From Literature to coding: This is not Kansas anymore

My experience on learning how to code after a lifetime of believing I sucked at Maths

The Wizard of Oz characters marching on the yellow brick path

Have you ever felt like something is just not for you but wish so badly that it was?

That’s kind of what happened to me with coding.

Hola! I’m Estefanía: Book hoarder, 37 years old, former languages teacher and translator, mum, Argentinian expat in Denmark, milanesas eater and so many things more.

But today I just want to talk about my experience with coding.

I’m now almost halfway through the coding bootcamp that I’m currently on and I must say it: It’s no picnic. I’m struggling but, at the same time, I’m so incredibly happy. My inner child is happy. This is making her jump with joy and If you continue to read, I will tell you why.

A picture of the author
A picture of the author

Why did I decide to learn how to code?

Because I’m completely out of my mind (just kidding).

I first got curious about programming while working as a content writer for an languages learning app, over a decade ago. I saw the “behind the scenes” and all those guys (yes, literally guys, not a single female) doing their magic over the keyboards and screens.

Well, I thought that was the most magical thing I had ever seen, but then I also concluded (how irrational!) that it was probably impossible for me to do that. After all, I sucked at maths and that looked very “mathsy”.

Why did I think that learning how to code was a lunatic idea?

While it’s true that I’m not the kind of person that solves Math problems in a jiffy, things like these probably didn’t help:

  • Was called “an idiot” by a chess teacher while in primary school.
  • Felt like I never understood Math and Physics explanations in high school. My grades on those subjects were as low as winter temperatures in Scandinavia.
  • Managed to get to the national stage of a Biology Olympics contest representing my school first, and my city afterwards, with a team of 3 people, but failed at solving a problem and we didn’t make it to the next round.

So I chose Literature and Language as a career. But I don’t complain. I absolutely loooved every second of it and had a great time working as a Spanish teacher and translator . I even got to recruit and train teachers for a company, a job that I enjoyed greatly.

And then, during the years working as an online teacher, I fell in love with technology and everything that could be achieved with it. It felt so powerful to teach a language from Spain, to people based in China or anywhere else in the world, and all thanks to platforms and technology in general.

Then I started to experiment with making sites on Wordpress and it was like kaboom! So exciting! I just wanted to know more and more…

So that’s what I did: I went for more.

Following the yellow brick path

You probably know the story: The Wizard of Oz is about this girl and a small group of 3 friends going on a journey to see the fantastic Wizard of Oz that will give them what they lack of.

At the beginning of the story, the main character sings:

Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh, why can’t I?

It’s worth it to give it a change either to the book or the movie. But long story short, here is my takeaway from this story:

  • Kansas can be a safe, comfortable place, but you don’t have to stay there if you don’t feel like it.You don’t have to stay on a career path that is not making you completely happy, even if it’s a safe, comfy choice.
  • Though it seems easy to just follow the yellow brick path at the beginning, we discover that is actually a long way full of tricky situations that we have to figure out on the go.
  • Everything they thought they had to be provided of, was already within them: There are certain qualities that nobody can give to you: You have to find the brain, the courage and the heart within yourself to become what you really want to become.
  • There’s no easy way to that promised land we dream of. And there is no wonderful promised land where everything is easier and there are no problems at all. Even your dream job will have its ups and downs. That’s why you have to make sure that you are not reaching for Emerald city (an idyllic place that doesn’t exist as such), but for home (that place or profession that feels truly yours deep inside).

I try to keep these lessons in mind while I try to make every JavaScript function work, while I code every new project, while I make a new pull request on Github. Every day it looks a little less threatening.

Am I still scared? A little bit, yes. Am I still doubtful about the future to come? Hell, yeah!

And sometimes, like in those verses by Erin Hanson, my inner child still whispers into my ears:

“What if I fall?”

Oh but my darling,

What if you fly?

A picture of the author as a child.
A picture of the author as a child.

Hails from Argentina, based in Denmark. Former Spanish teacher and translator. Self-published fiction writer. Now learning how to code. Huge fan of empanadas.