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Thomas Lawton ⚓
Thomas Lawton ⚓

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A medium sized read about large sized loneliness

A quick review of how difficult being without a community can be

Pre-read note: TL;DR at the bottom but the rest of this helps give context.

Over the past two years I've been hard at work learning web development. Due to some decisions I've made and some hesitations I've had, up until the past few months I've done this mostly on my own.

As I slowly ease myself into having more people around me, developers in particular, I want to share my experience to hopefully help anyone who finds themselves in the same position.

For some background:

I started schooling at a Montessori school, moved to public school, entered a "Community Learning Program", and then attended a smaller college.

Each of the two schools that involved community (Montessori and "CLP") were where I did the best.

After school my personal interests and career desires led me to being interested in software and web development and I chose to attend a bootcamp.

Why is this all important?

I did something a bit silly. I chose to attend a bootcamp remotely.

Heads up -- that's not silly for everyone!

It was silly for me. Remember all the community stuff I just told you about?

Now, why am I sitting here explaining this all to you? What even happened with that bootcamp?

Well, throughout the bootcamp I had a mentor who was great. I'd worked remotely before so that was no issue as far as meetings and working went.

I felt alone all the time and, unfortunately, I didn't really get into meetups because I've learned that I'm a bit shy, particularly when it comes to situations where I feel inadequate (a meetup for software developers where I feel like the only new guy is a great example).

Because I wasn't around other new developers I didn't get to experience a lot of learning that comes with troubleshooting together. I also didn't get introduced to a lot of things that I now find useful like Twitter and

I've been out of the bootcamp for two years and I've had a difficult time. I got stuck in a real rut for several months and then had to take a job doing what I know how to do best.

I climbed up out of that rut for a while, did what I had to do, and then I fell back in. I had a choice to make. Do I hang out down here or do I stand up and do what I know I can?

Well, I've finally been standing. I realized that I may not be super experienced but that's ok, there are a lot of us that aren't and we can work together.

I started looking for work and, as luck would have it, someone was willing to take me on for some project-based contracting work (it's remote please laugh!).

When that happened I felt good but I knew there was more to do. I needed to be part of the development community! I realized I was missing out on so much because I wasn't on Twitter, I wasn't on a community site like, I wasn't going to meetups.

I went to a meetup and they invited me to the Slack. I was pretty spooked when I got there and felt pretty awkward in Slack. So what did I do this time? I just said "Hey I'm new what now?".

Everyone was nice!

I jumped on here and started following people and started reading about how other people feel the same as I do. And guess what? Everyone is nice! (Still working on getting myself acquainted here).

Over the past few months I've felt better than I have since I was deciding on the bootcamp.

Last words, suggestions, the moral // TL;DR

The moral of my longer than expected chat here is that if you're feeling alone, you're the best person to change that. I hope this story inspires you to do that!

Here are some of my personal suggestions:

  • Do something that scares you like go to a meetup where you don't know anyone and talk to just one person
    • Get that person's contact info and stay in touch with them
    • Do it again next week with a new person AND the same person
  • Listen to two podcasts a week at least, there are a ton of great beginner podcasts but one of the two should be about what you're most interested in or really love
    • I listen to a bunch but lately I'm listening to:
      1. Linux Unplugged
      2. Giant Robots
      3. Code Newbie
  • Find a group of people on Twitter, on here, on a Slack channel, on Discord, or somewhere else that you can keep in touch with daily. This one makes me feel really good!
  • If you read this and you've felt the same way or you just want to say hi, send me a message or leave a comment! I'm still working on this too!

Last words - if you're down here thank you, this was a bit of an emotional blah for me. I've been thinking a ton about this and it's important to write it all down.

If you're feeling lonely you don't have to, we're all out here waiting to help one way or another!

Top comments (9)

aizkhaj profile image
Aizaz Khaja

After reading about your remote bootcamp experience, I just had to check out your GitHub to see if my suspicions were correct of which one.

So, hello there fellow Bloccer! (I'm just finishing up there myself). Totally get what you're going through, but I'm glad to be part of these dev communities. The dreaded part of getting myself to go to meetups is bound with excuses like "oh but it's so far away from me!" At least Twitter and are useful ;)

sofubi profile image
Thomas Lawton ⚓

Hey other fellow Bloccer!! My meetups are a bit far too but it's so helpful to have that human interaction. How are you doing with Bloc?

briankephart profile image
Brian Kephart

This really resonates with me. I learned to code online. No bootcamp or anything, just looking stuff up on Google. There are no other developers where I work, and the local meetups happen during my work hours. My coworkers are great, but they're not devs. Coding can be lonely.

Over time, I've found some ways to become more connected:

  • There's a local Ruby lunch meetup once a month that I attend to meet some local people. It's not as well attended or informational as the formal evening meetup, but it was the first time I got to meet some local devs, and is still my main opportunity to interact with them.

  • I attended RailsConf as an opportunity scholar. This is a program that pairs devs who are new to the community with a guide for the duration of the conference, so the scholars and guides together can be a smaller, more accessible community in the midst of the larger conference. If you're reading this and you haven't been to a conference yet, find a program like this.

  • I recently acquired a mentor right here on!

  • I've been a contributor to open source almost since day one. This kind of happened by accident when I started reporting issues I was having in our CMS, which progressed to submitting pull requests, which expanded to other repos. Having some PRs merged did wonders for my confidence, and helped me get to know some other devs a little bit.

The thing is, even though I'm a lonely self-taught developer introvert, my adult life up until now has been spent teaching music, which has constantly exposed me to conversations with new people. Compared to others in my situation, my ability to communicate with strangers feels like a superpower. Getting plugged in to the developer community was hard for me. For some people, it's much harder.

At RailsConf, I talked to people who had been attending for years who were relieved just to have someone come up and talk to them. I thought I was the outsider because I was new, but lots of people who have been doing this for awhile struggle with the same things. I was astounded that I had the chance to impact other people's experience for the better at an event like that.

Thanks for sharing. It always means more than you think.

sofubi profile image
Thomas Lawton ⚓

Brian, thank you, this means a lot. It's awesome to hear from other people who feel or felt the same. I didn't know about the scholar program at Railsconf, that's exciting to hear, I really want to hit a conference and that makes it a bot more palatable.

I'm just like you, I can talk to most people no problem but when it comes to getting into the development community its been difficult. Thankfully tapping into that superpower like you said has been helpful.

Thanks again for replying, it's awesome to hear from you!

de_maric profile image
Dejan Maric • Edited

I understand how you feel. I decided to move to another country after working as a developer for 10 years and situation was similar to yours. Starting all over in a country where you don't know the language or people was difficult but stepping out of my comfort zone one step at a time helped a lot. That's why i keep doing it over and over again. It's not easy but it works :). Also, if you get that feeling of loneliness again, look back at what you've achieved so far and where you are now compared to few months ago and you will be motivated to keep pushing forward.

sofubi profile image
Thomas Lawton ⚓

Oh man, that's a lot to deal with! I agree, stepping out of the comfort zone as much as possible is helping a lot.

ghost profile image

Hi Thomas! Pleased to meet you. I go through bouts of loneliness frequently, and its almost always correlated to how much I'm "socializing". Are you an extrovert? Or an introvert that likes being around other people?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I'm glad to have read them. Best of luck to you.

misnina profile image

I know this post is older but I thought I'd comment anyways. You know I never thought to look up meetups since I've started coding. I'm surprised to find more then I thought around my place. It's really terrifying for me, but I think I might try!

zaesarius profile image

Thanks for this post Thomas. Feel exactly like this! Really helpful, hope to still listen from you.