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Ask HN: Feeling completely stuck, not sure what to do now
11 points by bored_as_hell_ 1 day ago | hide | past | favorite | 13 comments
Background: Software developer with around 5 yoe, prior hobbyist for many more. Have been underpaid most of my career, found out I don’t particularly care for it. I’ve been basically been stagnating since I entered the field

I don’t see a good way For a while now, I’be considering going back to school for an unrelated field, but every time I’ve tried I can’t afford it. This is due to various reasons which aren’t worth going into, some my fault and some I can’t control. I can’t even afford to go back to a community college at the moment for stupid reasons. Money is one thing, but the time/opportunity cost is significantly worse. I could maybe manage to afford it, by waiting one or two years, but that’s pushing too much time and reduces the value I’d get out of it.

I’ve Aldo considered maybe trying to move to a different area in software development that I may like better, but that’s an even bigger gamble than going back to school. I’m unlikely to be good enough to work on the things that interest me, plus there’s a smaller amount of roles that tend to lean towards the senior side. My background and experience will almost certainly be a mismatch. It’d probably take me a year or two to feel anywhere near confident enough to apply, and I don’t want to sit around for much longer. I feel that I have a way better chance of getting into school, following through and doing what I need to get a decent job in a new field versus being able to get a job in software development I would like, though the payoff may be a bit quicker/ come a bit sooner. Not too interested in just jumping into any old position making more than I do either, been there done that. Money isn’t a huge concern in the long term anyway. I’ve barely been able to bring myself to write much code in that last couple years. It’s fun to think about, talk about and occasionally plan, but I’d rather just do something else most of the time.

Life’s short. Take some gambles. Especially if money isn’t a big deal to you. Plus psychologically it’s a bit more motivating to be taking (calculated) risks than stuck in a rut.

I’m not sure what you were thinking in terms of going back to school. But there's so much opportunity in developer adjacent roles. Taking a gamble could also mean accepting a boring job and doing more fun things in your own time. I had a colleague that would take long weekends and do crazy hiking trips, and he just loved it. Work can just be work, imagine all the other crappy jobs out there, our jobs are pampered in comparison.

If you're currently in the United States, the demand is so high for capable developers that landing a job with 5 years experience shouldn't be a problem.

Software engineering is one of those fields where knowledge are more generic - a solid set of fundamentals will work for you almost everywhere.


> I’ve barely been able to bring myself to write much code in that last couple years

Not sure if this is talking about your side project or generally, if it's general, then it kind of does not bode well for a career in software engineering.

Unfortunately I've found myself at a ceiling as far as learning, or at least self learning goes at the moment. Not sure if this ceiling is due or intelligence, or any number of correctable issues, but I'd have a hard to interviewing let alone landing anything not very close to what I do now. Don't have particularly good fundamental either, and see the first sentence for why that's an issue.

> Not sure if this is talking about your side project or generally, if it's general, then it kind of does not bode well for a career in software engineering.

Side projects for sure. In general it's harder to tell since I don't actually have to write too much code in my current role.

Don't take me in the wrong way, but to me it just looks to me you are lazy and very experienced at making excuses for yourself.

Stop living inside your head and instead just work to change the things that aren't working for you. It is very easy for me to say this, but in reality this is hard for you, because a lot of what you do are habits already. You need to be aware of it and possibly get professional help.

If you haven't written much code, given that you have weekends, probably some free time, it's because of your excuses. It isn't because of your intelligence. A lot of programming jobs is about practice rather than intelligence.

Honestly I'd go see a psychologist so they help you to understand your case better, but all I've seen that you've written raises big red flags for somebody that is letting their lives pass, not achieving what you wanted, with a lot of regret.

I'd stop looking at this direction of going back to college, it seems to me you are just confused. I bet that if you would sort those things out, which will need plenty of time, we can't do this from one day to another, you'd figure out what you want to do.

I think people feel stuck when they're trapped in bullshit. BS being defined as things that you feel are a waste of time. What's the path of least BS?

Bouncing around for a 10% salary gain seems like BS. Going back to school seems like BS too. It doesn't sound like the goal should be more money, rather that the stagnancy is a symptom.

It sounds like there's something else that you'd prefer to do, but maybe you don't see it? Maybe it challenges your identity, and that makes it invisible. Maybe the cost of failure would hurt too much.

The ambitious route is to look for what you really want. It could well be an important question to answer. There are plenty of mentors and books on this, and motivational classes/coaches are particularly good at finding this.

The less ambitious route is to learn to love what you do. It doesn't have to be anything major. You could just learn to enjoy drawing UI more or writing tests, or documentation. Something really small and common that puts you in flow.

Persevere and be patient. You may not end up where you hoped to when you started, but by that time you may have other priorities or dreams.

Not all those wonder are lost, so take your time but have/find a goal.

Also, wrt to applying for jobs as a self-taught developer.. They always seem daunting and way over our heads - they are designed so. Most of the times (you need to just interview to get experience on that skill ad well) you'll find out that the person interviewing you is less experienced than you (overall) but more knowledgeable in their field of work (specifically). That goes to say, they stuck it out longer than you, they are not necessarily better or smarter.

Big up yourself, chin up, get movi g. And good luck :)

What language/framework are you working with?

Are you currently working?

Does your company have any other more interesting projects you could move to for a change of scenery.

Moving to a new framework might be what you need. I moved from Rails to Laravel about 8 years ago. Rails was great but Laravel is even better. Laravel has a great community and I actually enjoy working in it, so I look forward to starting my work day.

Basically: I feel really stuck, I’ve identified a couple paths out, but they both require me to remain stuck for longer than I think I can take, one is more appealing, but is expensive in time and money, the other is less appealing, less likely to be achieved, but may come with a quicker and bigger payout. Any ideas on what I should do?

The first acceptance should be that making worthwhile change in your life will take time. So, I would consider taking this out of the consideration. Just assume that it will take you time.

The second consideration should be a reflection on your part. Do a simple thought experiment. Assume either outcome has happened already. Which one makes you feel good about your life more?

You are conflicted since you want a quicker solution to your situation and unfortunately for most of us that's just not possible. So take the quick part out of your thinking. Give both options equal time regardless of whether it's true or not. The second consideration then becomes effort and monetary cost. These you have to be brutally honest with yourself and consider how hard you are really going to work and how much you are willing to spend. In terms of positive outcomes, again assume both will happen. Life is strange. We change, things happen, shit happens, etc. So assume things all things considered both outcomes can happen.

Your thinking is muddled because you haven't set the foundations for how you want to think about this. I've given you some suggestions on how to do that.

As a fellow human feeling quite stuck, what sticks out to me - as I too exhibit it - is the cognitive dissonance in your post.

Money isn't a huge concern in the long term, but time and opportunity costs are a bad thing?

You like certain areas of software dev better, but you aren't bringing yourself to writing code?

What's up with these contradictions?

> Money isn't a huge concern in the long term, but time and opportunity costs are a bad thing?

It's a balance, I'd say. At the moment, I'd willingly sacrifice some years of my life and potential earning power, but as time goes on, less so. If I were somewhat older, or even more older, I wouldn't do that at all. Don't want to be a junior for the majority of my career or risk not ever being able to retire. I'd think there's a difference between restarting at say 30 versus 40.

> You like certain areas of software dev better, but you aren't bringing yourself to writing code?

I wish I could explain this one, to be honest. As far as software development goes, my interests come and go very quickly, in a month, I may abandon what I'm interest in now. I'm actually recently off one of those cycles, during which I had intense interest, and many designs, but ultimately nothing to show for it.

So what I hear out of this is a conflict of priority of your values. I might suggest you are not really stuck, you just do not have your priorities straight and if priorities change momentarily, actions might cancel each other out.

You might want to take responsibility for your hierarchy of values. You can still be strategic about it and try to map out how certain actions might build up over time.

As another comment has mentioned, the demand for Software Eng - especially experienced professionals - still so much outpaces supply, you are actually in a pretty comfortable position to jump into different areas of the domain with only a minimal (short term) or even no pay cut at all. You gotta create your own opportunities here, though.

With regards to interests, let's be real about the tradeoffs: Jumping into different areas can be super beneficial if those expeditions create a marketable skill set. That might mean that you have to bring yourself to focus on one area at a time, but once you are a Fullstack Dev for example, you can have a quite flexible job. Again, be honest with yourself about what you value more: stability and pay in the short term or short term increased effort for increased long term salary and satisfaction.

What are your skill-sets? If you provide some info on your professional background then someone will certainly be able to help.

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