First, most people don't program that long. The conventional wisdom is that you "move up" into management long before you've been coding for 37 years. Only thing is I don't see programming as a job, I see it as a creative act. I drew a big circle shortly after I started, and said I was going to fill the circle. So until the circle is full, I still have more to do.
I feel like a movie director. Unfortunately people don't believe in me. They think he's an emeritus, and at times I've encouraged them to feel this way, not knowing how limited that role is. An emeritus isn't like Clint Eastwood or Martin Scorcese, two men who are quite a bit older than me. They've had a few hits and misses in their career, but they are still encouraged to do more. In programming, well -- this is another trail I'm going to have to blaze. Along my path I've always had trouble trying to get people to believe that what I do is creative. I've had bosses who thought I was just writing code that they would write if they had the time or interest. They bought into the "move into management" idea, that I didn't buy into. I knew they couldn't do what I did. It takes focus and drive and purpose and huge patience to do what I do. It's not necessarily a blessing to be so driven, but you have to be that way to create at the level I work at.
Anyway, at dinner the other night the question came up of what's the diff betw programming after 37 years, and programming after say 10 or 15. Here's the deal. I know now that it's important to pace myself. When I reach a level, I have to stop and admire the view. Maybe build a house or at least a hammock. Bring electiricity in. Find out where the supermarket is, and the Starbuck's. Don't be so quick to move on, to build on your accomplishments. It takes many years to undo the mistakes you make when you thought you were in a rush. It's much faster to catch your breath and think. Even ponder a little. Weigh the choices.
Hey I ride my bike pretty fast. I like speed. But when you're talking life's work, it's not the same thing as a bike ride in the park.