10 years ago, you wouldn’t have ever seen me outside by nature. The closest thing to where you’ll find me outside is outside my neighborhood to play with my childhood friends. You wouldn’t even think that I’d want to go anywhere else, except right in the comfort of my computer desk and chair. One of my favorite hobbies along time ago was gaming and that was something I endearingly loved doing but as you know now, as I grew older, I discovered that a hobby I loved more and that I can see being with for the rest of my life is being in the outdoors. Gaming was a big part of my life once but I had to close those doors long ago. In fact, one game I used to play lasted up to 10 years…!!!
Many months ago, I shared my story of being a shopaholic that turned into a minimalist (proudly still one!) and now I’m going to share this story of transformation once again. How my life is now and from how grateful I am to have experienced a wonderful and adventurous life thus far was because of these stories. My life is not the most interesting (Regardless how much I love to adventure. I have met way more interesting individuals with lots of crazy life experiences.) but I have been through my fair share of experiences that shaped me to be the person I am now that pushed me to discover more of my passions and purpose.
Where my gaming addiction started
Since I was young, the computer is something I’d always consider as a big part of my identity, and that’s ever since my dad let me used his bulky Windows 98. I remember before I ever had my hands on a computer, I had my own game consoles, Playstation and Nintendo 64, and I was hooked playing all my favorite classics. It was something I looked forward to after elementary school days and on the weekends; the constant to play these games was something I could do for hours. But the computer was there too and I had access to the internet. “Web surfing” was fun for me and I sincerely believe that my curiosity started from there.
I came across the same things my older siblings have stumbled upon online. There were “dollz” makers (which are pixelated doll-like characters made into graphics) that I found really fun to play around with and then that’s where I self-taught myself at a very young age on how to code and the world of web design making my first website at 8 years old, but that’s another long story (and eventually contributed to what I wanted to further pursue in my current career of marketing).
Whatever my sisters wanted to check out, I was curious to check out too. My oldest sister (who is 4 years older than me) was introduced to this one MMO game by her best friend at the time. I decided to join the bandwagon and at 7 years old, in 2002, I decided to make myself a character.
Instantly, I felt like I was involved in a fantasy world where, at the time when I knew nothing about my identity and mind you, I was a child, I felt like I could be anyone I wanted to be. Roleplaying was a big part of the MMO game and it was one of the things I loved most about it. I was meeting “friends” online, building things, roleplaying, and the feeling of me being involved in a community was exhilarating for me as a child.
I was actually underaged when I joined the game (you had to be 13+ to join), but that did not keep me off of it. It prepared me to learn about the Internet lingo and I did learn more “adult” things at an early age, but the whole thing helped me develop some of my humor until this day.
I was on that game every day since discovering it. The game gave me more joy than anything I knew when I was young and looking back, I don’t regret that, but I do regret how much I was on it. Not too long after, I was on that game all the way to midnight and then I would hop right back on it in the morning. I was just as excited to play it again as much as I ended it the day before. It started to become a routine.
A routine that became so unhealthy for me. A routine that went on for 10 years. The only time I could be kept off of it was going to school. I couldn’t be on the game as much as I hoped to have been on it, even if I was already on it for hours!!! It felt depressing, almost like a feeling of sadness that will sink in when I had to not stay up late so I can go to school the next morning. And throughout the day, I would feel a feeling of longing to get back on it so I can feel those feelings of happiness once again.
However, as I mentioned, it was unhealthy. I could feel myself yawning and getting tired but I kept staying to play the game. I was eating my breakfast, lunch, and dinner right by the computer so I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. I would sit hours a day without getting little to no exercise.
I was on this game non-stop for the next 10 years. Around when I was 14 and starting high school, I made myself a promise to quit it throughout the school year. I did do a good job at that, but when summer rolled around and I was bored throughout the summers, I would hop right back on the game and so it continued.
I tried again and again to have my periods of “quitting time” but it was almost inevitable. My summers were filled with day to night gaming.
I wasn’t involved in many activities in my childhood.
I was a shy and timid child, very shy to the point of not being able to properly greet my peers or start a conversation, let alone contribute to conversations. I was so quiet and it led to many years of being bullied throughout elementary school (simply because I was quiet and being picked on that). The bullying was a traumatic life experience I’ve encountered that I do not talk about much, and it did lower my self-esteem a lot, which is completely opposite to how I feel in my adulthood. I wasn’t a pretty or talented child growing up and I was a heck of a quiet kid with little to no friends at school.
I wasn’t an athletic person either and wasn’t involved in any clubs in school that involved sports. The only sport I did play was lacrosse, recreational lacrosse — only in the summer of 8th grade, and that made me feel a bit confident. The other thing I was involved in at school was that I was in choir from 5th grade to 8th grade (I was a soprano) because I loved singing. Lastly, in high school, I knew I loved writing (you know, that’s why I love to blog…) more so when I joined the journalism club, which I discovered from being in a journalism class in 11th grade.
However, with bad anxiety I was suffering from, I kept falling back to gaming as a thing I could feel involved in without the need to socialize or to put myself out there. I was comfortable where I was. I discovered then that I was more introverted, even though in the nature of knowing me as present time Gabby, I now possess a side of extroversion.
Here’s an Instagram post I posted once about my ambivert (introvert and extrovert together) personality:
Where the realization of gaming was becoming too much for me
So, going back to my story, I wasn’t taking care of myself as much with gaming. I have a highly addictive personality and it was becoming clear that what I was doing with gaming was because I was addicted. I saw it as a way to distract me from other things that real life had to offer. I had let my grades slip, I had no dating experiences throughout high school, I was insecure and compared myself to my friends often, I had very poor sleeping and eating habits, and I turned down invitations of plans so I can hide away and be happy to do the one thing that kept me feeling somewhat “alive”.
My friends were the biggest reasons why I was motivated to get out of my addiction. I remember the feelings of feeling empty and that I was missing out started creeping in while playing. I had already started surrounding myself with outgoing friendships through the end of middle school to high school and they wanted to make plans. I simply could not carry on gaming anymore when I was focusing on what it was like to actually get out there with groups and devote my time to these friendships, which made me learn how quality time is so important to have to maintain relationships. (Quality time is also my top love language.)
I officially quit that game at 17 years old and that summer of junior year was the last time I’d play it again.
What happened when I quit? I got my first boyfriend, I graduated high school with passing grades, I made beautiful memories to laugh about with my friends for years to come, I had experienced my first job, and I was gaining confidence.
…But what about the outdoors?
The outdoors came a little later and I realized by 2016 when my friends took me on my second hike ever, I loved it. Maybe, experiencing the outdoors came a little earlier than that if you count the times I’d go to the Jersey Shore beaches to hang out and swim at. However, discovering that my love for nature lit me up in empowering ways.
My two best friends, Leslie and Karan, introduced me to hiking in 2016 and I would’ve never thought it’d be something I’d end up loving and hope to love doing for as long as I can.
I talk about the benefits of hiking and generally being in the outdoors in my posts about hiking here. I found it healthier for me to pursue than anything I’ve ever done in my life and it’s given me a burst of confidence that I will forever be thankful to have gained. It’s an addiction that can be manageable as I cannot always spend my time outside every day (especially if you work a 9-5 “office” job), but one that motivates me to keep getting out there and to keep discovering places.
It has motivated me to travel, to write, to be confident, to be enthusiastic, to be calmer, to be in touch with what I value vs. what doesn’t serve me anymore. It helped me share a passion with likeminded people like other bloggers that I talk to or support on my Instagram. It helped me be part of a few communities (52 Hike Challenge, Hike Like A Woman, the travel blogging community, etc.) and know that even if I choose to solo hike more, I am never alone in what I discover and share.
And although it’s much less safe to be outdoors than to stay indoors like I was in gaming, I still believe I get a thrill out of it like when I was playing games. It’s also now a healthy balance for me because I work 40 hours staring at a computer screen and using technology and I use my free time on the weekends to be outside. Even if it isn’t hiking I’m doing at those moments, there is still those outdoor activities of swimming, kayaking, road trips, camping, etc. All of those keep me active and allows me to receive endorphins in its own ways and to make memories that I could actually remember to smile about.
I don’t want to talk down at all on the community of gaming or those who do resonate with it as their hobby because trust me, I understand and I loved being a part of it. But, if there’s any advice I can give to people who are just getting started or are to the level of addiction I was on, I would highly encourage you to get out there and explore the beauty, mysteries, and magnificence of the great outdoors and the world around us. There is so much to learn from it and so much to share with others, and so much you can become intrigued about that will take you to an adventure that will provide similar thrilling feelings.
Gaming was once my way for an escape, but now in real life, I can really escape.