Career Break and Blog Reboot: What am I, If I am Not a Software Engineer?

Career Break and Blog Reboot: What am I, If I am Not a Software Engineer?

6 months ago, I resigned from my job and decided to take an indefinite break from my software engineering career. It was not an overnight decision. On the contrary, I came to the decision after constant self-doubt, built up over the last 3–4 years throughout my master's study and my day-to-day job as a software engineer.

The burning questions were, and probably still are: What am I, if I am not a software engineer? What do I do if software engineering, and might as well, tech in general, is stripped away from me?

I have been a self-proclaimed tech enthusiast for most of my life. In high school — or even way before — I always knew that I wanted to have an occupation in the tech industry, not specifically as a software engineer, but I just wanted to code for a living. But not long after I could proudly say “I am a software engineer”, I started to have some self-doubts — I’m not really sure if I want or am suited, to work in the tech industry for a lifetime.

I just lost the spark and the enjoyment that I used to have when I code to build things. It was not fun anymore. I didn’t know when it started being a burden, but at one point, every morning I woke up, I dread the thought of having to work like that for the rest of my life. I tried to convince myself that working is not always about having fun, it’s just a part of being an adult. However, there was always an inner voice that kept saying that it wouldn’t be fair to anyone, especially myself if I continue to work like that.

Then I realized: if I do end up with the answer to the question, “What am I? What do I do ( for a living)?”, I would then label myself solely as one thing — my job — and it would lead to the same problem with how I’ve labeled myself as a software engineer until now. I see myself as someone who couldn’t do anything at all outside the tech world. That was the main thing that has been holding me back from quitting the tech industry — I was afraid that I would be nothing if that one sole identity was stripped away from me.

So, after trying to hold on for quite some time, I decided to take a leap of faith and pluck up the courage to take a break from my career. Although I wouldn’t say I have “quit” the tech industry, I’m still glad that I had the resolve to let go. For me at that time, letting go means resigning from a well-paying job overseas and moving back to my home country.

So, there I was. Back to square one. Unsure of what to do next.

However, once I put software engineering out of the equation, it’s easier to realize that I do have other things that I could do — or for a better phrasing — things that I would like to do.

It turns out that I enjoy doing many kinds of things, from reading books, playing the piano, watching movies & animation, to learning a language. I am no expert at any of these things, but I enjoy them nonetheless. The interest comes and goes as a cycle — one time I could really spend a whole week learning a piece on the piano, and then I could spend another week trying to read a manga in Japanese.

After around 6 months of being unemployed, with the first 2 months spent on traveling and getting settled back in my home country, I gradually settled into a routine. My days are filled with things I sincerely enjoy doing. I start my day with a morning walk, then brew a cup of coffee, take a course on music theory, brush up my Japanese, and so on. I really feel that the weight on my shoulder has been lifted — I could now take my time to do the things that I want to do and not the things that I have to do.

However, I am still not quite sure where all of this will take me, so there is still some anxiety left about the future. That’s why I try to have some kind of progress tracker by writing a sabbatical journal about the things I do and learn every day. The journal helps me to give a self-affirmation that I am still moving forward, albeit slowly.

The reboot of this blog is, in a way, an expanded version of that journal. I want to have some kind of medium to output my thoughts and findings.

My writings would be personal, as they are intended to be, but I do hope they can somehow appeal to any readers who share some of my interests, that’s why I decided to publish them as a blog. I’ll try my best to give appropriate tags to the posts, so an interested reader can easily find things that are relevant to them.

It seems, on the surface, that I have wasted my years of effort — on pursuing my master's degree abroad and securing a decent job. But I try to not think about it that way. The experience has helped me to realize that there is more to life than just one single goal or occupation. I want to treat myself better by giving myself a chance to take a break from all the stress and explore other things outside the tech industry. I just want to have faith that all of these would lead to something: either recovering my passion for tech or paving the way to an entirely different career path.