Just over six months ago, I took a step back and looked at my job. It was hugely fun, and wonderfully challenging. I got to work with talented people, and I was compensated quite comfortably. Then I, er, quit.
(Strangely enough, the thought to do so had actually been planted a few years before — back in June of 2010, to be precise. Stranger yet, it was planted there during a conversation with Steve Wozniak. But that’s a story for another day.)
So, why quit? I originally wrote up a big, introspective post on all the logic behind my decision to drop off the radar for a while — but then I reread it to myself and it sounded stupid and rang of self-perceived grandeur, so I erased it. What it really all boiled down to: I wanted to go learn to build awesome things.
I’ve always kind of known how to build things. Having grown up on the Internet (really, my umbilical cord might as well have been a CAT5 cable) amongst a group of people waaaaay more clever than me, I had osmosed enough to cough out derpy bits of mostly-functioning code whenever something needed fixing. I never felt, however, that I could just could just sit down and conjure up something out of nothing. That bothered me.
It’s a bit tough to hone in a new skill when you’re chasing down leads and racing to break stories at all hours of the day. I did the math, and figured that I had enough tucked away under the mattress to keep me (and my smarter/prettier half, and my dog) housed and fed for a few months while I hit the books. So I quit. My then-boss, Sarah Lacy, was more supportive than I ever could have hoped.
What I might build in the long run wasn’t the point — in fact, I’ve deliberately kept myself from dwelling too much on what long-term projects I might work on until the new year rolls around. I also forced myself to politely pass (if only for now) on a handful of offers to help fund whatever my “next thing” might be, because I didn’t want to worry about what that might be; I just wanted to learn.
I also wrote a lot of code. Some of it I might consider building upon for future projects. Some of it I might exhibit here in some form over the next few weeks, as I share some of the fun little things I’ve built while gettin’ my learn on (Hell, I’ll probably put one of’em up here tomorrow.) The very vast majority of it’ll be burned and forgotten, as it’s the terrible labyrinthian mess of slop that you have to write before things start making sense.
(And before anyone worries that I went a bit too all-work-and-no-play: I also had many an adventure, fell deeper in love with Liz than I was already and deeper than I ever thought I could be, and shaved a couple minutes off my mile time. Oh, and I bought a car, which admittedly might not be the smartest thing for someone who is technically unemployed to do. But hey.)
“So — what are you working on next?”
As soon as you leave a job, it’s a question that you can expect to hear roughly four hundred times a day.
Alas, the most direct answer in my case — that is, “myself” — was generally met with a look that sat somewhere between confusion and concern. It’s a pity that the concept of a “gap year” is still mostly foreign in the US, as taking a bit of time away to learn new things is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Whether or not you quit your job (which… probably isn’t a good idea for most people), I can’t recommend it enough: that thing you’ve always wanted to learn? Go. Do. It. Wake up earlier, or stay up later, or do whatever you have to do — but just never stop learning.
So, what’s next now? I will almost certainly start writing again, in some form or another. I’d be silly not to. But I’ll continue to build — and come the new year, I’ll be dedicating a chunk of my time to building things I’ve been putting off for years.
Because I can now.This entry was posted on December 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm