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Abbey Perini
Abbey Perini

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Coding for Fun on Top of Coding Professionally


  1. Listen to your body and mind.
  2. Burnout is hard to come back from.
  3. Rest is a worthy reason to not create something.
  4. Focus on what about coding is inherently interesting to you.
  5. In lieu of a problem that interests you, create something you know can help other people.
  6. No coding problem is too small or ridiculous to focus on in your free time if it interests you.
  7. The list of things you want to learn and build will always be there.
  8. Other areas of your life will inspire your code.
  9. Community support makes mountains look more like molehills.

this is fine meme, but instead of the dog being surrounded by fire, its surrounded by house plants

2021 in Review

I will forever look back on 2021 as a year I accomplished so many wonderful and new things. Entering month 10 of my first professional developer role, I've weathered multiple extremely steep learning curves and have been signed up for more. Part of what's kept me going has been learning what other parts of my life I can't ignore and not losing sight of what made coding so fun for me in the first place.

This is NOT about how to maintain noticeable "passion" in my day to day job. Other people have said it better, but the focus on hiring people for their passion is misplaced. What those hiring managers want is work ethic. They want to see developers who are committed to a life of continuous learning. I got plenty of positive feedback on my passion during interviews. What they were liking was my dedication to breaking into tech and strong desire to learn more, as I felt I had barely scratched the surface.

Day to day corporate programming turned out to be vastly different than I was anticipating. I still have the work ethic and desire to improve processes. The difference is, I have other people telling me what problems I care about. Often the lure of solving the puzzle is enough. Sometimes, I have to remember being a user in these systems and focus on how I would have loved to see these improvements.

a white cat with big blue eyes and fur going in all directions "I can't decide if I need a hug, six shots, or three months of sleep"

In the first couple months of my role, my brain felt fried. I was learning so many new processes and so far out of my comfort zone that I became a zombie at the end of the day. Content to sit and stare at a blank wall, I realized I had never spent so much time really thinking for work. I genuinely didn't understand how other people were managing extracurricular coding.

My whole life, creating has been a necessary outlet. My husband will tell you I always have a creative project going, and yet, in those first couple months, I created nothing. I wrote blog summaries of job search techniques, but nothing that required coding. My fiber arts projects gathered dust. Barely started costume props sat on my desk, unfinished. The part of my brain that is always hungry to solve a problem was overwhelmed.

So I rested. I beat God of War and tried my hand at the Muspelheim and Niflheim trials. I picked up Doom (2016). I dove into growing plants for my garden from seed. I prioritized talking to friends and planned a beach trip.

Then, in June, I did exactly the same thing I did to reset after graduating bootcamp. I picked a Discord bot idea that wasn't remotely practical and ran with it. I was back!

In September, I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 29. I began navigating new medication and a new definition of productivity. I couldn't pick a coding blog topic, so I wrote a listicle per the excellent suggestion of a friend.

a hamster, fur going in all directions "why yes I am a bit stressed. why do you ask?"

By October, burnout was rearing its ugly head again. This time, I more readily heard my brain/body telling me to slow down and focused on Halloween, my favorite holiday. Not a single blog was written that month. I joined Virtual Coffee's Hacktoberfest monthly challenge and didn't complete more than two pull requests. I sat, staring at issues, while my brain balked at the idea of learning a new technology or codebase. Thankfully, I had learned enough at this point not to beat myself up about it, but I really did want that t-shirt.

Through November, writing a huge series about accessibility became my outlet - my way of ignoring what my body was telling me because I was consumed by the joy of solving problems I was inherently interested in again. I discovered that I could be interested in Data Structures and Algorithms, something that had stymied me time and time again, as long as the problem I was trying to solve had real world context. By the end though, I was still burnt out and heading into December.

What followed was a deep introspection and re-evaluation of my priorities. I did half the Christmas decorations I normally do. While on PTO, I threw myself into holiday baking and fully relaxed for the first time since July. I realized I've been neglecting my health since I started bootcamp and my dog simultaneously became so anxious our daily one mile walk grew impossible. I'd managed to normalize overwork and repetitive stress injuries for myself. I work remotely and had sold my car, so I became used to barely leaving the house. It became clear I would need to focus on refilling my own bucket. I had been running on empty for far too long.

"Lavender reduces stress" a woman lying on a bed covered in lavender, staring aggressively at the ceiling

As everything I've learned about ADHD allowed me to unpack my internalized shame and coping mechanisms, the question became "How?" I'd become extremely frustrated with the way the majority of people think "just do the thing" is an answer to my struggles. My ADHD diagnosis came with such relief, because every time I couldn't "just do the thing" reliably over a period of time, I took it as a personal failure. This had become especially true about exercise. As a yoga teacher, I've heard countless platitudes about maintaining a regular yoga practice like it all comes down to willpower. Even though I've read the research on building exercise habits, I internalized that and removed myself from communities that would have helped me build the habit back up. My increasingly sedentary lifestyle had become both a symptom and a factor for the shame that kept me from returning to regular exercise. Last month I watched How to ADHD's Exercise Barriers video and something finally clicked.

I'd been thinking of healthy habits, rest, and fun as extra. I've been trying to shame myself into regaining an ideal lifestyle I never actually had. What I realized in December was these "extra" things are necessary to keep me going. Beyond the physical aspect of being healthier keeping me alive longer, my brain needs fun and rest to recharge. These things aren't adult necessities I need to force myself to do, but the sugar and spice of life. Without joy and relaxation outside of code and work, it doesn't matter if the extracurricular coding problem is inherently interesting to me because I won't have the energy to focus on it. Not to mention, all the coding we do is trapped inside the computers. If I keep spending the vast majority of my time and energy on the grind and constantly pushing myself to learn more and code more, there won't be much left outside the computers soon.


This is a commitment to balance in 2022. I need to rediscover play and find inherently motivating ways to make it a daily habit so I have the energy to code for fun outside of work.

a lemur, sitting like it is meditating "come on inner peace I don't have all day"

As for the "how" as a person with ADHD, I've built a star chart like you'd see in a Kindergarten class to reward myself for taking breaks. I've set yearly goals and am using my bullet journal to break them down into monthly and weekly SMART goals. I'm really excited to try my Supernote A5X when it finally ships so I can try and combine all my work productivity systems into one. Maybe you'll even see some creative content for it!

Most importantly, my yearly goals include fun things that will get me out of the house. My extracurriculars have always inspired my code. Everything from project ideas to what I want to see in a website UI is informed by my life outside of programming. My list of programming concepts I want to learn and things I want to build grows daily, but this year has proven if I don't take the time to rest, I'll never be able to get to any of it. And maybe, all the fun will give me project ideas I never would have thought of otherwise.

Finally, I want to thank all of the people in my life who celebrated my accomplishments in 2021 with me and helped me through the low times and self-doubt. Without the encouragement of my husband, my editor, my sister-in-law, my close friends from bootcamp, my Virtual Coffee friends, and the family and friends who had no idea what I was talking about but cheered me on anyway, I wouldn't have made it this far. It's hard to believe a year ago I was wrapping up my final bootcamp project and starting the job search in earnest.

If you'd like to know more about any of the things I've touched on in this blog, please don't hesitate to leave a comment. More than anything, reader, I hope you join me in trying to incorporate a little more rest and joy each day in 2022.

Top comments (1)

jonrandy profile image
Jon Randy ๐ŸŽ–๏ธ

The thing I hate most about programming for a living is that it gets in the way if doing it for fun