Until I started started youtubing, I had always won. I hadn’t realized this until I couldn’t get one thing, which was getting my social media to blow up.
Growing up, I always had great marks. I studied hard and I got into the best university for a difficult program. I was overweight and I lost the weight by working out during the summer in a tough self imposed workout routine at the pool from 8am-5pm. I wanted a certain type of boyfriend and I worked on my appearance so I could get him. I wanted medical school and I got it. There was nothing I wanted that I didn’t get.
In med school, I decided I wanted a productive hobby, so I decided to start a youtube channel to talk about my current hobby at the time, minimalism. I poured in alot of time and effort but I didn’t mind, because I genuinely believed that under a year, it was only a matter of time before I becamse famous. But the years started go to by, and nothing changed.
After several years of no results,I finally realized how much of a thorn in my side my youtube channel had become in my life. I felt angry that everything I tried, the amount of time I poured into my work, and the countless stress showed for nothing. My youtube channel remained unnoticed. I felt devastasted. I became more desperate and I wanted to succeed, even to the point of wanting to quit med school to fully pursue it.
Nothing changed. Even when I took a break from med school to solely focus on it, I felt so depressed and unmotivated that nothing happened. I felt like years had gone by (I’ve been youtubing for about 4 years) and STILL nothing? I didn’t want to, but I was starting to face the ugly truth that perhaps I just might not be really that good.
It was a blow to my ego, and my mood around others suffered. I started to experience jealousy. I started to feel petty thoughts. I unsubscribed from my favorite youtubers.
In my youth, I had always imagined with certainty that, of course, if I youtubed, I was going to be a over night success. I had that naive level of self-believe and arrogance.
If my favorite youtubers were this successful, why not me? What special thing did they have that I didn’t? I was pretty enough, smart enough, talented enough, hard working enough. Or so I thought.
I never wanted to consider “luck” as a factor because that isn’t something I can control. I always believed, if you put your mind to it, there’s nothing you can’t achieve.
I continued in my obsession with my social media. It was my hobby, my reason d’etre. I wanted it so badly and I felt so angry and jealous that nothing was going my way at all. I watched fellow minimalist youtubers that had started around the same time as me, who, at the time also only a couple of subscribers, now talk about their 100K followers and how blessed they felt. I was so bitter inside.
I kept asking myself, “What about me?…” or “What’s wrong with me?” I started to think that youtube must be a reflection of society on the large and it was finally showing me who I truely was. I was a loser. No one wanted to watch me. No one cared what I had to say.
My self esteem was rock bottom. I was struggling with all the weight of self doubt and desperation. It was also starting to make me ill. I didn’t want to accept it though. I just thought it was the price to pay for success. If I didn’t have talent, then I’d make up for it in hard work. I filmed, editted and only breathed youtube.
My immunity suffered and I got sick. I got vertigo, I didn’t sleep well, and my mood and attitude sucked alot. I saw everything with black colored glasses. Nothing in my real life felt of value. My friends? They sucked because they didn’t understand my youtube struggle. My dental career? That sucked too, it was just taking time away from my youtube chananel.
In retrospective, I can see why my channel wasn’t popular. There was no joy in my work. No happiness. My videos were just a mirror of my feelings. No one wants to watch someone struggle all the time. People go to watch youtube to be entertained, to forget their own stresses and worries. Who the hell wants to listen to someone else complain? If I complain once, they can related. Multiple times? Then I’m just a throwing a pity party and no one wants to go there.
And it didn’t seem to help that I was experiencing all the worst technical problems possible. My macbook, after only one 1 year, started to randomly shut down and refuse to turn on unless I hold down the power button for 45 minutes to an hour (I know becuse I would look at the clock as I did it). Even if my laptop turned on, and I finished editting, uploading was a nighmare. I tried to use the student dorm internet. It wasn’t powerful enough and my uploads would abort. So I’d go to a cafe after I finished school and finished my part time job. It was exhausting. I’d be in the cafe until the servers would come tell me the shop is closing.
It didn’t help that I need to use a vpn to use youtube in China. I was trying to youtube in China, which has a firewall that blocks youtube. In order to youtube in China, I need to pay for a vpn. And video uploads via a vpn are slow as hell. It would take me about 6 hours to upload a video. I would need to constantly watch it to make sure my laptop didn’t die, or that the upload didn’t abort. Which happened often. After maybe 2 hours and a half, either or would happen and I’d have to start again from scratch. One video would take me about 1 week to upload, through dropped vpn signals, or too slow upload, or laptop shutting down.
But I thought, it’s just God testing me, putting obscales in my way because victory otherwise would not be so sweet. So I kept “hustling”. Even on holidays from school, I would spend the entire time just working on my youtube channel. All these sarcifices had to add up to come, right? How how I claim to love youtube if I wasn’t willing to put in the time and effort? Resting was for the weak, I had goals and dreams to chase after.
Money was another issue related to my hobby. I even bought a second phone plan for extra data so I could upload via my phone. I bought filming lamps. I bough wallpaper for my background. However, I had ceased to live in the real world. I didn’t want to spend any money on myself in the real world. I could use that money to buy more equipement or someting related to youtube. Money (beyond food) could only be spent for youtube. I was saving up to buy a new laptop as well. I was like a rag-a-muffin in real life. I let my home become dirty because cleaning my home was time taken away from youtubing. I didn’t care about my appearance because I wanted to invest all my mental energies into my channel. I had a minimalism uniform of the same shirt and pants which I came to hate.
But I wasn’t going to buy followers or pay to promote myself. That felt like cheating in my mind. I wanted to grow “organically”, all on my own. I wanted to believe my talent was enough.
It took my laptop finally dying for me to finally stop and take a long hard look at youtube. I had started to only live in virtual reality. I didn’t find joy in my own life at all. All I did was fantasize about being at a cafe 24/7, and working on my youtube channel. I would be sipping on a latte, basking in the success and glory of my channel. I just played this fantasy over and over again in my mind, like a broken trackrecord.
I felt like I had woken up from a beautiful nightmare. I sat in my room and I stared at my dead laptop, asking myself, is this how I wanted to keep spending my time? Torturing myself? Refusing to spend time with people in real life just because I had to chase this “dream”? What did this dream really mean, at what price was it worth?
I thought painfully, No, perhaps I don’t need to keep beating myself over the head with the same hammer. I began to play with the idea, that maybe I didn’t need to be this obsessed with this hobby. I asked myself deeper questions. Why did I care how many followers I had? Why was I obsessed with success? Why was I taking failure so hard? There were so many times I’d cry out in frustration, saying I was quitting youtube, only to go back to it several months later. If I was really going to let it go, Why couldn’t I really let it go?
I thuoght of one of my favorite youtubers, Wengie. She had liked one of my instagram photos when I was in university. I thought she was really pretty so I wenat to see if she had a youtube channel. She did, but no videos or subscribers. I thought, what a pity, I bet she would be amazing if she did. I watched her throughout the years, as sh, she worked in an accounting firm and then quit it to keep doing her youtube fulltime. I wanted her life, this was my fantasy. I thought youtube might save me from my reality. I wanted youtube to save me from the mundane life of the 9-5 job. I imagined that once my youtube kicked off, I’d finally be able to travel the world, and get signed by companies and all my wild dreams would come true, just like Wengie. I feel really embarassed but also relieved to write this, to share this.
I continued in this jealous and depression until something magical happened. I stumbled across this figure skating anime called, Yuri on Ice.
After watching Yuri on Ice, I fell in love with how the main character picked himself up from failure and started to blossom. He did it because at the core of it all, even if he wasn’t super talented, he loved to skate and he was willing to put in the time. If he had spare time, he skated. He skated without knowning he was being filmed and his video went viral. His idol came to personally coach him. He decided to skate again for a second time, however, this time he decided to do it for the love of it. I was in awe, I felt that that was what I had been missing. (Okay, Wengie is not going to come coach me lol).
If I wanted to do youtube, I should not have been chasing success. I should have been doing it with love, with love for the game and with attention to detail.
I started to reflect on myself. It occured to me, to go through life expecting to always win effortlessly is ridiculous. It’s similar to never wanting to play a video game unless it was guaranteed you would get 100 percent, each and ever time. Ridiculous. Where was the fun? Wasn’t the point of playing a game to have fun?
This revelation made me excited. I told my boyfriend Will, that I finally understood what he meant by, sports teaching you about life. Teaching you how to get up after failing. Teaching you that you aren’t always going to win. Teaching you that there will always be others better than you. Teaching you that there will always be new games to be played. Teaching you that failure isn’t the end of the world. Teaching you, it isn’t about winning or losing but how you, when you do lose, how to lose with grace, not lose your cool and keep going.
Will smiled at me and said, “I’m glad you got to see it for yourself. You never played sports as a kid, so when you finally lost at something as an adult, you didn’t know what it was, or how to express your frustration. But I’m glad you see that you gotta do it for the love of the game.”
I think it’s rather a beautiful lesson that I learned from all of this. I had never had to taste bitter defeat before. I had only known winning. In this way, I developed a new life skill that I think is really really useful. I learned how to be more graceful when I lose. I learned to be more humble and I learned, that even though I lost here, it’s not a big deal. As long as life goes on, there will be new games to play. And I have to remember, these are just games to be played. One of the more important things is, if you’re going to do it, do it right. Do it because you want to, do it because you love to do it, not because of the end result. Obsessing over the end result did both the process and I a disservice. At the core of it, I learned to persevere.
I look back fondly, instead now, at how naively I thought. I smile a bit to myself when I think how desperate I had become in my youtube journey. I wanted to be like one of those glittering stars, without the effort. I wanted it to have come to me as effortlessly as I thought it had come to my youtube idols. But you never know people’s struggles behind closed doors. There’s a chinese saying that goes “10 minutes on stage comes from 10 years practising off stage.”
That didnt really address what was at the core of my fears. I felt when I started my youtube channel at 23, i had lots of time to grow and blossom. But after 4 years, and no growth, and 29, I felt the fear choking me more. I started to think, “If I was going to be someone, it should have happened. But i’m almost 30 and it isn’t happening. What if it isn’t for me?….”
So I looked deeper into this fear. There is only 1 Lebron James and how many countless basketball players. I didn’t want to accept I might just be medicore. Just another among the masses.
But this experience with youtube let me face that fear that, perhaps, I might just be average. Or at worse, worse than average. Untalented. But as I was forced to face that fear, the fear didn’t look at huge, that terrible. I smiled. I realized, as long as I’m enjoying the process and I am whole-heartedly giving it my all, the result isn’t something that I can control. If I place last in the competition and I did all I could, and I can honestly say, that was my best performance, I can be proud of what I’ve done.
Life is just a series of games. I’ve already won some and now I’ve lost some. And that’s fine with me. I can now lose with grace and look forward to the next game. In the meanwhile, I will enjoy myself as i prepare for the next round.