Over the last few months, I have been struggling with some fundamental aspects of who I am, what my interests are, and how they fulfill me. Something I have noticed as I get older is that when you feel low and need to regroup and find something that you enjoy, that you go back to the things you always liked and wrap yourself within it like a warm blanket. The trick though is that the things that bring you happiness and fulfillment yesterday aren’t necessarily going to work with who you are today.
Take coding and programming. When I was a child, I was very lonely. I didn’t have many friends, and I would seek refuge at my computer, creating computer programs and games to extend my fantasy life and to play. As I got older, I tried to take programming and make it something that was part of my career. I was good, and I enjoyed it, but without realizing it, I started to hit a wall. As the world of programming and software development got more complex, I was really struggling with making that leap and growing with it.
This happened in two ways. First, I found that I was in a career where I wasn’t required to code anymore. I was working as a product manager and as a teacher. When I looked at my former developer colleagues sticking with their career, they had to evolve and grow their programming disciplines and skills to keep pace with the industry. I didn’t have the same challenges, so I didn’t need to grow and evolve the same way.
I would look at myself and would criticize myself for standing still. I looked at myself two-dimensionally. I would look straight on and see my developer colleagues moving on one axis and I would just be standing there, immobile. But if you angled the camera on myself off to the side and look at the situation in three-dimensions, I actually was moving, but perpendicularly to my colleagues. I was moving, but just in a different direction.
Now this isn’t to say that I don’t love technology, but my tastes have changed. I used to think that my love for technology was about building and creating. One of the scariest moments in my life recently was when I was faced with the fact that I didn’t love building and creating anymore, that I, in turn, didn’t love technology anymore as well. I freaked out and felt that I had wasted so much of my life on something that I didn’t enjoy. I was so upset that I remember I went out and got blackout drunk at the idea that what I thought was the biggest love of my life was meaningless and unfulfilling to me.
The idea of losing anything in my life is extremely difficult; but that is usually from things external to me moving away. Be it friends, jobs, achievements—they all were external to me. It was even more unfathomable to consider loosing something because I was pulling myself away from it, using my own energy and drive. Especially when it was something that was so important to me and so formative for my childhood.
But the truth though is that I’m just a different person than I was before. I would hang out with my friends and they would talk about their latest coding projects and my eyes would glaze over because either I didn’t understand, didn’t comprehend, or I was reminded that I this interest was one that didn’t make me very happy anymore.
But recently when I have talked about this with other people, they all come to the same conclusion that I had never considered: “Why is this necessarily a problem?” It is true, there is no problem with getting older, changing interests, finding new passions in life, and adjusting things. The only problem is not allowing yourself to be happy and feel fulfilled.
The best analogy that someone told me is how much I love rearranging my office. I’ll move things around, put things away, bring things back out, and I’ll love it when it is done. Then a few months later I’ll do it again and it will be a different combination of things that I will equally love. What I keep thinking in my mind is that I’ll eventually find the perfect desk setup that I’ll stick with forever, but that will never happen, just like I’ll never find the perfect combination of interests, hobbies and fulfillment from the same things throughout my life.
So while my job involves technology, I’m going to hang up my hat as a developer in my personal life and embrace the new passions I have in my life: lacrosse, fitness, music, and writing. These will change over time as well, but right now, when I sit down at my computer and try to code and dive into what gave me passion and life I feel sad, frustrated, and unfulfilled—and as a result, rob myself of time and opportunity to do things that I love and make me happy today.
So fear not, I ain’t going anywhere, I’m just changing directions—and who knows, I may be right back to where I was, but that is part of the fun, right?