Where to start... I went vegetarian on the 1st of January but I don't want to spend too much time on that. It doesn't define me and I'm always happy when people forget that I don't eat meat. I don't want to be "one of those people", ya know? I guess the best starting point would be the start of lockdown in the Netherlands. Sometime in March, I believe. We closed the office before the lockdown officially started, something I fully support. We could all do our work remotely, so why not do it?
It was also around this time that Victor approached me and wanted to revive the TSL. For those unaware, TSL is the TeamLiquid StarLeague (don't get me going on why it's TSL and not TLSL). It's a StarCraft tournament that was first held in the last 2000's, 2008 I think, and had four installments. It was a hugely important tournament to me as an "old school" StarCraft fan. I remember the tournaments fondly and saw me being asked to run them as a huge vote of confidence. It also awoke a lot of anxiety. We had no one on staff that had any experience arranging tournaments, outside of my involvement with IreLAN in 2014. All of a sudden I was thrown in without a life vest and told to swim. And when I presented my first timeline to Victor, he told me it needed to happen quicker than planned. I wanted to run the tournament in the summer, Victor wanted it to be held in the spring. I was shocked. Due to how important TSL has been for me, I wanted to make TSL5 something special. And I didn't think I could with the time given to me. I was fuming of anger for two straight days. I told myself I was about to ruin this hallowed tournament series. Eventually, I was talked off the ledge and just put my head down. And I did it. I worked insane hours to make sure everyone was happy and with my small team we managed to pull it off.
This is where me working on myself came in to the picture. I didn't have much time to think during the tournament but I sat down afterwards (well, figuratively speaking) and thought things through. Not just about how I'd handled TSL5 but also other projects I'd been working on. There was a common thread: whenever I became too stressed I reacted with anger. And that's no way to live. Lashing out when presented with obstacles won't make them go away and it definitely won't solve anything. But why did I do it? What drove me to anger and not some other emotion? Why was I unable to process the stress? I've been good at handling that in the past. Up until roughly three years ago I've always seen myself as calm and collected when faced by problems. It's one of the things I've taken great pride in over the years.
I started investigating. What had changed. And I realized that I don't talk to people as much nowadays. And it's not solely due to the COVID lockdown, it's about trust. Throughout my university years, throughout my years living in Ireland I always had that group of friends who went through basically the same thing as I did. And we bonded over that, vented to each other. I hadn't built those connections in the Netherlands. Because, for the first time in my life, that connection didn't automatically happen. So I had to create it. I started going on walks with a colleague and during those walks we're both brutally honest and say what's on our minds. No concern about judgement from the other. It's not quite the same as my time in uni, where I'd be in the basement programming with my buddies, building a connection through shared experiences and always being around each other. But it's pretty damn close.
And it helped. I don't react with anger now. I may still get extremely annoyed at something but I'm not fuming to the point where I feel like I don't have full control of my actions. Where I say things I might regret. Instead I go on my walks and I let things out. A little at a time.
I took this with me as I headed into a similar stressful schedule for TSL6. Again, we were on a crunch-filled timeline and I was the one leading the project. The difference this time was that I suddenly had more people around me. This might seem like a good thing to most people but more staff means more work. More processes means more time spent on filling in reports instead of working on setting up the tournament. That might seem like I hated the reporting / processes but that's not true. They helped a lot. It's just more time required. Still, things were going relatively well and we had a plan for what needed improving. Due to the SC2 tournament calendar being much busier now compared to the first half of 2020, we only had a week to run all qualifiers but that shouldn't be a problem. Well it was. I dubbed that week hell week and I never want to go through a week like that again, in my life. Sleep wasn't a thing. I napped whenever possible but even that was a challenge due to how stressed I was. I had to deal with tech issues, player issues, scheduling issues, and every other issue you can imagine. All while trying to do the final planning for the main event.
You know how in work interviews a stereotypical answer to what your weak side is, is "I care too much"? Well here it was actually true. I wanted this tournament to be the best it could be and I prioritized it over everything else. Social life. Eating properly. Resting. Getting exercise. And by the second week of the main event, about 2 months in to the crunch, my body drop kicked me in the face. I got incredibly sick. Sick to the point that I, at times, didn't know what day of the week it was. It wasn't COVID, I had literally not met a single human being in about a month before this. It was the stress that broke me down. Luckily my second in command saw how sick I was, because I refused to admit it, and basically forced me to get some rest. I slept for most of the week. I had the thought well before this point but this is where I decided that I don't want to run the TSL anymore. I'm not cut out for it. I can't care less but I also can't stress so much over something that I sacrifice my health for it. It's sad for me personally and I could probably have made a career out of running events (I have so many ideas) but there's no way I can do it.
Lets move on to some non-TSL stuff that happened in 2020. I'll try to keep this shorter. My role at TL is a little bit of everything. They need something done and I do my best to learn it/do it. I like learning about new things, so I'm always down. I'm not always great at whatever's thrown at me but even in those cases I feel like I can do a decent job. However, sometimes you get a task and you realize you have a knack for it and you like it. Between TSL5 and TSL6 we needed some basic data analysis done for Liquid. I said I'd give it a shot and started learning the basics of it. At first I could do most of it in excel but the files became bigger and bigger and it soon became clear that I'd have to do some programming for it. Which was perfect. I thought myself how to use the pandas library for Python and worked over the weekends to hone my skills. Which didn't feel like work since it was so much fun. I've kept to it and while I need a few extra skills and plenty of practice to consider it a valid career, I really hope I get to continue with it in 2021.
It has also been great to get to know our new Dota team. Our old roster weren't that interested in socializing with the Liquid staff. This isn't criticism. They were laser focused every second they spent in Utrecht (much thanks to the extremely busy calendar). When we got our new roster, they were more social from day 1. There was still a bit of distance kept as we wanted to make sure to respect them and their commitment to their craft. But as time passed and we interacted with them (in a limited capacity due to COVID) we got to know them better and better and they're really great, all of them.
On the non-work related side of life, things have been at much more of a stand still. COVID kind of forces that on you. I miss going to bars. I miss going to my programming meetups. I miss going to restaurants. I miss having the option to go see my family pretty much whenever I want to. But that's all of us. And we're close to the finish line. I had the option to go home over Christmas this year but declined. I didn't want to accidentally infect anyone in Sweden or the Netherlands. However, even in lockdown I've managed to make new friends, mostly through a renewed interest in actually playing Dota, and I'm thankful for that.
I've also accepted that I'm a basic white bitch. I've always thought of myself as someone who walks his own path and that I'm not that easily influenced by trends. However, this year I've taken up drinking cappuccino (not really a "trend" for most people but it is for me) and I've taken up playing chess after watching the Queens Gambit. And you know what, I'm enjoying doing it and that should be enough.
For 2021 my hope is that I can work more on my personal life. I've always lived a very spartan life but my goal for the upcoming year is to set down some roots. I've really started to get to know myself better over the last three years and part of that is figuring out my style. What kind of things do I like? I don't really know that to be honest but I plan on figuring that out.
Hope you all have a happy new years eve and a great 2021!