This one will be a little detour from the usual tech stuff. Last week, was one of the most fun-packed weeks I’ve ever had. It went like this:
- Wednesday: Work, then I invited 5 other friends to unlimited play at Ground Kontrol. We played lots of fun arcade games and tons of pinball. I’ve been really into pinball lately, so this was a treat.
- Thursday: Work, then celebrated a friend’s birthday at Oaks Park roller skating rink, then pizza and cake at her parent’s house. I got to make a whole bunch of new friends.
- Friday: Work then attended a 1990s-2000s era MTV Spring Break house party with another group of mostly new friends. I ate one of the snacks they had on the table, thinking it was some sort of dehydrated veggie puff. It was definitely NOT a dehydrated veggie puff snack. My naivety strikes again!
- Saturday: Went with a friend to help pick out a Christmas tree, then went to a Rose City Rollers derby match, then had a game night with my neighbors.
- Sunday: Visited the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry for the first time. It was wonderful.
It was a lot of fun, but looking back, I was struck with a question. What was so special about this week that made it so fun?
At first, I thought it was just lucky timing and somehow the stars aligned around my interests, birthdays, and parties, but that’s reductive. It wasn’t about luck.
At least, not entirely…
I started my career over ten years ago. I left my path as a physical therapist and transitioned into web development. It was the right decision. I’ve loved my work ever since, but I also worked my ass off. Early mornings, late nights, and lots of sacrifices.
I’m not going to argue that people must work hard to get ahead in this industry. This also isn’t a cautionary tale about burnout. This was my journey, and I’m glad for the way it went. It made me a good developer and led to a lot of great opportunities. If I could go back, I’m not sure if I would change it.
But there is one problem that I’m working now to fix. I allowed web development to consume too much of my identity: how I spent my time, what hobbies I enjoyed, things I cared to talk about, who I hung out with, what content I consumed.
It’s funny how it happens. You find something you love, so you want more. Before you know it, it’s all you can think about. It was an obsession. Maybe even safe to say I was addicted.
A hallmark of addiction is a negative impact on wellbeing and relationships. Fortunately, my health never suffered, but I can’t say the same about some relationships. No major drama, but there are some people who deserved better from me.
The most important relationship I betrayed was with myself.
I used to have hobbies like soccer and skimboarding and salsa dancing. They had all gone by the wayside because web development was more interesting. I became dispassionate about everything else. Web development was too good.
The problem with any good thing is it never lasts. When I finally realized that maybe I didn’t want web development to be my whole personality, it was already too late. I got burnt out and all that was left was a husk of a personality with no particularly interesting substance.
Because so much of my identity now rest upon a single pillar, when it began to crack and crumble, everything came down with it. It caused a lot of suffering and depression.
But this is not a sad story…
Earlier this year, I stopped drifting through each day and became deliberate about choosing the life I wanted and taking action. It took time and lots of effort, but I’m happy to say that I’m living my happiest life at the moment.
- I’ve been more intentional about nurturing existing relationships and giving more of myself into them.
- I’ve been more kind and compassionate to myself, extending the same grace and forgiveness inwardly as I do outwardly.
- I’m still playing soccer and riding bikes, and I’m also joining run clubs.
- I bought a pinball machine! It’s fun on its own, but also, it’s quirky and interesting to talk about. New hobbies are great. I play it all the time.
- I’m giving fewer f**ks about issues that don’t really concern me, trying to spend less time on social media, and less time worrying about what strangers think.
- I’m rediscovering things I used to really be passionate about, like travel and salsa dancing, and reserving time for them.
- I’ve set up calendar reminders for weekly events like salsa nights, run clubs, trivia, and such, so I don’t succumb to the daily routine.
- I’m booking events and blocking off time in my calendar several months in advance, so the time is already reserved.
- I’m researching and cataloging all the things I want to see, things to do, and places to eat in my city and going.
- I no longer code on nights and weekends. Still not sure how I feel about that. It’s fun and I kind of miss it, but right now I need a break.
- I’ve been exploring various forms of therapy. I’ll be honest, talking to someone doesn’t seem to be my jam, but I’m trying other things.
- I’m no longer putting off conversations with myself or others that need to happen, and letting people out of my life that don’t enrich it.
These are some of the actions I’ve taken, and many share a theme: nurturing existing relationships, meeting new people, physical exercise, prioritizing fun, novel experiences, mindfulness.
It was actually a lot of work. It’s not easy to change your daily routine. It takes deliberate effort to prioritize the “life” side of the balance. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s awkward, sometimes it’s embarrassing, it takes time, sometimes it’s inconvenient, and oftentimes it’s stressful, and it comes at a cost.
I’m not as good of a developer as I used to be. I’ll never be as good as I once wanted to be.
That’s ok. I’m good at other things. I’m a good friend, tied for great brother, a decent soccer player, an aspiring pinball enthusiast, an OK dancer, and, I like to think, a fun person to hang out with.
As I reminisce on the events from last week and feel lucky for these friends and opportunities, I have to remember that it was the result of deliberate changes I made to seek out new friends, activities, and fun. It doesn’t just happen on its own.
As the saying goes, luck favors the well-prepared.
So I hope after reading this, some of you will do the prep work to invite more luck and joy into your life. Especially if it means buying a pinball machine.
Originally published on austingil.com.