How Flunking A Programming Class Deterred Me

steelvoltage profile image Brian Barbour ・2 min read

Let's rewind to 2004. I was a junior in highschool. I took an Introduction to Programming course, and dove in eager to learn how it all works. You see, the year previous I had taken a Web Design course and learned the fundamentals of HTML and CSS.

I aced that course and loved it. I think that was the moment that my love for software development began, but that love would soon be handicapped.

You see, my Introduction to Programming course was on the C++ programming language.

C++ was hard.

There were kids in my class that excelled at it, and watching them code made me shrivel up on the inside. I got left behind and eventually flunked the class. At that time in my life, I was still learning how I learn. I hadn't mastered my ADD and mental health issues, such as depression. It wouldn't be years later, as an adult, that I would be ready to challenge myself again.

Looking back, I should have asked the teacher for their time to cover the subjects a little deeper and help me make sure I was getting it. I know she would have, she was a great instructor.

I didn't have the maturity enough for that. For me, I didn't learn it naturally and that meant it wasn't for me. I was ashamed, I felt inferior, and that feeling would stay with me for over a decade.

Failure with programming didn't discourage me from pursuing a career in computers. I continued learning, focusing on what I perceived as easier stuff like hardware, networking, and repair. It didn't deter me from making websites as a hobby either. I would create forums around my favorite hobbies, games, or shows using software like phpBB and Wordpress.

However, I always stopped at PHP and Javascript. I hit a wall and it was programming. I sought plugins for solutions, sometimes giving up if there wasn't one. Never did it cross my mind again that I could just write my own if I put enough time and effort in.

I had shackles around my ankles and wrists, I couldn't run at full speed.

I didn't get past this fear until November 2018.

What let me break through it?

A cleaner bill of mental health helped, a lot. Also, I think my curiosity eventually overwhelmed my fear. In that, I asked myself a single important question.

"What do I have to lose?"

Nothing. Worst case scenario, I would come out understanding computers a little better. That would help me with my career as a PC Technician, troubleshooting and diagnosing issues.

Thus, I sat down and started the Web Development path on Codecademy.

Ever since that day, I haven't stopped and will probably never will.

As a final note, I do plan on learning C++ down the road, just to get revenge against the sense of inferiority it instilled in me. For now though, I'm happy learning as much as I can about Javascript.

Posted on Jun 6 '19 by:

steelvoltage profile

Brian Barbour


Software Engineer at Community Brands and Javascript enthusiast.


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I definitely relate to this. When I was 9 and bored of playing with pseudo programming languages (I had used a lot Scratch and wanted to create videogames with Game Maker) I tried to learn C++ on my own. I suppose you can guess what happened.

It wasn't until I was 15 that I tried again but this time in Java. I don't really know what happened, maybe I matured enough to understand that you can't expect to have natural talent with everything you try and that there is a process to learn everything in life.

I feel really happy for your perseverance.


Awesome perspective Brian!

Thanks for the inspiration, and I'm so glad you dove back in with both feet.

It can't be stated enough what a healthy mentality can do when it comes to learning, and growing, not only in a field of study, but life itself. I'm glad you were able to tackle that paradigm shift in stride.