2016 has been a difficult year for me. You see, in the last week of December 2015 I made what should not have been a startling realization about myself – I hate being a software developer. In fact, I never loved it. It was never a passion. You see, as I prepared to enroll in college, I wasn’t entirely sure what I should declare as a major (a dilemma I know is far from unique), but since I couldn’t major at being a rock star, I fell back on programming. I had picked up some BASIC (har-dee-har-har developer humor) programming skills as a teenager and figured that would be a good career. So I declared that as my major, learned enough to be dangerous, and started my career post-graduation in 2007 as a .Net developer.
For a while, I think I was really able to delude myself into thinking I’d made the right choice. After all, once I moved on past my first entry-level job, I made decent money, had good benefits, met some good people, and I generally seemed to know what I was doing and be good at my job. And I think that was mostly enabled by the incredibly low standards at my first job and just being around a team of very exceptionally talented developers at the second job.
It was that third job that started wearing cracks in my facade. With the day-to-day drudgery finally starting to catch up to me, and after a few years of this non-stop corporate grind, I started to feel tired quickly, losing my ability to self-motivate as easily as I used to, and finding myself looking for excuses out of work. It didn’t help that I found myself in a spiral of ever-increasingly-frustrating jobs that either fell out from under me or left me incredibly bored and desperate for a change of scenery after less than a year each. From 2012 to 2014 I worked at 7 different development jobs.
And I was miserable. No longer did I really get much of any joy out of writing code, and again I was always looking for a way out, desperate for a job with acceptable work/life balance and my distress growing more and more despite having well-paying jobs with what most people would consider acceptable expectations. And I was miserable.
From 2014 through the end of 2015 I blamed it on jobs. Surely it was the jobs themselves, and if I could work for just the right person or company, it’d finally bring some peace to my life. And at my last job, PerfectServe, I thought I had found it. It was a good job, with a good company that had a good reputation, with good people and quite reasonable benefits and work/life balance and expectations. And I was still miserable. Every day I’d suffer my way through morning, savor every minute of my lunch hour, and then suck it up and try not to explode as I watched the time tick by to freedom.
Finally, I had to admit that it was not the job, it was the career. I had to finally admit to myself that I hated being a software developer. What had started as an entertaining hobby was now a nightmare of a 40-year prison sentence of drudgery and outrageous (to me) expectations. I made it through 9 of those years and felt like I was going to lose my mind. I had to get out, to escape.
Thus, when the signs of my despair and worsening depression began to affect my performance on the job and I was given a chance to really apply myself to becoming the dedicated hard worker that I knew any and all companies would want me to be, and which would be a one-way ticket to never-ending stress and possibly an early mental breakdown, I took the other option, which was a 3-week notice and a cordial separation from my job, and thus, my career.
I am no longer a software developer. I will never write another line of code again unless I choose to.
With that reinvention comes a desperate need to affirm my own identity. The need to answer the question of if I’m not a software developer, what then am I? Who then am I?
I’m sure some people may find themselves feeling targeted by my next topic, but I want to start with assurances that this is not about trying to drive home any points to anybody, but rather a public affirmation of who I am and why that is so important. So if you think I’m pointing fingers at you, I promise I am not.
It may not come as much of a shock that the name “Ando” is not what my parents put on my birth certificate, and if one were to name a baby “Andrew” and then give it an easier nickname, the most likely candidate for said nickname would be “Andy”. And those assumptions would be correct about how I was addressed growing up. I was Andy. And there’s nothing wrong with Andy. He served his purpose in my life. I may find his voice a bit annoying and he was so naive and ignorant of the world, but he was still the early version of me.
So when in college I found myself gravitating toward the moniker “Ando”, it would also be understandable that those who had previously known me as Andy would find it either difficult or wholly unnecessary to change how they referred to me, seeing it as nothing more than a preference the way someone might decide they wanted to go by a middle name rather than their first. And honestly, in those college days, and even up to last year, that probably was pretty true.
2015 changed all of that. In 2015, I learned about myself. In 2015, I matured. In 2015, I learned more about who I am than all the 33 years leading up to it. And so in 2015, “Ando” became more to me than just a preference for how to be addressed, it became a pivotal part of my identity. “Andy” reached the end of his usefulness and the realized potential for the man I was to become finally started to appear for the first time, and that is when “Ando” became me.
Along with the affirmation of “Ando” as my identity came appearance as well. Between the signature glasses whose style has not changed for me since 2009, and my decision to grow my beard longer, all of these elements became as much a part of my self-identification as if they were tattoos depicting some great wisdom or inner deep thought.
What I’m trying to say is that if I am no longer a software developer, and if I’m no longer Andy, then who or what am I?
The answer is that I am Ando – glasses, beard, retro-hippie-mountain-man style and all. I embrace this identity.