From dropout to developer (My Story)

12 months ago, I was struggling with mental illness. Every day, going to university was hell. I walked into a class and felt that every single person in the room turned to look at me in disgust. I couldn’t focus on what the lecturer was saying because all I could hear were the voices in my head; ‘you smell’, ‘you’re ugly’, ‘your eyebrows are half your face bro’. I have social anxiety. A couple of weeks after the beginning of semester 2 I dropped out of University due to this illness.

For the next 12 months after, I was a shell of my former self. Every day was the same cycle; wake up, sit on my computer, eat dinner, go to sleep, wake up. It was a shitty life, although in retrospect (now having a full time job), it was the life, I just didn’t utilize it. My Dad pushed and pushed me to get a job, I hated it, because he didn’t understand how I felt when I left the house, when I was forced into social situations with my friends and my extended family, when being forced to walk in and apply for a job ended in rejection, over and over again. Every day I sat in that house, I distanced myself further from my friends, and it completely fucked my mind. I was depressed that I never saw them, but when I was invited to go out, I was anxious. I never planned outings, for the risk that nobody turned up. I never invited people over, for the risk that I was just too boring for anyone to have fun around me. Depression and Anxiety are a disastrous duo.

I found my passion for web development when I first started in my I.T class during high school. I pursued further learning in the class, and continued once the semester had finished. I also got to take a class in my first and only semester at University, which I aced due to my nights spent learning HTML & CSS. My goal when I dropped out of Uni was to become a full time developer, though it proved more difficult than the many ‘self taught to employed’ articles made it out to be. I quickly realized that HTML & CSS skills weren’t enough. I began learning JavaScript. I learnt JavaScript quite slowly, but I got there. I began down the path of Node.JS, React, Angular, Vue, Express. For a long time, JavaScript fatigue had set in (But more about that in a future article). I always applied for developer positions, but never got my hopes up due to lack of advanced knowledge in the area. It wasn’t until around April of 2017 that I really thought that I had the skills.

In July of 2017, I got my first Web Developer interview, it was for a Front End Developer role. I didn’t succeed, but I didn’t fail. The job was 1900 kilometers away from home. I did the interview via Google Hangouts, and flowed through quite nicely, answering the questions as they came. I left Hangout feeling comfortable with how I did, but knew that if there was a star candidate for the role, I would be outdone. A week passed and I had been full time studying their stack, which was MERN. I shot them an email regarding the interview. I was pretty confident I knew the hesitation, it was the 1900 kilometer distance. In the email I attempted to assure them that the distance was no issue for me, and that I had been studying React the whole week, 8 hours a day. They didn’t have the front end role available anymore, but they decided to give me a shot as a Full Stack Developer instead.

1900 kilometers is a long way. It’s not just a short drive back home to my parents. This was the reason I was so enthusiastic about it. My bedroom at home had become my only comfort zone, even when attending University, I went home each weekend. The 1900 kilometer distance meant that I didn’t have the option to just ‘go home’ except for perhaps Christmas. This was what I needed. I needed an opportunity to leave my habits behind, and build new comfort zones.

I still have anxiety. I have just redefined my comfort zones in my new life. After three weeks at my new job, I am finally feeling comfortable sitting at my desk, working through cases, and making succinct greetings to my fellow colleagues. Development has saved my mental state for now, and hopefully for the whole future ahead of me.

If you are struggling with mental illness at this very moment, keep pushing, it gets better. Find a strategy to beat it, even if it’s moving 1900 kilometers away.
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