I remember the exact moment I snapped. I was trying to start a local ruby application when an error about mysql2 said something about not being installed correctly. I spent hours on the issue but got nowhere. I closed the laptop in feigned calmness and huffed: I’m done.

I’m fucking done.

I stepped away, and would hardly step back for months.

Hello, my name is Mo, and I’m a recovering code addict.

When I would think of code over the next few weeks after the unhinging, I would feel a nausea similar to that you’d feel when you thought of alcohol the day after a hedonic drinking binge. Code began to have a noxious smell, my body and mind repulsed by it.

I was exhibiting signs of textbook burnout. And it had to end. Allergy to code would land me in the deepest, darkest bowels of capitalism: market irrelevance and uselessness. But why was I feeling this way? Why couldn’t I summon the will to write a single line of code, when mashing keys to produce typescript in the past was something that brought me great pleasure and fulfillment?

I struggled with this question. Could I logically exit my way out of burnout? I mean, what is it? Can I seriously not write a single line of code without feeling like I’m crawling on nails? Surely its mere comic egregiousness should lend itself to easy diagnosis and repair.

In thinking about it more recently, I’m beginning to feel like burnout is a memory. It’s the memory of every bad time I’ve had coding. The vanquishing multi-day bugs, the constant knot untangling of local dependencies, the endless wheel of repairs and upgrades—all fed through some single neural pathway to create a simple but vast emotion.

If burnout is a memory, one way out of it could be to rewrite those memories with more positive ones. New, simple, positive memories of coding. The key would seem to be starting small as to not risk another negative experience. Too small to fail. If I truly love this enterprise, which has lasted in me longer than any other obsession, then surely it lay dormant within.

With the right future technology, a simple solution would seem to be wiping out and deleting those negative experiences altogether, but this would be a terrible idea. I’d approach coding and feel the same dismay without having the faintest clue why. Could it be one of those memories I deleted?

There is also the advantage that recent memories seem to be more weighted in the emotional network. Overwriting memories with simple positive ones may win out in the mind by the bias of recency alone.

As for coding in english, I’d say this was a decent journaling experience. I had to drag every word out of my cemented mind. But here’s to hoping I’ll remember it fondly.

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