What I learned from losing and regaining my passion for programming

credit: http://www.clementinecreative.co.za/

The first time I saw a computer I was about seven years old, it was the big and bulky kind and it sparked excitement in me, but because I was not really allowed to touch it back then in primary school, the excitement slowly faded away only to be re-ignited eight years later when my dad decided to buy a computer to print type & questions for my mum’s then recently established primary school.

I got hooked, I slowly monopolized the computer and spent the most of my waking hours on it, I learned to touch-type using Marvis Beacon Teaches Typing software and played games endlessly, until the bug of programming bit me, this was after reading an article by Eric Steven Raymond. I began to read up anything I could find on it, the first programming ebook I read was ‘PHP for Dummies’ and after a few pages, I could do some cool stuff to impress my friends. I would program for ridiculously long hours (to the annoyance of my parents) and only realize I was hungry when I took a bio-break, that was how passionate I was about it. This passion grew stronger and continued for a long time.

Fast-forward few years later, I had worked at a UN-backed firm, worked as a freelance developer(got into a lot of trouble never doing it again), and then I joined a promising startup that had a great mission statement. They offered a great learning opportunity and provided a very conducive environment for learning and self-development. I really did enjoy the early days when I joined them it was so much fun, but after some time, I realized that programming which once gave me so much joy didn’t anymore, I could no longer come up with creative ideas for cool apps, build it in one night and start working on the next one. It slowly became a painful experience to open up my text editor, slowly I sank into depression and it continued for months. I realized I was burnt-out.

I began to look for other things to occupy my time with & also re-ignite my passion for programming, I started looking for hourly gigs with startups that were building cool stuff and after some time I found one, after a week with them, I was assigned to a task which required me to convert a piece of data from one form to another and after manually doing it for some time, I decided to build a small app that automated the process. So I set out, created a shiny new repository on Github and started coding away. I was at it for six hours straight, no breaks, no distractions, some would say I was in the zone. When the app was fully completed I realized that I was happy — something I hadn’t felt in a while.

Completing that app made me realize that I still loved programming, but I had been working on things that I was not passionate about for a long time. I had been spending eight hours every day, five days a week for more than six months working on tasks that slowly ate my soul away. It was my job and I was supposed to be doing it but it was killing me inside. It was then that I decided to do something about it and make that decisive decision.

Long story short, I left, got a new Job at a startup and my role was something I found really exciting, something that I have always wanted to just do. I now work with a technology that I enjoy, build interesting stuff and the work hours are way more than flexible. I can now look myself in the mirror and say ‘I love my job’. So I have learned a few things from this.

1. Never compromise your happiness to please anyone(not even your job).
2. Only take on things you are passionate about and enjoy doing.
3. Work on side projects they help keep your sanity and skills sharp.
4. Work never ends, take the time to rest.
5. Take charge of your own self-education and career growth, make them a priority and never leave it to anyone to handle.
6. Take care of You, no one else will.

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