I’ve always been a bit of an oddball, but I’ve learned to become more comfortable with who I am. I’ve had the opportunity to help others to do the same and it has been incredibly rewarding.
From the start, I always had a little bit of an uphill battle. I played a ton of sports growing up, but I gravitated toward football. I started school a year early and was definitely smaller than most of the other players, but I never let that stop me.
As time went on, things didn’t necessarily get any easier. High school was rough and I was bullied really badly. There were points where I even contemplated suicide, but luckily I never acted on those thoughts. I felt so alone and unable to discuss them with anyone. During those times music was my saving grace and is something I’m still passionate about to this day.
High school is different now than when I was there. I can’t say it’s better since there’s still a lot of bullying, but back then if you talked about liking video games and anime you could end up in a locker. Fortunately I was athletic enough to not get the worst of it.
Even trying to date was difficult. I did have a girlfriend, but I found myself in a toxic relationship. She would constantly put me down just for who I was. This was the person who was supposed to be there for me, but they weren’t.
I really struggled with my identity. I knew who I was but it seemed like my genuine self wouldn’t be accepted. It was weighing on my psyche so much that I pretty much became a pathological liar just for acceptance. Everyone is looking for acceptance and I was willing to hide my true self in order to get it.
I would overemphasize some of my interests or talk about things that I knew others would relate to, just to get people to like me. It wasn’t until I had a couple of good friends who noticed what I was doing and called me out on it that I stopped.
“We like you as a person, just be you.”
It meant so much to me, and I’m grateful for having good friends who didn’t let me get away with stuff like that and really built me up as a person.
As somewhat of a public figure in esports, I’ve had the opportunity to give back and help kids who are struggling with some of the same things that I struggled with, but it’s crazy to think some of the luck that landed me in this position.
Back in the first season of RLCS, community talent was being assembled to be the casters for the season. There was a list of about 10 people which was sent to CloudFuel as the top candidates for the job, and I wasn’t on that list.
Plus, he had only seen my early casts which were rough, but not because of my own doing. My co-caster had a terrible mic and on more than one occasion fell asleep during the broadcast which left me to do the whole show by myself. He didn’t know what I was capable of.
Growing up it seemed like no matter what I tried I was always really good, but not the best. Whether it be sports, video games, or anything really, I’d be better than most but there were still people better than me. I thought the RLCS casting job was just another example of this.
Goldenboy was calling all of the casters to let them know they got the job, and during his conversation with my great friend Liefx, Lief stuck his neck out and recommended me. After checking out some of my work, Goldenboy became an advocate of me being part of the crew.
Even then it wasn’t that simple. Initially that last caster spot was supposed to go to a guy named “Toasty Jones”. For some reason he didn’t answer his phone or emails and seemed to fall off the face of the earth. After that, they were looking for a more established name to fill the final spot.
Goldenboy eventually reached out to me saying he’d like to talk. I responded but didn’t hear back for a few days. It was all up in the air.
The anticipation was killing me so I decided to hop into Goldenboy’s stream one night. He apologized to me and said to everyone he owed me a phone call, which definitely quieted my fears a little bit. We eventually spoke, and all he said was, “You got it.” I had to fight back tears.
Since then my life has changed dramatically. I’ve been able to travel across the world, and I get to do what I love for work. Not everyone can say that.
Now that I’m comfortable with who I am and I’m not afraid to speak out about it, I want to be the voice for those who may not have one. I want to use my platform to help others if I can.
I’ve had the opportunity to speak in front of groups of kids across the country, and those experiences have been incredibly uplifting. I try to be realistic with them about how their biggest dreams coming true is a very low probability, but that they should still go for them anyway.
One kid who stands out the most is Luke from my hometown of Green Bay, Wisconsin. He was a smaller, quiet kid and you could kind of tell that high school had been tough for him.
When I started being blunt with everyone about the real world you could see his eyes light up. It seemed like that was the first time an adult had been so honest, and that really resonated with him.
He was the last person to have the opportunity to ask a question in front of everybody, but he only said, “Thank you so much. I was wondering if I could have a minute of your time.” How could I say no to that?
So we began talking, just as people. I got to learn more about him and his story and some of the struggles he was dealing with. Outside of the normal high school problems, Luke wanted to be a professional League of Legends player. He was already Challenger but too young to compete, plus his parents didn’t believe in it.
I spoke honestly with him about the real world, and how sometimes there will be authority figures that won’t always allow that to happen. That his parents weren’t doing it to be bad people, but only doing it out of care for their son. I tried to help him out by giving him ways to compromise with his parents so he could make them happy while still going after what he wants, and I could tell he appreciated it.
He was one of the first kids who really responded to my speeches, and it showed me there was potential to make an impact.
Overall this has been an unexpected side effect of my career in esports, but I’m so glad that I’ve had the chance to give others the encouragement that I could have used as a kid.
Ryan Marcus assisted with the creation of this article
Photo Credit: Psyonix, WSOE, NGE Studios