End of an era
Some already noticed that it got quiet here around me. And that's not only because of holidays but because of a decision I made at the end of last year.
For a long time mental health is a topic in the dev community and also for me. For years it was about uplifting and motivating others and not being a gatekeeping asshole. This hasn't changed - but I noticed that the very most important thing to keep care of is myself. As otherwise I can't take care of anyone else - wether my family and friends nor colleagues or strangers.
Because of that I stopped all, except 5 super tiny, side projects overnight. This includes absolutely all of my open-source projects as well as some projects for friends as well as opendor.me.
Why did I do so?
Since 2015 programming, PHP, Laravel dominated and ruled my whole life. And it was fun, at first sight. But in reallity it was damn hard work, devoured energy (day and night) and has "slowly" changed my life, myself and my environment. My average day was like standing up 9AM (after turning around 10 times), being absolutely not fit or motivated, going to work, doing my day jobv for 8h, going back home, working on side projects and open-source till 1AM or 3AM and after that going to bed. Somewhere between having a quick meal. And that's not exaggerating - this was my day for the last 3-5 years. Like you see there are some super important things missing - selftime, friends, family, relaxing, hobbies, sport and so on. I told myself that I have all this - programming was my hobby, I lived together with my girlfriend and at saturday or sunday we met some friends. Let me tell you one: this is BULLSHIT! All the years I thought that the little dopamine and adrenaline kick you have if you solve/close an issue is empowering for me. That solving others problems is a cool hobby and gives me karma credits. That watching a movie while going to bed is couple time and going for a walk with our dog is enough sport and fresh air and so on.
And don't get me wrong: I still believe in open-source and that being open and honest is important for our todays society - that's why I'm writing this article. But I had to change my focus and priorities and I'm also more than happy with that decision!
My dark past
I already described a bit of my story and the reasoning for my decisions. But I want to tell you the whole story. Back in 2015 I started my first real job and only a few months later with open-source. Before that I lived in another state and was going to school. I didn't had much money, slightly enough to survive, and after I moved to Hamburg I also lost all friends and family. So everything I had was my job - and I liked my job and was good at it. So it was easy to flee to the job and forget about the other problems. Only a few months before that first job my girlfriend moved to Hamburg as well. Everything felt good - we had our own appartment, I had a job I liked and with open-source I found a hobby as well. Over the years I switched jobs, got higher titles and salaries and depper into open-source, the dev-community and programming. Slowly I spend more and more time infront of screens and back in the times it felt right and good. I solved bigger problems, got better at programming, understood principles and was even able to teach others what I learned. What I totally forgot/lost was myself, my girlfriend and all other humans around me who weren't related to programming. I became the machine I was daily programming.
Every day I told myself that what I'm doing is good and that I have to do it. Every day I got more exhausted by all teh tasks I had to do. Every day I lost myself a bit more.
The last two years with a global pandemic, lockdown, home office and restrictions for activities has made the situation even worse. Much more time at home infront of my laptop, not even a real alternative and 24/7 in our 2 room apartement together with our pets and my girlfriend. All this combined with too much social media to compensate the missing human interactions. No idea who knows this behavior but I was constantly checking my smartphone for any notifications and if there weren't any I scrolled through Twitter or Instagram to find something I've missed. My phone was the first thing I checked after waking up and the last thing before sleep. Beside the social effects the result was that I'm computer addicted.
How it is to be addicted
One first thing: I'm not a doctor, psychologist or therapist - so this is only and all about how it is and was for me, In case you think that you are or could be addicted too - don't try to solve it alone, get official help and talk to your friends and family. For me and so far I know also in general one of the first and most important steps is to realize that you are addicted and being open and honest about it.
At the end being computer addicted is the same as alcohol, nicotine, coffee or any other addiction - I noticed it when it was too late. As I told myself that I can control it, that I'm the one deciding things and that I could end it if I would want to. Short: yes, I was able to end it with a cold turkey. But only after having fully destroyed myself and surrounding - not physically but emotional and energetic. For me that addiction had two massive impacts/problems.
- I absolutely and only lived for programming. Even every second I wasn't typing I had several problems in my head to solve and was never free of tasks and problems so that I never lived and enjoyed the moment. Which resulted in loosing myself and the connection/relationship to the few persons I had in my inner circle.
- Not recognizing how much energy all this costs me. Absolutely always thinking about problems and never having a free/empty head is so burdensome. But because I haven't talked to others I thought that this is the way it should be and it's normal.
Now when I can look back I see that even talking to others wouldn't have changed it much as it seems that living in and for the job is "normal" in our todays society.
Quality is not quantifiable
As always working on things, having hundreds of open tasks and never standing still needs a way of organizing, prioritizing but also measuring how efficient the day was - I tried to measure everything I did. And also prioritize things by an imaginary and estimated "effectivity-score". So solving an issue within 15min is efficient. Sitting on the couch and living the moment with my girlfriend wasn't - as there wasn't a measurable result or any reachable goal. My whole day was like a computer game - trying to get all achievements, reaching new levels, improving skills and so on - all based on measurable scores. This was good for my job, projects and career. But not for myself, my relationship and personal growing. As you can easily measure tasks and the "bad things". But all the enjoyable things in life aren't quantifiable - they are only quality and being right there in the moment.
And to be in the moment and just enjoy it you have to be comfortable with yourself, free yourself from all the open tasks/todos and also ignore what others think. There's also no achievement for couple time, or a "The Sims" like demand/requirement graph you can check and fulfill - wether for you nor for others. And the moment you check you watch and think about "was this enough?" I can tell you - from there on it's not important if you stay with your friends or not - they will notice that you don't live and enjoy the moment and that you think that you have more important things to do.
Time, priorities and (self)love
Our whole life is about decisions and one way we decide is via priorities. A long time my priority was my job - as that was what paid the bills and I thought that paying all the bills and being able to buy nice things is more important than having a nice and cheap time with others. So nearly always I decided for writing code instead of enjoing the moment - and when I didn't wrote code I thought about it.
And even if you hear it all the time and I even said that my girlfriend is the most important in my life - I haven't lived like it. And it's also not the goal that someone else is the most important in your life, as the unbeaten number one should be yourself. This sounds egoistic and like this would hurt others even more. But how should you care for others, help them staying strong or getting things done if you haven't cared for yourself and aren't stable enough to help others carrying their burden. And being your own number one doesn't mean that you give a shit on others and alsways decide for yourself. But that if you feel like you need some me-time you take that time, if you think that you should talk with others about your problems you do so and don't hold back because it could add load on them. And even telling your most important person in life that you need a day off doesn't mean that your relationship will end. It only means that you need some time for yourself to sort your life.
Time with someone isn't time together and by far not time for another person.
This was one of my first findings the evening I changed everything. What I mean is that watching a movie with someone doesn't have to be quality-time for your relationship with that person. There's something called "parallel game" (the parents will know it) - it's when two children do teh same/similar but not with each other but for their own. Like two kids in a sandbox building their own sandcastle but not caring or sharing more than the sandbox they are in and possibly a shovle from time to time. That's how watching a movie most times is - you watch the same movie on the same couch, but at the end everyone is watching it on their own. Then we have time together - that's like having dinner together and talking about the day and so on. You share the moment and do something together - but it doesn't really show that you fully care for the other person. And then there's time for someone else - for example preparring an evening for the other person - with all the small details that show that you know them and care that they have a nice time.
The first one is okay - but you shouldn't think that it somehow improves anyones life. The second is important, the most important thing here and for the last one is that you really care for the other person. If you always check your notifications or which time it is you only show that you want to escape that situation.
But the absolute foundation for all these things is that you feel comfortable with yourself and also that you love yourself how you are. This will result in smiling much more as you notice and enjoy all the small things. And you don't always think about what others could think if you do this or that now. Just do what makes you happy!
Becoming an adult
What is the sign that you are adult now? When are you adult? I think this is different for everyone. For me I haven't really felt adult since start of 2022. I wasn't comfortable with myself but stuck in my teenage years. Based on the pandemic but even before I was nearly always wearing sweatpants and a hoodie with any tshirt. I haven't felt ready for becoming a father and marriage was more like a "you do it after X years". Also emotionally I wasn't like having tears of joy/love in any situation nor crying when something bad happened. I was like a super heavy train and nearly nothing could derail me.
Anyone who wears sweatpants has lost control of their life. — Karl Lagerfeld
"Clothes make the man" is a saying - and I was always like: no, the clothes I'm wearing say absolutely nothing. And I still think like that in the way that others shouldn't/can't judge me based on my clothes. But for myself there was a big difference - and yes, wearing sweatpants all the time has felt wrong (in hindsight). ANd even if I don't fully share what Karl Lagerfeld said - I have an idea what he could have meant or at least how I would interpret it. Wearing sweatpants all the time wasn't because I liked it, explicitly decided for that style or whatever - but because it was comfortable and easy and I was too lazy to listen to myself, experiment and check which style I like and feel good with. As clothes don't tell verything about ourselfe but are the first thing others see and it's how we show ourselfe to others and how we want others to see us.
And as I'm now comfortable with myself I also feel free and open and not limited or restricted by others - as I don't care what they think about me when I'm who I am. I think everyone knows the feeling of inappropriate topics or things you don't want to talk about. Even with your partner or friends - if not, be happy and keep it! For me there was a lot of these: emotions, sex, love and other intimate topics. Sometimes because I din't wanted to put my problems on other shoulders. Sometimes as it plainly felt wrong because of my education and society. Sometimes I didn't wanted to make me vulnerable to others. For example this article - 2 weeks ago I would absolutely never have written it, not even to my closest friends but absolutely no way to put it in public on my website. Now I'm pure with myself and don't see my past or emotions or anything else as something bad. So even if someone would try to hurt me with these details - they would only show what kind of person they are.
My decision is like a 180° turn - except of my job I have changed nearly everything.
First of all I have ended my work on all projects except of around five websites which only need a new picture or similar small changes per year. The reason here was to reduce the amount of tasks I have and cut the never ending rain of new tasks every single day. This change allowed me to change other things as it freed my head and also timetable. A nice side-effect was also that my sleep is really relaxing now and I wake up fully refreshed the next day.
Secondly to life what I said with a small adjustment. My girlfriend is the most important person to me - right after me. As I have to care for and be myself to be able to care for her and being the man/husband she deserves. In reallity this means that I don't check my phone or anything else while having time with her. Not being annoyed when she asks me something or wants me to do her a favour. But also telling her what I want/need and being open and honest about whats' going on in my life, heart and head.
One of the actions to get past the computer addiction is that my phone and laptop remain on my work desk - only exception is if I explicitly decide to do a task and have to move it away to do so. This works pretty good for me and felt and right and good from teh very first second.
As I sleep better now and wake up earlier in the morning (without an alarm) I use that time to do some things at home (washing dishes, cleaning cat liter ...), having a small breakfast, doing a short sport session so that I have already done a lot of the daily tasks before I start with my day job.
In the evening I use the new time to read a book, think about myself, spend time with friends or go bouldering (my new hobby).
And at the beginning I thought that I would miss working on the projects like before. But the alternatives are so much better, for me, that I don't think about going back a single second.
My brighter future
Beside all the current effects like being happier, having more energy, feeling comfortable with myself and having time to do the things I want to do. The best thing for me is that my relationship became stronger and eveolved to the next stage. I don't fear to talk about any topic anymore. And I'm happily looking forward to a brighter future.
What happens with my work
As I stopped working on the repositories over night there isn't any master plan. The repositories will remain where they are and I will also not handthem off to a different vendor. They are still my work and it also could be that I will work on them again somewhen in the future. But in case you are interested in any of my packages or even opendor - get in touch with me (best way would be Telegram) and we will see what you can do. I would happily add people to the Astrotomic team. In case you have any paid projects you wanted to ask/hire me - I want to redirect you to the awesome guys at arbiträr.
I will also not disapear from Telegram or Discord - but won't check my Twitter regularly and also answer much less on the other channels.
The very first I want to infinitely thanks is Matt Stauffer from Tighten! He introduced me to being kind, mental health and that it's totally okay to talk about weakness and personal problems in public. He's an amazing human being and we all need a Matt in our friendlist.
Thrid is the team at spatie who paved my way to open-source and welcomed me like a team-member.
Next one all the nice people I met during my journey - I won't list names as I would definitely forget some and don't want to. I've met so many great persons who helped me - thank you!
One special thanks to Stefan Bauer who made my current job possible - which I'm super happy with as it's a job with an impact.