In the valley of death

Octavia C.
Dec 17, 2019 · 5 min read

Somewhere around month four, peril awaits

So you’ve started your journey at BeCode all enthusiastic and happy. The first weeks, months and tasks have flown you by, increasing in complexity. And without you really realizing it, at some point, things change. You’ve left the Shire, welcome to the valley of death.

One does not simply walk into this.

What it might look like

You’re not as motivated as you first were, you no longer jump out of bed. The class feels distracted, and people are chatting but it’s getting on your nerves. You don’t really know what to do. You feel like you’ll never ever get that grip on PHP, or that node.js is evading you. You try to get started but you can’t make yourself do it. That damn project is just too… ugh, something. You used to work evenings and weekends but now you don’t anymore and you just want a week off.

Some observations, some possible causes

  • Getting used to it : after three months you’ve built new routines and the novelty factor is gone. If you tend to enjoy new things, well, that’s over. BeCode is your life now.
  • Not knowing how to get started: your first coding challenges break down the world of web dev for you, but they do so less and less. You need to figure out a direction by yourself, but how? Let’s procrastinate on this a bit more.
  • Not a beginner, not an expert yet: you float at this awkward phase where tutorials can get on your nerves due to being too simple, but googling answers gives you obscure, arcane knowledge from the depths of Stack Exchange that you can’t interpret yet.
  • Technological resistance: sometimes, for the life of you, you can’t figure out why but you just hate a thing. You have to work on the thing. The more you do, the more you dislike the thing.
  • Less guidance: no more bite-sized tailor-made challenges to guide you through the next step, you get chunky projects instead. People are starting to go into different directions and you’re not sure who you can ask what anymore. Some people are actually starting to do everything but the chunky project.
  • More irritation: that person that used to be a bit annoying went from mildly infuriating to intolerable.
  • More distraction: you’ve made pals, which is great. You’ve however started to spend a lot of time with your pals, maybe too much. Maybe you’re just doing this to avoid your work. MAYBE.

Some possible remedies

In all of the above, you can sense palpable frustration. Dealing with this period is a valuable lesson in soft skills. If a bootcamp is too short, you never get into this phase, where you really need to take responsibility for yourself, your emotions and your learning. A lot of us rely on external structures for motivation and guidance, or the initial boost that novelty brings. With its focus on self-learning, BeCode won’t hold your hand through the process. This freedom can feel daunting, but can help you put in place different strategies for dealing with lows. Here are some suggestions:

  • Take responsibility for your learning: in the end, you are here to learn things, for a career change, for a specific goal. Write it down, try to remember it, keep it in mind in some way and realize you’re the only person who can make it happen for you.
  • Go do something else for a bit: if you are stuck, it can feel like you’re stuck forever. Getting started on something else, an email, a Medium article, a mock-up, etc can give you a feeling of accomplishment that can drive you forward.
  • Go do something else for a long time: if you’re truly stuck, talk to your coach. Maybe for some reason the task clashes with your brain but the two of you can figure out something that will teach you the skills the project focuses on in a different way. Maybe there are deeper issues and talking it out will be beneficial.
  • Eat the elephant one bite at the time: breaking down tasks in tiny chunks is a life-saving skill, now is the time to practice it. Try a Google Calendar, a paper to-do list, Trello, find whatever works for you to plan your work. Hack your own brain with the pleasure of crossing things off a to-do list rather than working in all directions.
  • Do not hesitate to switch places: if you’ve made it a habit to always sit with the same people, try sitting somewhere else. Being away from the people you talk to all the time can help you refocus.
  • Plan relaxation time: a bootcamp can ask a lot from you in terms of time, focus, and energy. If you were “on” all the time before, you might have run out of steam. Your body or mind might start to rebel against this. Put relaxation on the schedule, whether that’s a bath, sports, drawing, watching something. You’re not just a coding machine.
  • Ask for help: what seemed so easy at first is now daunting. You might be scared to interrupt, you are intimidated by how fast someone learnt something, you don’t want to admit you didn’t understand the things you’ve done for the last 3 weeks. Try not to let hesitations, shame or uncertainties stop you. Keeping the questions going in the class is also a service you do to everyone else.
  • Acknowledge tension or dislike: some people might dislike you, you might dislike some people — those things are a fact of life. If you can maintain a professional, working relationship, you don’t have to be friends. It’s fine to not like or be liked by everyone, as long as you stay polite.
  • Lean on your friends: remember, you are not in this alone. We’ll all make it, with a little help from our friends.


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