2020 has been a year of infamy for many, you know this even if you’ve been living under a rock. Despite the tumultuous current events, I’ve been privileged to have quite a successful year. Today’s post is a reflection and goal setting exercise for me as I’m recently recommitted to the “learning in public” method of self improvement; specifically to learn coding (web/app development), design and earn a Computer Science degree.

https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1604440976912-8cc547001994?ixlib=rb-1.2.1&q=85&fm=jpg&crop=entropy&cs=srgbCrumple this year up and let’s toss it!


 Milestones and Productivity

This year I achieved a significant milestone in my recovery: 3 years sober. I wrote about it here.

This is probably my second greatest achievement, though; my first being that I decided to quit my work from home call center job to pursue a full career change to web development and design. Then, third would be college.

Quitting my job was a scary leap for me to take but I did not do it without support. I had expressed to my closest friends and family that I was interested in going back to school and getting into the tech field for years, as recently as summer 2019. When I told the group chat that I was unhappy in my job and routine and was considering quitting they were receptive and cautionary. Nobody told me not to, but they said a big factor to consider was how I would care for my bipolar diagnosis and medications without health insurance.

Nonetheless, my mind was made up. So I looked into the price of my medications without insurance and was pleasantly surprised. I had some money saved up (albeit minimal) and no housing expenses as I had already moved back in with family, so I decided to set things in motion.

In April of this year I was free from my employment and felt immediately weightless and unburdened. The free time I’ve had since then has been incredible.

https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1503266980949-bd30d04d0b7a?ixlib=rb-1.2.1&q=85&fm=jpg&crop=entropy&cs=srgb Hooray! 🥳
I was already enrolled in college for business and my initial plan was to finish that degree and learn coding on the side so that I could spring board from my management experience in business into the tech field and then land either a Technical Project/Product Manager role or maybe Quality Assurance and Testing.
Then, I decided within the second month that I wanted to have a more active role as a builder and that a Developer/Engineer gig was my goal. So with that, to cover my bases I switched schools and majors to focus on Computer Science.

The feeling was elation. I had originally went to college for CS right out of high school and set that aside for a management position in business. It was comforting to feel like I was literally “back on track” with some of my early adulthood goals.

On top of that feeling, near the end of the summer I actually won a free ride to a 10 month web developer bootcamp! I couldn’t believe it!

https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1533227268428-f9ed0900fb3b?ixlib=rb-1.2.1&q=85&fm=jpg&crop=entropy&cs=srgb

Such satisfaction! 😃

But, my year was not all unicorns and rainbows. After a busy summer focused on my self and coding I had managed to bite off more than I could chew and felt burnt out.

As if that wasn’t bad enough (because I definitely have been there before), the seasons turned to Fall and my Seasonal Affective Disorder started to impact me suddenly and heavily.

There was no motivation. Sleep was disrupted when I got it, and was always at strange times of both night and day. The impostor syndrome from learning to code compounded things.

So I took a break.

I withdrew from the Fall semester at college a month after it started and I went back to basics. I also submitted for a two month hiatus from bootcamp. That last part hurt.

I wish I could say the turnaround was fast, but as others with a mental health diagnosis can attest: that is not always the case. For me it definitely wasn’t this year. 

https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1525227661914-3ed79b83624e?ixlib=rb-1.2.1&q=85&fm=jpg&crop=entropy&cs=srgb

Things turned around eventually, of course.

I began to rebound just before Thanksgiving. Re-enrollment in bootcamp was right around the corner and I was feeling excited for the pumpkin roll (my favorite dessert). Even though it was a much dialed down celebration this year, it was just what I needed.

That was an indication that things were on the right track but probably my biggest motivator was to actually step on the scale and see how much weight I had gained since April. I hadn’t exercised since late July and my eating habits were a mess too, so it should not have been a surprise, but yet, it was.

I had a serious talk with myself, and then eventually my mom. She has become my partner in crime since I’ve been home and I told her how upset I was with letting myself slip and how I wanted to improve my health. She offered to take walks with me and go on a diet together.

That was the momentum shift I needed, and so the day after Thanksgiving we exercised and shopped for healthy foods to stock up on.

It was only a couple more weeks and I was back behind the console coding for bootcamp and side projects alike!

An instrumental factor in my success turning things around was not only the support of my family and friends but the added accountability through the online tech community. I stumbled upon a Twitter/Discord group called Devs Helping Devs and jumped in with both feet. I definitely recommend checking them out!

 

 


 

 My Coding Journey

This year wasn’t my first step into the frontier land of code. As a young teen, a friend and I were responsible for building pages on and maintaining the overall school website. Then, of course, there was Myspace too. So I was no stranger to HTML and CSS.

That said, I wasn’t sure where to start and definitely needed a refresher. So after about a week of research I settled on a Codecademy Pro subscription and got to work on their Web Developer learning track (now reinvented as a Full Stack Engineer track).

I want to say, there are so many resources online to learn to code that it can be overwhelming. Had I not heard of Codecademy first and already bought the subscription then I assuredly would have wound up on FreeCodeCamp, a very worthy (and free) alternative. I am not a paid spokesperson for either and am merely sharing my very personal and customized approach that I took. Everyone is different.

Then, as mentioned before I had won a free ride to web developer bootcamp through YPracticum. I won this a week before I was going to commit to a $15,000 loan for another competitive bootcamp. Talk about luck!

As if that wasn’t enough, I very recently won a grand prize course offering in another online giveaway. I couldn’t believe it.

I would be remiss to not give a heartfelt shout out to Danny Thompson over on Twitter. He does a tremendous amount to support the dev community and make coding feel accessible to people from all walks of life. He’s been a godsend.


Next Steps and Commitment 

Looking ahead, there is still so much to do and sometimes it certainly feels daunting but now that I have found my groove again, I know it’s all gonna come together. I have been tweeting a lot lately about being productive and focused and I just want to say:

Productivity is relative, in my opinion. I make an effort not to compare what I do to what others put out there because not many people are likely to share their struggles. I think that’s a shame as it can create a fierce sense of competition or FOMO or many other feelings. Especially if you’re not working with a solid foundation.

I just try to keep it simple and push myself to only compete with myself.

So far, that philosophy has allowed me to accomplish more per week than I had done this summer!

If I didn’t know myself enough to take a break then who knows what would’ve happened. I doubt it would have been good.

My goals are many for next year and I will not list them all because it would not only be boring, but also who is to say what could happen? I find it important to be flexible.

That said, after making a vision board with the help of two wonderful productivity tools (Miro and Trello), my focus is on learning the basics of design and completing bootcamp and a couple semesters towards my CS degree.

I plan to blog about my experiences and other things throughout the year and will publicly commit to a post per fortnight (14 days).

Stay tuned and, Happy New Year! See you all in 2021 🎊


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All photos sourced from Unsplash.

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