A brief ode to resilience

While attending Flatiron School, the most valuable lesson I have learned is to not quit. I’ve run into many, many obstacles, academically, financially, and privately. I’ve cried many rage tears, and I’ve pushed through crushing defeat. I’m used to excelling rather effortlessly and trying to learn to code has served as a hard reality check on many occasions. There’s no effortless understanding, there’s only trial and error and incremental progress adding up to real accumulation of hard skills over time. You have to grind away at the problems and sometimes, no matter how hard you try and no matter how good you are, you’ll still fail. To be able to not only work through those struggles but learn to enjoy it, we must redefine success and failure in our own minds.

Our society is extremely goal oriented, we value outcomes over process, and we worship the positive bottom line. In the default world we allow ourselves very little room to try, not get a perfect outcome, and try again, but when it comes to code that’s the only approach that will get you any outcome at all.

It’s been really hard for me to rewire my brain to not despair when faced with my own shortcomings, to accept anything other than easy, flashy success, but doing so has been immensely rewarding. When I failed a code challenge, I really wanted to just quit, to allow myself to wallow in self-pity, telling myself I will never be able to pass. Instead, I went back to work. I rearranged my week to have more time for practice, I changed the topic of my blog this week to be less time consuming than the more technical blog I had planned for this mod. I practiced problems and even asked for help, something that would have been unthinkable to me a few months ago, my ego would have prevented it. I’m still struggling with the material and I may end up having to repeat sections of the program to reach real proficiency, but the goal in programming is continuous learning, not crossing a finish line, and going from knowing nothing to writing Javascript in 6 weeks instead of 3 is a respectable outcome by any metric.

In the introduction to Mod 3, we were warned that this mod would not only be technically challenging and cover a huge amount of new material, but also an emotional and psychological challenge. Going from being masters of the universe, commanding the machines in our Rails projects, most of us went back to knowing nothing when we got started on Javascript. When you are faced with the emotional impact of failure, allow yourself time to process, take a break, reset your expectations and goals, and try again. Be consistent in your efforts and find new ways to focus on what you are really trying to accomplish. Big picture thinking makes acute moments of stress much more bearable, and might even change what you consider a failure to begin with. Hacking your own psychological responses and rewriting them to be productive rather than defeatist is a huge part not only of effective learning but of the ability to live a content life, regardless of the adversities you’re facing.

“The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” — Albert Camus

Software Engineer. Creature of Havoc.

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