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When Your Passion Becomes a Burden

a man is sitting at his desk, leaning close to the keyboard. He's in a room, the computer monitor is turned on, and the man rests his head in his hands, showing tiredness.

Hello. It's been a while. My last blog post was exactly 1184 days ago. Coincidentally, I stopped writing right after the pandemic started. Was the pandemic the reason why I stopped writing? No. It was just a coincidence. The reason is way more complex than that.

But this article is not about why I stopped writing. That's not the passion that became a burden. I've only written three articles before I stopped. It was not enough to call it a passion or say I did it consistently.

My passion is and always was: solving problems. But it would help if you didn't think "solve problems" in the tedious way we say when we're in an interview, and the recruiter asks you to say something interesting about you. When I say that I like solving problems, I mean that I like fixing things, making things better, understanding why things (or processes, for that matter) are the way they are, and finding ways to improve them. As a kid, I remember disassembling all toys I got from my parents to understand how they worked. But once I understood the mechanics behind them, the real challenge was to put them back together. "Solving the problem" I just created would give me the thrill I sought.

This is me. I tend to get bored or, even worse, deeply frustrated when I'm not doing something I find meaningful. That's probably most people, and I'm not being scientific here; it's just my gut feeling. But hey, wait a minute, I'm a software engineer1. If there's something that's a consensus among us is that working in the tech industry is all about the non-stop flow of problems to solve. New things, practices, best practices, and patterns are invented daily. There's no space to be bored in this field of work. Well, I am.

Here's the thing: writing code and fixing problems with software indeed puts me in a very challenging position, where I have new problems to solve every day, which, by consequence, also means I'm working where my passion lies; however, this also means that my brain power is constantly being drained. If you do it too much: you burn out!

Nine years. That's how long I've been working as a software engineer. It's not much time compared to many other people I know in the industry. However, these were very intense years. I started as an intern at IBM and had to prove myself to many people to secure a full-time position. I needed that job. I quit a good job to try my luck in the tech industry. My wife worked two jobs so I could do the internship, which paid way less than my previous job, and the compensation was not enough to cover the bills. I had to work long hours to learn everything from everyone around me. I succeeded. I got the full-time position offer, which paid three times more than the internship. My wife could finally take a break and "just" work one job again.

Once I landed the first non-internship position, I thought things would be a bit calmer. Silly mistake. I worked even more. Now I was responsible for running complex systems, developing, testing, deploying, and maintaining new features in a big codebase. I was thrilled doing that. I was growing and getting promotions every year. Some promotions wouldn't change my job title on LinkedIn but would pay considerably more money. Not bad.

Then, after a long time in the making, my wife and I moved to Canada. I got an offer to work in an e-commerce company with a product and technologies I was not excellent at. I took the challenge. It worked out well. But again, I had to put in the hours to level up with my peers, to deliver what was expected from me, and to feel that I belonged there. This would take a toll on my mental health.

After that job came another, and (recently) another; I'm now in a technical leadership position. I know that I know a lot of things. I've been around, and I've done a lot of nice things. I also know that I don't know A LOT of other things. That's OK. But here comes the question: after crunching the time and learning so much in nine years, is my passion becoming a burden?

There's this saying: "Do what you love, and you'll never work another day in your life." I couldn't disagree more. If you work with something you love, you'll have one less thing to love at some point. Work is not play. Work is hard. Be careful not to let your passion die.

For these reasons, to keep my passion alive and yet be able to operate in this wild capitalist world, here's what I'm trying to do to prevent my passion from becoming a burden:

  • Exercise: Your body is all you have. Take care of it and move! I've been swimming for a while, and I'm now consistently going to the gym. It changed my mood for good.
  • Rest: We are not computers. As much as we think we can do amazing things, we must rest.
  • Eat well: Don't expect to eat burgers, fries, and drink beer every day and also be able to operate at high levels for too long. Your body will suffer, and you'll pay the price.
  • Find balance: It's nice to accomplish amazing things. Some people are extraordinary in doing that. But find your balance. You may be the genius that can code it all, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Good for you. I'm not that person. I need to do something else that's not coding. If your hobby is also to write code, hmmmmm... you might have a problem there.
  • Alternate: It's OK to have periods in your life that you'll work hard. We all need to make the extra effort to accomplish aggressive goals. I've done that, and I'll probably do that again. But do alternate between the crunching periods and calmer periods. Your mental health will thank you later.

That's it — that's my rant for today. Hopefully, I'll be able to follow whatever I wrote here and find a way to keep my passion for solving problems alive.


  1. I call myself a software engineer because that's the title my employer gave me. Its meaning is yet to be defined, so I may as well be a programmer, software developer, or coder.