It wasn’t but two weeks ago that I was ready to kiss a 24-year career in software development goodbye forever and dive head-first into social work. But then…
…I started getting better. While I care very deeply about people and their well-being, it’s also not something I can do on a professional basis. I had previously worked as a peer support specialist – a paraprofessional role.
In 2014, I was in an “impossible” job at a public university, where I had little support and direction from management, faced committee meetings to make even the simplest of decisions, and an inept vendor that didn’t even really understand how their own software worked. My marriage was falling apart to boot – what had been a loving home for my two girls was full of yelling, lies, and deceit. Not to mention, I was coming off the failure of a business I ran profitably for seven years.
It was no wonder why I made four trips to the hospital for suicidal ideation and attempts. I had also been diagnosed with multiple, severe, persistent mental illnesses by the establishment. There was no easy way out. My diagnoses were hard to treat, primarily because there is no medication to treat them. I burned out my therapist and she “fired” me. The new therapist eventually referred me to a “higher level of care” because I was still suicidal up until last summer.
I wanted out. I needed my life to be different. I tried supporting other people, while in the midst of my own suffering and despair. It didn’t work. I was a horrible peer support specialist. Instead of providing real help to my clients, I just gave them my deepest pity. I was helping people who were in better situations than I was. It didn’t work.
I thought that social work would mark a noble return to work. I could learn to heal people. I would finally feel that I was making a positive impact to society, rather than a positive impact to some company’s bottom line. I thought that after 24 years of doing the same thing that I had failed. I would always be a developer, so what was the point.
Then I remembered how much I struggled while I had my company. At one point, I had two employees and I couldn’t manage them. They looked to me for direction and instead, I threw them to the wind. Maybe moving up in the world isn’t a necessarily a good thing. To boot, I had a friend staying with me and he’s got 15 years on me and still a developer. I didn’t look down on him because he hadn’t moved into management, so why was I looking down on myself? I realized that being a developer maybe isn’t so bad. It certainly pays the bills.
But after such a long break from writing code, could I still do it? Had my skills rusted? I decided to start rebuilding a mobile application I had started on back in 2015 but had to stop because I fell apart. I also tried again in 2016, only to stop again. It had been nearly a year and a half since I even thought about it. But I needed to test myself to see if I even could.
Work started slowly, but the more I got into it, I found my skills rushing back to me. “I got this”, I thought to myself. After a few days of writing code into the wee hours of the night, I found my groove again. Solving a million little technical problems suddenly went from being panic-inducing to absolute fun. Each time I solved a new little problem, I stood up in my chair and shouted: “yeeeeeeah buddy!” (okay, I didn’t actually, but in my head I did).
That led to a complete 180 in my path. I decided that rather than going to school for social work, if I was going to get a degree at all, it would be in business. After all, I’m a serial entrepreneur (with companies 3 and 4 currently in process – simultaneously). I also started looking for jobs in the local area. I don’t want to move to my hometown, living next door to my parents, where I’d be isolated and away from my adopted family of friends.
As I write this, I still don’t know exactly what will happen. Being denied for disability after nearly 3 years certainly lit a fire in me to find a job, any job, NOW. But I feel that somewhere out there, someone needs my skills – whether it be a full-time or contractual basis. I’ve found the joy of computer programming again.
I admire my friends who are in the field of social work. They do a great service to society. But again, it’s not me. I’m an engineer to the core. There is no grey (that might be my borderline personality talking) in my world – only on & off – 1 and 0. I do thank my three therapists over the last three years for working with me. I couldn’t have done it without them. I am hoping to work with some of them on my mobile app, as it has a social service to it.
To the future… and beyond!