When I was in eighth grade, my web developing father sat me down for my first tutorial web development. It was a basic HTML lesson and before I knew it, my webpage had a cloud background provided by a wallpaper of the same cloud image I had ripped off the internet. I don't remember what was on that first website, but I do know that creating this page on this internet just by typing characters on a blank black screen was riveting. I couldn't paint like my mom or brother, but this could be my canvas.
Like most women, I was steered into a caregiving profession after giving up a writing job fresh out of undergrad. I taught for four years and burned out brilliantly, but my grad school experience gave me a passion for advocating for disabled persons and underrepresented youth, and also updated my content managing skills. I left education for a content manager position in the health and wellness field, freelance editing and writing in between my day to day. But just before my last day of teaching, I discovered Codeacademy and Code.org. It was a great way to engage my students that started feeling the summer itch.
It was amazing how fast my students caught on. For many of them, background knowledge was not something they had when it came to reading, but for computers, it was like they had an innate knowledge of how things worked. As the cliche goes about educating, their enthusiasm inspired me to sign up and I flew through the HTML and CSS courses.
My Codeacademy attendance record over the years have been spotty at best, which isn't ideal when learning a brand new language. So when I logged back in and dusted off my coding muscle, it was humbling. But in the same breath, repetition helped. When Codeacademy sent me the email that I had been coding for 5 days in a row, my obsession of checking off boxes in succession kicked in, and since then, I spend a little part of everyday on a lesson. It doesn't matter if it's 5 minutes or 50, I do it every day. And things are starting to click, and then become incredibly impossible again.
Par example, arrays! I love making grocery lists, meal prepping, etc. Learning about .push and .pop and .slice was exciting! Look what I can do with just a few commands on this black screen. I am a powerful list making monster!
And then loops just knocked me on my ass, as how does one ever figure out how that while (condition) is supposed to run? What are the colors actually supposed to look like? Where are those examples that helped me so in the lesson before, bro? (let bro = 'Codeacademy') Humbling. You may have been a list making monster 5 minutes ago, but now you've been mowed down by that slick lil devil that is while loops.
Such is being a beginner. Sarah Drasner (@sarah_edo) just recently tweeted, "For those just learning to code now - remember when you were learning to drive? You had to think about everything constantly - but eventually the car became an extension of yourself. That's how it will be. You will eventually have muscle memory built into many tasks. Stick with it."
I must add an addendum to Sarah's sage advice: stick with it, but bring plenty of naps and snacks and patience with yourself to this coding party. It's a marathon, not a sprint.