What influenced and inspired me to code?

This is a question I get a lot, particularly from people who have known me for a long time. Before I got into programming, my whole life was music and theatre. I did okay in math and science classes, and even enjoyed many of them, but didn’t give much thought to pursuing a career in math or science. It honestly didn’t even occur to me — while they were interesting topics, they felt just like that — topics. Each felt too narrow, too limiting — I couldn’t imagine only studying biology, or only studying math. Besides, I didn’t think I was good enough at math or science to warrant pursuing it as a career. And I felt secure in my identity as an artist. I easily made the choice to study drama and music in college. In my college studies, I explored adaptation as an artform, studied the relationship between art and history, and wrote music and plays.

But I had a dirty secret — I was unhappy.

Looking back, I remember feeling that something was off for years. I had always felt torn between my desire to create beauty, and my desire to maintain order. On the one hand, I loved artistic endeavors like drawing, singing, acting, writing. On the other hand, I planned everything I did meticulously. By high school, I scheduled every hour of my time in my calendar (with color-coding). And while I loved performing, I hated improvising (and secretly felt I wasn’t actually very good at performing because of this). I wanted everything to be correct, perfect, orderly. I hated playing music if I didn’t have sheet music to read and analyze. When I performed in plays, I memorized my lines exactly as written. I hated not knowing whether what I said or did would fit correctly into everything around me. I needed to know that what I created was part of a carefully planned and orderly system.

In college, I discovered what it truly meant to be a performer — how to be relaxed and natural, how to truly listen and respond to my fellow performers, how to open up and allow the unexpected into my performances. I learned and grew immensely, but as I began to approach my graduation date — even with my successful senior recitals, projects, papers — I found a horrible realization was slowly dawning on me: I didn’t want this. I loved the performing arts, but I didn’t want to be a professional performer. It simply wasn’t the career or lifestyle I wanted anymore.

My first few years after graduation were both terrifying and exhilarating. It was the first time in my life I had no clue, not even the slightest, of who I wanted to be, what I wanted to do in the world. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was scrambling. I explored all sorts of topics in my quest to figure out what I wanted next — psychology, anthropology, language, transcription, statistics, entrepreneurship. In the meantime, I enjoyed writing, and was somewhat good at it, so I started freelance writing to bring in money. Somewhere in my explorations, I tried programming for the first time. The first time I tried to learn programming (it was Python, thank goodness), even though it was incredibly foreign and difficult for me, I realized I had found something truly special. An orderly art form. A way to express myself through my meticulousness. A way to be creative within the constraints of a logical, analytical scenario. I quickly fell in love with learning the idiosyncratic syntax of different languages — HTML, Tcl, Python, JavaScript, Ruby… After two years of dabbling, I landed my first job as a technical writer, which gave me the opportunity to document programming languages, to produce HTML online help, and to work with L4–7 network technology for web application delivery and security. I soaked it all up like a sponge. About a year later, I knew that I wanted to build web applications for a living. And I am absolutely thrilled that I will be attending Grace Hopper Academy in January 2016 to pursue my career as a software engineer.


Originally published at paloobi.tumblr.com.