It’s recently hit me that coding for fun and doing college projects is usually very very different than most coding jobs. Early on there is no legacy code to deal with, codebases are small, and you generally are working on interesting stuff you have some degree of choice in what you work on.
I made video games, used cool languages like Python and Haskell, and coding was super fun. When I got my first college summer job and had to deal with a large legacy codebase in VB.NET, I was struck with how much less fun this all was.
10 years later I now realized I’ve got some degree of ADHD-like tendencies, and for better or worse resolved to never have a normal 9-5 job. I’d freelance to pay the bills until I could build my own software startup, having recently at the time discovered Paul Graham and the idea of building my own business.
At this point I have been able to successfully build a pretty solid career as a freelance web developer. All my work is remote and all my clients are pretty hands-off. Much of the work is small(er) codebases and some is even greenfield, probably way more greenfield than the average dev job.
But even still, I haven’t figured out a way to get traction in my own startup. That stuff is hard! I’ve been blocked not only from not fully understanding how business works (build something that actually solves a real problem people will pay for, build an audience instead of coding in a dark corner, etc etc etc), but also from latent ADHD which has made it really hard to just get client work done, much less make progress on completely open-ended client work.
But, at this point, I’m pretty much all in. I still have it as my goal to run my own small one person software startup. It’s the only way I can see to really live the coding ideal of a codebase I fully control, where I can make all of the decisions, where I don’t have to compromise my own ideals.
Working with both mental health therapists to address the ADHD and business coaches to address the business acumen have me closer now than I ever have been, and I’m super optimistic about being able to finally crack the blocks I’ve had for the last 10 years.
This is certainly not an easy path, and not even really one I’d recommend to most people. A number of my friends have been able to find much better employment after searching around and learning some job hunting skills (there exist job hunting coaches who might be worth looking into!), and that may be all it takes. But if you have that idealism that won’t go away, perhaps you’d have the resolve to do what it takes to do something like this. I’d be happy to talk further about what has actually worked for me, though I freely admit this isn’t a silver bullet and I’m definitely still learning.
Thanks for your question @lordranbound, and know you are not alone in feeling this way. Work is such a huge part of life and that feeling of being stuck is one I’m intimately familiar with, even with freelance work.