Make no mistake, this post is pretty much a big moan, but it’s here for me to remind myself in later years that I faced massive odds and came out the other end, so read it at your own risk! I am hoping I will look back from a cushy future life and laugh, and always remain grateful.

It’s summer 2017 and I haven’t quite made the funding for my Masters that I hoped, as the kitten game had a major environment texture deleted without my knowledge at the 11th-hour-tail-end of a dev phase. Roll-back isn’t possible either, as it genuinely did need removed, just nobody realised until then. Unfortunately, I have no graphics ability of my own or additional money to pay for more artist time to replace it, so have shelved the project, and the year has started instead with a mahoosive loan which goes into repayment as soon as the course finishes. Anxiety City.

The only way to deal is to keep the business going and work throughout the full-time course, which most people assure me is madness. I mean, they are right, but there is little other choice. (Certainly in the run-up to Christmas it was pretty much a nightmare, but thankfully my family are bricks, and helped lots.)

Planning is underway for the Game Awards already, and the venue is booked. Hope to delegate as much as possible, but need to get people to turn up to talk over what’s needed at a couple of planning meetings.

Throw in a bit of herding cats organising the Game Dev Christmas dinner, and the cat getting much sicker… now he’s taking 11 tablets and 2 different injections a day. He’s breaking my heart with how ill he is, but we’re just trying to keep the pain away and the fluid off his lungs somehow. He has asthma, arthritis and heart failure. He still follows me everywhere for company, though.

Unfortunately, Aims has also started in Glasgow uni and is not having a good time at all, so is on the phone a lot feeling really quite unhappy. I don’t want to say too much here as I don’t know how she’ll feel about it.

Game Awards volunteer turnout is really low. Not enough to run properly, so will end up doing all video work and ticketing and bookings myself again, and run a business and study full time for January exams. Can’t do this another year, people helping only on the night is not useful. Thank goodness for the tiny few doing the bits they are doing or it would be an actual disaster. But it’s just not enough people. There’s too much preparation for two or three people to manage it all, and we’re burning out, and Claire and Glenn are doing Global Game Jam the weekend before.

Dad collapsed on New Years Eve, then seemed mostly fine for a day, until the bloody vomit and diarrhoea started. Seven hours in A&E (we were seen within ten minutes as he was marked Very Urgent, but it still took that long to get a bed) saw him downgraded and then upgraded again when his heart rate plummeted. I stood for the entire time as every single chair in the place was needed for a patient, and they lined the halls. Our NHS needs funds, desperately.

This episode, however, was made 200% worse by the call from mum’s Care provider calling me to say they wouldn’t be providing the emergency carer’s we had requested to get her out of her wheelchair to the toilet and into bed for that night or the next few days. The duty social worker had given the response ‘Leave it to the Daughter’. I was standing in A&E with my father bleeding internally, losing consciousness, waiting to hear what the tests would say, being told they were going to leave my mother to fend for herself in her chair without any help that night. Apparently the ‘Emergency Care’ number is only for people who don’t have daughters!?! If I had been a man, undoubtedly I would not have been deemed suitable to ‘sort her out’ and therefore would have been helped? You can bet I argued on the phone right then and there, but to no avail.

Malware has prompted me to start a January Russian course which has turned out to be really interesting. Really hoping I can keep it up amidst all the craziness!

Am trying to get to security events still, and go to the graduate jobs events, but it’s taking up a lot of time. The big employers really give you the run around – been hanging around rearranging and being stood-up for hour-long phonecalls for six+ weeks with one now, only to hear they wanted more certs. Just say that at the start?

Ex-husband has just dropped the bombshell that he’s going bankrupt so I have until May to sell the house for market value or they will do it instead. OMG. Have tried to ask him to wait until Sept and I will get a new tenant and pay his half of the mortgage (when I get a job), but he flat refuses. He won’t even help arrange any of it. And it’s in Nottingham. And I’m not.

Nottingham house buyer wants it fully cleared. Has requested another viewing four times to review and complain that more things need removed/cleaned, despite me continuing to say I am not in the country and we are selling ‘as is’. We need this sale, though. Have had to take a loan to make mortgage payments and hire removal company until sale goes through, as the tenant has left things in the house.

Have somehow made it to April, and Ami is coming home. I have to brush off a project meeting to go and help her move home, but she is all alone and needs help, and is more important! The Easter business rush co-inciding with Cryptopgraphy coursework and the Literature Review is not helping either. Barely keeping on top of things. How is all this academic stuff scheduled to overlap, with exams approaching too??? Have booked the bus, as flights are ridiculous money when you add bags.

The cat has died. I am distraught. He was my rock. I know that he was an enormous amount of extra stress also, but he was the little dude I came home to that kept me company and kept me going and feeling that everything was okay and that there were still good things in the world. I feel utterly lost.

Have started Bangor Tech Brunch (it is May). The Belfast slack brunch is so useful, and there are so  many tech people in Bangor. It just seems obvious? Might take a while to come together though. Just need to keep showing up.

Have agreed to talk to QUB Enterprise SU students about Entrepreneurship straight after an exam. May be overdoing it.

Dobbies garden centre have randomly emailed asking if we’d be interested in supplying them. I’m not sure how to respond at this time. I invite them to open a trade account so they can peruse the online site, but wonder how to cope if they order.

Got a clusterheadache on the day of Software Assurance exam. Have been having them on and off all year of course (I have one a couple times a month). Doctors letter has not arrived after 7 weeks of phoning the surgery twice a week (it’s rural and they lost the main doc and only have a locum), so QUB have refused my exceptional circusmtances and capped the module at 50%. Except for this cap I otherwise had the grades for a distinction 🙁 Oh well. Literally too tired to fight any more.

Attended the Graduate Art/Animation Showcase at UU, which is always awesome, and always a good source of new talent for games and product art. Great to see many students producing games. Surprised there aren’t more people from the Game Dev Network here, but good to see the Derry contingent and good to finally meet Courtney in person, showing her work. She’s amazing!

House has sold. Have now paid off mortgage and existing loan with ex! Phew! Still think it would have been much cleverer to keep the house though. FFS.

In the meantime, my IoT dissertation project has gone sideways, as the servers have been taken offline, and the app doesn’t function at all without them, rendering the device completely dead. Kinda tough to do much analysis then. Unsure how to rescue this. Supervisor has given me webcams instead. Would be fair to characterise mental state as having moved from excitement to something close to pit of despair. It was such a neat and tidy little project, and now I can’t work out how to rescue it. It is nearly August. Not much time left.

More dehumanising interviews… I am not a number 🙁 Realising that although the MSc is good, employers still want certs. One interviewer doesn’t ask me any technical or security questions or even have my CV, then I don’t get the job apparently because I was ‘not technical enough’.

Aims is in a state over her new Belfast house rental as the other tenants _parents_ have moved in! WTAF? Drama, walking in on her, moving her stuff, and phonecalls to the landlord ensue.

Have ordered two more connected toy devices for project, but still feeling aimless. How is there time to analyse them in the remaining timeframe? How can I reframe the project when they are not BLE? Do I just throw out my prior learning? How can I recover any of this? Everything is falling in on itself. I spend the wee hours aimlessly taking pcaps from Andoid phones and checking advertising packets, hoping the methodology I drew up when I was still feeling with it is enough to carry me through.

Those moments when you laugh at how bad you thought things were before. Those.

Aim’s dad is suddenly in hospital with three weeks to live. She is understandably devastated. We were together for nine years, but it was a long time ago. I just feel confused. Mostly I’m there just to help talk to her about it at 3am when she can’t sleep.

I’ve had to leave for an interview in Portsmouth for a Forensics job. There are no Forensics roles in NI for juniors, and no reimbursements or remote interviews when it’s police jobs. Interviews are costing a fortune. Two existing forensics officers got the posts, but the manager phoned to say she was really impressed with my technical ability and I was on the reserve list so wouldn’t need to reinterview if another role came up. Security vetting takes months, though. I need money before then.

The disseratation is just a thing that sits on a hard drive somewhere out of the way that I sometimes open to rearrange some bullet points in and add citations. Eventually the sad inevitable happens and I apply for an extension, but it doesn’t help things much. I spend the final couple of weeks writing numbly, checking and double checking, hoping it all makes some kind of sense somehow.

By the time the Viva rolls around, (the Viva I was excited about, because I am a confident person who enjoys presenting and sharing information, and who started with an exciting project) I am so tired and so numb with life that I feel almost detached from my own body. I watch myself do a bad job of explaining the point of my project, because my final conclusions have left me no longer convinced of the point myself, and present my examination progress, but fumble the findings, and do a bad job of conveying how much I actually know technically…

I’ve arranged to have lunch afterwards with my daughter, and check how she’s doing in her new house, and how she’s settling in with her new course in Belfast, closer to home, and I’m just glad I made it this far already.

It was nowhere near the fantastic project and report and Viva that I was excited to work on at the beginning. But given the circumstances, I feel, just maybe, I did alright to get this far.


P.S. For those who’ve emailed to tell me about the new QUB policy of allowing self-cert for things like headaches on exam days, I tried already, they are having none of it: