The importance of hobbies

Written by Joe Ferguson / Original link on Aug. 28, 2017

Nearly all the programmers I know count programming among their hobbies. I always have; I was a hobbyist programmer long before I was a professional programmer. The cautionary tale is about burnout. When you spend all day at your day job doing one thing and then going home and doing the same kind of work burnout can start to creep up on you.

In 2015, I had a pretty big burnout attack and ended up quitting a bunch of things that I really loved doing because I was just trying to do too many of them at once. Community building is one of my hobbies. I spent a lot of my free time building various communities to varying degrees: I’m a board member for my local hackerspace Midsouth Makers, I run my local PHP user group Memphis PHP, and there are several other things I’m involved with to varying degrees. Sometimes I feel like I’m falling back into the issues I had in 2015 where I was just doing way too many different things. I feel so much better today about everything I’m doing because I’m not the primary leader of all the things I was doing back in 2015. I’ve let others step into those roles, and in some cases, I’m taking a pretty relaxed back seat.

I love programming, and I’ll always have side projects. I’ve never been burned out on programming because I have so many different side projects always in the works that are almost always completely different than what I’m working on for the day job. The past several years of my professional career I’ve been working with custom content management systems and modernizing legacy applications. I’ve made a distinct point to avoid custom CMSs outside of the day job. I want to solve other problems, and I think this is what largely keeps me motivated and interested in my day job projects and the hobby projects I’m hacking on. My hobby projects include hacking on some terrible code I wrote in 2013 to manage an RFID system’s database, Laravel’s Vagrant system Homestead, some social media sorcery I can’t really talk about in public, and contributing to other open source projects. Keeping my hobby projects outside of the realm of the day job is very helpful to me.

It’s incredibly important to me to have hobbies outside of programming. I’m very guilty of answering “What do you do outside of programming and community building?” with “Uhm…. that’s about it.” Honestly, depending on the situation, I don’t like to admit that Blizzard Entertainment has a very tight grip on my soul. I’m a HUGE Blizzard fan boy. I specifically love World of Warcraft and Starcraft. Despite my Quake and Doom roots, I’ve become a big fan of Overwatch as well. I’m not ashamed that I’m a huge WoW nerd, it’s more of the stigma of the basement dwelling hermit that plays MMOs 23 hours a day and never goes outside. I’ve been a gamer since 1987 when my grandfather bought me an original NES and a TV. I was instantly hooked. As I’ve grown older, I went through various consoles, but the love of computers has kept me more on the PC gaming side than the consoles. The one exception for me is hockey games on consoles. There is something about a Hockey game that once I figure out how to beat the computer opponent, I can just zone out and mindlessly play the game (and win!). I did this a lot when I was in high school when I was trying to solve problems or sort out how a complex idea fit together. I’d get it all in my head, and fire up a copy of NHL 94 and a few hours later I’d have my head wrapped around it.

Over the past nine months, I’ve found another hobby I’m really passionate about: drone racing. It’s a combination of the technical side of building and tuning a drone to fly not only fast, but smooth. Also, it’s a budding and growing community here in Memphis. Getting to meet tons of new people that share common interests who aren’t programmers has definitely helped get me out of my comfort zone and learned more about what makes people passionate about drone racing. There are stereotypical gamers and programmers, but I haven’t yet found the drone racing stereotype. I’ve made a ton of friends that are willing to help newbies get started by offering expertise and in some cases hardware. I feel just as home in this community as I do in the open source community. This open desire to share knowledge and passion was certainly the thing that pulled me into the drone racing community. Flying fast and taking funny videos of me crashing into stuff is just a bonus.

Find your passions and avoid burnout as much as you can. Thanks for reading.

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