Growing up, I wasn't exactly the best student. My grades were the very definition of passable, and I was at odds with my teachers more often than not. I'd like to think I tried hard, but if we're being honest that's as much a hopeful sentiment as anything else. Studying came so easy to those around me, or at the very least my peers seemed able to apply themselves in ways I couldn't. Was there something wrong with me, then? Was I just too stupid to be taught?
Asking that question over and over did little for my self-esteem, but it did manage to teach me one thing. Curiosity. The one question turned to many as I tried to get leverage on my education, a sort of knowledge through brute force. As anyone who's ever crammed for a test will tell you, that doesn't really work in the long run. While it got me through GCSE’s, it also led me to despise classical education. I was still desperate to learn, but I'd become convinced nothing could teach me the way I wanted to be taught.
Despite my intense disinterest in formal learning, the stubbornness I'd cultivated alongside my curiosity let no barrier stand in my way. By my early 20's I'd created my first online company, in a technical field I knew little about beyond surface management. I'll skip most of the details, but several years of modest successes were marred by miscalculations inspired by that lack of knowledge depth. We all wish we could go back, to redo portions of our lives with what we now know, and I'll not be the first to claim differently. But despite that, I was proud of what I had created, and began to define myself by its rises and falls.
Fast-forward to just last fall, and many of my most promising efforts had fizzled out. Those successes I still held seemed to have lost much of their shine, and as they dimmed so too did my self-confidence. The old question arose in new ways. Are my best years behind me, at such a young age? Have I done all I can to protect my achievements? Am I too stupid to realise my dreams? Even as I descended deeper into the dark, I knew I was never alone. The family who had always loved and encouraged me. The old business partners and gaming buddies who'd always stuck by. Everyone just wanted to give me a hand, to help me out of the darkness. But even with well-meaning help, that's often not something you can simply force your way through, as I'd done so many times before.
After what seemed like an eternity on the precipice, I was willing to try just about anything. My best friend had spent weeks harping on me to try some online courses, specifically coding as he had. Remembering old efforts in the space, I was leery, but decided to just take the plunge. I picked up a basic web developer course that was on sale, and away I went. Every developer started at some point with the infamous "Hello, World!," and even that simplest of accomplishments made me giddy. I was addicted, and I shared every new success with anyone who would listen.
The feeling you get when something you banged into your keyboard turns into magic on screen is still one I just can't describe. Add in the victory of solving a problem you've spent hours on, and it's no wonder so many before me have fallen for it. Every day a new problem I can channel my stubborn curiosity into, every day a new spell to weave on the computer. I still throw up my hands every time I crack some latest dilemma, amazed at what I've managed to do of my own volition. It's still early for me in the grand scheme of things, but from here I can't see that wonder ever wearing off. I try to remind myself that this is the real value of the skill: not what I can do with it, but the fulfilling sense of accomplishment it brings.
So was I too stupid, as I'd so often asked myself? After all these years, I have my answer. I had the curiosity to peer through the veil, but the same stubbornness that kept me plodding along prevented me from tearing it down. Now that I've seen beyond, it's as though everything is falling into place. First it was basic websites to generate a little income and now, backend work. Who knows what may come after? Coding opens up a huge world of opportunity, filled with tantalising rewards for those who reach out to grab them. In my dark desperation, I could have latched onto any solution, but I'm so very glad I was guided to a skill like this. It's only upwards from here.