I was 95% vegetarian for about 5 years and found it worked pretty well, even without specific rules.
In general, I ate meat at major family holiday gatherings, when I was traveling and there were no filling vegetarian options, occasionally when there was particularly ethical meat available, and when the meat in question was clearly headed to the trash can if I didn't eat it. I think overall I ate meat about once a month, but I didn't keep close track, and the times I ate meat were pretty clustered, so it's hard to estimate. I certainly felt that I was achieving my goals in being vegetarian.
One thing that helped me not decide that every friend's birthday was a special occasion was that I just told everyone around me that I was vegetarian. Since upsetting people's expectations makes me uncomfortable, I would only very rarely eat meat in social settings.
I don't know what the bare minimum to get hired anywhere is, but I know that most medium-sized and up places that you might want to work will hire an entry level employee who looks smart but has a very small amount of actual experience.
A good applicant can write a simple program on a white board and has a project on github, or a past internship, or a dynamic website that they run, to point at. If you think you're on the edge now, these accomplishments shouldn't be too far away.
I really like the suggestion of encouraging people from minority groups to host events and do outreach. In general, making these people more visible might help combat the perception that they are absent from EA, so it might make sense to encourage them to, for instance, blog, post on the forum, or speak at EA events they aren't hosting.
Thanks for writing this! Your journey seems unusual and interesting in comparison to other narratives I've heard.
I'm especially interested in your experience with volunteering and activism. I read a lot on this forum about giving money to other organizations which help and not very much about how we can help people directly. I'd love to hear more about what you think the impact of your volunteer activities and professional work are and where you think good ones are available to others.
I can totally sympathize. Job seeking sucks, especially if you're not feeling like an awesome person who everyone would obviously want to employ. I also know from experience that telling you you're awesome (I don't know you, but you're probably awesome) doesn't necessarily make you feel that way.
I am not a career counselor, but this is the advice I would give you:
Don't go to grad school unless you're really sure you want to. Grad school is a really crummy job, and the payoff in terms of career capital is dubious. Most other jobs you can get are better than grad school, even if they're not in your field.
It's not too late for a career change. You sound not excited to enter CS, but if you decided that was your best option, coding bootcamps are a thing, and they seem pretty good at turning STEM oriented people into employable coders. There are a lot of other places you could go, and a lot of jobs that don't have much more qualification than some college degree.
Earning to give is not the only EA career option. If it won't make you happy, you'll probably just get burnt out on it and maybe resent EA for making you feel like you had to do that. http://www.benkuhn.net/career-ideas has a list of career ideas that aren't earning to give, and it's extremely incomplete.
Also don't feel like you have to be passionate about the first job you take (or the second or the third). If you don't know what you want to do, you try things until something works. I also think that a lot of people start jobs that they don't feel passionate about, and then grow passionate about them over time, so not feeling like there's anything exciting for you right now doesn't mean that you'll never have a job you're excited about.
Lots of people graduate without a job or a plan. As long as you have some savings or someone you can stay with for a while, waiting until you're out of school and have time and space to think about your life is a totally reasonable plan.
I'm happy to talk more or help you brainstorm ideas besides grad school or industry in something your not excited over PM if you think that will help.
hugs and good luck!
My estimate of the value of a marginal hour in tech was based on my experience and pretty general reasoning, and I have pretty low confidence in it, so I think there's plenty of room for disagreement. However, it's still my best guess, and I have considerable certainty that a marginal hour in tech is worth less than an average hour. One place my intuition comes from is this: if I work 80 hours a week instead of 40 (or invest in career capital for that long), do I expect my lifetime expected earnings to double? This seems pretty unlikely to me. A typical senior software engineer salary is around $150K, so if I can get there working 40 hours a week, I would need to be earning at least $300K at the end of my 80 hours a week career (and probably more to make up for not immediately earning twice a typical junior salary now). Very few tech workers (or people who started their careers as tech workers) earn that much, and although working 80 hours a week may increase your probability of getting there, it certainly doesn't increase that probability all the way to 1. That doesn't prove that your 41st hour isn't worth more than your 40th, but you have to hit diminishing returns at some point.
In general though, my main point is that marginal pay works differently from average pay, so you need to actually evaluate what you think a marginal hour of work is worth. Your right that for some people a marginal hour is worth more than the average hour, and for some people it happens to be basically the same, but that's not true for most people. If you think that your marginal hour is worth the same as your average hour, you should by all means use that number when deciding how to use your time.
Thanks for pointing out the broken links! They should be fixed now.
The relevant sentence from the first example:
There is this very, very old puzzle/observation in economics about the lawyer who spends an hour volunteering at the soup kitchen, instead of working an extra hour and donating the money to hire someone to work for five hours at the soup kitchen.
There's some discussion between me and some others on the kidney donation post that I think is also pretty clear. http://effective-altruism.com/ea/ay/kidney_donation_is_a_reasonable_choice_for/1ex
I read both of these as discussing average salaries, although you're right no one says so explicitly. If everyone is already thinking on the margin and occasionally writing in unclear ways, then great.
It changed for medical reasons, so unrelated to how I felt the policy was working for me in terms of balancing temptation with my reasons for doing it. I'd like to go back to it, or something like it, but I don't know how to do it without spending a lot more energy thinking about food than I want to right now.