I’ve never in my entire life considered the possibility of writing this post. Yes, I read posts like this in the past. Sure, it fantasized about doing it myself some day. But I never dreamed it would happen so quickly and so suddenly.
And yet it happened. Today I quit my well-paid, boring daily job in order to pursue the hacker ideals.
It happened just over 12 hours ago, and somehow I’m already sure this is the best decision in my entire life.
People in IT tend to complain about their jobs a lot. The most common themes, in no particular order, are:
Job is boring.
Job is too well paid to find a better one.
Boss is annoying.
Overworked (for no apparent reason).
Corporations suck, but I feel to comfortable to find a startup job.
One thing is notably missing: no one complains about being afraid, EVER. The only emotion there is boredom. People simply get stuck in their less-than-ideal jobs and stay there, often for years. When asked about the possibility of finding something better, they dismiss it as too disruptive. How lazy is that?
If you find quitting your comfortable IT job too hard, too disruptive, too risky, you’re not reasonable or sensible – you’re just plain lazy. If you don’t feel afraid, you’re not pushing your limits far enough. And if you feel bored, you’re not pushing them at all.
Things become radically different once you quit your daily job. The first thing you’ll notice is how much time you actually have.
Working a daily job, there’s simply no way to experience this degree of freedom. When you have a job, days generally fall in one of those three categories:
Working day. 8 hours sleep, 8 hours work, 2 hours commute, 6 hours left to do whatever you want/have to do. These 6 hours have dozens of things competing for them; balancing them is an art in itself. Also, this gets expontentially harder once you have kids.
Weekend day. 8 hours sleep, 16 hours divided between: resting, spending time with friends/family and doing whatever you wanted to do during the week but had no time to.
Day off. 8 hours sleep, 16 hours frantically trying to get as much rest as possible.
If you’re a heavy drinker (like I once used to be), there’s also a fourth kind: the hangover day. It consists of 8 hours of crappy, restless sleep and 16 hours of suffering.
How does your schedule compare to mine?
A day. 8 hours sleep, 16 hours doing whatever I want or need to do.
Unless I’ve committed to meeting a deadline (and it’s approaching), I have complete freedom to choose whatever I want to do. Days of week no longer matter that much – and weekends actually become a bit annoying because stores are closed.
The best thing about living in a free schedule is that I no longer wait for anything. Renovating my flat used to take pathetically long because I could only paint the walls during weekends (it’s just plain unwise to paint without daylight). Now I can work during the afternoon every day and put off coding until late evening – which is the best time to code anyway.
A nice side effect of not waiting is that there’s almost no backlog. I used to have a fat TODO list with things which really should be done; right now I just do whatever needs doing next – and things rarely stay on the TODO list for more than three days. Also, doing some side project no longer involves waiting for free time – unless there’s a deadline, I just sit down and do whatever strikes my imagination. This is the right way of living if you’re an artist – and building open source software is, indeed, an art.
Having my full sixteen-hour day back is something I’ll not give up easily.
Turns out quitting a job is not unlike quitting alcohol. As both of them tend to make your brain dull, removing them from your system will cause a rebound effect, which includes the following symptoms (good and bad):
overexcitement and/or agitation
having more energy than you can expend
Those symptoms do subside after at most few weeks, fortunately.
Over the last week I received many useful life & work suggestions from my friends. Somehow, a clear division line starts to appear: the best ones are invariably from people outside the IT industry.
Please don’t misunderstand me here: I don’t mean to say that IT people are dull and/or unimaginative. What I want to say is that while spending most of your time in one professional circle is nice and comfy, it’s not good for you in the long run.
I read an excellent book on junk food recently and thought: really, it can’t be that bad, right? Yet, the book caused me to cut down on chocolate greatly, and I discovered a pattern. I used to have this habit:
I’m hacking on something and I get a bit hungry. I eat a chocolate bar. I’m still hungry and my thoughts start to drift away from the work and towards the next chocolate bar.
Things have changed a bit since I stopped eating chocolate bars and drinking soda. Now it’s much more like this:
I’m hacking on something and I get a bit hungry. I eat an apple. I continue to work.
And yet, today I strayed from the usual course of things and I ate a huge pack of chocolate chip cookies out of boredom. And you know what?
I simply couldn’t focus for the next two fucking hours.
This translates to: no work done for two hours. No rest during the next two hours since I was now terminally bored. And boredom kills all opportunity to get any real rest.
Sometimes you have to quit something just to see how much unnoticed harm it causes in your life.
Working on a little hardware project I’ve been postponing for the last few years: a next-generation darkroom meter/analyzer. First it was meant to be a hobby thing, then I wanted to monetize it, then it almost became my thesis project, then it was scraped. And then I got back to doing darkroom work and realized I just need a device like this to make prints quickly.