This isn't a funny rant or story. It's one of becoming increasingly unsure of the career choices I've made the path they've led me down. And it's written with terrible punctuation and grammar, because it's a cathartic post. I swear I'm a better writer than this.

The highlights:
- I left a low-paying incredibly stable job with room to grow (think specialized office worker at a uni) to become a QA tester at a AAA game studio, after growing bored with the job and letting my productivity and sometimes even attendance slip
- I left AAA studio after having been promoted through the ranks to leading an embedded test tools development team where we automated testing the game (we got to create bots, basically!) and the database, and building some of the most requested tools internally to the company; but we were paid as if we were QA testers, not engineers, and were told that wouldn't change; rather than move over or up, I moved out to a better paying, less fabulous web and tools development job for a no-name company
- No-name company offered one or two days remote, was salaried, and close to home. CTO was a fan of long lunches and Quake 3 Arena 1-2 hours at the end of every day. CTO position was removed, I got a lot of his responsibilities, none of his pay, and started freelancing to learn new skills rather than deal with the CFO being my boss.
- Went to work as a freelancer for an email marketing SaaS provider my previous job had used. Made loads of money, dealt with an old, crappy code base, an old, cranky senior dev, and an owner who ran around like the world was on fire 24/7; but I worked without pants, bought a car, a house, had a kid, etc;

Now during ALL of this, I was teaching game dev as an adjunct at my former uni. This past fall, I went full time as a professor in game dev. I took a huge pay cut, but got a steady schedule (semester to semester anyway) and great benefits. I for once chose what I thought was the job I wanted over more money and something that was just "different". And honestly, I've regretted it so much. My peer / diagonally above me coworker feels untrustworthy half the time and teaches the majority of the programming courses when he's a designer and I've been the game programming professor for 8 years (I also teach non-game programming courses, but those just got folded into the games program...); I hate full-time uni politics; I'm struggling with money for my family; and I am in the car all the time it feels like. I could probably go back to my last job, which had some benefits, but nowhere near as good; my wife doesn't want me back to working in the house all the time because that was a struggle unto itself once we had a kid (for all of us, in different ways); and I have now less than 24 hours to tell my university I want to not pursue longer term contracts for full-time and go back to adjunct next Fall (or walk away entirely), or risk burning a bridge (we are reviewing applicants for next year tomorrow, including my own) by bailing out mid-application process.

I'm not sure I'm asking for advice. I'm really just ranting, I guess. Some people I know would kill to have the opportunities I have. I just feel like each job choice led me further away from a job I liked, towards more money, which was a tradeoff that worked out mostly, but now I feel like I don't have either, and I'm trapped due to healthcare and 401k and such. Sure, I like working more with my students and have been able to really support them in their endeavors this semester, but... that's their lives. Not mine. The wife thinks I should stay at the university and we'll figure out money eventually (we are literally sinking into debt, it's not going well at all), while most people think I should leave, make money, and figure out the happiness factor once my finances are back on track and the kid is old enough to be in school.

And I have less than 24 hours it feels like to make a momentous decision.

Yay. Thanks for reading :)

  • 2
    Jeebus, positive karma going your way. I was drowning a while back so I can relate. I would really talk to your boss about this if you can. Let him know where you are at. There may be opportunities to earn money where you are at that you are not aware of. Writing game dev books for one.
  • 1
    Hey head up. You’re clearly a skilled individual and you’ve juggled a varied and interesting career with raising a family.

    My advice; Don’t tip your hand at work. Professorships are competitive. Think through what it is that you want, and make this decision on your time. Not the universities. This is a business relationship at the end of the day. You have as much time as you want to review this.

    If you really need the money, use your skills to find a job that can fix your financial situation. But don’t walk on the professorship just because you’re not sure. Walk on the professorship because you ARE sure and you’ve lined something up that you’re passionate about.
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