Welcome to the final, longest, and most difficult phase of the DBC curriculum: the rest of your life.
I saw that picture online and thought of how scary it felt after I got my dog tags, knowing I no longer had “stairs” pre-built by curriculum writers and explained with verbose READMES; the “ladders” of the less explicit, more open-ended challenges of P3 (faced alongside peers who could boost me up when my arms got tired); or “ramps” in the form of mentor advice and face-to-face sessions with instructors devoted to helping me succeed.
I felt excitedly lost. Terrifyingly open to all possibilities ahead. Exhausted. Thrilled. Grown up. Self-responsible. Unbound. Unsupported.
And I also felt kind of…alone.
Maybe you feel that way too right now. I think that’s about as normal as any DBC-adjacent feeling can be.
What got me feeling less alone was the realization that I didn’t have to uncouple from the relationships that sustained me as a boot. What got me feeling less unsupported was the knowledge that I had careers folks I could reach out to, commiserate with, and get feedback from.
What got me feeling less terrifyingly lost was a return to a realization I’d had back in my week one, when I had to implement Array#map.
“Everything that exists as code was created by a human being trying to solve a specific problem. If I can empathize with how that creator felt, then I, too, can create new things to solve my problems.”
I hope you have also learned that the path ahead is only as barren as you decide to make it.
Need a ramp? Hit up a meetup or two and ask your nagging questions. Maybe you’ll find a simpler answer than the one you were afraid you’d have to search for. Maybe you’ll find a new community of peers with different lessons to impart. Maybe you’ll find a mentor.
Need a ladder? Decide on a cool thing to build and work on it every day until it’s a real thing on the real web. A sloppy thing, an incomplete thing, a poorly-tested thing, but a real thing. A thing you built without an explicit README guiding you toward each next shaky step.
Need stairs? Google “<thing_i_want_to_learn> tutorial” and discover a brand new set of curricula shimmering beneath the surface of a sea of blue links.
Not having structure after structure helped you get where you are is a scary thing. But always remember that, within that structure, you’ve learned more than stuff.
You’ve learned about yourself.
You’ve learned what coding environments feels good for you. You’ve learned which of your debugging strategies tend to yawn open into cavernous rabbit holes that aren’t worth the time it takes to detour into them. You’ve learned how to collaborate and sustain positive energy through difficult work, teaching and learning from your teammates.
You’ve learned how to learn.
Probably you don’t yet know how you learn best, but probably you do know a few approaches that don’t work, hazards and sticking points to avoid when you want to keep your chin up and press forward at a steady pace.
So go do that. Go get to learning, and never stop.
And when you feel that dizzying, freezing, liberated terrorfeel of so much I could do do but how should I begin start to creep up from your gut through your heart and toward your brain stem, take a deep breath and repeat after me:
“Everything that exists as curriculum was created by a human being trying to teach a specific skill. If I can empathize with how that creator felt, then I, too, can create new curriculum to learn whatever skill I need.”
Or, as a friend of mine from Michigan once rapped,
“If you don’t like the road you’re on, then build a new one.”
And don’t forget that the most beautiful and meaningful thing you’ll be building is yourself.
Welcome to the community.
Welcome to uncertainty.
May you find your next error very soon.
With all of the love,