Self care

One of the reasons I had to quit software engineering might be my character. There’s something deep down in my soul that makes me bite my teeth into software engineering pet projects… like a pit bull sinks its teeth into a training stick and looses every common sense over it.

I just realised this about myself (although Dave, my friend from Switzerland, always says I always discover the same things all over again.) I went for a walk at midnight. The air was soft and warm, as it always is here in South Vietnam. The long fingered leaves of the palm trees around my residential high-rise were swaying softly. It felt good to be outside. A deep breath. The wind against my skin. The pleasant mechanics of upright walking after sitting for so many hours. The peacefulness of the night. At that moment I realised my obsession: I’ve just spent another 14-16 hours in front of the computer.

Why can’t I just use any old flashcard app like everyone else? Why do I obsess over building my own? Who in his right mind spends 3 hours on making a stupid shadow on a flashcard—that nobody will ever see—look good?

This insane behaviour has been building up throughout the past two weeks. And I think this is what broke me, back in the day, 20 years ago, when I was working as a software engineer full time. There’s something about writing software that turns me into a workaholic, a lunatic who works until his eyes are failing to provide service.

Of course. Life work balance. Meditation. Sports. Timer clocks and screen time limits. Been there before. More generally speaking: what is it that’s deep down inside of us, the thing that turns us into a mode of self-destruction, and limitless obsessing over something?

My passion and bane is designing and writing eLearning software. For others it might be writing, singing, reading, gardening, cycling, golf, the gym, religion, relationships, sex, gaming or traveling.

But maybe, perhaps, being able to obsess over something is just very natural. Yet it’s definitely something we need a watch dog for — an inner parent, an inner, wise consultant, who gently rests a loving hand on our shoulder and says: it’s time to stop. Breath. Take a rest. Find balance. Re-calibrate. Be reasonable. Be kind.

I wonder if writing this blog is another kind of pet obsession of mine. On many days I invest 2 to 6 hours in writing, without any financial incentive, without putting any thought into my economics. Without having a plan or set direction. I’m like the wind, where does the wind blow? What path does it follow, what are the rules? What am I doing? How do we chose with what to spend our time with? To what degree are we allowing time to spend us?

On the other hand… Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Bukowski, Franz Kafka… a lot of really good stuff would have never been written if such an inner watch dog, an inner parent or wise consultant insisted.