I have a soft spot for self-help podcasts, and one of my favorites is Happier with Gretchen Rubin. I started listening for the KonMari-esque clutter-clearing hacks and the pseudo-science (but still kind of useful) Four Tendencies Framework, but something she brought up in episode eight truly stuck with me and altered the course of my post-collegiate life:
Turns out, I coded.
I taught myself HTML when I was 8 and started on CSS at around 9. I've always been a bit of a curator, so I made websites to catalog my collections: websites for my favorite animals, favorite authors, Cats: the Musical, and so on. I spent hours styling and re-styling pages, ordering and re-ordering my pages and file structure. In the eighth grade, I bought my first domain name and launched a live portfolio for my friends' and my original skit scripts. I handled the DNS configuration and initial file transfer all on my own, and I couldn't have been prouder of myself.
Majoring in computer science in college initially seemed like a no-brainer, but things began to change. On top of some garden-variety anxiety and depression that certainly would have come down to play in any scenario, I experienced my first taste of how cutthroat the tech scene can be. A boy I once sought help from grabbed my laptop from me and deleted my entire homework assignment. Multiple times I went to male classmates' dorm rooms for what I assumed were study sessions but turned out to be overtures for romantic or sexual favors. My senior year, I went to a professor's office hours for help on a homework problem and was told that some folks were cut out for this field, but others weren't, and wouldn't I be happier if I dropped his class?
In my final semester, with two classes left until I finished the degree, I dropped my B.A. down to a minor and instead graduated with my other major in Gender Studies. I tried, but it never seemed to be enough, so I cut my losses and left programming behind.
I can't quite explain it, but the five-minute discussion on the podcast--almost a side note, honestly--somehow changed me. I felt like I was suddenly given permission to try again. Instead of the unproductive struggle of fighting a system, web development could be synonymous with the exciting challenge of working through a particularly tricky bug. I wasn't ready to jump back in immediately, but the seed was planted.
About a year and a half later, I decided that I was ready. Even though I hadn't touched an IDE since dropping my major, I applied for (and was accepted into) General Assembly, D.C.'s Software Engineering Immersive. On January 22, 2019, scared as I was, I walked onto campus for my first day of classes.
As of writing, I'm finishing up the seventh week of this three-month program. I've struggled through line after line of React and Express has made me cry on more than one occasion, but I couldn't be happier with the decision that I made. My instructors and classmates teach me, uplift me, and push me to be the best developer I can. During our first week, we all had to declare out loud, "I am a software engineer!" It felt like a silly exercise considering we had yet to write a line of code, but then we kept repeating it and repeating it until it felt true. Scratch that---until it became true.
I coded, and then I didn't. Now, I'm coding again. I thought that I'd say I code now in spite of those who tried to stop me before, but that isn't the case anymore. I code for me, and particularly for 10-year-old me, and I finally know that that is reason enough.