At Drupalcon New Orleans, I held a BOF entitled “Keeping it Exciting After All these Years.” It was a small group - seven people, including myself. We discussed some the ways that we find technology work to have transformed from genuine enthusiasm resembling “I can’t believe people pay me to do this!” to something akin to drudgery or menial tasks.
I feel like the party line is - of course it feels that way after you’ve been doing something for so many years, but is it necessary? We encounter this mentality with relationships - “keeping the passion alive” after being together with someone after N years - and our relationship with technology work is a relationship just the same. But does it need to be subjected to the same level of low expectations and burnout that some of us burden our romantic relationships with? Perhaps an extended relationship with programming can be cherished and thought of the same way we treat our cherished friends. Or, perhaps, after many years, it is a relationship that should be abandoned in favor of greener pastures.
Motivation can come from being mindful in the rituals of programming, and in the moments, rather than in the search for meaningful projects or work for ‘meaningful’ clients.
Doing work on a project that is personally meaningful to you - for a political or environmental cause, for example - is amazing, but access to those opportunities is limited and, even if obtained, may not be financially feasible.
Update from 2022: In retrospect, it is no surprise that after this, I applied to graduate school - a choice that would eventually lead to a PhD and the transformation of my technical career.