Going through a 30s life crisis

ZekZek Registered User regular
Disclaimer: This is mostly a venting thread but I'll try to turn it around into a question at the end.

Background: I've been working as a web developer since graduation (just turned 30), and moved to silicon valley about 4 years ago which was a considerable career upgrade. Learned a lot, been quite successful and enjoyed the job for a while, but it started to get increasingly stressful later on, in part because of a failure on my part to set expectations (too eager to please) and having too much emotional investment in the project. Then earlier this year the whole project imploded in a big way, but incidentally I had just secured a transfer to a new team by that point (same company, new project).

Lately though I'm still feeling a strong sense of burnout and disillusionment - even though my new project isn't overly taxing, I just don't feel invested or excited anymore about my life on this path. The sting of knowing that my work the past few years didn't amount to much in the end really made me start to reconsider what I'm doing with my life and what the reward was for all that hard work. My mind has been racing between a lot of different options, but the common point to start is that I'm strongly considering making a move to Seattle, since I only really came to the Bay Area for my original project and don't feel that invested in the region. Plus I have to live in the suburbs in order to have a reasonable commute, and I'm kind of sick of it and want to try living in a proper city (SF doesn't appeal to me).

However that realization that I'm not where I want to be anymore has really started to make every day a struggle. My lease ends in October and the pragmatic choice would be to move out then, and either find a new team there or work remotely for a little while to help wrap things up. As soon as I consider locking that in as my plan though, even a six month wait starts to feel like an eternity - every day spent here feels wasted when I know that I'm not staying.

If I could really just have my way and listen to my "heart" I think I would break my lease and move in the next couple months. Probably just make some excuse to my boss like my girlfriend got a new job or whatever to avoid burning bridges. Get there while the weather is nice rather than making winter my first impression there is also a big plus, I really dislike winter/holidays (wherever I am). Money isn't an issue and I have no doubt in finding work, plus as I mentioned my boss might be willing to let me work remote for some time, though I don't want to do that for so long that it becomes isolating. However I'm really conflicted about the social stigma of doing this, disappointing my new team and possibly revealing to them that I must be really unhappy to be leaving so soon. Everybody there is really career-driven and I'm not sure if they'd understand or approve. All those worries and responsibilities are now feeling really oppressive to me which only makes things worse.

So if you've read this far, have any of you guys gone through similar experiences? Either with a quarter/third/mid-life crisis situation, or just having to choose between a practical/rational decision or a more uncertain/emotional decision. If so I'm curious to know what your situation was and how your decision worked out for you.

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  • EnigmedicEnigmedic Registered User regular
    I was sort of in a similar situation. When I was 22 I was working at a most likely dead end job (and had been for about two years). I didn't hate it but it was just the same thing every single day and I wasn't ever going to get anywhere. So I enlisted in the Army just to get out. The people I worked with were understanding. Sure I thought that the people I worked with would be disappointed, but after talking to them, I realized there were really only two things that could happen. If people got mad because I was leaving, they cared about the business and not me, so I don't care what they think. If they supported the decision, they cared more about me than the business. It was harder leaving these people, but again, they are the understanding and supporting ones. The supporting ones were generally the ones who had stuck around forever, and had no real choice to leave anymore.

    That is where I kind of see where you decision comes in. You could stick around somewhere that you aren't really happy anymore, or you could make the change. Sure the change can be difficult too (the army was no picnic in my case), but if it ends with you in a better place, it could be the right decision. At the end of the day, you should take care of yourself. 6 months can go by really fast when you're trying to plan things. If you are really worried about burning bridges, abruptly quitting and moving would probably make that worse than saying you are leaving later.

    To your feeling like what you did for 4 years amounted to nothing is also kind of defeatist. I'm sure in those 4 years you learned how to do (or not do) many things, met a bunch of people, and gained some skills. While there might not be a tangible product, everything you learned is probably impacting whatever you are doing now. So maybe think of it more of a continuation of the project you left.

    All I can really ask is, where do you think you should be, or where do you want to be? If your current situation isn't going to lead to either of those places, maybe it's time for a change. I also don't know your situation, but would it even be possible for you to move somewhere and work on your own?

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  • PrimePrime Registered User regular
    edited April 2017
    I was 25 when I had similar thoughts. Had somehow fallen onto the path of having my own small company over a 5 year period in a field that I was good at but didn't really enjoy with long hours. So I saved up some cash, sold the company and took a bottom rung software development job in another part of the country (I already had some basic skills). That was 6 years ago and I'm now a project lead with flexible working hours and so much happier. Was terrifying at the time and a lot of hard work and it also could have gone horribly wrong.

    Prime on
  • Zilla360Zilla360 21st Century. |She/Her| Surreal. Immersive. Earth.Registered User regular
    edited April 2017
    I really freaked out when I turned 30 too. Getting close to my mid thirties now.

    I started reading a lot of books on philosophy, and then just recently came across Alan Watts and Yuval Noah Harari.

    It's helped tremendously when it came to understanding what I want to do with the short time that I have on this planet, having such a broad perspective.

    Really life is about creating your own happiness, and your own meaning from meaninglessness whenever and wherever you can, in every aspect your life, and if you feel able to, in the lives of those around you, in an utterly cold, indifferent, existentially crippling universe. And find balance in everything. :)

    You are everything you have ever done, or ever will do, both good and bad, it couldn't be any other way; otherwise you wouldn't be uniquely you. Embrace it. :cool:

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  • ThundyrkatzThundyrkatz Registered User regular
    It sounds like you are rudderless, adrift. Your previous project was what helped hold everything together. you don't love being where you are but it was all worth while in pursuit of your last project, until that imploded on you. So, my advice to you is to commit to a new goal. If you want to go to Seattle, and you don't have a family or other responsibilities that pin you to your current location. Then do it. That being said, you should do your best to avoid stepping on other people to make that happen. So make a plan, and work towards that goal. Go visit Seattle and look for places to live, send out Resumes and secure a job. put in your notice where you are here, let your landlord know that you plan to move and give him the chance to lease your place. Have your legacy in SF be a good one.

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  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    edited April 2017
    I don't mean to be a downer. That's just life. Most people don't get to like most things they do. Social media hasn't helped the disappointment people feel because it's just one huge highlight reel.

    Most work doesn't amount to much. Find another outlet that gives you happiness. I think everyone in my generation hit the "Things didn't turn out the way I wanted" wall a bit younger than people who are approaching it today.

    The answer is find meaning in other things. Happiness is what you get to have when you meet all of your obligations and then get the freedom to decide what you do with a bit of your day.

    Research a decision to move carefully. General disappointment doesn't really care where you live, by all means move if you want to but don't think of it as a fix. Maybe get a therapist to talk to.

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  • HeirHeir Registered User regular
    Yeah I'm 36 and had a similar feeling in my early 30s. We have similar backgrounds, and I work for a bay-area software company (thankfully remote from Denver though). Came to find out that I'll never "love" my job. It's called "work" for a reason. So I started working to live. I do well in my career, but at the end of the day it's just a paycheck...a means to an end.

    I find pleasure in everything I can do because of my career. Running, camping/hiking, watching my kid grow up, gaming, travel, volunteering, etc.

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  • SoggybiscuitSoggybiscuit At the edge of spacetime lies a path with no end.Registered User regular
    I also had similar feelings as well especially right after I hit the big three-O. I had been doing the same job for four years at that point, and it took me a while to suss the issues. Basically, I was getting bored at my old job. I had conquered every issue they had with regards to control system programming and HMIs. It was to the point that I basically browsed youtube at work all day and just did all my field work in the field instead of preparing beforehand because I needed some challenge (and also because I could do that and get away with it).

    I'm back in school (again) pursuing my second bachelors, with an eye towards grad school after I finish. Thankfully, physics is challenging, and I haven't felt this good in years, even If I do sleep less.

    Maybe you need some challenge in your life? If you are just going through the motions every day, that can make anything you do amazingly boring and tedious, and it will start to affect every facet of what you do. You can change cities (a challenge!) but if you keep doing the same thing everywhere you go, you might not ever be happy.

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  • a5ehrena5ehren AtlantaRegistered User regular
    1) Don't worry so much about your current team/company/whatever. They were fine before you and will be fine after you leave. People moving on is just life and no one is going to take it personally unless you work somewhere that sucks.

    2) Unless you get a job at Amazon or Microsoft, you're probably looking at a significant pay cut to leave the SV tech bubble, and Seattle isn't that much cheaper to live in.

    3) We're the same age and were told basically our whole lives "find a job you love," which is bullshit. It should just be "find something you can tolerate that pays well". Like dispatch said, look at your job as a means to an end, not something inherently awesome or fulfilling.

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  • tinwhiskerstinwhiskers Registered User regular
    When's the last time you took a vacation? Not like a long weekend, or Christmas with the family, but a good week or more of going somewhere interesting and new, seeing some sights, maybe a beach, and lots of day drinking?

    The dollar is super strong right now, so maybe take a couple weeks and go to Europe or somewhere you haven't been before.

    Also your wanting to live in the city comment confuses me a bit. I've only ever visited SF or Seattle, but if you want city living I don't know what you think you'll find in Seattle that you can't/won't in San Francisco.

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  • CauldCauld Registered User regular
    What do you like to do in your free time? Do more of those things.

    I think that for most people defining yourself by your work is a mistake. I agree its important to be challenged and somewhat fulfilled by your work, but don't forget you can find challenges and fulfillment outside of work as well.

    Zilla360dispatch.o
  • JasconiusJasconius sword criminal mad onlineRegistered User regular
    I think the most important thing is you identify what you really want from your career. As a software dev you have options, and from reading your post I'm not convinced that a lateral career move but in other city is necessarily going to be the fix. No employer is going to be able to do anymore to ward against project failures than the last. It's out of your control, and if an essential part of your happiness is seeing your work in action then hanging your hopes on a business as an employee is an important gamble.

    If your instincts say that your current team would react poorly to your decision to go remote you're probably correct. Some people take a developer's desire to go remote as a negative. Depending on how knee-jerky your managers are, they might even start counting you as "probably going to resign soon", and treat you thusly.

    Have you considered starting your own company or maybe working for a much smaller company where you have more control?

  • ASimPersonASimPerson Cold... ... and hard.Registered User regular
    When's the last time you took a vacation? Not like a long weekend, or Christmas with the family, but a good week or more of going somewhere interesting and new, seeing some sights, maybe a beach, and lots of day drinking?

    The dollar is super strong right now, so maybe take a couple weeks and go to Europe or somewhere you haven't been before.

    Also your wanting to live in the city comment confuses me a bit. I've only ever visited SF or Seattle, but if you want city living I don't know what you think you'll find in Seattle that you can't/won't in San Francisco.

    Having been to Seattle several times (like, at least a dozen) while living in the Bay Area for the last 10 years (and SF for the past year), I would say that the vibe of the two are still different. SF is one of the densest cities in the US and the densest on the West Coast, while Seattle (outside of downtown) definitely still doesn't feel as dense as SF's less dense neighborhoods. To put some numbers on it, Seattle's 2016 estimated population was 686,800 in 83.87 square miles (8,188 per square mile) versus SF's 870,887 in 46.87 square miles (about 18,580 per square mile).

    So Seattle is the big city, but I can understand the OP wanting a city like Seattle more than one like SF.

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  • ZekZek Registered User regular
    Thanks for all the advice, a few broad replies:
    • I definitely value the time I spent on my last project, it was great for my career growth and I saved a lot of money which gives me the luxury of financial security to do what I want with my future. Still, I was really personally invested in the outcome and so seeing it fail was pretty heartbreaking. I think it was a mistake for me to become so invested, I'm trying to learn from that in the future and I don't intend to seek out a substitute for that to build my life around.
    • My reasons for preferring Seattle over SF are quite vague, I can't pretend it's entirely rational. Just culturally the pacific northwest feels more appealing to me, I've always felt a bit out of place in California. I plan to spend some time up there later this year as a trial run before committing anything, work remotely from there a couple days, etc. In either case, I work in the South Bay which is too far to reasonably commute from SF, so I basically have to change jobs in order to live in a city anyway. And I'm just really bored of the suburbs.
    • I admit that personal fulfillment outside of work is an issue I need to work on regardless. If nothing else changes other than the place I live then I don't expect vastly different results in the long run. Sticking to the same career post-move is more practical for now though, I want to play that out as long as I can before I start considering entirely different careers. And my intention is to rediscover a sense of hope about building a new life, and maybe use my lessons learned to do it better this time. Or maybe not, but I won't ever know for sure unless I try.

    Zilla360
  • BasarBasar IstanbulRegistered User regular
    I think everyone goes through a similar period in their lives.

    Around 3 years ago, just before I was about to turn 30, I was sick of the way my life was going. I had an extremely well paid but very unfulfilling job and I needed something that would change the way I lived my days. So I quit corporate to give entrepreneurship a try and while it didn't go as I planned, I had a lot of fun trying and learning new things, meeting people with different perspectives, etc. I am about to go back to a professional career (just had a full day interview marathon yesterday and waiting for the results) and my time away from corporate actually helped me clear my mind, make better plans for the future and now for the first time since I started full time work 13 years ago, I have come to the realization that work is supposed to be just that, work. I will spend 8-9-10 hours a day, 5 days a week on it so that I can live the rest of those 24 hour periods as I wish. I know many people of my age have listened to the famed Stanford graduation speech by Steve Jobs and working on something that you love sounds amazing until you realize that Jobs was from a different generation when technology was changing the way people lived their lives and population growth was not as fast as it is now, so there were more opportunities for smart/pragmatic people to work on things they loved doing. Anyways, don't feel down man, you sound like a person I would love to work with but don't feel so attached to your workplace, after all, it's just work.

    Good luck!

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  • ZekZek Registered User regular
    Yeah, I think it all started a couple years back when I began to realize that I had already achieved my original career goals and didn't care anymore about climbing the ranks at the cost of more stress. I don't think I want kids, a house would be nice but I don't need the space, and I like the flexibility of renting (for situations like this). So I started to think seriously about what I needed the money for - I could aim for early retirement but I don't think that would make me happy. I always thought I preferred the suburbs but I started to realize that other people like me usually live in the city, and my peers out here are mostly married with kids. So I'm starting to realize that my top priority should be landing myself in a situation where I'm less socially isolated, whatever the cost.

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