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Annabelle Taylor
Annabelle Taylor

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Coding for Little Annabelle

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:

What did you do for fun when you were ten years old?

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.

Now, fast forward to Gretchen Rubin's podcast.

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.

See me now.

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.

Top comments (1)

gavinfernandes2012 profile image
Gavin Fernandes

Damn. You started at eight and your prof. told you you weren't cut out for the job? Jeez man the guy must be blind cause if that doesn't scream potential, I don't know what does. Hell I mean I didn't even know HTML was a thing at eight.
Hope the course goes well for you btw!