What’s been up, TK? (Part 2)

If you had the time and patience to bear with me through the struggles of Part 1, thank you. And if you related to it in any way, then I hope you read this as well. I hope it can inspire you, and help you overcome your own struggles as I’m doing mine.

I should start by saying that I haven’t been alone during the whole of this struggle. Friends and loved ones have absolutely supported me, even though I hadn’t let on to much of what’s been going on, and without them I’d have been even more of a mess than I was. Love you all for continuing to believe in me. ❤

Since bottoming out and finding that little flame inside, I’ve been slowly building myself back up. I want to do things right, I understand I’m going to mess up lots, and that’s something we all do, and I understand that it’s okay to shoot for the moon and fall short. I’ve been learning how to let myself accept a compliment instead of mentally rejecting it as uninformed. I’ve been learning how to feel proud of something and not taking that as arrogance, but an appreciation for hard work paying off. I’ve dug up some scars from my childhood, and healed a few lingering issues. I’m not done, but that’s ok. I remind myself to look in the mirror and smile at the person looking back at me. I remind myself when I’m feeling down, that I still have my flame, and I can do this. And I remind myself that I’m not alone.

From June onwards, I’ve still mostly been holed up in my room, but this time because I’ve been working my way out. I’ve been studying and practicing programming knowledge and interview skills as my full-time job, while continuing all the different exercise routines I need to do for my recovery. I’ve had a lot of internal struggle over where I should work next; Where can I contribute something meaningful and positive, and also actually be good enough to get into? There was a lot of doubt over my skills. Storm8 and my injury had both held me back, and the world around me kept moving. I had to work harder to be able to catch up, and in the meantime, try to build my self confidence back up and believe in myself.

I applied to one game company early in, and had an embarrassingly poor phone interview that I didn’t pass. It felt like confirmation of how rusty I’d gotten, and added a lot of doubt of whether I actually had what it took. Back to the books again. (Software interviews are usually a series of 30–50 minute programming problems that collectively test knowledge, skills, and on-the-fly thinking. You need to not only solve the problem, but do so efficiently, and with clean code)

I got an interview with Facebook. I knew they were a very difficult company to get into. I studied more, and passed the phone interview this time. After a couple weeks of extra study I was flown in for the on-site interviews. I did extremely well in 3 of the interviews, but bombed the 4th, and got knocked out again. There’s another type of problem (system design) they only give to more experienced devs, which I’d been struggling to study and wrap my head around, and that’s what shot me down here. I started feeling more animosity towards my last job, and more concerns that I’ve fallen too far behind to really catch up without sticking to mobile game companies. But I doubled-down on more studying and practicing.

It had been over 4 years since I last applied at Google, when I was destroyed by their interviews, and decided they were too smart for me. I revisited the option a few times over the last few months, and kept feeling like there was no way I could do it. But when I felt like I was so close to getting into Facebook, I decided I might as well give it another chance, and started studying even harder. Besides, there weren’t many companies left that were really compelling to me, and if I could somehow pull this off, it would set me up for a great future. I studied more. I nailed the phone interview, and got a call back for on-site interviews! This was around the time when I started being more open about my exploits on twitter. To be honest, even mentioning it was scary… I really didn’t want to be a disappointment to people. (Though someone important to me said it’s only a disappointment if you don’t keep trying after you fall)

Just a few weeks ago I had the on-site interviews, It was even more stressful than at Facebook. Instead of each interview having two simpler problems, each of my 5 interviews had one almost hour-long problem, and I was going by the skin of my teeth. Each interview had moments when I got stuck, started to dread the feeling of failure, and doubted if I’d even solve the problem at all, much less with a GOOD solution. But each time I managed to pull through anyway. Each break between interviews, I’d take a moment to look at the wristband I wore for a very important reason. “You are not alone”. I thought about everyone who believed in me, and also that I need to believe in myself and keep pushing. And even though it was a struggle, I impressed them enough to make it through!

This isn’t guaranteed yet. I still have a “team matching” step, where a manager needs to be interested in me and vouch for me after we talk. But as I understand… I’m mostly there. I still can’t celebrate, and it hasn’t fully registered, but… I might’ve actually pulled it off? And if somehow things fall through, I’m gonna stay proud that I made it past the interviews of one of the top companies out there, which intimidated me so much that I wrote it off for years.

I’m actually back in physical therapy again, because my recovery has kind of… stopped. I’ve been stuck at 90% the last couple months, still unable to do more than an hour walk at a time, and maybe 1–2 total standing/walking hours per day. But I think I found a weak muscle group that would explain both my ankle and past knee injuries, and that’s what we’re working on now, plus some more challenging ankle exercises. I’m still frustrated that I can’t dance, or be as active as I want, but I’m gonna keep pushing, until I’ve exhausted every possible resource and option.

And now we’re at the present. I’m still working on me. I still have some complicated things to figure out relating to social media, keeping in touch with ppl vs having time to focus on what I need to get done, how to balance taking care of myself with large efforts like putting together performances, charity events, etc. I’m gonna make mistakes along the way, but I’ll also try my best to keep an open mind and heart, fix mistakes the best I can, and lift others up wherever I can.

The mountains I’ve climbed over my life aren’t the biggest mountains the world has seen, but I can still be proud of relentless hard work and refusal to give in to failure or complacency. And I hope that by sharing where I’ve been; hardships, vulnerabilities, and successes, it can give you some inspiration to climb your mountains. We can’t magically decide to make everything okay, but we can work on it one day at a time, and eventually look back on all of those steps we took, and be proud of how far we’ve come.

If you’re reading this and you’ve been struggling yourself. You are not alone. The answers you need may not be clear, or seem realistic, but keep digging for them and taking the steps you can. Even if life kicks you down over and over, you’ve still made it this far. Try to find your inner flame and keep taking care of it, because you’re capable of amazing things, even if you don’t always believe it.