Working as a software engineer is more mentally demanding than anything I have ever done. The amount of focus I have trained myself to gather each day is far beyond what I thought was possible.
I have been pushing much harder than before, in my new job. I have only been to a handful of piano lessons; to the paintball field once; and a few hours per week on the drums; I haven't spent time with anybody my age aside from Tina. I have been at the gym regularly, otherwise I would probably lose my mind!
Tonight I bailed out on yet another piano lesson, skipped the drum set, skipped the gym, and I've been writing code since 7am. All this just to work on a presentation and hopefully give a good first impression of my coworkers later this week.
What scares me about this is that I don't see any end to it. Despite all this time I spent today, I don't feel like I got much done. The learning curves are steep, and I look in every direction and see more, more, more of them. I see projects with huge potential. I see opportunities to work with amazing people.
It's funny how I originally planned to burn my 20s in medical school, but now I'm burning it in the software industry. Most people do this just to secure a paycheck to support their family. That is certianly noble in a certain way, but I am unsatisfied with this fate. If that's all I wanted to accomplish, I'd find a less demanding career and spend more time outside work.
When I start feeling overwhelmed like I do tonight, I remind myself: My work will one day allow me to have a much greater impact than I ever would have as a doctor. Software is the backbone of the technology that will shape new treatments of disease, projects to rebuild the ecosystem, and the elimination of scarcity. I listen to elderly scholars and engineers and realize how much time they were able to spend in their work, and how much things changed over their lifetimes. This is what inspires me to push through, to hold strong against the shallow forms of entertainment which has swallowed many of my peers.
Thinking about what kinds of projects will have true impact has forced me to re-interrogate my own values in a much deeper manner. I have returned to the intellectuals who influenced my thinking in college, and I have tried to expand outward. Although I do not know what I will be working on even six months from now, I know that I am putting in all the effort I can to contribute to the projects of my choice, when they arise. This is the form of freedom I value more than the freedom to watch movies, to take vacations, to booze up and smoke weed. Facing your true identity is both a form of liberation and enslavement, for the consequences of rejecting it are too great.