I’m Back, and Now I’m a Software Engineer: A Life Update with a Side of Caribou Meringue

Sara Laughed

Hi guys! Remember me? I used to blog here! Yes, that’s right, all the way back in 2018 I was the person behind this blog, before I started a full-time job and effectively planted a bomb in the middle of my social life. It’s good to see you again! How’ve you been?

I had no idea that I would be taking a break from blogging when I started my new job. I also had no idea that I’d be taking a break from my friends, my hobbies, or sleeping (only briefly, in a poorly-planned attempt to have friends and hobbies again), but that all happened, anyway. Going from working for yourself to working as a full-time programmer (with a two hour daily commute) is no joke. For the first six weeks or so, I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever have the time to read, write, or bake again. But around the seventh week, a switch flipped. I had energy after work. I wanted to do things in the weekends, like a human person! I even once baked a banana bread after 7PM.

And so I remembered this blog. As hobbies go, this seemed like a good place to start.

It’s hard to seamlessly transition back into blogging after a two-month absence, and (let’s be real) a lot of inconsistent posting before that. So much has happened since I last sat down to write about my life. At the same time, it feels like nothing’s happened at all. I wake up every day at 5:45 to get ready for work. I have the same commute every day; I sit in an office for nine-hour bursts. Same today, yesterday, and tomorrow — so why would you want to read about it? And then I realized that my last life update was literally a year ago. So I guess we do have some catching up to do.

Sara Laughed and Ken in Times Square

In Times Square with my favorite square

First things first: Ken and I are now three months away from getting married. As I write this, our heavy sea-green invitations are stacked on the guest bed, waiting for me to address them. Yesterday, we went to the venue with the wedding coordinator to talk about flower arches and menus. Today we tried on some wedding bands and pretended to nod calmly at the cost of gold, while telepathically communicating to each other “what the fuck?!” That’s to say: it’s all happening! And I really couldn’t be happier.

But while I can’t wait for the day, and for marrying Ken, it’s really not the biggest part of my life. Not by a long shot.

That would be my new job. Or, well, career. Because when I catapulted myself into an 8-to-5 (don’t worry, only four days a week — this is Holland, after all), I also catapulted myself into a new world. Namely, tech.

Sara Laughed with some python readings

Back to study selfies and the smell of toner dangerously close to my face

I majored in Religion in college. My plan was to become an academic, but by the time I graduated, my blog was doing well enough that it became my full-time job. That lasted for about a year before I went completely stir crazy. Working for myself until all hours of the night, in a little apartment in a new city in a foreign country, was not everything I’d ever imagined. The challenges I dealt with were primarily business-related, and that wasn’t what I signed up for when I started blogging. I missed learning, and interacting with other humans during working hours. So I started learning to code online. And one year to the day after I signed up for Treehouse, I accepted a job offer.

The months since I accepted the offer and (in January) started working, have really changed my life. Some parts are incredible – I’ve been given unbelievable opportunities by people who want to invest in me and my potential (more on that later). Some parts suck really bad (I’ve gone to the office bathroom to cry in peace more than once). But for the most part, the changes have been incredibly positive.

One thing that’s really changed is my feeling of confidence. I can’t speak for anyone else, but it was hard for me to work at home. Not only did I find it lonely, but I felt self-conscious. I was always worried if I was pulling my weight, working hard enough, or contributing enough financially. When I met someone and told them about my work, I felt nervous and a little defensive, worried they might make assumptions about me based on what I did. Honestly, it was no reflection of my job or the kind of work I did; those issues had more to do with my own confidence than with working for myself. But they changed when I started my new job. Now, if I have an “off day” at work, it doesn’t directly impact my income or my sense of accomplishment. I worked an honest nine hours. It doesn’t matter if it was less productive than yesterday; I can catch up tomorrow. Similarly, having a job title (software engineer, what?!) and a company has made it easier for me to tell people what I do. Learning a new skill has made me confident in my abilities and potential. Whether it’s because I’m getting older, or because of this career change, I’ve truly never felt as confident as I do now.

Another big change is finances. Ken and I lived on one income for the year that I was learning to code. We learned to be pretty frugal in that time (sale groceries only for this girl. Restaurants? I don’t know her). Going from one income to two has been a big change, but it’s not a permanent one — Ken has decided to go back to school to get his master’s in the fall. Which means that, soon, I’ll be the Primary Breadbae.

(I’m so sorry to bring you in on this cringy part of my relationship, but for the last few years, Ken and I have taken the word ‘bae’ and applied it to everything. “Do you have the keys?” is now “Are you keybae?”. “You’re biking really fast” is now “What a speedybae.” It’s terrible and I’m sorry for telling you about it, but if I have to live with this, loyal reader, so do you.)

Going from living off Ken’s income to earning for us both in the span of 18 months will be a big shift. Right now we’re saving everything we can, while also planning the wedding. I think in hindsight, this year will be one of the craziest of our lives — me starting a new career, Ken starting grad school, and us getting married all in a nine-month period. Please don’t even whisper the word “baby” in my direction, lest our lives explode yet again.

Sara Laughed with Jen Looper at Vue London

With a new friend, and fellow Wellesley alum, at a Vue conference in London

The last major change that this career shift has brought is, to my surprise, networking. In the last six months or so, I’ve been absolutely blown away by the kindness and generosity of complete strangers, who want to help newcomers in tech and invest in that potential. Back in September, I applied for a free ticket to a conference in London, and was chosen to fly out and attend. While there, I met amazing people (and one particularly amazing fellow Wellesley alum). We really hit it off and met up again in Amsterdam last month, where I was lucky enough to attend another conference for free on similar “women in tech” scholarship. To top it off, I was selected to be part of a mentorship program with a wonderful person at Microsoft, who has introduced me to even more people — people whose names I knew, whose talks I watched, when I was learning to code. I’m so early in my journey as a programmer, and yet I’ve been lucky enough to meet incredible, generous people, and be given these extraordinary opportunities. I couldn’t be more humbled or grateful.

So, yeah. Life has taken some pretty big turns in the last year, especially where my career is concerned. But the funny thing is, now that I have this exhausting and wonderful timesuck in my life, I feel like I have more creative energy for blogging again. It feels like it did back in 2014, when I was balancing WordPress with my classes, exams, and deadlines. Having so much going on means that there’s more to share and write about, so my mind is sparking with possibilities and ideas. I want to make a decluttering video about my disastrous bathroom cabinet, or invent my own weird recipes for computer-generated cakes, like Caribou Meringue (what is it? No clue. Let’s make something up!). I want to answer questions about college or coding, or share what I’m learning in my first career. And I want to share what my life looks like as I settle into marriage, which I think will mean overwrought Instagram captions alongside black-and-white wedding photos every Tuesday for the next five years, based on what I’ve observed from friends.

What’s next? No clue. Let’s make something up.

Sara Laughed

Hey hey! I'm Sara, an American writer living in the Netherlands and working as a product manager.

  1. Alyssa says:

    Absolutely love everything about this post! I have been struggling with feeling as though I don’t have anything to update anyone with (stuck in a rut one could say), and I’m hoping that goes away after graduating this May. Really resonate with what you wrote and I love hearing about where you’re at! Amazing that learning a new skill sparked a new interest and brought the creativity back into your life! Continued well-wishes for you!

  2. Katie says:

    I’m glad you’re back! Transitioning from religion to blogging to tech is really something. I’m a junior studying the Middle East but I’m looking for jobs in advertising; it’s good to know that such leaps are possible! Best wishes on your journey!

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