Adventures in Coding: Getting Set Up
Once upon a time, I got laid off from what I thought was going to be an exciting new chapter as the Director of Marketing for a startup. It was time for the company to pivot, and despite my performance, my role was deemed to be non-essential.
I got the message loud and clear. Coders are vital; people who can write persuasively, communicate clearly and with passion, inspire and lead others? Apparently, not so much.
Inspiration: You Can Do This
I met my friend Murat on a Monday afternoon at a Starbucks in Walnut Creek, CA. It was also the day before my birthday.
“I’m telling you, this shit ain’t rocket science,” he said. “You can totally do this. You’re smart. It’s not about intelligence, or about being good at math. It’s about persistence.”
“You’re gonna have times where you hit a wall. Don’t try to keep pushing through it,” he said. “Either ask Google, and if you can’t find an answer in five minutes, you’re gonna call me and ask me. You spend more than fifteen minutes trying to figure it out on your own, you’re wasting your time.”
I tend to get depressed around my birthday, and this particular one was coming on hard. Murat may have sensed this.
“It’s like when you’re in a depression, and you need someone to drag you out of it, right? When you’re stuck trying to figure something out, you just reach out for help. Don’t beat yourself over the head because you’re only going to go down a hole.”
Organization: Trello and Tasks
“I’m gonna help you out,” said Murat, “and then you’re gonna use what we do to teach others.”
I must have looked as skeptical as I felt because he reassured me. “Trust me, you’re gonna be teaching this in no time. Actually the best way to learn is to teach.”
So Murat gave me a list of tasks to do, and I organized them into a Trello board.
The Nitty Gritty, Shitty Itty Bitty Website
I did some basic tasks before I really got down to business. I uninstalled and reinstalled Sublime Text Editor, Package Control, and Emmet three times each. I set up this blog. I read over some cheat sheets.
And then, one fine Wednesday evening after working a part-time shift at a wine shop, I set myself up and got down to business. My task: to recreate the first five articles of Hacker News.
Supplies: a mug of iced coffee, burrata, crackers, a glass of Sonoma County Zinfandel, laptop, and some background music.
I got to work and after about fifteen minutes of muddling through Emmet shortcuts, I got this:
But I couldn’t figure out how to change background colors or add other elements.
Murat had expressly told me not to worry about it.
So of course, the logical thing was to take a break, have some bone broth with kimchi (homemade, duh) pour some MORE wine and coffee, and get back to work.
I tried coding colors and then I realized with the help of my second glass of wine, fuck this it’s way too hard, I needed to put in hyperlinks first. So I started getting a little naughty with my sources and even naughtier with my contributor names. It’s my form of rebelling when I get frustrated. But when I checked in again with Murat the next day, he told me this was good enough!
What I Learned
Persistence really is key.
This shit really ain’t rocket science. Sure, I got stuck a few times, like when I couldn’t figure out why Emmet had uninstalled, or when I couldn’t change the page background color. But there are many things in my life I’ve done that are harder than writing code in HTML (facing down a grizzly bear, passing the CA state bar exam, telling someone I love them). I know I won’t get everything right away, but I feel a little more confident in myself now.
Forget trying to figure things out on my own. I need to swallow my pride and ask the machine overlords how to talk to them on their own terms.
Use your shortcuts.
I remember watching a friend of mine use keyboard shortcuts back in the day and feeling a perverse mix of envy at his skill and rejection of his nerdiness, an almost know-nothing embrace of my own ignorance. I didn’t think I needed to know how to do that.
But actually, shortcuts and commands rock. The sensation of using them reminds me of a musical instrument — literally pressing a combination of keys to create a desired arrangement, kind of like chords on a piano. And they do save time. And so what, they make me feel cool, too.
I don’t need to get nitpicky about being perfect.
I was creating a roadblock where there really was none — bashing my head against a wall trying to make page background colors and on-page elements that at this point are beyond my pay grade. I can stop when I’ve completed the assignment. It’s not the first time I’ve been told I need to chill out… the only difference is that this time, it’s me telling myself.