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Cover image for When was the last time you were happy?

When was the last time you were happy?

blueswanisfree profile image Blue Swan ・3 min read

I love coding.

I wrote my first line of code when I was 5 or 6 by copying some code from a piece of paper to a BASIC interpreter on a toy laptop. A year later I had reverse-engineered the language from some code listings and was fluent enough to write small text-based games. That was an entirely different era where the internet was not in every home, Google was just as small as you and me and there were no smartphones. It was the fascinating age of the SMS, the floppy disk and the PDAs; no consumer device screen was touch-enabled at the time and code was very often found in paper form. If you are wondering, I'm not that old after all, I'm a kid of the early '90s who grew up with hacker movies and a father who didn't believe in technology.

I didn't have many friends - basically just one - so programming was to me an escape from the real world of loneliness to the magnificent universe of the cyberspace where I could create whatever I envisioned; I could shape the world to be as I wanted to and this made me happy. Because what is our ultimate goal in life if not to be happy?

Since those very first days I have never ceased writing code. Not once.

At eleven I was basically doing two things only: programming computers in secret and reading books - I was free. At that time I had a computer home but couldn't really use it without permission, so I had to keep coding outside, at an internet cafe (hello again, '90s!) where the owners liked me and let me use a machine for free whenever I wanted.

When seventeen I didn't want to become a professional software developer because I was afraid I could start to hate coding but things in life rarely go the way you expect and I ended up with a degree in biomed engineering, working as a professional software engineer for the financial behemoths.

Now the problem with the world I work in is that everything is about money (oh really?) and most of the time you work with people who know everything about financial practices and nothing about software development - including managers. So you are often expected to work like you are worth nothing and without complaining because your are lucky.

The good thing is that despite everything I still love coding and work on my projects every day, during my launch pause, before going to bed and study new subjects every day as well, during my commute to work and back. But the job is truly frustrating because whatever you do is not appreciated and it doesn't matter how much you do, they will always ask you for more in less time. You are nothing more than a resource at the mercy of the latest whim of senior management that could be terminated at any time due to headcount reduction. And you sink.

And I've been feeling like sinking for this last year, feeling like I never have enough time, trapped, sometimes even getting angry with the few people I love for no apparent reason. So I asked myself the following question: when was the last time I was happy?

I basically have no life beside work, even for small things like having a walk with my girlfriend or enjoying a weekend in the woods, far away from the city. Is this what adults are expected to live like? Is it truly this what our generation's kids shall expect from their future? Because I don't like it and I want out. I didn't ask for this and I want it to be different. I want to work for a better life, not because I'm expected to do it.

So here I stand, questioning my chances of success in the world of freelancers that seems so mystical sometimes, having so many questions that just can't be answered by reading a blog post. But one thing is for sure: I'm standing here on the ledge between the promises of freedom and the certainty of my prison of code lines, pulling me up on the tip of my toes and getting ready to take the leap. Because there is nothing like being able to live your life and be happy with your own job, in your own clothes. So if you are feeling trapped like me and you are thinking if it's worth to trade your secure income for the promise of freedom, then ask yourself: when was the last time you were happy?

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Blue Swan

@blueswanisfree

Corporate software engineer planning his escape to freelance. I mostly do Python, Javascript, C# and C/C++. Love GNU/Linux.

Discussion

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This may not be what you are looking for, but I would recommend researching management even if you never want to become a manager. It will help give you insight into how to deal with managers while keeping your sanity.

Some things that I have picked up. Never give your manager a date for a project. If pressed, a 10/50/90 chart is enough. Communicate up front with any delays and difficulties so that they don't feel in the dark, but you should always leave at the same time.

If that isn't working, just remember that the gears of bureaucracy are implacable but usually move slowly for minor things like not fitting the culture. They are probably about as scared of firing you as you are of being fired. Use that time to find a place that is a better fit.

 

I'm not scared of being fired, just pissed of feeling the axe continuously swinging above my head regardless of the good feedback I keep receiving.

But you're right: if you study the basics of management you get better chances to see things the way they do and anticipate/better handle the situations that can (and will) come. I noticed this first hand when started reading about leadership.

 

Yeah, it sucks. I think we just need to remember that the axe isn't actually over our heads, but over the ropes that tie us to the metaphorical ship.

 

Now the problem with the world I work in is that everything is about money (oh really?) and most of the time you work with people who know everything about financial practices and nothing about software development - including managers. So you are often expected to work like you are worth nothing and without complaining because your are lucky.

Welcome to Dilbert.

dilbert.com/

 

I honestly can't remember.