Have you ever dug your way out of a hole? A mental one, I mean. I’m pretty sure getting out of a physical hole just requires a shovel. But when the hole is inside of you, when you’ve convinced yourself of who and what you are, it’s hard to escape even if being there hurts you. If you believe you’re a victim, or a monster, it’s an especially rough hole to dig yourself out of. Some people don’t even try. They make themselves comfortable and wait in that hole into the end, set on the idea that this is their home. Even worse, they tend to drag others down with them.

Jena used to be exhibit A. She was convinced she would never play video games. Few appealed to her visually, and she didn’t grow up with them, so she never had a chance to develop the hand-eye coordination that’s so vital to gaming. Resigned to the idea, she sat in her hole, content that games would never join her there. That all changed when a controller dangled down connected to Dark Souls, the first game that ever appealed to her with its gameplay and visuals. Jena took a chance and grabbed for the controller –

And fell, because it’s wireless. Nothing to pull herself up with. She tried to stay content in the role of cheerleader and fan of the series and its lore.

But she was growing tired of the hole.

She had made passing attempts at playing Dark Souls games before (my over-directing coaching style didn’t help), all of which ended in frustration. But with the release date of Dark Souls 3 approaching, a change of strategy was in order. On Valentine’s Day this year, my gift to her was a training regimen. I promised to help Jena out of this hole, not by lifting her up, but by teaching her how to climb. And so sure was I of her ascent that I bet my ability to play Dark Souls 3 on it. I promised her that my favorite game would be permanently out of my grasp until she bested its first boss.

And she started to climb.

She stumbled here and there, but from building her hand-eye coordination with Guacamelee to honing an aggressive edge in Bloodborne, she was soon making amazing progress. She was climbing at a speed she never thought possible, and two months after she officially started playing video games, she bested the difficult Bloodborne boss Father Gascoigne by herself. A week later, at midnight, Dark Souls 3 was finally out. Racked with nervous energy, she approached the first boss, and just as quickly, vanquished him.

And something funny happened. She looked around, realizing she had climbed out of the hole herself, with the skills she created. And she was left with a sense of confusion, realizing that the limitations she had thought she was forced to live with were not only surmountable, but that she already had surmounted them.

So she looked for the next mountain to climb.

Jena’s still playing Dark Souls 3, and she’s actually farther than me already, finding secrets I completely overlooked. I’ll catch up with her eventually, but it may take me a while. She’s not someone who goes down easily.

So maybe she can beat just one more boss before I take my next turn…