked at a supermarket and as a concierge and as a dog walker. This went on for years until I had more or less given up on my game development / game artist career.
Things got worse before they got better. I fell deeper into depression and alcohol. I eventually found some work as a graphic designer and more odd jobs as an artist. I also moved to a state with a much lower cost of living. I was able to scrape by on about $2,000 / $2,500 a month.
I kept trying to figure out a way to get back on a proper career path, but I feel like I keep fizzling out before I can focus on any path long enough to make meaningful progress. 2D Art, graphic design, game design, animation, other random skillsets – never really going deep enough to become competitive or hire-able in whichever niche.
Then I got a random windfall a little over a year ago. I made a $2,000 crypto investment back in 2017 and thought I had been locked out of it do to some mistake I made, and was unable to recover my account. Fortunately they changed their account recovery backend and years later I was able to recover my investment. “Overnight” I made $65,000. This was right before crypto crashed in December 2021.
I tried to do my best with it, and took most of it out and put it into savings and Betterment. I unfortunately left some of it in crypto and painfully watched the value collapse. I used some of it to pay off the rest of my car and some of it for some unexpected vet bills for my dog which amounted to $4,000.
Now I’m left with around $21,000, zero debt, and a fully paid off car. I have been scraping together ever dollar I can and save / invest about $400 / month.
However, I still have zero idea what the fuck I’m doing with my career. I have a part time job that pay surprisingly well, but it is little more than a stop gap measure. Occasionally I’ll do design jobs or art jobs for random amounts of money $50 here, $75 there, but it is inconsistent and infrequent.
I’m not sure how to translate the photoshop, illustration, and design skills I have back into a full-time job. So much time has passed, so much regret and shame has built up around my feelings of failure, I don’t know how to shake it and get a clear direction for my future.
Sometimes I think I should totally start over and try to pursue a more lucrative career by pulling a name out of a hat, like data analysis or sales. However it feels foolish to abandon the skills and experience that I’ve already built up for something brand new.
Does anyone here have advice on getting my shit together “late’ in life? Has anyone else dealt with losing their way in their late twenties / early thirties, and how they found a way forward? I don’t want to make a ton of money, I just want to have a respectable job that gives my life a sense of direction and purpose.
Thank you in advance for any help and advice.