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It's 2020, and I'm still here

huijing profile image Chen Hui Jing ・Updated on ・3 min read

I got my first proper job as a web developer in 2013, having only the limited experience of building a handful of websites using the "oh-so-advanced" technique known as copy-paste-driven-development (CPDD?). Needless to say, I lucked out.

If you ask me, my career has since been a continuous spate of lucky breaks. I've had the good fortune of meeting people who have boosted my career in ways I would never have achieved on my own effort alone.

Throughout my life, I've had the tendency to care about what other people thought of me. Or at least, I would project my own view of myself onto the people around me. I wanted, no, I needed to be useful, because if I was useful, then people would want me around.

Needless to say, I always thought I could do better. Because if I was better, then I would be more useful. Or at least, that is the logic thread I'm running on. Yes, I have issues.

And because I cared about how other people saw me, I was particularly affected by the neat boxes society tries to put people into. Arts versus Science. Masculine versus Feminine. Athletic versus Studious. Rational versus Emotional. You get the picture.

I don't fit nicely into boxes. I'm the wrong shape for a box. I can squish myself into them, sure, but it's not a comfortable experience. I also grew up in an environment where specialisation was valued. Pick a thing, stick to it and be excellent.

Be excellent. That is an expectation that I've carried with me my entire life. But it is also a double-edged sword. Expectations are the root cause of life's misery, because disappointment only exists when expectations are not met.

That being said, it is also what pushes me to work harder on things I'm not good at, to go find out more, to figure out things. It took me a while to learn that the crux of it all is the process of becoming excellent.

And yet, it is one thing to know of something, and quite another altogether to truly internalise it.

If there's one thing I've learnt to admit to myself after more than 3 decades on this planet, it's that I'm particularly sensitive. And I'm saying this as a former full-time athlete whose coach once mentioned in passing that I was one of those players who couldn't be yelled at.

At the time, I was offended. I had this impression of what it means to be a mentally tough athlete. You know, the player who is unflappable regardless of what is going on around them, no matter what gets yelled at them, or how badly the refereeing is (for example).

And to be fair, I hardly cared when our opponents tried to throw us off by playing rough (I could take hits quite well), and I usually just got amused when the referees made bad calls. But when I got yelled at by my coach for doing or not doing certain things, it tended to upset me.

Over time, I learned not to show it on my face, how to parse the meaning and not the emotion behind the delivery, but I never got less upset. I just got better at hiding it. Hence the realisation that I am a particularly (problematically?) sensitive person.

These days, I get plagued with the feeling that I'm not technically skilled enough to be here from time to time. I've failed job interviews because I wasn't strong enough to answer the algorithm problems (I also didn't prepare very much, so that's my fault).

I've looked at job descriptions and despaired because I don't have experience in half the things they're looking for. I've thought about walking away from this industry altogether because it feels like the things I'm good at aren't particularly in demand.

But in spite of all that, the one thing I can fall back on, the thing that justifies me writing this post of why I am still coding in 2020, is that when I'm coding, all those feelings of inadequacy disappear. It's like a switch flips in my brain, and all my processing power gets allocated to that thing I'm trying to build.

That might probably be what drew me to this in the first place, but even after all these years, that hasn't changed.

And that's why I'm still here.

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