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Breaking the "Wall of Awful" to get through the first 30 days of #100DaysofCode!

Tatiana
No longer a total #CodeNewbie. Now a Software Engineer @ Lever. Started my first #100DaysOfCode and learning journey on 6.14.19. Got a software engineering job April 2021.
・5 min read

Selective Brilliance

Being 22 years old and being told that no, I am not lazy, and that my selective brilliance in academics didn't mean I just "didn't get" certain subjects, but instead that I had ADHD has been like getting a new pair of glasses. I can finally SEE. Granted, I could see before, but now everything is in crystal clear 4k.

Of course, being brought up in a culture that "doesn't believe" in ADHD, or other mental health issues for that matter, meant that the diagnosis was bittersweet. I was never the hyper wild child that couldn't be tamed at school or in the grocery store. Not the type of kid you think of when you think of a kid with ADHD. But I am constantly forgetful, have a spending problem, and feel the extreme urge to go down the Wikipedia rabbit hole at 2am because I just have to learn about the advent of fracking at that very moment. While I am still wrestling with my diagnosis and how it has unknowingly informed my upbringing and experiences, I am realizing that it also gives me the tools to tackle my next endeavor: coding.

I am notorious for having a new passion every other week. I recently found out that this behavior is prevalent in ADHD folks. Every new hobby is your new passion, every new exciting career path is "it" for you. Every new endeavor is the endeavor to end all others, until we typically get bored of it, or frustrated with the lack of instantaneous results, or it gets too difficult. Rinse and repeat. (This is called hobby jumping.)

Diving into Coding... Again

This is probably my third or fourth foray into coding. Each time I started with resources such as Codecademy, and Free Code Camp. They are great resources for beginners- but maybe not for neurodivergent folks like me who learn differently, and think differently than most folks. Many ADHD folks need structure to thrive, but simultaneously reject that same structure if it becomes to overbearing.

This need for some structure, but not too much, brought me to Udemy. As a complete beginner with some experience working in tech (IT project management and startup social media management), actually coding is such a broad topic with so many different subsections that it can get overwhelming. With ADHD in mind, this also leads to never actually starting anything. We tend to over research and consider 14 million possibilities before we actually execute. With a course being taught by an actual human who has hand picked the curriculum, I can self pace and follow a specific pathway at my own discretions. However, this hasn't stopped me from dying to try out Javascript, oh wait- Python, oh no, Swift- wait, let me buy 10 more courses that I won't start for another 3 months! Or let's try every CSS framework possible!

For folks with ADHD brains, we can often get caught wanting to do anything and everything, which leads to never doing anything. But once we finally stick to something, we have another barrier to break through- the Wall of Awful.

The Wall of Awful

The point to this needlessly lengthy post is that for folks with ADHD, we need to find our sweet spot to get over The Wall of Awful. The Wall of Awful is the reason why folks (with and without ADHD) can find it incredibly difficult to move forward with certain tasks. Sure, walking the dog takes about 5 minutes. But it's a painful process to will yourself into getting up, wrangling the dog, taking the dog around the block, and getting back up those stairs to your apartment. We can just put it off until Puppy Dog is whining so hard it could break hearts. Much easier than, oh, actually putting in some effort into something. You can see why with coding, and the time and effort it takes to truly learn and create something, this wall might be difficult to climb over. It is incredibly easy to just say, "I'll code tomorrow. I'll do my course tomorrow." But that stifles and destroys any progress I may have made.

How Have I Combated The Wall of Awful?

For me, accountability is key. I currently use the app Super Habit for iOS that tracks my "habit" of #100DaysOfCode. It's incredibly fun for me to see a little Github style streak view- seeing that momentum is what keeps me going.

Super Habit for iOS

I also have downloaded Flora, which is a Pomodoro style app where you can create a garden grown from all of your time spent "focusing" in the app. I feel like a terrible person every time I kill a tree after using my phone while a timer is running, so you could say it's pretty good motivation to stay off of my phone while I'm trying to code or learn new concepts.

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I also have taken to publicly holding myself accountable on social media. I tweet constantly about my coding journey in between my tweets about activism and pop culture. I post on LinkedIn every time I hit a milestone. I have a coding highlight on my Instagram story and profile. Hell, even Facebook knows. Knowing that I have thousands of eyes on me if I suddenly drop off of my journey helps- why face the public shame of failing at something I went so hard for on social media for days at a time? Oh, the horror. Think of the likes I'll lose. /s.

That's nice, but what about your actual coding journey? That's why I'm reading this.

I've had this post in my drafts for weeks since joining Dev.to on my first day of code on 6/14/19. On Monday I hit my 30 days of #100DaysofCode. In that time, I have re-learned HTML and CSS (I spent a lot of time in my youth on Neopets and Gaia Online "coding" my profiles), and I am delving into Javascript. I think I have found a lover in Javascript- it's mindnumbingly difficult for me to switch gears to solving problems that require math after coming from a humanities and social science background, but my ADHD hyperfocus forces me in the best way possible to keep trying until I find the solution. You seasoned programmers call it "flow". I found the flow last night while attempting to recreate dev.to as an HTML/CSS exercise. There is no better feeling on this journey I've taken towards becoming a web developer.

In all, I think I have finally found "it" in coding. 30 days is the longest I've stuck with a hobby that I wasn't forced to stay in (I'm looking at you, piano and dance). My journey might be a little more difficult than neurotypical folks- I might have to review basic concepts a smooth 5 or 6 times more than an NT person before it sticks (and even then, it might not stick), I might have to rewatch a tutorial over and over and over again, and I might have to miss the glaringly obvious lack of a closing ()/{}/[]/; for an hour or two due to my infamous speed and carelessness, but it's the hunt for a solution that keeps me going.

Also- shoutout to r/ADHD_Programmers for being a community where other ADHD brains can congregate and bond over the common experience of moving too damn fast to catch up with yourself.

Here's to the next now 69 days of code!

Discussion (2)

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Aaron

Wow...I felt this post.

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Doaa Mahely

Keep up the good work Tatiana 😄