A very scary thing happened to me earlier this year: I started to grow up. After I turned 30 in January things seemed to naturally progress in that direction. I was already doing a job that made career sense, rather than something I was passionate about. I started shaving regularly - like every couple of days; and getting my hair cut every 6 weeks. I started wearing dress shirts every day instead of just when I felt like it. My wife and I started looking at buying a bigger house.
Finally, I was becoming a grown-up. But it all started to unravel when I realised that what I meant by "growing up" was "giving in".
In the beginning I had a really positive feeling about the changes. I like looking decent, so making that happen regularly was nice. I was starting to get used to (and occasionally enjoying) my more management-oriented role at work. It felt like I was taking the next step. But I wasn't. I was jumping onto a different track. It was incredibly draining.
That'a a lot clearer with hindsight. After some soul-searching I decided to go with passion rather than career progression and landed a new job. It's a 100% technical role and I'm loving it. I may well still be in the honeymoon phase, but all of the things that used to worry me have gone. There's essentially no hierarchy, so comparative career progression is not even possible, let alone a concern. The environment is as casual as you can imagine and because I cycle to work now, pretty much every day is jeans and a t-shirt day. I shave... well... when I remember. I'm not worried about the problems of the organisation: there don't seem to be many, and CEO's more than capable of handing whatever there is.
After looking at some IT industry salary figures, I've realised that I'm in a very sweet spot. Firstly, I'm paid competitively to do something I love. Secondly, the higher paying management-oriented jobs don't really pay that much more, until you get into the CIO level.
I came so close to embracing a me that doesn't exist, to becoming what I thought I should be rather than what I want to be. And while I have plenty of room for personal improvement, it's amazingly freeing to leave the expectations (mostly my own) behind and go with what I love.
God, I hope I'm never tempted to grow up again.