It Comes Around

I’m not quite where I’d like to be with my code so far this week, but I’m not letting it throw me off my game. I’m sure I’ll come to understand and maybe even love CSS, user sessions, and ActiveRecord association syntax. I’m less sure about whether this new surge of helpful energy is a happy accident or the start of a powerful new habit. So I’ll keep trying to help, and maybe by the time the answer becomes clear, it won’t matter because I’ll have the new habit anyway.

I spent a good chunk of time this evening talking about code and fumbling through solutions with people in Phase 1. It wasn’t long ago that I was having their struggle, desperate to understand code cooperating across multiple files and totally unsure of how to start pseudocoding the first real object-oriented challenge of the DBC experience. Now I get to experience the rush of reaching back to help people who are where I’ve been. When I got here in mid-July, I thought mentoring was a chore that I’d be expected to get through once I’d earned a couple stripes, an obligation to be wedged into a busy schedule. Now I know the truth: it’s a joy to give a struggling boot someone to lean on. It’s a blessing worth making time for. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done since I arrived.

It’s so difficult to come into this new place and get used to a different world. People who end up here tend to come from backgrounds where they’re used to being the smart one, the comfortable proud soul with all the answers. But here, there are always ten people way smarter than you think you’ll ever be, and the whole trick to it is that they’ve learned to learn constantly, while you were content to coast on your existing expertise from time to time. A lot of gut checking happens on Thursday of Week 1, and a lot of students hate what they find in there. Today was a crisis moment for at least three people I talked to. So I took an hour and did my best to be available to those who needed to talk.

One boot pulled me aside to vent about their struggles with the material, and we ended up discussing the standard template for describing a problem in order to ask for help – What am I trying to do? What do I expect this thing to do? What is it doing instead? I’m glad I could pass down a piece of the cryptic advice given to me three weeks ago: “I see greatness in you. You have what it takes. Don’t give up. You’ve got this.”

They sounded like empty words when I heard them in my first phase, but now I’ve felt a little of what it’s like to look at someone struggling  and see the potential more than the struggle. This person I talked to IS good enough. They DO have greatness within. They’re just still a bit stuck in that fixed, toxic thinking we all get programmed with in Western society: “Relying on others is terrible. Do this all by yourself. Outsmart everyone. Hide your weaknesses. If you can’t, you’ll fail miserably and they’re all going to laugh at you.”

But those thinking habits can be broken, and new ones can replace them. Becoming vulnerable enough to ask for help and lovingly shush your inner judge is a process. And part of that process is giving of what you have in order to keep it. I got through Phase 1 by learning how to ask for help. I’m pretty sure I’ll get through Phase 2 by learning how to be the one who gets asked.




    1. It’s the day when the manic glow of newness wears off and people’s bodies start reminding them to eat and sleep again. It’s also the first day boots are told they can go solo, so many try it out and hit a wall and forget it’s ok to ask for help. Oh, and the day before has a few nasty challenges at the end that sometimes go unfinished, and those who focus more on completion than understanding tend to beat themselves up about it.

      Honestly, I think they design the first week to double check their initial assessment of incoming boots by throwing a purposefully overwhelming amount of challenges at us. On Thursday, it can come to a head and frustrated learners can take it out of context. For many, it’s the first time in a lifetime when 100% effort doesn’t feel like enough. And that’s hard. But it’s not the end of the world. You’ll be fine if you give it your all and ask for help when you feel lost.

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