Do I Resent My Job or Am I Just Exhausted?

In the age of “act your wage” and quiet quitting, it’s hard to avoid the thoughts of “do I actually like my job?”. I’ve known that I want to be a programmer like my parents since I was 5 or so. I’m now 27 and have been working as a software engineer for about a third of my life. It’s safe to say that being a software engineer is an inseparable part of my identity by now – but do I even like it?

At this point, it’s like asking “do you like breathing?”. I can’t say it’s something I “like”, but I do want to keep doing it, it keeps me alive. Or, in the case of software engineering, it keeps me paid. Is it enough though?

Who do I want to be when I grow up?

Ah, the dreaded question everybody absolutely hates. Little kids seem to have no issue answering it, but the older you grow, the harder it gets. Am I grown up yet? Was I supposed to know by now? Does it mean that as soon as I grow up I am what I am forever?

Of course not.

But this does mean that the question will haunt you forever. And the longer you go, the more layers are added to it. Can I learn something new? Can I give up my current status and position? Is it even worth it? What if I fail? I don’t know about you, but I usually have more piercing questions like these when my job is not going so well.

The good, the bad, and the burnout

The first time I’ve ever burnt out, I missed all the warning signs. It took me to get fired so I finally understand that something was very wrong in my relationship with that workplace. I took a year off of work, took care of my mental health, tried studying full time (this eventually helped me realize that university is not a good fit for me), and got back to work about a year ago.

This may sound dramatic, but that experience stayed with me for longer than I would like it to. I’m still constantly checking with myself if I’m feeling okay at work – which is not bad by itself, but combined with the fear of being fired it’s a nightmare. In addition to that, I also find it hard to figure out whether I’m being lazy and want an excuse to spend the day playing Stardew Valley, or am I genuinely down and need time off to replenish my energy.

And finally, there’s the impostor syndrome hovering over, constantly asking whether I’m doing enough, or am I going to be exposed as a fraud any day now and the only way to keep up is to exhaust myself – no, not with work, but rather with daily anxiety.

The problem lies deeper

The more I reflect on this situation, whether on my own or with my therapist, the more I come to the conclusion that the issue is not the type of work I’m doing. I do enjoy coding, I did it for fun when I wasn’t working. The issue is how I perceive work and the stakes that depend on it.

Work = Lifestyle

I wouldn’t go as far as saying that work is necessary to survive, but it is a must if you want at least a minimal quality of life – a roof above your head, for example. And if you want more than that, for example, travel (which in my case equals to being able to see my parents) – you need to work more, to have enough money and vacation days saved up.

Work = Excel or go home

This is more of a personal issue, but I feel really bad when I don’t give a 110% at work, and/or don’t excel at what I do. Some say it’s an excuse, some say it’s corporate brainwashing, and some say it’s the aftermath of being a “gifted child”. Either way – it’s exhausting.

What’s even worse is realizing that I’m trying to put all of my energy into something I don’t really believe in. I work for a big company that does quite a lot of cool things, but they’re not directly related to anything I truly care about, nor do they influence the world in a positive way. So why would I put the bulk of my energy and waking hours into working for them?

What’s next?

I don’t want to work in a conventional way anymore. In fact, I would rather not do work where people depend on my deadlines – because “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by”. The most obvious solution is to build an income stream that relies on me pushing out results/products, rather than a customer (corporate, higher up, boss – pick your option) querying for them.

I begin my journey by going out of my comfort zone – I signed up for a course in design and social media management, and I’m starting to show my work a lot more – hence this post. Basically, throwing ideas at the metaphorical wall.

So, do I hate my job?

I think the answer is no. I don’t hate my job, I’m tired of working in the current model in general. I hate being pushed to work and punished if I don’t. But I don’t hate what I do, the people I work with, or the tasks that I get. I don’t hate my job, but I do love freedom more.

Sincerely yours,

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