My journey began in August 2015. I was working as a law enforcement officer in a small city outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. I’d been on the streets patrolling for about a year, but in the field for 3 years. I loved what I was doing, but at the same time I truly dreaded going to work every day…hard to explain really! Luckily, one afternoon I stumbled across FreeCodeCamp and so began a love/hate relationship with coding.
I was lucky to have found FreeCodeCamp! At this point in my law enforcement career I was very unhappy with the direction and lack of pay, so coding was a great outlet for me. For the first few months I couldn’t wait to get off work. After 12 hours on shift I would come home and spend four hours going through coursework. It was great, I absolutely loved it…… Until I hit “the wall”.
You guessed it! That was me! I would be chugging along for a few good months and then I would hit “the wall”. That wall was mean and ugly and we didn’t get along at all. “The wall” knew just how to knock me down to my knees and keep me on the ground. I hate to say it, but “the wall” knew just how to defeat me and I let it happen time and time again.
This story isn’t about how I failed and never learned anything though. This story is about getting to a point in your life where you’ve got to make the decision of whether you want to succeed, pass go and collect $200.00 or get thrown in jail and not move your life forward where you want it to go.
That point for me was during the summer of 2017. I had left the police force and moved to Tennessee with family. I was lost at what to do with my life and honestly just needed help. I found a job bartending and really loved it, but I knew it wasn’t a career for me. This is when depression started to set in and I realized that I had to make some type of change or I was going to spend the rest of my life at jobs that I didn’t enjoy.
I decided to commit
Where had I found happiness before? Remember those 4 hours I committed to doing every night after my 12 hour shifts at the police department? You guessed right again! I returned to FreeCodeCamp as well as CodeAcademy and started from the beginning. This time, I didn’t give up regardless of how difficult it was. I realized that sometimes you just had to “struggle your way to understanding” and that’s just what I did. For the things I didn’t understand, there’s a big world out there with a lot of people willing to help you through that process (I’ll link to some resources at the end of this article).
After realizing that I enjoyed web development so much, I made the decision to dive in head first and attend a web development boot camp. This was both the best and hardest decision I’ve ever made. I’m currently two weeks from graduating and have no doubt I will be able to perform well enough in the industry to obtain a job and do great at it. Do I have weaknesses? You bet I do, but I have strengths to back those up and the drive to learn what I don’t know.
This chart above shows clearly how an individual’s confidence wavers when learning to code. I’ll tell you that it is 100% right. You start out with great upward momentum and then hit “the wall” we talked about earlier. Unless you are ready for it, that’s when giving up gets really easy. Prepare for that to happen, set your goals, make those goals things that will motivate you when the going gets tough. I can promise that a year down the line, when you look back, you will be glad that you kept going and that it really was worth pushing through those sucky times!
I know I sure am!
What makes it worth it will change from person to person. For me, it’s when I could teach concepts to people who were new to development. The first time you get to teach someone how to map over an array and insert the items in to JSX elements and you see that lightbulb click….That’s what really made it worth it for me. No, that’s not why I entered the web development field, but for me helping others is something I truly enjoy. The reason I entered the field is because not only was it something that I liked doing on a daily basis, I really enjoyed the mental challenge it gave me. When I was able to sit down and after two hours of fighting an algorithm question, I was able to solve it. This is tough, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also very rewarding.
That’s what developer life is about in the beginning and moving forward. It’s always a struggle to some degree, otherwise most developers wouldn’t stay in this field. We thrive off of a challenge. This is different from the initial uphill climb though, because you learn how to manage the challenge and break it down in to small manageable chunks. Don’t let the problems overwhelm you by trying to slay a giant!
These are just insights from someone who has “been there, done that” and wishes that he would have heard this advice when he was beginning to code. Just keep that in your mind that times will be tough, but you will get through it. Keep your head up, and just keep going. Have a support system for yourself that won’t let you quit and can lift you up when you are down.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope you read something that struck a chord, or will in the future. Use this, because if I would have followed through two years ago, who knows where I could be! Don’t let it be a regret, let it be an opportunity.
For those learning to code I have used the following resources to learn, or gain encouragement from:
100daysOfCode : Great way to help you stick with coding for round after round of 100 days worth of coding. Very active community to interact with.
FreeCodeCamp : Website created to help beginner developers learn to code for free. Lessons are step-by-step and a great start for developers. FreeCodeCamp also has a very active community that can help you through your process.
Codecademy : Online resource for learning to code, both free and paid portions.
CodeSchool : Online paid resource to learn how to code.
reddit.com/r/programming/ : Reddit forum for all things programming.
stackoverflow : This is used to “google” any developer questions, responses are quick if you decide to post a question.
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