This month I spoke at the Pittsburgh Ruby Brigade meeting. I was nervous at first getting up there in front of a couple dozen people and giving a presentation but all in all I think it went well.
have always considered myself a geek. I’m into the programming, have really enjoyed learning Ruby on Rails, love doing anything on my Mac, get silly over little changes in the iPhone OS, and even though I haven’t used it as much as I want to, I get excited when there is a new iPhone SDK beta. But I did realize something today. I am not nearly as geeky as I want to be, or should be. And that is a bad thing.
My family thinks I am the biggest nerd. When I start talking about what I do at work their eyes glaze over and they kind of nod and look really confused. They’ll never get it. To them I am the epitome that they think about when they think of someone who is geeky. Little do they know that it’s really a farce.
Until recently, I really thought that I had come a long way in terms of learning Ruby and Ruby on Rails. Every day I was becoming more and more confident and not afraid to suggest better ways of writing the code or taking criticism from others concerning my code. But today I took a step back. I looked at how long I’ve been doing the Rails thing (oh, about a year-and-a-half) and exactly where I’m at, or feel like I’m at (advanced beginner at best). After a year-and-a-half I really think I should be further along than I am. There are times when the simplest things stump me and render me useless. There are also times when I feel like I am a joke, plain stupid and dare I say it, ditzy. Sure, Rails is ever-changing. Yes, we’re trying different things all the time. Alright, although Rails makes everything seem easy, we’re doing a lot of work that is very complex. Excuses. I should be better. I need to be better.
This past year, I took on teaching myself a little iPhone development because not only am I interested in how applications work, I thought it would be interesting to learn something new. I now think I took on too much. Now, I am not required by anyone but myself to put out an application, but it’s been disappointing to me to really get nowhere with it. I see all of the awesome applications that others are making and think “Hey, I can do that,” but the truth is that I’m not doing that. I’m not even sure if I can anymore.
A friend of mine told me today that it’s probably difficult for me to be exactly where I want to be because I am very occupied at the moment with being a mother. I do have two full-time jobs, the one I go to during the day, and the one that I go home to in the evenings. He said that it’s either get rid of the kid and focus on being the geek or keep the kid and be half-mom, half-geek. Well, of course I am not getting rid of my child, but I don’t feel that half-geek is acceptable either. I need to be good at something. I would like that something to be programming.
I by no means intend for this post to be a “feel sorry for me” kind of thing; That is not why I’m laying it all out like this. This is my blog and I needed some therapy. I’m even disabling the comments on this post because I’m not really looking for advice right now, just a means to vent. I guess I have issues. But you know what? It happens. There are times when everyone feels inferior, even people who know what they are doing.
I think this will pass and I’ll eventually be back to my chipper self, but I also believe it was time for me to take inventory and figure out what to do. I think I’m on a new mission now, to really figure out the best way to retain what I learn. Maybe find a new way of thinking. I’m going to continue reading books, writing code, and doing what I can to understand what’s going on around me but hopefully try to gain a new perspective along the way.
It takes some people years and years to decide what they want to do in life but I was lucky. I can truly say that I knew in high school that I was going to and was meant to be a programmer.
It all happened kind of by accident when my family moved and I started the tenth grade at a different high school. As my guidance counselor was going over the classes I had chosen to take that year at my previous school, she enrolled me in their equivalents at the current school. Trigonometry, Physical Education, Chorus, American Studies, and English were all available at my grade level but as she made her way down my schedule she couldn’t seem to find a match for my last elective, Keyboarding.
When the guidance counselor at the new school asked me what “this Keyboarding” was, I told her that Keyboarding was a typing class where students were taught how to type on an electric typewriter keyboard. I informed her that I took it as a “fun thing to do” during activity period and decided that I liked typing so much that I wanted to take on the full-blown class the next semester. ”Oh,” she said, “we don’t have Keyboarding here but we do have BASIC.” ”What’s BASIC?” I asked, to which she replied, “It’s like Keyboarding.”
Now every time I think of what she said, “It’s like Keyboarding,” I always think of the scene in Three Amigos when the Amigos walk into a Mexican bar and ask for a beer. When the bartender informs the three that the bar only serves tequila, they ask what tequila is. The bartender replies “Oh, it’s like beer.” Makes me laugh every single time because to me the situation could not be more relevant.
Who knows where I would be if I realized that taking that one BASIC course would mean years of learning difficult, complex concepts and having to take Calculus and eventually Statistical Inference. In high school I stayed as far away from math and science as I possibly could. Why would I want to pursue a career where those two things would be blended into a something that I would use daily? In the end I’m thankful that guidance counselor had no clue what BASIC was. She may never realize it, but that misunderstanding is the single reason I am where I am today and I could not be happier.