By Daniel Yae
In 2017, I decided to buy a pre-built computer while attending Ferris State University. I had a lot more free time than expected and decided to get back into gaming. Little did I know that this pre-built PC I bought from Cyberpower would be the bridge that would connect me to a community of friends that saved my life.
I started with a first-person shooter game called Counter Strike Global Offensive. Then my roommate introduced me to a game called Fortnite. I was skeptical about the game at first, but over time I learned to enjoy the game. At the same time, I was running out of shows to watch while I did homework and in my free time, so I started watching streams on Twitch for entertainment and to learn and get better at the games I played while passing time.
In April 2018, I found a specific streamer named SpaceLyon, an incredibly funny and entertaining streamer. Through his community I met people who are now some of my closest friends. Watching his streams got me through some difficult times. At the time, I was about to finish my third year of college, but I had little to no progress on my major and career path. I was confused about what I wanted to do and didn’t really have the guidance I needed nor wanted to further elevate myself to a career I would love. I guess this is what happens when you rush into college with no real goal to achieve.
I ended up failing that semester and dropped out of school to take a break after the 2018 fall semester. With no real sense of direction, I was completely lost on what I wanted to do. I had wasted thousands of dollars on a program that was completely useless to me now. I realized that the only thing I gained from the three years at FSU was a mountain of loans I needed to pay off later. The gloomy thought in my mind was, “I have to start paying off this debt six months from now if I was to not go back to school, but I finally had my break” – a break I should’ve taken after graduating high school in 2015. It likely would have helped me develop a future for myself as I was hesitant about going to college in the first place.
I felt pressured by the whole expectation society places on you when you graduate high school. You have to go to college right away and figure out the rest of your life in four years with a career lined up by the time you graduate. Here I am though three years later with zero sense of direction on what to do now.
I started focusing more on streaming and playing video games to try to avoid my problems while expecting them to just suddenly vanish. It helped not to worry, but the problems were still there. I was making a decent amount of money through my livestream viewership by my friends and people I had met through the gaming world. Life was stagnate at this point, and I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but I struggled with having no clue when to come back and start my studies again.
Thankfully, I was a part of the amazing community that helped me get through this uncertain period in life. I was able to ask for advice from people who had their lives together and find out how they did it, and what steps I should take to further build a better future for myself. Being able to connect with this supportive community helped me with understanding what I wanted to do and getting me back on the right track when the time was right for me. They were basically a second family to me.
At the end of September of 2019, I had the chance to finally meet some of my friends at an event called TwitchCon, which was an event where you could meet some of the biggest Twitch streamers on the platform. I finally got to meet SpaceLyon and some of my closest friends in person.
Things were starting to look up, but then I was set to start paying my student loans back and the inability for me to find a job in a small city made it near impossible to do so on top of other financial obligations.
However, donations from friends and other viewers on my Twitch channel helped me scrape by for a couple of months. Bruce, a friend of mine, ended up donating $1,000 during the Christmas season, which helped offload a lot of the financial pressure I had with paying off my rent. The donation is something I am forever grateful for because it is rare for a college student with online streaming dreams to receive a donation like that. This was a friend I have never met in person and have only talked to online through Discord and the games we played, and yet he didn’t hesitate to help a friend in need.
With a glimmer of hope after receiving this gift, things unfortunately took a turn for the worst. The COVID-19 pandemic hit and it took a massive toll on me. My plans to go back to school in the summer were completely shut down because of the pandemic while my depression, stress and anxiety were at an all time high. Not going to bed until roughly 9 a.m. and waking up as late as 7 p.m. was a new norm for me. I had a couple more months of having to pay rent and decided that I was going to ask my parents for help to pay the rest of it off. I wasn’t in the right headspace and I was definitely not at the right domicile, as I was basically alone in the middle of nowhere. With a bit of the money I was making from Twitch, I was able to pay for food until I moved back home. A week before I went back I managed to work on my sleep schedule and started to take care of myself again.
During this time, I couldn’t see my friends in-person because of quarantine. I was able to hang out and play games with them online through League of Legends and a new game that was released in April of that year called Valorant. These friends that kept my company through hours of playing and getting through the difficult times helped me forget my anxieties and stress. They honestly helped combat my depression through the laughs and moments we shared together through playing these games and just talking to each other on a discord server.
The deep talks I had with them and the encouragement to go back to school gave me the motivation to return to school- and that’s exactly what I did. I started school again in the 2021 winter term at Grand Rapids Community College. It was cheaper and just a better option since the classes were online. It was the first time I felt motivated to listen to lectures and work hard towards a better grade. It was the first semester in a while that I got a 4.0 GPA. I’m finally starting to get my life together and the encouragement and the people I’ve met online have been the backbone to my current success and is something I am extremely grateful for.
I’m not able to name and thank every single person because it would take a great deal of writing. These friends I’ve met have taught me valuable lessons, helped me get my life together and have been the support I’ve needed. These friends I met on the internet helped me get out of the dark hole I was stuck in and they helped me get out and back on the right track. I am forever thankful for these friends.