My Life Needs CSS and Blogging is My Stylesheet.

Blogging hurts this week.

It hurts because I’m fully in this Dev Bootcamp thing now. Invested in it. Awash in it. Complicit in it. I’ve been funneling free time into learning exercises, getting to know a few dozen (very kind) people in my cohort, asking a lot of questions, and juggling work and family life with all the energy I can muster. At the end of a long day, I don’t want to blog; I want to watch something stupid on Netflix while I read through lesson material or tool around with CSS.

CSS tangent: Positioning is owning my face right now. I feel like I’m hacking around in the dark instead of anticipating what a margin or padding or float change will do to the browser display. I barely understand fixed vs. absolute vs. relative vs. static. Barely. And it’s doubly frustrating because these are literally the skills that separate your Facebooks from your Facebooks-that-didn’t-load-properly-and-now-everything-is-stacked-on-top-of-each-other. I can feel myself starting to catch on to some stuff. It’s slow going. I’m frustrated and hopeful.

Blogging hurts because I want to spend all my precious time flailing at CSS until something gives way and sweet understanding spills out like the code is a curly-bracketed piñata. It hurts because my fingers are already tired from writing. At the end of each of the five exercises I’ve completed so far (four to go!) is a call to reflect on what I’ve just learned. I take every self-reflection seriously, which means I’ve written about 3000 words since Monday. I’ll write at least another 2000 this weekend. It feels like there’s nothing left over to blog.

And yet…

About half of this week’s assignments involve creating a page from scratch and populating it with content. I’m supposed to tell the world a little bit about myself, link people to stuff I care about, study other websites and report back on what makes them tick and why users might like them, describe Dev Bootcamp culture as I see it, even sketch out a wireframe. (I don’t have any idea what that means yet. Give me til Sunday, I’ll get back to you.) All this content creation is just like blogging, only it’s hosted on GitHub, where instructors and other boots can comment with constructive feedback and keep each other sharp.

It makes sense to keep blogging, even when it hurts, because I still need an outlet beyond this mandatory work to share how I feel and what I’m struggling with. Blogging helps me grow faster. Half the time, while I’m typing a description of some problem, a possible solution just pops into my head. And every time I reflect on mindfulness or growth mindset or emotional intelligence, it’s a reminder to myself that these things are more important than I’ve given them credit for in the past. Plus, I still plan on looking back on my journey when I turn twenty-AHEMCOUGHCOUGH in October, and it’s more fun to look when I’ve written more down.

My default escape is to find refuge from my work in my home life and find refuge from my home life in mindless entertainment. It’s a habit I’ve cultivated since I was a kid. It’s comfortable to me. The thing is, the stuff that’s comfortable to me never makes me happy for very long. Work or dishes pile up and I end up resenting myself for letting things get out of hand. I need focus and structure to be at my best. Comfort is the enemy.

I could say to myself, “You’ve put in a couple good hours on coursework today. Reward yourself. Blogging is a chore. Don’t mess with that.” And there would go another day I’ll struggle to remember when I’m trying to recall why I got myself into this huge life commitment come summer. I don’t want to lose days like that. So I do what hurts. I work up the courage to start writing about how I feel and I don’t stop until I’ve learned something new about myself or solidified something I knew about something else.

My life is like a CSS stylesheet. I have all these classes and ids assigned, #dev_bootcamp and .family and .work and #leisure and .self_care, and I have only so much time (browser space) to put them in, and it’s up to me to edit each element so they all flow together in a way that’s visually (existentially) pleasing. Sometimes I can tell what will happen when I edit a value: If I increase the margin width of #dev_bootcamp, I’ll do a better job clearing my head before and after working on a project. If I pad my #leisure, it won’t bleed over into other areas of my life when it shouldn’t. If I don’t assign a fixed position to .family, there are days when I forget how to scroll back to it.

Positioning is owning my face right now. But blogging, at least for me, is a way to step back, look at the big picture, and set my template before I start filling in the content. Sure, I could get along fine without it most of the time, but that’s a bad slice of fate to tempt. Eventually, my life’s <div>s will get complex enough that they’ll crowd me right out of the window unless I know how to handle them beforehand. So I write, and it helps, and I come back to write again, and I inch toward the best kind of discomfort, where I’m still on edge, but it’s the front edge, and I’m wobbling because my edges are expanding, and I’m going somewhere.



  1. Duke,

    Despite the amount of time you dedicate to Dev Bootcamp and side learning, I appreciate the time you took out to write this blog. There are probably more like me that like to lurk, but I had to stand up and tell you that I (we) appreciate your commitment to providing the community a look inside to your journey in becoming a developer. I have made the decision to change my career from psychology to programming and blogs such as yours not only give me hope that making such a drastic change is feasible and worthwhile, but inspiration to become a competent, well-versed programmer.

    1. It’s so scary to say to myself “self, you spent 25+ years doing stuff you might never do again in the next 25+ years,” but the ego fears change because it fears death. So I press on. 🙂 Thanks for lurking! I’ll keep posting as long as posting helps me remember that I’m slowly (painstakingly) getting better at this stuff.

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