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Ask HN: I'm a dull person since software doesn't excite me anymore. What to do?
76 points by glorifiedcalc on Jan 10, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 57 comments
I've loved computers since I was a kid. Got a degree in CS, worked at a few small companies, and then landed a job in a large tech company, which was my dream. Then everything went to shit.

Before that job, I was crazy about anything related to software. My life was devoted to reading papers, learning new languages, libraries and frameworks, and thinking about the future of things and what could be improved. I had an extreme drive to work and deliver, and a stellar career up to that point.

I really wanted to work for one of the big tech companies, so I started applying to them. I didn't really care about the project I would be in, as long as I got a job in one of those companies.

So I landed one of those jobs. And the project SUCKED. In two years, it turned me into a complete cynic towards software. I don't see the value in things like I used to anymore. I don't want to think about technology. I want to use computers as glorified calculators, nothing more. I dread hearing about frameworks, IDEs, debuggers, compilers, Unicode, RFCs, protocols, what have you. Everything seems unnecessarily complex.

I thought the problem was that bad project, so I switched teams. One of the coolest teams in the company, actually - lots of publicity, contributes to open source, really smart people. But the scar from the previous two years is still there. I can't find that passion in me anymore, and my performance is mediocre. I spend my days dreaming about early retirement.

What depresses me is seeing how uninteresting a person I am now that I don't have all that passion for software. Because I spent so many years focusing on it, I feel like I have nothing else in me. I don't have hobbies. I haven't traveled a lot. I don't appreciate art. I don't even play video games. I'm as good to talk to as a brick of mud. I don't know what to do.

Sorry for the wall of text. I guess I'm looking for people who have been through a similar experience and recovered from it.

I'm facing this. I think it's a kind of trauma. I've dealt with death march projects too often, often becoming the 'hero' who has to bail out everyone's butts. At three points in my life, I've worked about 100 hours straight to rescue a project.

I'm recovering. I tried coding something I like, but that didn't help. I tried vacations and sleeping it off. I tried binging on games.

What works for me is a fan base. It's great to know your work has impact on people. It's nice to get "this is awesome!!" feedback, and better yet cash donations.

I think the team itself has very little to do with it. There are awful teams, but in general, you can still get the same feeling from a superb team and great people.

Productive engineers = happy engineers.

Maybe try a simple project that you can feel the results. Especially if it can net you positive feedback.

100 hours sounds hectic. The last time I worked long hours for 2 continuous weeks and weekends I nearly quit my job the following Monday. Some sleep and a day off work changed my mind.

It sucks when you're in rescue mode on a project. I am on a project that is going a bit like that. A part of me wishes it ends sooner than later, because even though I took a month off work, by the end of next my first week, it'll feel like I never went away.

What would you recommend at the start of a project to avoid the death march? I'm struggling to find the right mix in people to help us balance our teams well. Lots of keyman dependencies which we can't handle at times. Thanks

Almost all my death marches happened when the project is being authoritatively led by a non-engineer.

An engineer's estimate is usually conservative. If someone says it'll take 2 months, it'll probably take minimum two months. If you have good engineers, they're not trying to slack off by padding estimates. Respecting project estimates go a long way.

The right team also matters. In some, we had interns working on a key component. I'm not saying interns are bad, but generally you don't want grumpy, underpaid people to work overtime.

The designer has to respect the engineers. If you do a design that sticks to guidelines or something like Material Design, you'll be fine. But some designers try something really weird, in order to win an award, and some of those tiny details are pointless but would take 50% of the production time.

I actually did ragequit in most of those jobs. I know it sounds tantrum-y, but I'd say it rescued a lot of those projects. When you quit a well-paid job, the company immediately assumes that you have a very good reason to quit and starts listening. Then they allocate some resources, like a tester, dedicated designer, and the API guy sits with front end for those 100 hours straight.

You my friend, got burnt out. You need to take some time away from it all. Go on travel for a while then see how things turn up.

I once got burnt out and didn't want to know anything about programming anymore. Time later rediscovered my passion for it again, was like a second falling in love and have been enjoying it since.

If you want to talk my email is in my profile.

You sound depressed. Loss of interest in work can be a symptom of depression. Feeling boring is about loss of self value. Possibly there are other things not going well in your life? You don't say how old you are but as you get older life moves from being super career focused to a point where other things start to matter. If you have not invested your life and time into other things then obviously you don't have a well balanced life to support you through the hard times.

Probably you will regain your love for software development - I have fallen out of love with it a few times but it comes back as life changes.

What you do need is balance - 1 hour per day exercise, you need plenty of human relationships in your day to day life (invest time in family, friends, others), work that interests you - (time to start looking for a new job?) and depending on your life stage maybe its time to start thinking about starting a family.

Finally you definitely need to find a good counsellor/therapist to be talking this stuff over with - HN is not the place.

You just answered your own question. Time to go become an interesting person.

First of all, you have burnout. You need to heal, and it'll take time. I know. I have been there and back again. Aim to spend at least 6 months not working in your field. A lot of people will say travel. Could be, but doesn't have to be.

Now, an anecdote. I was working in non-profit fundraising and attended a talk by one of the celebrated thinkers on major donor fundraising. She said the key to working with major donors, to being able to create meaningful, non-parasitic relationships with people who have a lot of money to bring to the cause, is to be interesting. Interesting people are interesting because they have a full life of experiences outside their profession. Interesting people do not spend all their time working. So her answer to becoming a better fundraising professional, was to work less, and live more. This struck me as widely applicable advice.

> I'm a dull person since software doesn't excite me anymore. What to do?

You are not alone. What you're experiencing has many names: Here in the tech world we call it "burnout". I dislike the word "burnout". It suggests that your JOB is the ultimate source of your dissatisfaction. It rarely is. Your work may indeed factor heavily in the equation... but your problem is NOT "too much work", it's "too little of things that I love".

Figure out what's dulling your shine* (Hint: it's not a lack of interest in software) and go unfuck yourself!

[*] Some suggestions: - Haven't been outside much? Go for a hike. - Haven't been dating much? Go on a date. - Wish you could travel more? Take time off ASAP and travel. - Lost interest in programming? Take time off ASAP and travel. - Feel like nobody loves you? You're wrong, they do.

Just stay focused on "what do I WANT TO DO"... "What do I LOVE". Then make steps to go do those things. You've let key elements of YOURSELF starve and wither away. It's a bad situation, sure. But the good news is that it's temporary, and you can fix it (quicker than you'd imagine!) Just invest in yourself :)

I'm in a similar position.

I wanted desperately to get out of my last company, which was a very abusive environment. So I switched jobs and landed at a company that's treated me better than any other employer I've had... except I'm now totally burned out on the work. It's all academic/research stuff, which I'm terrible at and have zero interest in, and it's basically killed my interest in my job. I'm getting ready to start sending my resume out, but I have a strong feeling the burnout will just follow me wherever I go even if my next job has me working on systems/infrastructure stuff again (which I worked on at my previous jobs and liked).

Also, over a year since I left my last job, I still have a lot of emotional scars left from the abusive way my last employer treated me.

Another thing that's got me is my age. I'm 31, and I'm still working a fairly junior position. I actually don't mind that. I have no career ambition, and as long as I'm making enough money to comfortably pay my bills, I couldn't care less about chasing a higher salary. I'm content to work junior coding positions for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, as I get older, employers aren't going to see it that way. They're going to wonder why I haven't advanced into a leadership role at my age, and I'm dreading the day I get asked that in an interview. It also means I can't really talk about career stuff with my friends, because most of the CS people I went to college with are now in leadership roles or other senior technical positions, and I have much more in common with people who started college the year after I graduated (and I've done an absolutely terrible job of making new friends since graduating college, so most people I know are people I went to college with).

I have a feeling that if I wasn't completely aromantic, I'd be happiest living like Mrs. Roberts from xkcd, as a housewife who still hacks on personal projects for fun.

It sounds like you're depressed -- I don't know if that's accurate, but it's my interpretation of the feeling(s) that you've described. If you think depression or a similar experience may be part of this, I recommend either talking to a mental health professional or seeking out resources geared toward depressives.

What happened to you, is the collision of your idealism (as expressed mainly through software) with "the real world" (that one project that SUCKED). It happened to me as a musician. It happens to everyone, maybe. The world bitch-slaps you and you survive it and that's one less thing that can bother you. You are now, arguably, a man, or at least you could evolve into one, depending on how you process and work through this.

You are in a grief process. What died, is your idea of the world as a continuously improving place where things are done right and for the right reasons. (You found out it is a huge clusterfuck full of mediocrity.)

What you need to remember though, is that your power is not IN the software, any more than mine was in the music. Software for you is only an "instrument" through which you express your personal power. The power is not in the instrument, it's in you. And you therefore have the option - an infinite array of options - for how to express it.

One idea: Since you may or may not be done with software now, instead of dreaming about early retirement, make a plan and make it happen. See this guy: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com for inspiration. Then you'll have plenty of time to explore other things. Though it may mean a few more years doing this.

And/or, in the shorter term, the obvious thing to do is go explore some things and see if they interest you. Don't be all "I have to be a connoisseur overnight," just keep an open mind. Go see one play. Take an improv (like as in acting) class. Go to an art gallery opening. Learn to play a musical instrument. Go on one trip -- and LEAVE YOUR FUCKING PHONE IN THE SUITCASE UNTIL NIGHTTIME. Excuse me. I'm serious though, time away from technology, either incrementally or permanently, is probably what you need.

Technology is not the solution to the world's ills, it is ultimately fairly empty, and arguably causes more problems than it solves. That doesn't mean it's not worthwhile - the Zen master still sharpens his sword now doesn't he? Not because he needs a sharp sword (or hopefully never does), but because the act of sharpening, sharpens him.

I might suggest a different diagnosis to your lack of interest: it's not that you don't care about software, it's that you don't care about the business you're in.

Software, to me, is a set of tools. Some are super fun to use, and I find I'm getting better at the skill of using them, and can help tutor others on the finer points in their use. I do enjoy that. But the tools themselves are merely the means to an end, when it comes to what makes me passionate about my job.

I work in a business that I'm really excited about (operations management software for warehouses and transportation/delivery at a large e-commerce company). I love it. I love the big picture of what's being done. I love the customers. I really love flying to places to meet the customers, empathizing with them, learning their needs and desires, and then solving their problems and making their lives easier.

That's why I get excited about my job, what gets me out of bed in the morning. The software? That's a toolbox I use to achieve my goals. Fun tools, I admit, and I strive to master them- but they're just the tools.

So my advice to you is very simple: go find a business where you care about the customers. Then practice your skill with your tools by helping those customers. If that doesn't make you love your job, well, there's always money in trade skills like welding.

Same thing happens to me time and again. I get passionate about X - spend all my time learning everything I can about X and one day I wake up and couldn't care less about X. This happens once every 5 years. It's just the way I am and have made peace with it.

The answer is to look for the next X that gets you passionate again - i.e. Y. This can be anything you choose - a new startup, get into software marketing, write a book, teach .... the world is your oyster.

Any tips for finding the next x?

Throwaway for obvious reasons.

First check you minerals and vitamins, psychiatrist, blood tests etc.. I had similar problem and it was magnesium and bad glasses.

Secondly count your money and see what is your runway. You probably have enough to take a break for a year or two in cheap country.

And third check your working conditions. There is usually some sort of allergy, missing reward etc.. For example some people can not work in open-spaces.

> I dread hearing about frameworks, IDEs, debuggers, compilers, Unicode, RFCs, protocols, what have you. Everything seems unnecessarily complex.

Find a niche. I make money on Delphi (my IDE is from 2003) and we dont have such things.

> What depresses me is seeing how uninteresting a person I am

Uninteresting to whom?

> I don't have hobbies. I haven't traveled a lot. I don't appreciate art. I don't even play video games.

There is nothing wrong about that, art etc is boooooring. You can fix traveling or art problem in a few weeks, most people will never be able to even read code. And if its so important why just not fix it?

Anyway my impression is that you miss reward/recognition for what you do, someone told you are nerd etc.. There is good self-improvement subreddit with over 100K subscribers, but I can not post link here.

Good luck.

I was burned out on software by the time I entered college... I had been working internships at big tech companies, a lab, an Internet non profit... I basically felt the same thing you did at that point. Every codebase looked like the same agglomeration of interfaces and standards and shit I didn't care about. Every project I started hit a roadblock when I found everything started by writing some FFI. Just interfaces on interfaces!

So, I stopped! I'd advise you to as well. Pick up something new. I think what you're feeling is that writing an interface because you have to just feels like work. What have you accomplished? Find some problem in another field you can apply your skills to and try to solve it simply and efficiently and by yourself. Maybe something simple! I think Linus's dive log is a really good example of this. You're burned out. Or maybe you're not and the unnecessary complexity involved in modern software really is just kinda saddening. Do something else. You'll feel better.

Sounds like you really do need some hobbies. We can't code all of the time. Even the most passionate of hackers would get burnt out like that. You're burnt out; time for a change of pace.

I've been there a few times over the course of about 10 years. My strategy is to seek out a new field within tech which I haven't yet explored, and which is in no way related to my job (web dev).

Currently I'm trying my hand at building an underwater ROV. This combines my background in programming with the field of robotics, in which I have little expertise but oodles of interest. It hasn't directly helped me in my "actual" job per se, but it has given me new channels to explore that keep me thinking, learning, and experimenting. That's the important part.

Of course, you don't need to stay within the field of tech to find something that motivates you. It just happens that robotics (and the ocean) is an old passion of mine that I haven't even nearly exhausted.

We all change and find new priorities as we age, it's normal.

> I don't have hobbies. I haven't traveled a lot. I don't appreciate art. I don't even play video games. I'm as good to talk to as a brick of mud.

Well, what are you waiting for? Buy some tickets, travel the hostel circuit to save money, and take some community college classes before & afterward. Music appreciation, anthropology, photography, and astronomy were some of my favorites. Luckily software intersects with all of them these days if/when you're ready to return.

Life is too short. Quit, and find something you do love.

Maybe you'll do something else for a couple of years then remember you do love software and come back (on a new team/project) - who knows.

The important thing is you do something you love NOW.

I hit the same wall, quit my job and spent 2 years driving from Alaska to Argentina, improving my photography, learning Spanish, etc. etc. It was an amazing break, and I was excited to get stuck back into Software Engineering when I got back. Four years later I've just quit again and I'm heading off around Africa for 2 years.

What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: "This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence—even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!"

Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: "You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine." If this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are or perhaps crush you. The question in each and every thing, "Do you desire this once more and innumerable times more?" would lie upon your actions as the greatest weight. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?

I received a degree in computer graphics and graphic design from Indiana University in 1994 and worked 25 years in software development. I too have reached the point where I see that we only create more complex problems with technology. We were told we'd make life easier, but we've only made more complex systems and have removed the human connection as a solution. I believe rather than creating BIG data solutions we can create community sizes that function as a system and that support our needs without draining the earth and ecosystem of its resources. We may make things so complex that they'll collapse in on themselves.

I've been a project manager, senior project manager, program manager and COO in software development. I've seen a lot of people burn out and be frustrated by seeing their efforts shelved and never used.

I've started using my organizational skills in sustainability and environmental efforts - with a love for local food - and am planning to build a sustainable community. Early stages, check http://gatheringspirits.wordpress.com/


The first step to solving a problem is to admit you, like all of us, have one. Start by appreciating yourself for seeking answers to those problems. Here are some I've learned along the path:

1. Understand and listen to what causes you suffering and leads to dissonance. For example, what makes you not want to think about technology when you clearly used to love it? What is your emotional response to thinking about not traveling for the next year? Acknowledge the emotions you have and realize the questions will never end.

2. Set intent. What things can you do in your life to enable step #1 to happen faster? Explore your options. There is an answer out here for your question, but it takes you to find it.

3. Keep your intent free of dissonance. Biases, blaming or speaking for others, and rationalizations are indications of dissonance that'll just slow you down and hinder you doing #2.

4. Use #2 to drive putting yourself into situations, in all parts of your life, that encourage #1 to happen faster. You switched teams. Are you willing to switch companies? Careers? Doing #1 is frequently scary. Try to face your fears.

Glad you posted! You aren't the only one going through this, by a long shot.

My story is similar. I loved computers and programming, have a degree, done it for years, in my early 30s. I spent 80-100 hour weeks keeping a dying startup alive for a year without pay before finally leaving. My mental state was very similar to what you describe: Loss of interest, decreased self-worth, and an uncertain future. It sucks and I'm sorry you are going through it.

I wish I could tell you how to move past it, but I haven't figured that out yet. I also suspect different things work for different people.

I agree with the others who suggested this may be burnout and/or depression. It was in my case, although I am predisposed due to personal and family history. Consider therapy, meds, exercise, socializing, and self-help books. I recommend the CBT-family of therapies (CBT/DBT/ACT/REBT) and books by Albert Ellis and David Burns in particular. Therapy and self-help can be beneficial regardless of whether or not you have a mental illness.

I would not recommend what I did: I moved to a new city to take Masters-level CS courses as a non-matriculated student, with plans to apply to grad programs if it worked out. It didn't. I failed miserably. If you don't have an interest in the professional work, it may transfer to academic work and further complicate a difficult transition. The lack of social support and career network also shouldn't be underestimated. Although switching gears and pursuing education may be exactly what you need, be aware of the risks.

Make a goal of building the life you want. Don't fret over sunk costs. It's not too late to start over or change direction, and your skills and experiences are likely to be valuable even in completely unrelated pursuits. Best of luck!

Many people get to that point, and I agree with other comments that it might be depression or just fatigue.

I'm going back to work tomorrow, and I'm not looking forward to it because the project I'm on isn't going well. A few days ago I asked myself if I'd be feeling different if the project was going well, and concluded that I would be. I'm 26, and can still change a lot that I dislike. I'm going to stick through the project, but after it ends (if it ends) I'm moving on to something else.

I've dealt with depression a lot as a kid, and also a bit in my short working career. Doing something different definitely helps, making new friends and forming new habits on your own or with them.

I have a cooking/baking/movie partner, she doesn't understand half of the things I talk about at times, and I also don't understand a lot of things she does. So we teach each her about what we do when we meet up. Talking helps, but also doing something to spend time off the monitor and keyboard helps me.

I hope this is useful to you or someone else.

EDIT: typos

Take a few steps back and try to recall the real reason why you were so passionate early on: you found something that resonated with you deeply. You will not gain that same insight if you do not just "let it go" (no Disney-esque pun intended there).

Often times, holding onto what made you happy or satiated your desires despite it hurting you in a bad way, is a recipe for a downward spiral to nowhere.

Try a new hobby, make sure new people are involved. Sign up for a class in accounting or something related to woodworking. Important part of this practice is _people_. You must have others new people around you that have _no_ idea about what you do professionally or during most of you waking hours. That way you will not feel the weight of the world on you shoulders.

I have been there, man. However, it only gets better if you own it. Good luck!

Go work for a smaller company where you can collaborate more directly with customers, founders, etc.

What has helped me is playing with the combination of OpenCV and iOS. None of the issues of enterprise configuration management or change management or project management. Just thinking about how to solve a problem using software and doing it.

I do think this is going to be a big problem for humanity in very near future.

I've read extensively about blackwater and ISIS recruits and most of them are pure adventurers and don't care about ideologies. People all over the world are finding it hard to lives defined by constant consumption without any inherent meaning to define it by.

All the vc's and technologists who are supposed to go after basic human problems are doing stupid shit like self-driving cars, gassy powders for food, watches/fitness garbage ect. Maybe you can start your own startup to solve your own problem of passion.

If you can afford it, switch job... Anything not computer related... Learn to cook... Do something that gives you happiness and make a living of that. Or... Take part time computer related job, as freelancer or offsite contractor and use the spare time un some personal project. Maybe electronics and IoT / home automation can be a profitable area of development and your previous software background can be helpful. Definetly you should take therapy. That will help you to find the lost taste for what you do and redirect your efforts in be a happy person.

+1 for Travel.

I'm guessing you're in your 20s and have saved up a bit. You could travel awhile in India, Southeast Asia, South America, etc. You'll have some crazy experiences and reset your views

As dumb and hackneyed it sounds, some more sport may help get your balance back. You should try some high intensity interval training, yoga or running. Works wonders on your longterm mood.

I have been through the same! :)

Back in high school when I started programming with the LAMP stack I was totally hooked. I spent most of my first two years in high school doing the same. As I entered my third year I was kind of burned out and wanted to try something new. I shifted my focus towards doing other cool stuff. There was still that tinkerer in me who wanted to break and fix things.

One thing that kept my interest was my desire to break and fix things without thinking about the outcome.

My email is in my profile if you want to talk. :)

Challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone with something completely new to you.

Why not going in a random place, with no phone, no laptop, no device? Learning mediation is something unattractive ? You might have found something then!

I think I'm a really young person, my opinion is biased because of my poor perception of your problem. Although I hope you might find an idea or a challenging way to deal with your "re-building".

Whatever you do, when you come back, make sure not to work for an agency, especially the ad-variety. It will suck the life out of you. Find a product you actually believe in and only worn with people you want to. Best way to get unfucked.... I think :-/. But seriously though, don't work with any bodyshops or ad-agency but will kill you.

Big companies can suck the enthusiasm out of you, but don't mistake it for not liking what you like anymore.

Just take some time off, without even opening your laptop, and you'll see that your passion will come back.

It happened to me in the past, and the problem was just that I had overdone it.

> Everything seems unnecessarily complex.

This impulse to find a simpler land of software is what I relate to in the Suckless stuff, and Terry Davis' TempleOS.

What these have in common is a large degree of separation from "the industry." There is no commercial reward in following this impulse. But I think it marks a certain level of maturity as a person who is passionately into computers and software and thinks about them a lot.

Computers aren't the problem. Software isn't the problem. The culture of people who write software is only part of the problem. The problem is "the industry."

If you really can't stand the unnecessary bullshit anymore and aren't going to become a hermit on a mountain you probably should at least find other hobbies, if not change careers.

Take a 6 month to 1 year sabbatical, and do everything else that you always wanted to do. The love for programming will most likely come back. I speak from experience.

Take a break. Say, a year if you can afford it. Go do something unrelated to software. If you're anything like me in 3-4 months the itch will be back.

I highly recommend the book called Impro from Keith Johnestone. It could help with the uninteresting feeling a lot.

Great book. There are a few videos of Johnstone on YouTube, including an interview that I thought was interesting.

If you want to get your joy back for software I suggest 2 things to do every day:

A) Start juicing (green things and apples) everyday. A glass in the morning and one before dinner is good.

B) Start to let the body do what its ment to do: move - and make sure its every muscle fiber that gets contracted and stretched.

I have met many people with codefatigue / softwarefatigue - and its basically always been a lack of focus on the needs of the cells constuting our body.

Physical exercise, enough sleep, good food and sunlight can work wonders.

What do you imagine yourself doing when you daydream about that early retirement?

Now I'm humming that Father John Misty song that goes "people are boring, but you're something else completely..."

This isn't much of a cheer up but lots of people are dull in this sense. Maybe they've worked at the DMV for 40 years. Or they've been dealing with local politics all their life. Maybe they have a hobby but in all likelihood that's boring, too—tell me more about your ski trip or your pottery...

In first person, skiing is awesome, but it's useless for being an "interesting person." Some people are interesting from a varied life experience, and some people bore everyone to death with their fascinating anecdotes. There are other factors and the focus on having "wasted one's life" is, I think, a red herring.

Because the real problem doesn't seem to be how to be interesting but how to be interested. If you're moderately burned out then your capacity for interest fades. Enjoyment becomes less enjoyable.

I sometimes watch a video with the psychotherapist Adam Phillips who talks about the need to find one's appetite. It's a good notion because it's counter to the quasi-Buddhist ideal of non-desire that's floating around, and it's also not just telling you to "enjoy" yourself in the obvious ways—but to really locate your appetite as if you don't really know where it is or how it works.

I would suggest that boredom with software can be a useful attitude. The proliferation of infrastructural complexity doesn't benefit end users, and for any given purpose there is value in minimizing the amount of necessary software to achieve it. Code is technical debt; that's why everyone loves to remove lines of it.

So your incentive as an engineer who sees software as a burden is in many ways aligned with good business. This might make you curious about ways to simplify and write less code. That's a huge topic and the focus of some of the smartest people in the field. Maybe it's even the primary topic of computer engineering.

Townes van Zandt sang "life's mostly wasting time," but I'd say it's mostly dealing with bullshit and problems. Work is like this: something is messed up and you need to fix it. There may be a grander vision motivating your work, but there will always be days when that's far off and you're just down in the muck with your hands dirty from CORBA stack traces and horrible complicated "logic" (to use the industry euphemism for the growing accumulations of special cases and workarounds). At this point it's good to have a repertoire of attitudes that includes the role of a technician who puts on her gloves and jacket and goes down into the mess holding her breath.

Then there are two more things.

The first is the real possibility that your current place of employment is not a good fit. Maybe you would be more engaged at an early startup, or more inspired somewhere with a more diverse staff, or you might need different terms like Wednesdays off, half time telecommute, or whatever other arrangement. I don't know and it might take experimentation. If your boss is sympathetic, hopefully you can work something out, or you can find another place.

The other thing is mental health broadly speaking. Lots of people in IT have "issues" and you can find dozens of courageous conference talks with personal stories of mental unwellness. Working people in general for obvious reasons can become dissatisfied with life, especially those whose job involve sitting still at the same desk every day—dealing with broken shit.

The state of affairs societally is obviously broken, and hopefully the next few years will have more recognition of this—talk of reduced hours and even basic income schemes are becoming normalized and viable. Still, political shifts notwithstanding, you need to take real measures in your life to combat the tendencies toward overwork, overdistraction, and the spiral of boredom.

It's a spiral because it involves feedback loops that demand either strong effort or clever judo to escape. There are bootstrapping problems involved when your problem is that you don't want to do stuff. Malignant problems exacerbate themselves: lack of interest leads to fear of dullness leads to nonactivity.

For all of this last point my primary advice is to talk to a professional in mental health. This is what they do. In some cases they might recommend a medicinal method of bootstrapping, if you're okay with that and if you need it. But they also work with things like thought patterns and general counselling. Experienced therapists will have talked to hundreds of people with similar problems.

Secondarily, while I sympathize and recognize your situation, I'll respectfully disagree that lack of hobbies makes a person dull. For an obvious contraindicator, this thread itself shows that you have questions to ask that people find relevant. Mental content isn't everything. As a human you're endowed with the capacities of consciousness that we all share and that's the basis for curiosity, not some amount of learned facts or skills.

I mean, you don't need anyone's permission to start traveling, and all travelers start from this state of ignorance, yet their basic human receptiveness makes them capable of curiosity, and that makes them "interesting" as travelers.

If you're not clinically depressed, if you can wake up in a hostel room and after a cup of coffee feel basically alright, you can go out in any foreign city and look around. You don't need to be knowledgable about architecture or politics, but if you're in Bangkok and see the king on billboards everywhere you'll get curious and sooner or later you've learned about the history of Thai monarchism, maybe even read The King Never Smiles, and then when Southeast Asia comes up, you're suddenly the guy with the interesting knowledge, and all you had to do was follow your natural curiosity.

I've saved this for last but consider meditation—in the very simple sense of sitting down quietly in the morning or evening, maybe with a cup of tea or something. It's all dressed in flowery metaphysics and people get excited about it but it's such a simple thing, to sit quietly. I don't keep up with the science, but I don't need statistical surveys to know that sitting quietly now and then is good for me. It's obvious. It can feel excruciating when you're mind is racing and you're bored or full of self-loathing or whatever, but beneath all that thinking activity you're strengthening a deeper capacity—and after 15 minutes, you have a new perspective, bad moods can dissipate, anxious thoughts dispersed, like Adam on the first morning (as Whitman wrote).

I'm way far into pretentious zone with meditation and Walt Whitman but whatever. Best wishes.


I just did just that. Traveled the world for ten months. Now I really can't stand to be at work! I keep thinking of all the next places to go to.

Ditto. In September, I took a road trip to NYC and back. It was my first time out of town in 6 years. Now all I can think about is how I can't wait to do it again, and my job bums me out more than ever...

If you're not in debt, quit your job and do a long term trip. You will probably change your life. If you are in debt, sort that out first, or look at realistic outcomes for skipping the country.

“Traveling makes men wiser, but less happy,” according to Thomas Jefferson.

The same could be said for learning and knowledge in general.

"to live is to travel.."

soren kierkegaard

Perhaps launching a startup will spice things up.

Find something you're interested in and go do it.

As others have said, it sounds like you are burned out and depressed.

There are various ways to recover, but there is a good chance it will happen again unless you make some changes.

A good start would be revisiting your dream.

How old were you when your dream took hold? It sounds like the seeds were planted when you were a kid and probably in full bloom by the time you got to college, and was in hand what, within 5 years of graduating?

And then what happened? You got an inkling that your dream and reality weren't well aligned. Still, you held on to the dream, blamed circumstances, and tried a new project, but that didn't do the trick.

It doesn't seem though like you've considered the obvious: of course reality doesn't match your dream, your dream was conceived by a teenager! Of course you were off the mark!

Forgive yourself for not having it all figured out. Realize that the stuff that you thought was so important and interesting was only part of the picture. Realize that your previous enthusiasm wasn't wasted, that many of the things you invested in still matter, but that you have gaps to fill.

Realize too that missing the mark with your dream is actually a huge opportunity, because that old dream was limited by your narrow experience. You now know more about the world. You now realize that there are whole aspects of the world that you are ignorant of.

Think of how much you have to learn, how much you have to discover! Realize that this takes a huge burden off you, off your work, your career. Work doesn't have to be the source of all the meaning in your life. Realize that its Ok if some days, weeks, or even months, you are just working for the paycheck, just working so you can find meaning in something else.

Once you've changed the place your work occupies in your life, don't be surprised if you find yourself looking forward to it again.

As for how to get there? Start changing things in your life, anything at all, but particularly things that bring you into contact with new people. Every little change you make shifts your perspective. With enough shifts, you'll suddenly realize that you see new horizons where before you only saw a blank wall.

Oh, and you are right, a lot of things in software are unnecessarily complex, the result of people not learning from the mistakes of the past, of people adding abstraction to hide complexity, only to produce more complexity, of people who don't know what they don't know ignorantly, arrogantly forging ahead, and, of course, the detritus of shifting business strategies in a shifting landscape. Some of this is inevitable, but that doesn't mean that there aren't opportunities to clean up some messes and avoid making new ones.

Good luck, you've got time to figure things out, until you don't, at which point, you aren't.

Get out of your own way.

Read some books, take up some hobbies, life goes on lil homie.

You're burnt out. You didn't mention what languages you used but that's a factor.

Try coming over to the FP camp. We're more fun, and spend less time debugging because we simply make fewer bugs.

After you take a vacation!

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