This post didn’t turn out the way I expected it to, but it still drives the point I was going for.
Pain. Frustration. Irritation. Sadness. Regret. Losing.
Achievement. Accomplishment. Triumph. Happiness. Completion. Winning.
I was raised to do better, be better, smarter, go farther, be more. My parents instilled a range of ideals in me to find what I wanted to do, then to go do that. Find out what I need to do, make a plan, and execute it.
For a while in high school and college, I thought that my calling in life was to be an athletic trainer. (To this day, if you call them “trainers” I will have to restrain the urge to snap your hands off.) I love [most] sports, and I wanted to help people, so of course, I would become an athletic trainer. Honestly, my mom mentioned it to me one day, and I latched on. It made sense.
I spent years taking classes I hated because I knew that I needed them to get into the program at Central, the oldest program in the nation, and one of the best. Because, in my mind, I thought once I got to Central (I started college at a university closer to home to save money) that I would be so much happier because I would be taking the classes required to get into the program. And, of course, once I got into the program, life would be a god damn cake walk. I got an associates in business at Ferris so that I could have a fall back. Plus, if I ever went into business for myself, I would be able to tell if someone was trying to take advantage of me.
As you can probably imagine, given that you’re reading this on my tech blog, life did not go as planned. I worked hard, I got in, I was thrilled. Everything I worked for, studied for, the late nights, practicing different tapings, had paid off. I was in.
And oh. my. god. I was bored. BORED.
Yeah, I loved going to the sporting events, working with the athletes, but I would go to class and not care one iota about what my professors were talking about.
I needed to graduate on time, and everyone says that all you need is the piece of paper, and it doesn’t really matter exactly what it says on it, just that you persevered and completed the four year degree. Which, honestly is pretty screwed up, but it is what it is — for now.
I resigned from the program, and changed my major to theatre.
I had always loved the theatre. Performing, singing, I was in drama club, sang in choir, and I’ve played flute for 17 years. It was something I could finish in the time I had allotted for my college education and enjoy it. Revel in it. It is certainly one decision that I have zero regrets over. I finished my BS in Theatre, Interpretation, and Dance in three semesters, taking 20+ credits each semester, plus some summer classes. It was hectic and insane, but I had a blast. The shows I had the opportunity to work on, and the people I got to work with gave me lessons and memories I will carry with me forever.
Despite all that, I knew I would never use it. Ever. I didn’t (and still don’t) think I’m talented (among other things) enough to make it in that business. But I finished. I didn’t fail, I finished college with two degrees. I have the picture of me receiving my BS pinned next to my desk on the bulletin board to remind me of this every day.
Fast forward a few years, I have a decent office job, but I still feel like I need to stretch, to learn. I start to learn to code. I get laid off from decent office job, and spend the next four months unemployed, hacking. I apply to my first tech job with a year and a half of coding under my belt. I felt so lucky (and relieved) when I got the job.
But I still feel like I’m missing something. Like I won’t be legit in coding until I have the degree in hand saying “I can hackz!” despite being told many (many) times that I didn’t need it to advance in my career. I heard them, I understood that, but still, I wanted it.
I applied to UIUC for a classwork masters with a focus in cybersecurity, and was rejected. But that’s ok, with my lack of math background, I knew it was a long shot. I could have applied to MSU, but I really, really, really did NOT want to have to take calculus, nor did I have a desire to haul my ass to campus four days a week and manage going to school for another bachelors while working full time.
If you’re not familiar, it’s one of several massive open online course providers. I had started a java class, and an algebra refresher while I was unemployed. Well, they were rolling out new “nano” degrees, one of which was a full stack web developer track (FSND). Perfect. I am interested in the web, I like working in the back end, it’s a work at your own pace degree that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg — plus my employer had a great tuition assistance program that they were willing to let me use for this non-traditional learning opportunity.
The program was something I could do to keep me engaged in my career path, because my job certainly wasn’t doing it for me, but that’s another post for another time.
I started the program, and the first few projects, though taking a lengthy amount of time, because life, were pretty fun, and I learned quite a bit. For example, one thing I learned is that I don’t like python. That’s not the only thing I took away, of course, but that is a biggie. I got down to the last two projects, and started to run into big issues. Not just in my code, but in dealing with the program in general. I would sign up for 1:1s, and what had become an annoying lateness for every session I signed up for, turned into two times a TA just didn’t show. No cancelation email, no notification of any kind, just no-shows. I emailed several times, filled out the surveys they kept inexplicably sending me, and I heard back all of zero times. Tweeting at them didn’t seem to matter either.
I felt like I was constantly chasing pointless deadlines I would inevitably miss, and I had no desire to keep trying in a language I didn’t like, on a project I did not give a damn about.
Life kept happening, of course, because it does that, and I got a new job a few months ago. A job that has been everything my last job could have been, but wasn’t. I am engaged, I get to build websites, I am happy. I didn’t need the FSND to keep me from losing hope anymore.
But I wasn’t willing to quit. My momma and daddy didn’t raise no quitter.
I kept trying to get the project moving on my own, but all I was doing was spinning my wheels, frustrated, tired, and, let’s face it, stubborn. I am stubborn af.
So, last Monday, I am trying to finish this project, my laptop display is going crazy, my battery is about to die, and my charger (I only have one) is broken. I snap. Something had to give, and all of the reasons I listed above slammed into me. I don’t need this. I don’t need this stress. I can learn all of the things these classes have to offer and display those skills without paying for a damn piece of paper.
But my momma and daddy didn’t raise no quitter.
The ending to this story is ugly. It ends up with me crying sitting on the closed lid of the toilet in my bathroom. Huge, racking sobs, that I’m pretty sure scared the hell out of my boyfriend.
After I calmed down I had come to a decision. My sanity wasn’t worth it.
My momma and daddy didn’t raise no quitter.
And they still haven’t. This is the first time I’ve not finished a degree, in whatever form. But, sometimes walking away isn’t quitting. It’s self preservation.
It’s not easy, it’s hard, it’s really hard to know when to walk away.
It’s not time wasted, I still learned a lot, about coding, about how I learn, about a lot of things. Frequently, we want something to show for our work. A trophy, a piece of paper, a picture of you shaking hands with the Dean as you get your degree, something tangible, visible, and we forget the invisible part of what those tangible items mean, what they represent.
I was chasing a piece of paper, happy to accumulate knowledge along the way, but a piece of paper can’t tell me how big O notation works.
3 thoughts on “A Lesson in Learning”
I can completely relate to your post! It’s frustrating to change your trajectory. And I definitely understand the “I’m no quitter” line constantly playing in your head. I just had a class that wasn’t working for me, and I was stressing out about the fact that I was going to quit it. Everything told me that was the right thing to do, but I just didn’t want to not follow through with something. Stubborn af as you put it.
Jenny, you are doing a great job adulting from what I can see. Keep up the good work!
This is April Linke btw.
Thanks April, it’s a hard thing to deal with. I’m glad that it sounds like you have a great support system behind you as well!