I took a job as a data entry clerk for $6.50 an hour, worked my way up from there while teaching myself to program (after ten years I only now feel comfortable in my ability). I just finally finished a CS degree at 40. I see so many people here accomplishing so much at so young an age. Please don't take your skills and passion for granted.
Went to college, majored in accounting & finance. And played golf -- lots of it. Played in national championships, competed abroad, surrounded by coaches who fine-tuned my swing and improved my game. Played with many guys who have been on the PGA tour at different points. I was on a path to the tour, as well.
But it was unfulfilling, and I fell out of love with the sport. I took a job in finance and investing at a small bank in 1991. Working my way up from the bottom, I discovered a knack for technology by automating processes that had been done by hand for years.
Never looked back.
4 universities and 3 career changes later, I'm a relatively happy code monkey. (are code monkies every totally happy?)
Things change. I'd say it's the very rare individual who gets through life on Plan A (or Plan B for that matter)
Life is funny sometimes.
It sucks that you were injured, but maybe -- and hopefully -- it's added to your life experience in a positive way. For better or for worse, you are who you are because of your experiences. Good and bad.
"If I ever see you with a welding rod in your hand, I will break your arm".
Here's hoping you manage to unite your vocation and avocation.
If a human -or any of the various intelligent algorithms- doesn't HAVE to do something, it won't do anything at all. It may take a while, but it will happen.
The weird part is, I've seen this process in action. I mean in code it's easy to see it in action. It's very sad to see it in action on a real person. But in university this is what happens to a few mates of me who are rich, but not extremely rich. They were rejected for academic positions, but they really wanted to. One was accepted for a while before he got rejected. They didn't have to work, and still wanted to do research - not the same research the institution was doing, they were working on their own ideas. They started, and they hit problems, as everyone does, really. But nothing was forcing them to advance, and they simply slowed down and dug into a few problems, not really considering narrowing scope or changing direction. And they slowed down until they did nothing -absolutely nothing- anymore. I mean literally wake, eat, watch some tv, take a long nap, some more tv, go to bed, months on end.
That's what drives me to this prediction : if we ever get to the point where most humans aren't forced to do work, we will die - the entire species - in a few decades.
* <8: Astro|Cosmonaut (then I realised I wouldn't get in coz of health issues)
* 8-14: Physicist/Engineer (Science! It rocks! But the family got a computer when I was 12 and - shit - this programming crap is fun..)
* 14-19: Programmer (Wrote code that other people used. Wrote code that other people bought. This stuff is still fun, but went to university at 18 - first one in my family to be able to so...)
* 19--25: Academia (Shit - universities are fun. Full of smart, driven folk. Graduated at 21 and hung around as an employee while I figured out what I'd do my PhD in...Started digging into cog psych & HCI stuff as well as development. Then I figured out that I wasn't actually driven enough to focus on one subject for 3 years... and that the UK academic arena was falling into a mess of short term contract driven work... and my contract came to an end.. so... off to industry)
* 25--29; CTO (Not that anybody called it CTO in those days. Joined one startup which crashed and burned. Second one didn't. Went from first "techie" employee to technical director in about four years. Then I was actually bright enough to realise I didn't really like / was-any-good-at managing people and that I didn't enjoy my job. So without waiting for shares to vest (still not sure whether this was a smart or a dumb move...) left to...)
* 29-34: Consultant (Started own company. Had some great clients. Did some good work. Got better at managing people. Had some bad clients. Made some dumb decisions. Crashed and burned with a stack of personal debt. [hire accountants folk - they're worth their money].. which in one of those joyful acts of fate butted up against...)
* 34-36 Carer (Family member became terminally ill and needed 24/7 care, so we kept him at home and out of hospice as long as possible)
* 36-40 Senior Dev/UX person (Back to being an employee again. One agency. Two startups. Debt killing time. Started deliberately raising my profile with speaking, community involvement, writing, etc. coz I knew I wanted to get back to...)
* 40--now Co-founder (Started company again. Making fewer and more interesting mistakes sprinkled among the odd smart decision. Bootstrapping some product ideas that we're funding with consulting work. Generally enjoying stuff...)
Next - who knows ;-)
(NOTE; If anybody still wants to let a fat 43 year old with no binocular depth perception and subject to migraines & misc. other nonsense be an astro|cosmonaut - please let me know ;-)
I don't regret having done all that Physics (it was freaking Astrophysics, dude!), but I know I would have been miserable after a while, not doing what I was really good at.
However, my ability to program is the only thing that I am good at and had earned me money so far. Plus, I like it, even if I can't do 16 hours coding marathon.