Stupid (for a short time) (I hope).

In January I was notified of my acceptance to the initial phase of the Grow with Google Scholarship program. I have until April 11 to complete 20 lessons and three major projects.

I’m on the final project right now, and I’ve never felt dumber.

Wait–that’s not true. I have felt this dumb before. 


I carried feeling that dumb that with me for years–to the point where I tapped out of math courses after my junior year of high school, and when BYU told me I could take four semesters of a world language instead of two semesters of math, j’ai dit, “d’accord, je les prends.”

So as I have been working through these programming lessons the past two months, most of the time I feel pretty stupid. And in this past week as I’ve worked on the final project, the level of stupid I feel far exceeds what I remember feeling in advanced geometry.

But one thing I’ve learned in this course is how open many in the coding world are. The forums for the class are supportive, and people often post tips or hints for how to best complete quizzes and projects. Two weeks ago, the program directors offered to pair up people who were struggling with people who were really good programmers. So I signed up.

Tonight, someone I’ve never met face to face spent two hours walking me through different pieces of the code I’d tried to build. He asked questions and sometimes I answered them wrong, so he would give me hints, and a couple of times, he gave me the answers but then asked me to tell him why those answers were correct (and I could at least do that). When I finally signed off, he said, “Good work tonight!”

Screen Shot 2018-03-27 at 11.10.36 PM
This is part of what took two hours to fix and clean up tonight.

My first thought was “Good work? I barely understood what I was doing and you gave me A LOT of help! How is that good work?”

With his help, I am confident I’ll complete this course. I am zero confident that I’ll be selected for the next round, because I just haven’t truly learned the skills I need to be successful and I doubt I’m in the top 1500 students. I’m probably (definitely) helping him get into the next round just by having to suffer my inane questions and sloppy syntax.

And that’s okay. Really, really okay.

Because I have learned that there’s so many resources available for me to continue learning and practicing. I’ve learned that while taking courses at the local community college might be nice, it’s not necessary for what I want my second act to be.

This course has humbled me quite a bit; so much of what I’ve done in my life has come pretty easy to me, even the things that felt difficult at the time.

It’s been a long time since I felt motivated to become better at something I was really, really bad at. (And I am really, really, really bad at programming right now).

In fact, this might be the first time that’s happened. Sounds like a bucket list item to me.

4 thoughts on “Stupid (for a short time) (I hope).

  1. I feel your pain. I withdrew from CS 142 after 2 weeks, claiming “creative differences” with java were to blame.

    1. There are some moments where I really get it, and when I read other people’s code, I can see the logic. So I guess that’s a win? 🙂

  2. I’ve been there before. It took a lot of late nights, caffeine, and hair-pulling to get to a point where I was comfortable with the high-level programming concepts, not to mention the syntax specific to each language I was expected to learn throughout my courses. Some of the most frustrating moments I’ve experienced after high school were nights I’d spend wondering why my code wasn’t do what I told it to do. That also led directly into some of the most gratifying and triumphant experiences of my academic career. Finally solving those problems was complete bliss and often I’d shout with excitement.

    Of course, now I’ve completed all the programming classes that I’m required to take at UNO and I’m on the verge of getting my degree. I’ve really come to miss programming classes, though. I find myself making programs to solve math problems for one class or crypto problems for another class. I don’t know if many feelings can really match the satisfaction that you can get out of a useful, functional program of your own design.

    1. I’m glad to hear my frustration is the norm! And yes, every time I’ve gotten something to work, it really does bring such satisfaction.

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