Undefeated After A Defeat

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So, to provide a brief update on my journey, I took another assessment a few days ago. I knew that I could have passed it, but I needed a few more days to grasp some of the concepts after getting behind too early in the curriculum. So, as a result, that means I will have to repeat everything I did for the past 3 weeks all over again from scratch for an additional 3 more weeks. 😔 As depressing as it may seem, it is re-establishing two truths that I already know, yet have become even more dear to me because of my failure:

  1. Embrace the process. There is beauty in the struggle. It is not about the destination, but the journey.
  2. If you stay ready, you ain’t gotta get ready…

It’s always foolish to learn hard lessons more than once when you don’t have to. Yet, I think it was good for me to have not succeeded so soon if it will change me into being a better version of myself for the rest of my life.  The usual way of thinking is to hurry through things so that you can get to the endgame as quickly as possible. But, many times, we should be thinking about the opposite. Taking it all in. One day at-a-time. Cherishing every painful moment and defeat, and seeing yourself go through a metamorphosis and seeing your own growth and transformation. That alone oft times is worth embarking on the journey altogether. This has taught me clearer than ever before that even 1 bad decision… 1 poor choice… can set you back days, or weeks, or even years.

I have grown quite comfortable with some of the people I have met in my cohort. While it hurts to see that some of the cohort-mates that I came in with will graduate ahead of me and we won’t celebrate together at the same time, I am reminded that I must run my own race, and that my story won’t be their story, nor is it intended to be.

My focus and resolve is renewed, and I am ready to finish strong. I want to leave you with this quote that really rocked me recently. Sometimes, you come across a quote from a prolific, historical person that, although you are very familiar with their body of work, something fantastic from their repertoire comes from out of the shadows and you say to yourself: “How’d I miss that one?” Well, this quote is one of them. Shoutout to a website I discovered within the last year that I really enjoy, which is where I got it from. It is from Maya Angelou:

“You see, we may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. It may even be necessary to encounter the defeat, so that we can know who we are. So that we can see, oh, that happened, and I rose. I did get knocked down flat in front of the whole world, and I rose. I didn’t run away – I rose right where I’d been knocked down. And then that’s how you get to know yourself. You say, hmm, I can get up! I have enough of life in me to make somebody jealous enough to want to knock me down. I have so much courage in me that I have the effrontery, the incredible gall to stand up. That’s it. That’s how you get to know who you are.”

Current Mood: Getting Dragged…

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Above, is a live look at me and my current energy levels…

So… currently, we are learning a TRUCKLOAD of stuff. So much new stuff is being thrown at us that I can’t even adequately (or accurately) describe what they are because they are so brand new to me. Here’s a few of the topics we are tackling now (in no particular order):

  • Creating RESTful routing CRUD apps (Create, Read, Update, Delete)
  • Javascript
  • JQuery
  • JSON
  • AJAX
  • Active Record Validations
  • Active Record Associations
  • Sinatra
  • HTTP Requests
  • BCrypt
  • User Authentication 
  • Sessions

… just to name a few. My head is swimming right now. But this is what I signed up for, right? I’m not getting very much sleep, but as the saying goes, “The only thing that comes to a sleeping man is dreams…” So late nights and early mornings have been my life for several months now. One artist I like put it this way: “…how you gon’ complete your life checklist/spendin’ every night watchin’ Netflix?” There’s no time to chill. I am about halfway to my goal, so I have to increase the intensity. My dreams will not get accomplished by wasting my time on the couch.

I can’t wait to blog from the other side (i.e., the employed, feeling accomplished, side of things). I can definitely see why so many take a vacation immediately after graduating! The threat of burnout is soooooo real.

The mental fatigue is so persistent that the best way I can describe it is that it is like running a “mental marathon”.

My current diet is TERRIBLE. When you take “L” after “L” and are constantly humbled by what you don’t know/or are unable to grasp, all you wanna do is grab some comfort food to cheer you up! LOL! In addition, there is very little time to workout, so you have to fight even to take care of yourself.

So, as I try to pick myself up from this carousel and get back to studying for a few more hours, enjoy an ice cream cone for me, ok?

A Major Milestone

 

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So, I managed to do the impossible and pass a major test in my journey to becoming a full-stack developer. It was only by GOD’s sheer grace that I even passed it. Not by my smarts, or my work ethic, or by any such thing. I am beyond hyped (and relieved). As you can see from the gif above, this is an accurate representation of my current mood. I’m trying to go Super Saiyan on every test from here on out, but I know it won’t be easy. Every assessment makes me feel like it is the 4th quarter in game 7 of the Finals. The pressure is palpable. The stressful cloud hanging over your head each time you take one makes you feel like you might throw up Mom’s spaghetti at any moment…

I was tested on things such as refactoring classes, module mixins, inheritance, schemas, SQL queries,  nested arrays, etc. There’s such a long way to go. Yet, I am trying to re-orient my mind to think more about how far I’ve come instead of thinking how far I have to go. I see more clearly how learning to become a programmer changes you… You really do have to think differently and approach situations with more of a changed perspective than you ever have before. There’s definitely a lot I wanna say right now, but I will leave that for another time. Sometimes, you just gotta appreciate the win, and not take for granted what you have already accomplished. So that’s what I will do. Soak it all in, before it is time to get hit by more haymakers.

When GitHub Teaches You A Life Lesson

Nothing to CompareSo… some time ago, I found out that I would need to repeat my previous 3 weeks of learning because I did not pass an assessment (which measures your skills and comprehension on all that you have learned thus far). It would be devastating had I not already known going into the exam that I wasn’t passing it, LOL. (I typed “LOL” there even though there’s nothing really, truly funny about it. It’s just that sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying…)

I will be given another assessment really soon, and should I not perform well this time around, I will be asked to leave the program.  I currently feel like Langston Hughes’ “A Dream Deferred” or even better Proverbs 13:12.  I feel as if all of my hope is beginning to dry up. My hopes of getting out of a dead-end job, and out of a crappy NYC apartment, and onto a fulfilling career seems to be slipping further and further from my grasp. I feel like such an underachiever. It feels as if all of the late nights, early mornings, massive hours studying code, whiteboarding, extinction of a social life, loss of sleep, etc. is not paying off and I feel like a huge failure. On top of constantly dealing with “Impostor Syndrome”, I now am tasked with rebuilding the sandcastle (that I just spent 3 weeks building) all over again because the foundation was not good enough. My sandcastle was kicked over by big, bad, bullies like Rspec and code reviews that showed that I had a lot of improvement to do. This means that in addition to this, the stress of surmounting monthly bills (after having left 2 jobs in order to pursue this dream), the constant reminders that come in the mail from the company that I took out a significant loan from (in order to finance this endeavor which could cover the cost of a new car), amongst other pressures is starting to weigh heavier. “Will I do all of this and have nothing to show for it? All of this sacrifice just to find out that I couldn’t “hack it”? (pun definitely intended here…).”  Even as I typed this last line, I seriously considered whether I should put “hack it” in single quotes since I already used double quotes earlier; that’s how much my mind has been inundated with code (my Rubyists will feel me…). It feels like everything is falling apart. I don’t have the financial resources to easily start from scratch again. Doubt is beginning to permeate my emotions. I feel like an intruder who will never belong.

But here is what I have been reminded of this week in the most unexpected of places: GitHub. The photo above was like a reminder to me to stop comparing myself with others. Truthfully, there is no one to compare myself with. My journey is not and will not be the same as anyone else’s. It is unique with its own sets of challenges, setbacks, victories and experiences. It has been said (and very well, I might add) that “comparison is the thief of joy”. There is soooooo much truth to that. Stop comparing. There is no one else in the world like you. You are a unique, specific, special, original, instantiated object, I mean, person (pardon my Ruby speak…). Be encouraged to not compare your journey and set of circumstances to others. It is unhealthy and dangerous. People who are fellow learners with you have such a unique combination of education and experiences that allows them to either grasp/not grasp the material you are now learning. (May I offer you a really great article in general, as well as one that speaks specifically to this exact point? (see tip #1 Hmmm. I wonder why it is #1…))  Maybe they had a head start. Maybe they repeated the phase before you did. Maybe they took online classes already. Maybe they have a Computer Science degree in hand already. The scenarios are endless but the comparisons are not valid.

It is likely, that for the very first time in your life you are training your brain to think like a computer. That is not easy! Be kind to yourself.

But if the saying is true that anything worth having is worth fighting for, then that is exactly what it is going to take: an all-out fight, each and everyday to have the life that you want, regardless of profession or endeavor. So I will dust myself off, and try again. Who knows how long this blog will be around if I fail again? The answer lies in how bad do I want it…

 

I Really Dislike Dirty Sinks

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Pretty nasty, huh? My pet peeve is to have a sink full of gross dishes that pile high all the way to the faucet. Why am I mentioning this? {Thanks for asking!} It’s because this sight is indicative of the demand an intensive coding school placed upon your life has and its effect on virtually everything in your personal, day-to-day life. I have hardly had time to do laundry, pay bills, go grocery shopping, run errands, clean around the house, etc. We haven’t even begun to cover personal relationships and leisure time yet (“leisure”…what does that word even mean? I don’t think that is in my vocabulary anymore….).

The point is that you have to really give your all with this endeavor. It’s not just that there is not enough time to do your daily checklist, it’s that even if you had a spare moment to cross something off of your list, you are so physically tired and mentally drained that you don’t wanna do anything else at all (even this blog post was intended to be written over a week ago). Yet, you are required to keep pushing because if you don’t, you might fall behind. Studying always needs to be done.

There’s code to review. There’s code to refactor. There’s new code to learn.

It’s a non-stop, ongoing thing. Once you are on the train, it does not stop moving until you get to your destination graduation.  This eventually creates this kind of mania in your head because you never really feel at ease or relaxed, especially with major tests/examinations/assessments hanging over your head (more on that later…). It grows into this tension between the need to keep grinding and pushing forward and the need to pay attention to your personal needs of self-care. Like stepping away from the computer, (even when doing so causes you to feel guilty because whatever you choose to do with the time makes you feel that it could have been better spent programming) getting sufficient sleep, thinking about a different subject, getting Vitamin D from the sun because you have spent an insane amount of hours sitting indoors hunched over a computer screen, taking time to dance, a moment to sing in the shower, a chance to enjoy nature and feel the breeze against your skin…all the things we take for granted when we are not singularly devoted to one dense topic that you often can’t even talk to family and/or friends about because they don’t/won’t understand.  It’s been reported that many students begin to even dream code because it takes up so much of their mental energies. You really do eat, sleep, drink code for weeks on end. This leads to letting yourself go. Bad hair days begin to pile up. Your waistline takes a hit because you begin cramming down unwholesome meals because there isn’t any time for shopping or cooking. You just recycle and repeat outfits (hey, it’s not like you are doing anything other than sitting in front of a screen all day anyway).

You have to fight for yourself. For your health. For your sanity.

That’s the reason that there is a pile of dirty dishes in the sink and it’s being connected to this storyline of mine. Maybe the Dish Fairy will hook me up while I’m sleeping and do something like this. Because anyone who knows me knows that this is unacceptable, but alas… I currently don’t have the mental or physical fortitude to put up a fight or to do anything else when I get home accept strip off my clothes, throw them on the floor, and climb into bed all in one smooth, continuous, uninterrupted motion… just to do it all over again in a few more hours in the morning.

What Did I Get Myself Into?

After 2 years of considering the idea of going to programming school in order to learn how to write code, I finally jumped in the deep end and decided to do it… and boy, is the deep end deeeeeeeeepppppp. So deep, that I was supposed to have written this post about 2 weeks ago but have been so busy that I have not really been able to.  So why am I starting this blog, anyway? Well, let me explain…

I was first introduced to the idea of becoming a programmer while I was in college quite some time ago, but for fear, I never really looked into it or gave it any real consideration. I shrugged it off because I did not want to be one of those kids who was constantly switching majors or starting things that they never finished. So I kept pressing on toward a meaningless business administration degree in order to stay on track for graduation. Oh yeah, that whole fear thing…

Fear has run my life for I don’t know how long now. Always thinking of the worse outcome and being paralyzed by every decision is a reoccurring theme in my life that I finally decided it was time to take a unified front against. I kept thinking about taking the risk and doing something different EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. to the point where I knew, that if I never tried I would always regret it. I knew I would never knock the ball out of the park if I had never gotten into the batter’s box and taken a swing. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” and all those other cliché pictures that you often see in office settings kept attacking my thoughts, so I decided to put my indecision to death and do something about my fears: face them.

Now that I am, the fastballs are coming at me 100+ miles per hour. I am dealing with imposter syndrome somethin’ serious and I don’t feel it going away anytime soon. THIS IS PROBABLY THE HARDEST THING I HAVE EVER ATTEMPTED IN MY LIFE. I am using parts of my brain that have felt so dormant that I have to sweep the cobwebs off of them. My stress level has been so high, that I have been feeling the symptoms of what feels like vertigo the past couple of weeks. I have been feeling nauseous, with throbbing headaches, loss of sleep (averaging about 3-4 hours for several days at a time), extreme fatigue (even if I did manage to get sleep on certain nights, if I slept for 8 hours I would still feel drained), my eyes would hurt just looking at a screen; computer, iPhone, etc. Not to mention the worry about bills, how I would repay the loan I took out to finance this endeavor, personal relationships, family matters, etc. I felt as if I was constantly juggling and one gust of wind would just knock my whole thing down. It got so bad, my wife even booked a session for me at a spa to receive a Swedish massage and a jacuzzi treatment to help relax my nerves. It was so desperately needed. I had never been to a spa or received a massage. It felt unbelievably good. I felt like a new man.

All of that was to prepare me for my first week of bootcamp. And as I write this, on the eve of week 2, all I can say is this: It is extremely hard. Like, harder than my undergrad degree, hard. I see more gray hairs coming in like never before. I started having to drink a mixture of chamomile and valarian root tea just to help me fall asleep. I understand the phrase “it’s like drinking from a fire hydrant” more intimately than I ever have before. I don’t feel smart. I don’t feel able to do this. I constantly ask myself “what are you doin’?” and “why did you do this?”. I take in information so slowly that it is so hard to keep up with the pace of the class or the curriculum. I feel alone.

But, here’s what I won’t do: Quit. Give up. Throw in the towel. Tap out. Or whatever else my own mind wants to come up with that speaks to me every moment when I am trying to do anything hard, difficult, or uncomfortable. Something I heard on a podcast in recent months had been really helping me lately (paraphrased):

“The only thing stopping you from having what you want is the story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t have it. Tell yourself a different story.”

I signed up for bootcamp because it is the opportunity to change my life in 18 weeks. Who wouldn’t want to be able to do that? To challenge myself. To grow. To be able to have my future self surprise my current self. And that can only be done by doing one thing… as “Pop” from Luke Cage would say: “Always forward, never back.”

So welcome to my blog, aka online journal, aka online journey about the ups and many downs of my experience in a programming bootcamp. I don’t have any idea what I’m doin’, but I’m tryin’…