As further evidence that I am in the throes of the lamest midlife crisis ever, I have spent much of the weekend spurning pleasant social opportunities in favor of working alone on a new hobby so geeky/dorky I cannot bear the idea of talking about it publicly. And given things I have mentioned about myself over the years in blog posts, that’s saying something. (No, of course, not filking. I would hope that in this world I have the sort of friends who would perform a serious, if necessary fatal, intervention if I ever became involved with filking.) I feel like somewhere in my early thirties I took a wrong turn and have since been careening toward becoming a de-Enidized variant of Seymour from Ghost World.
OK, while I still don’t want to talk about it, part of what I’ve been doing involves some computer programming. I say this only because the thing with me and programming is that when I’ve got something I want to program, I can work for 12 or more hours straight without any especial need for social interaction, websurfing, reflexive e-mail checking, food, or hygiene. (This does not always mean that I will have a great deal to show for those 12 or 14 hours, depending on if I’ve gotten stuck on something.) If I could fire up the time machine and go back to age twenty and start an alternative career fork, computer programmer would probably be it.
I was telling a friend about this and she promptly said, “It’s not too late! You could still go become a computer programmer.” Oy. I really like being a professor. Partly precisely because it’s a job title so broad and with so much autonomy that you can shape your actual work into a number of different things. Why I don’t actually do more programming in my work is a different question. As an assistant professor, I was doing a lot of programming-like work for awhile on a certain large survey I’m involved with, but then I cut that way back on that because it seemed like it was taking too much time away from other things with clearer external rewards. Perhaps I should revisit that decision.
Does anybody else have a counterfactual career they wonder about?
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