500 Internal Server Error

A malformed request. A stray character. An array where an object should be. The wrong HTTP request type. We’ve all experienced 500 errors when integrating with a new API, or an old API. We’ve seen 500’s when doing our own development; dived into logs, added print_r and echo at each step. Pulled out a debugger, even. gdb or xdebug. In pursuit of finding the how to the why, trying to understand.

But what happens when our brain returns a 500? How do you deal with that? What do you call it? We’re not servers. Our brains aren’t a precisely engineered composition of silicon, copper and lead, with microscopic transistor orchestrating mental operations. Our brains are composed of various classes of organic matter and compounds. I believe we can refer to a human’s 500 Internal Server Error as burnout.

I’m burned out.

I spent 2020 working. Working through the pandemic, through the riots in Portland, working through the signficant workforce reductions my employer imposed. I worked through weekends, through holidays, through everything. While the world tried to rip itself apart, my employer somehow mustered the power to pull my coworkers and I closer than ever. The volume of crises increased, so much so that even on the days I tried to take PTO (two, to be exact), I was pulled into triage calls and meetings.

Everything has suffered. My family is struggling to stay together. My dependents are starved for me. I’m starved for me. I just need to find the bug, the stack trace that cryptically says where everything went sideways. By understanding the failure, I will find the fix, and understand how to prevent this from occurring in the future. Without finding the fault, I’m at a loss.

This isn’t an intermittent failure on a vendor’s system. This is persistent and replicable.

I know posting something like this may compromise future opportunities. It may be too personal, or show too much of where I’m at right now for me to be appealing. That’s another funny thing about burnout; apathy. I don’t care. I haven’t posted since October. I need to write something. So why not write what I know so many of my colleagues are feeling. You fault me for being burnt out, I don’t want to work with you. Period. I own my choices. My position doesn’t accommodate me taking time – “we run lean.”

I am human. Not a cog in your machine.


I watched this video and a lot of things clicked. I’ve been a complete asshole for months. Unreasonably irritable with the smallest triggers, depressed, anxious, uncommunicative. Hell, I don’t even really talk to my shrink. I’m paying $150/hr to only brush over surface shit with a stranger. A stranger a decade older than me that probably envies me for my income. Part of the generation that despises my generation. Productivity is.. comical.

I’m apothetic. I care enough to realize that I need to continue to meet baseline so I can support my way of life, but not enough to give any extra. They’ve taken enough from me, and I’m too tired to do anything more.

I’ve realized a change is no longer a feature request, but a requirement. It’s not a nice-to-have library. It’s stdio. I’m not sure if moving to another employer, where my personality will allow yet another manager to completely and totally exhaust my resources is the right choice, or pivoting to consulting is the way. However, running a business in my state? That’s a sure route to failure. Kernel panic.

My biggest regret and most missed aspect of doing what I do is building.

I just want to write code.

No clients. No tech support. No meetings. Just me, my IDE, and my headphones.

I’m tired. Happiness doesn’t exist at the bottom of the bottle, don’t ask how I learned that. Adaptogens are near useless when you 500, and talking to your superior (you know, the people that dictate whether you’re paying your bills next month) is a double edged sword. Asking for time off is always a gauntlet.

At this point, I’m at an impasse. If I don’t get five business days off without interruption, without being pulled into triage or some “must attend” meeting, then I don’t think I have a choice but to force a change. The future is unknown, but I know I cannot continue with what the past has shown me. One should not be dehumanized to the point of self-elimination by an employer.

I thought I was stronger than this.

In short, I don’t know what the road to recovery is. I don’t even know which direction is up at this point. What I do know is I have 20+ applications that haven’t been answered yet. I’m submitting more daily. And I’m pushing through with a smile taped on my face, and a kind tone in my voice. I just don’t know at this point.

500 Internal Server Error