For the first time in my life, I’m genuinely appreciating being at work.

I know that being laid off at my previous job shook me, and it’s shaken up my perception of early retirement along with it.  Before, I saw my job as a means to an end; something I was forced to do, without believing that I would truly ever love the day to day grind.

I’ve been at full-time company number four for the past few months, and while not everything is perfect, I’m really happy to be here. I’ve shared in previous posts about how I’ve been dissatisfied at some of my earlier jobs, so I really set out to look for a company that would, if nothing else, just be nice to me. I didn’t want to be berated and belittled every day; I didn’t want to be on-call 24/7 or incessantly tracked or micromanaged. I didn’t want to feel completely stressed out, as if the weight of idiotically unachievable deadlines was dumped solely on my shoulders. A lot of these things are totally acceptable in American working culture. Thus, finding a company that if nothing else would just be nice to me, was a tall order.

I had some interview blunders along the way, and I did have to take a decent pay-cut compared to my last salary, but so far, I’m really pleased with the place I ended up at.

I never understood the programmers who could just work all day and all night, without any work-life balance. Their excuse usually was, “This is just what I love doing, so I’d be doing it at home anyway. I might as well get more stuff done for the company.” I found this profoundly unfair, as I’d never be able to keep up with these superstars who were more married to the job than to anything (or anyone) else.

For the first time in my life, I’m seeing that work-passion start to come out in myself. I’ve long scorned this type of culture and work ethic as unhealthy to everyone, and it probably is. But I’ve been so happy to just have a job with a good atmosphere and a good manager. I’ve also been thrilled that I don’t have to interview anymore and deal with the worrying about not having a job. With all this, I find that every day I want to prove myself in my work, and the work doesn’t seem so daunting anymore.

Today I really got wrapped up in the problem solving of my job, and even though I was dealing with some crappy legacy code, I loved that I was free to refactor* it and write my new feature my own way, with my own ideas flowing out of my brain. It’s the puzzle part of the Software Engineering job that I really fell in love with at one point.

I’ve also noticed that I’m getting to that stage of my career where I don’t need to ask so many questions, because I know I have many of the answers myself. Maybe that sounds weird, but it’s as though my brain has become more of a resource for the particular skills of my job than those around me. It may sound good or bad, but to me it feels like an indicator that I’m hitting my stride in my work, becoming more senior-level, and even that I have potential to move up in the field.

I used to fantasize a lot more about completely switching careers, and I still do wonder about what a big life change like that would be like, but being happy where I am over the last few days has especially lessened that curiosity.

I know there are things about my particular occupation that aren’t healthy, like sitting for so many hours a day, staring at a screen, and I’ve noticed I’m developing repetitive strain injury in my left pinky even though I’m only in my mid-twenties. So I’m still keeping Early Retirement on the horizon for the time being. It’ll be good to have the option, even if I decide later on to work longer than originally planned.

With so much of the American workforce dissatisfied with their work, whenever I met someone who said they loved their job, I thought I was dealing with an insane person; that they had either struck gold, or were a liar. There are still days where I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning (I am a human who needs a lot of sleep after all!), but I’m finding myself shifting over to the other camp—no official confirmation of insanity yet! (I’ll keep you posted).

I used to believe the only way to be truly passionate about your work would be to start your own company, or be high enough up the ladder that you felt you were making a difference while also having autonomy. Getting lost in the day-to-day while joyfully immersed in my work has magically emulated that feeling for me.

And I’m not trying to say that everything is 100% ideal at my job. There are definitely lulls from time to time, and there’s other technology that I’d love to be working with instead. I’m also hoping that this isn’t just the “high” of a new job, and that I stay engaged for at least a while longer.

I still like the idea of forming a company around my own products and ideas, and getting to choose the technology they’re built with. It sounds seriously awesome. I’m just not sure I’m the kind of person with the discipline to start their own company, even though it’s something I dreamed about doing every single day while I was in college. While I was laid off I started a few projects here and there, but I always ended up sidetracked or distracted. For me, I’m pretty confident hunkering down with the traditional 9-to-5 will be the simplest, straightest path to get to financial independence. I’m now glad that I’m finally feeling happy on the journey.



* Refactor is a term used in Computer Programming. It means to improve code that already exists, without necessarily adding any new features or functionality. It’s a common thing programmers have to do as code becomes outdated or hard to work with; or when old code to be rewritten before new features can be added. Some more info if you want to read on: