Less Than 365 Days of Code
You should be a part of your local software community. You need to learn things. You probably don’t need to learn all of the things, but it’s good for you to learn most of them. You’re supposed to be an expert. But you should also probably have a life.
I recently joined Twitter. I jumped on that smoldering, outdated bandwagon. It was a sad day for my productivity. I’m learning lots of small things, like how to short-circuit instead of using an
if block and which order to assign styles for
<a> tags. I’m also learning that it’s been #100daysofcode since forever, and “if you just do this an hour a day, you’ll be famous/rich/happy”. I don’t think I want to do Twitter an hour every day.
It’s July 4th today. Yes, I didn’t write this ahead of time, it’s literally the night of July 4th. I’m sitting here listening to the entire western half of Pennsylvania erupt in joyous war sounds. I am not quite hiding in a closet. Not quite.
Today I played in an inflatable pool. I rode a bike. I ate hot dogs and watermelon and ice cream. I went to a park. But I will tell you what I didn’t do:
I DID NOT CODE TODAY.
I haven’t done it since Thursday. I took a few days off. And you should too! This is an underrated and important thing about your life: it is more than your job.
Why you are here
I’ve been trained in classical theology and exegesis. I have some pretty set ideas on why we exist. I’m going to simplify them a bit for the sake of the unanimous acceptance of my ideas, and also because it would likely bore you.
We exist to do good.
So there’s the basic doing good with little things, which doesn’t feel very fun. You can do good by writing your name, and it will please your parents, and maybe you’ll get a few points on the SAT (I am old, I don’t know this for sure anymore.) If you write it enough, maybe it will look beautiful! Now you’re sort of pleasing people with art.
That’s also how your job looks, compared to your life. You can do it well, and get paid money for it, and maybe even sort of please other people with how awesome you are. It’s important enough, in its own right. Maybe you’re so good at it that you help other people work. But your job is also a job. If you quit tomorrow, it will no longer be about you. It will no longer be your good.
Ways you can do good
There is a more tangible and lasting good you can do, and it feels better than anything you accomplish for money. For some people, this is having a family. I have a family. They’re cool. You might have already hear that if you spend one hour every day on your family, you’re going to have an awesome family. Maybe you can/should spend a little bit more than that. Hey, if I post that on Twitter will 3,000 little birds heart it?
Of course you don’t need a literal family to do good. Your contributions to your friends and your community make them a little bit like a family too. If you invest in the lives of those people, they might indeed feel that your part of their life was a formative part, and you’ll live on vicariously through their successes, and help to share some of the weight of their tribulations. That’s also doing good.
How to think about doing good
Maybe the most important part of doing good is that it really isn’t about you at all. If you’re doing it right, you are not doing good to achieve something personal. You’re just pushing up the human race a little bit more.
Whoever wants to save their life will lose it…
It might seem a bit antithetical, but to truly be a good-doer you can’t be in it for the reward of being a good-doer. You need to be there for the others.
Managers might understand this on another level. To manage people effectively you need to weigh their immediate value to the company, but you also need to consider their needs and ambitions. Honestly investing in your employee’s wellbeing can very well turn them into an extension of your own will.
This is why it’s so hard to really do good at a job. I had one of the best good-doer jobs ever. I got to teach kids (in English) how to be world leaders. But I quickly found some major impediments to calling that ‘my good’:
- I got paid
- That was a thing I did for money, and sometimes that fourth-wall was broken, by my students, my coworkers, and even myself.
- Other people co-owned that good
- Someone was investing money in it, but it wasn’t me. It was never really my piece of good to begin with. I honestly can’t see where I ended and it began, anyway.
- There was an ulterior motive
- You may not understand this if you’re not in the do-gooder profession. There’s a specific reason for any public works job. Sometimes you are forced to skip that thing that could really change one life in order to keep doing the good your job needs.
That’s not to say that I didn’t try hard to dedicate my time to make up for those situations. I did! But sometimes they were just out of my control.
It’s been the opposite with my family and social contributions. I felt a stronger impact serving, volunteering, and leading community work than the entire summation of my career. And I feel a certain sort of expectation while watching my son have his own adventures. I have poured my love into him so that he can have a great life, and in return I feel so vicariously happy when he succeeds.
Why did I write this?
Because I think your code isn’t the only part of you. It shouldn’t even be the main part. You are alive for a reason, and you are the good you want to see in the world.
So take a break. Refocus on what’s important. Make love, not war. And please, for the love of humanity, cool it with the fireworks.