Be a content consumer for once

by webmaster 2024-06-20 updated: 2024-07-04 #opinion #mental-health

I've been burning out for a long time. Programming has been a significant part of my hobbies outside of my day job (which is also programming, duh) but the mental-ness of it all has been gradually wearing me down to the point where I had to step away and embrace the hedonism of consumerism for a change.

Even this article is hard to write since it implies a minimum of brain power and creativity. But I finally dragged my ass out of the virtual couch to put down a few words on the topic, partially for accountability towards future me, but also as a "hey I'm floundering over here and it's ok" gesture to the couple of y'all who are still (for some reason) reading this blog.

So here we are. I'm not the first software professional who's had enough hustling and decided to put their head down, focus on the day job that allows them to put food on the table, and do something completely unrelated outside of that.

Speaking of hustling, oh boy don't get me started. Like many, I bought into the software hustle culture, spurred by Twitter and loads of success stories by indie hackers who seem to be able to fart money before I've even had my first coffee. Good for them I say!

Why can't I do the same though? After all, I'm a pretty good developer, I love my craft, I really enjoy coding, and it brings me joy to create software. You see, the obvious thing I'm lacking is the ability to market and sell the things I make. And that's way more important than the ability to code and come up with new ideas, if you want to make money with your software.

I don't know if I'll ever develop that ability to sell stuff. I have a bad habit of being almost ashamed to ask for money. What really kills it for me, though, is the point where the hacking stops and the marketing starts. It feels so distasteful that I usually prefer to release it for free and move on.

I guess I'm going to be a wage slave for the rest of my career. And maybe that's ok - we can't all be entrepreneurs. Let's be real though - there's not much room for "woe is me" here. We in the software industry are truly privileged, whether working for ourselves or someone else. Self-pity not required.

Now, the day job is the day job. It has its ups and downs, its satisfactions and frustrations. It's not perfect, but it pays the bills (less every year with inflation, natch!) and it helps support my lifestyle (sadly I can't afford to race cars like DHH, nor a Lambo like Taylor).

I thought that if I worked on side projects outside of the 9-5 (after all, I have a ton of cool ideas), maybe I can break out on my own and become an entrepreneur. There's been one snag though. For more than a decade I have made fitness my main priority outside of work. So I am a bit of an (amateur) athlete - not only very fit for my age, but compelled to exercise daily. Which means that other activities (like hacking on side-projects) take a back-burner. Yet, I'm unwilling to trade fitness for more mental stress and potentially more money. I look around me at people who work way too much and exercise way too little and I don't like what I see. What good is all that money if your health and quality of life decline a lot faster than they should?

At the same time, like a lot of people who suffer from a cocktail of OCD, anxiety, impostor syndrome, a hunger for creativity, and a dash of FOMO, I feel compelled to "produce" something as opposed to consuming. Compounded with memories of a "wasted" youth in the form of playing too many video games, my older (and methinks wiser) brain is trying to compensate by over-assimilating and overproducing.

Unfortunately, with age comes a diminished capacity for mental stress. For a while now I've reached a point of saturation where I'm bouncing between hobbies, but mostly away from side-projects-as-a-hobby.

All this to say that my mental capacity is just about filled up at the end of the workday, and all I have left in me is an acute need to squeeze the brain-strain out through intense physical exercise. At the end of it I'm drained both ways and the only thing I can still handle is a mindless - and purely hedonistic - activity such as playing a game, watching a movie or a show, or reading a book or comic.

This is probably a phase. I go through them periodically. There are game phases when I'm glued to the gaming PC for a couple of months until I become bored. As I write this, I think I'm over that - I'm just about played out. Now I'm going through a binge-watching phase and I'm enjoying the ride. Once I'm tired of that there's a chance I'll swing back to side-projects. Or not. Time will tell.

I think I'm done with forcing myself to spend my free time in a rigid manner. My mental health has benefited from letting myself go with the flow.

If you feel stuck in a similar grind, I recommend it. Give it a try. You might enjoy being a consumer for once.

Things I've consumed recently

Because people have asked, here are some shows and (PC) games I've enjoyed during this burnout spell.


  • Captain Fall - Season 1 (2024)
  • True Detective - Season 4 (2024)
  • Fallout - Season 1 (2024)
  • The 3 Body Problem - Season 1 (2024)
  • Scavengers Reign - Season 1 (2023)
  • Beef - Season 1 (2023)
  • Tour de France Unchained - Season 1, 2 (2024)
  • Delicious in Dungeon - Season 1 (2024)


  • Witchfire
  • Last Epoch (replay on V1)
  • Ostranauts
  • Valheim (yeah, I'm replaying this)
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