Quo Vadimus?

Published April 27, 2011. Filed under: Meta.

I’ve been in a rather epic funk for quite a while now, and for most of it I didn’t know why. I just knew that I didn’t really feel motivation to do much of anything. No motivation to deal with things at work, no motivation to work on Django or any of the open-source projects I’m involved in, no motivation at all. I’ve basically been treading water. This wouldn’t have been surprising if it had happened, say, last year or the year before (both of which involved fairly heavy stuff going down), but it didn’t. It started just a few months ago. And it wasn’t until fairly recently that I finally figured it out.

Earlier this year two things happened, within a month of each other, whose importance I didn’t realize at the time. The first, in January, was my thirtieth birthday. Now, I’ve never really been a birthday person. I don’t have a big party, I don’t make a big point of having people know about it and generally it’s just another day as far as I’m concerned. This one wasn’t too different in that respect, except that it was number thirty. I tend not to care much about age (except for certain milestones which, in this country, grant additional legal privileges like being able to buy beer), but this one’s really starting to hit me.

The other thing, in February, was the fifth anniversary of the day I moved to Lawrence and first showed up to work for the Journal-World. Anniversaries — at least, work anniversaries — are another thing I’ve never been all that big on, but fives and tens and their multiples usually get attention (though, amusingly, I contrived to miss the official gathering which recognized my five years with the company; at the time, I was busy fixing a movie-listing importer). I can still remember quite clearly the day in late 2005 when Jacob messaged me on IRC, asking if I’d like to come work with him. At the time it was a grand adventure; I was packing up everything I owned, moving across the country to a town where I didn’t really know anyone and starting work at what was, essentially, my dream job. I’d get to build cool things with Django for a living, after all — what could be better?

And the past five years have been quite an adventure. I’ve met some amazing people, built some amazing things and gone from being a random nobody on the internet to being both a member of and something of a leader in a fairly awesome community that’s sprung up around Django. But given enough time, any job becomes just a job. And five years, it seems, is enough time for that. I still get to build interesting things and I still get to work with Django, but the fire just isn’t there anymore, and it shows. That, combined with the creeping realization that I’m not as young as I used to be (I know that sounds silly from someone who’s only thirty, but it’s true), has been the source of the funk.

Reinforcing that is the fact that, recently, a couple of people I’ve worked with and come to respect over the past few years — Christian and Daniel — have announced that they’re moving on, to do generally exciting things (incidentally, if you need some contract Django work, you really should talk to Daniel Lindsley; don’t let his self-imposed modesty get in the way of his all-around awesomeness).

Back in my college days, I had a friend who owned a DVD set of Sports Night, the show Aaron Sorkin did before he was Aaron “West Wing” Sorkin. We ended up with a fairly large group who’d sit around in a dorm room at night, watching one episode after another until it was far too late for even college students to be awake. In case you’ve never seen it, Sports Night was a behind-the-scenes look at the people involved in a SportsCenter-type nightly sports show, and though it was short (only two seasons) and not always particularly funny (despite ostensibly being a comedy), it was beautiful. And, since we were all young and in college and going through the sort of drama that comes with that era of life, we all identified with it pretty strongly, to such an extent that even now it’s the go-to analogy for most life situations.

The final episode — written without full knowledge of whether it would be the final episode — is entitled “Quo Vadimus”, a Latin phrase whose meaning is explained by a mysterious character who shows up just as the (fictional) show’s future is in doubt:

Mysterious Stranger: You know what would make you feel better right now?
Dana: Really, nothing.
Mysterious Stranger: You don’t want to hear what I think would make you feel better?
Dana: I really don’t.
Mysterious Stranger: In the three day history of our relationship, have I been wrong about anything?
Dana: Look…
Mysterious Stranger: Dana, I’m what the world considers to be a phenomenally succesful man, and I’ve failed much more than I’ve succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, “Where are we going?” And it starts to get better.

Yesterday, I gave my (somewhat extended) notice: as of June, I will be leaving the Journal-World. It’s been a heck of a ride these past five years, but as the last few months have made clear, it’s time to move on. To what, I don’t know just yet. But, life and the nature of time being what they are, I don’t have too many chances for big adventures left, so I’m actively looking for one. There are a couple of things already on my radar, which may or may not work out, and I certainly wouldn’t mind hearing about any other interesting opportunities out there (so if you know of one, feel free to get in touch). Fortunately, I’m in a spot where I don’t urgently need to find work right away, so this is less about finding something and more about finding the right thing.

Meanwhile, I’ll probably spend some more time on Django and other open-source work, maybe take on some contract jobs, and just generally get myself together and say, “Where are we going?”

It’s already starting to get better.