Work vs School — a Change of Mentality (written 3 yrs ago)

a recent trip to Yellowstone National Park

I started writing this 3 years ago, but never got to finish this. Now when I look back, it obviously no longer applies, and I already lost how I felt then, so I could not finish it. I will publish it as it is. It surprises me how much I have changed even though I don’t realize it. I am amazed at how much I have grown.

I started working one month after I graduated from college. For the first few months, I was at a lost everyday after work. My biggest confusion is: what do I do now? My work is fortunately 8 hours per day with little overtime. When I go home, I have nothing to do. The old routine — lots of homework, lab time, dinner at school cafe with friends, extracurricular activities — doesn’t exist anymore. I felt weird and empty.

It took me a while to adjust to my new schedule. Even after 2 years, I can’t say I’ve really mastered this lifestyle. In retrospect, I noticed that I had some mentality shift. I want to document it here so I can later look back at my path. I also hope that this serves as a confirmation to people on the same journey: the emptiness and frustration will go away, and life will more enjoyable (for the most part).

My biggest realization is that life has no deadline.

Well, there is, but we don’t know exactly when. When I was in school, I always knew when all my deadlines were. Homework has a due date. Semester ends in a final exam. Internships are usually 12 to 14 weeks long. School finishes with a graduation ceremony. Everything was standardized. I knew when things were going to end, so if I didn’t enjoy it, I would suck it up and stick it through. I clearly knew what I needed to do, and even though I procrastinate a lot, eventually I managed to accomplish the majority.

Now, deadlines are not so strict. Other than work, there is no deadline for anything. I have many passion outside of work, and it’s really hard to get to them without a deadline. I would always think “Today is a busy day, maybe I will do this tomorrow.” And tomorrow. And tomorrow. Then I get completely distracted and never get to it. Then 2 years went by without me noticing. During these 2 years, more than once I thought “if I started that 2 years ago, I would’ve become an expert already.”

Long term hobby, blogging, reading, working out, traveling… these are my important but not urgent things in the Eisenhower Matrix. They need special attention, pacing and planning ahead. Lately I’ve been consciously spending more time on important but not urgent things, and less time on urgent but not important things. My effort has been mostly spontaneous, and some planning (even just to scope out how much time to spend on a book) will help me get more organized.

Always got to find time for nature

I need to plan out my work as well. My team has mostly soft deadlines, so if a feature doesn’t make the current release, it can wait til the next one. Since there’s little sense of urgency, sometimes I may take longer than necessary to research and code. I not only need to plan, but also need to trust that my plan is best for myself. Researching, thinking and asking other people will help me improve at my own pace.

Comparison is not a bad thing.

Know what I want.

Do not slack off and stick to my goal.




Software Engineer, Bay Area, California

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Mengqi Guo

Mengqi Guo

Software Engineer, Bay Area, California

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