Pace Your­self

Publisher: TJ Fogarty

Modified: 2018-03-13

When I first start­ed col­lege I was full-sure I was learn­ing to become a web design­er. I had expe­ri­ence with Pho­to­Shop from my teen years when cre­at­ing sig­na­ture graph­ics, or sigs”, for peo­ple on forums, or design­ing lit­tle sites on Freewebs (most­ly with Flash-based games embed­ded on the page. They were fab­u­lous trav­es­ties com­plete with back­ground music and ani­mat­ed gifs, and I’m still not sorry.)

As I pro­gressed, I found myself drawn more to the devel­op­ment side of things. This helped immense­ly as the course I was doing became more pro­gram­ming ori­ent­ed. I moved from Pho­to­Shop to Notepad++, and my colour palettes were more focused on syn­tax themes.

This shift meant I was becom­ing one of the go-to peo­ple when some­one had a ques­tion or a prob­lem. After a cou­ple of years of this I start­ed to feel more respon­si­ble for these prob­lems, like I need­ed to know the answers — I put the unnec­es­sary expec­ta­tion on myself to have the solu­tions. Instead of try­ing to meet my own dead­lines and being hon­est in say­ing I don’t know, but here’s some resources that might help”, I would instead drop what I was doing and make those prob­lems my own. There’s noth­ing wrong with doing that the odd time, but just not every time.

This got to a point where I even did someone’s final year project, and we were dri­ving to the pre­sen­ta­tion while I typed their slides in the pas­sen­gers seat. I put myself in that posi­tion when there was absolute­ly no need. I didn’t stop to con­sid­er if I was tru­ly doing the right thing for myself or my friend.

After col­lege, I was lucky enough to land a job as an intern web devel­op­er work­ing along­side some­one who was incred­i­ble at what they did. After 9 months he moved on, and I was back in a very famil­iar posi­tion by being the only in-house web devel­op­er. I learned so much in that time, but the tri­al by fire that fol­lowed cou­pled with my eter­nal­ly-nod­ding head left me burnt out rather quick­ly. I’m not going to go into specifics about my jour­ney, but I wouldn’t be where I am today with­out that expe­ri­ence, and I’ll for­ev­er be grate­ful for it.

Lit­tered through­out all this are bouts of imposter syn­drome, which is won­der­ful­ly explored by David Walsh in his blog post I’m an Imposter”. It’s such an hon­est arti­cle, and it can apply to any indus­try, not just the web.

You might hear about burn out, and attribute it to some­one who was just worked too hard, but it’s also worth think­ing about that fact that it’s not always the envi­ron­ment they’re put in that caus­es it. It cer­tain­ly con­tributes, but there’s an onus there to know one’s lim­its as well. I would ignore my fraz­zled mind’s attempt to switch off, and if I felt hap­py every once in a while, well, that was just a bonus.

I love cod­ing in my spare time which means work and play can some­times over­lap. I’ve got­ten far bet­ter at man­ag­ing this bal­ance, and I can switch off and go do some­thing else with­out a strange sense of guilt plagu­ing me. I try to imag­ine the world lit­er­al­ly end­ing, and it all seems kind of silly.

So the take­away for me was to step back, and not rush into com­mit­ments. It was irre­spon­si­ble, and unfair to all par­ties involved. Sure there can be pres­sure there for an answer straight away, but it’s absolute­ly OK to say I need more time before I can quote for that” or I don’t know how to do that, I need time to research it. Let me get back to you after lunch with what I find”.

Take your time. You’ll nev­er know all the answers.

Sure how can you when in the time it took to read this about 20 new frame­works are avail­able. Bet­ter get on that :p