The last week has been an introspective one, with good memories of the past, and a cautious optimism laid-out for the future.
Alex, Jordan, Andrew, and I (all ex-Abletech buddies) went to the 2023 Ruby Retreat, hosted at the Mt. Cheeseman Lodge, near Arthur's Pass in the South Island.
Some untimely snow greeted us on the way up, which made the environment even more other-worldly for someone like this Wellingtonian hermit. After settling-in, and greeting the familiar faces, we played catch-up. This felt like my first tech event / meetup since Coronavirus changed our habits, back in 2020.
Overtly, the weekend was mostly spent playing boardgames, trying to sleep, and eating the wonderful catered food. But really, my thoughts were preoccupied with my mental health state, the nature of the industry we all work in, and the growing concerns for the Web as a whole.
Summing up the last 3 years
I have an overwhelming sense of being lost in limbo over the last 3 years.
When work is your primary source of meaningfulness, and your work means little compared to previous work you've done, then things aren't as good as they should be.
It didn't help that I came back from Madagascar with a head and heart full of questions. Questions such as:
- How can I make my active employment make a change in the world?
- What is happening to modern Web Development, and why does it suck so much for those less fortunate than us?
- Why is the Web being portioned off by the technocrats? Are we experiencing a web-based Tragedy of the Commons?
- Who is working on social change, and why is the overlap with hiring web developers so small?
- How can I be closer to my family? Should I give up this experiment of living in NZ and seek meaning instead in familial bonds?
I experienced a series of setbacks:
- A signed contract with a Norwegian employer was met with COVID-level immigration problems, and the unpracticalness of working with 11+ hour timezone differences
- A series of job applications denied for greener or socially-conscious organisations
- The rising dependency of React-only front-end development roles
- The disappointment of contract and competency expectations not being met
- Growing isolation as friends moved to greener pastures and more affordable living outside of Wellington
- Lack of boardgame evenings, meetups, and other social outlets
As a result, my mental health has plummeted. I'm still torn between finding a Good™ Job in little New Zealand, and being closer to family in Norway/England.
I'm slowly seeing some improvement on the Web towards embracing the Web Platform, rather than trying to reinvent it. But it seems most employers are cutting corners by not hiring specialists, or placing emphasis on what I call the "Commoditised Imperative Programmer" roles, to the detriment of declarative work such as HTML and CSS.
Applying for work overseas, remotely, in the current financial environment, is experienced as a ruthless series of disappointments. As an alternative, I'm entertaining ideas of becoming a hermit farmer, or changing careers entirely. I'm still hopeful that there's the right organisation out there that needs someone with my skills though.
Something needs to change
Feeling lonely is one thing, but doing so in a country like New Zealand (with its own emotional-ostrich culture) so far from one's support network makes it hurt a little more.
I'll keep applying for roles, as one should, but the pull of kinship, sunshine, and even economic socialism is growing ever stronger.