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.
Crumple 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.
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!
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.
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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