So how did I, a 26 year old with a BA degree and a Honours in Historical Studies, having cited soft skills as her main asset in countless job applications, AND has a severely poor tolerance for technology, begin learning programming? Excellent question. Well that’s what happens when you date a software engineer.
I was unhappy and ill-prepared for a life in academia, so I quit my Masters and decided to job hunt. My partner had attempted to persuade me on the merits of maybe up-skilling (I'm not sure if this is a word, but I think it should exist) myself. He based it on the immediate employment and financial prospects, which I found titillating. However, after trying to understand what this programming thing entailed (ok I didn’t try all that much), I got overwhelmed and frustrated and just never looked at it again. The thing is I was more interested in the benefits, a quick fix to my dilemma, certainly not the learning process. However, whether it was calculated or not, my partner brought the matter up again a few months later in a much more strategic way.
I was a lot more open to learning, my intellectual capabilities were being wasted at the temporary retail gig I have and job prospects were not popping up. I had nothing to lose. Plus he found a really awesome book which was the perfect bait, seeing that I respond better to reading material. It simplified programming in a way that was not so intimidating. In two hours my partner let me grill him on everything that I needed to know to grasp the idea and concepts behind programming, as he set me up with the tools I would need to start working through the book. After that chat, I was amazed! The sheer intelligence and brilliance of this craft, made even easier by tools created to create! It was mind-blowing… I kept thinking about all that I knew and took for granted, in new ways. I was keen to start the book.
Chapter One was packed and took a while to work through, but I did begin to note certain behavioral tendencies within myself. I was quick to lose patience, because I wanted to get the answers and understand the content immediately. I wanted to get it right, but I also wanted to truly understand and make sense of what I was learning. The reactions I experienced were largely centered on emotions, mainly insecurities and fear. I realised I have had a love-hate relationship with technology. I am a person that is for development and change, but when it comes to technology, I harbour mistrust and a fear that this thing that is meant to make my life easy will simply pull a one-up-over-me, make me seem stupid and not do the thing I wanted to do and worst of all, just break. That has happened a few times, but looking back I guess it was also because I did not take the time to understand. I expected instant gratification and instead experienced a deep sense of discomfort that it was all to difficult and complicated for me to understand anyway.
While I began learning the basics of code writing, I also realised how logical it was. I was reminded of the feelings I had when I did maths in high school. The moments I relished when I got the rights answers and the deep negative wave of emotions that came over me when I struggled to grasp it or took a lengthy amount of time to get it right or simply got it wrong. I started wondering why I had removed myself from learning anything math related after high school. For the longest time I blamed my math teacher for my disliking of maths… But I never failed maths, so she or I could not have been that bad. Perhaps it really was just the struggle to struggle through something that wasn't easy; that required time, work and persistence. For the longest time, even after high school I think I may have gotten used to downgrading my capabilities and preferred the doable so that I could achieve a faster sense of gratification of knowing and getting it right - never really pushing out of my comfort zone of what I chose to learn. This was a shocking revelation, given that in my individual capacity, I didn’t do too badly out of the comfort zone.
I lied to myself about what I could and could not do. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt (which ironically I came across by fluke prior to writing this), I need to do what I don't want to. I need to unlearn these lies that have turned into unhealthy beliefs about my logic and problem-solving skills, because I do want to evolve and I do not want to box myself into one frame of mind or set of capabilities. If anything, this journey of committing to learning programming is to empower myself by facing my fears, discomforts, insecurities and laziness by exercising my brain in new ways. I hope to triumph over all that negative emotions that reign down on me when I don’t understand something, or when something doesn’t work and it feels as though this heavy weight is bearing down my shoulders and my self worth is tied into this one little thing because I start wondering if I am stupid. No. I will learn to persevere, swallow down those emotions, flex through and hopefully I don’t lose all my hair by the end of it all.
So I decided that this journey cannot be about creating new apps and selling them to make profits, to become a top notch developer and score an amazing job or to switch careers. No this is about facing my internal barriers and smashing them. It is about doing what I for so long believed I could never and would never do. I am excited and scared.