Resurrecting this blog after a year and a half, because I nuked my Livejournal to prevent the wolves from digging up old dirt on Arthur, my Tumblr is exclusively for Star Trek, and Twitter’s character limit is just not conducive to longer thoughts.
Well. “A lot has happened” is an understatement. I am up several cats and a house and down one husband. There’s a documentary making the festival rounds that pretty accurately chronicles the collapse of our relationship after Arthur bit off more fame than he could chew. I got a job at a veterinarian’s office after we moved away from the middle of nowhere, and spent over a year there, more or less content, though the shift schedule was punishing, and some days I would come home coated in every kind of body secretion a dog can produce. But it became clear after the divorce that, with four cats and a book habit to feed, I would need something more.
(I think maybe it is an ultimately good and necessary experience to have your heart utterly crushed. To be so thoroughly rejected by someone you love, to be the target of every paranoid fantasy and stray vicious impulse. When you know what that’s like, you know what other people are going through. It is a story you can write from the inside out, and by writing, distance yourself, until the pain is transmuted back into words and the words are released into the world to sting some other soul and make it stronger.)
Enter code camp. I’ve been distantly aware of bootcamps since an EPA acquaintance who jumped ship for the private sector long before I did completed one and became a software developer. Then my brother, stuck in a QA position with little hope of advancement, did one last year, and immediately got a job at a cool local startup, where he seems quite happy. I thought about it for a long time, but didn’t apply, and didn’t apply, and didn’t apply. I can’t tell you what stopped me, except that I figured it would be too physically difficult for me, that I didn’t have the stamina. And, secretly, I knew that I was very stupid and could never possibly understand all the things necessary to be a real live codemonkey, because though I had enjoyed my computer science courses back in college, I had dropped them in favor of physics, and we all know how badly that turned out.
But one night last January I impulsively clicked over and took the aptitude quiz online before all my internal hatred mechanisms could wake up and talk me out of it, and I aced it. Not only did I ace it, it was *easy*. Just logic, just words on a screen. And the bootcamp sent me an email immediately, followed up with a phone call. Would I like to come downtown and interview? So I did, and took a longer aptitude test on paper that was only a little harder than the first, presumably to show that I wasn’t looking up the answers online somewhere, even though that is a time-honored method in any software developer’s toolbox. (I kid.)(But only a little.)
So I signed up. I was afraid that I wouldn’t understand things, or that I would get sick and have to drop out. But my health has been pretty stable for a long time, now, even if it’ll never be 100% of what it used to be, and I think I’ve finally come to terms with that. I’ve been sick for ten years, almost a third of my entire life, and it’s never going to go away, and it’s never going to get better, and all I can do is learn clever workarounds to survive. Work smarter, not harder.
I’m fixing up the house, which direly needed it, with an infusion of cash from my parents, who have become co-investors in my little ill-advised real estate venture. It’s a wonderful place to live, though knowing I’ll probably have to sell it eventually makes me unwilling to make it fully home. I’ve hardly hung any art. I haven’t bought any furniture, though stuff left by the side of the road with “FREE” signs taped to it is fair game, because if it all goes back to the roadside when I move, I’m not losing any money.
Mycroft, old man Mycroft, is fifteen years old, and he loves the house and its quiet, wooded environs. I started letting him outside on his own last summer, after much soul-searching, and if he gets eaten by a coyote, well, that’s clearly the way he wanted to go. He was obviously an indoor-outdoor cat his whole life before I adopted him, and four years of being cooped up in apartments was giving him cabin fever. He’s so happy now, and I’m happy that I can give one creature in the world everything he wants, and let him live out his golden years in kitty paradise. I hope his dead first owner would approve of the life I’ve struggled to give him.
But by the title of this post you know I want to talk a little more about code camp. It started two weeks ago. One of the most important epiphanies of my adult life came quickly: it’s not hard. I can do it. I do the reading a couple days ahead of time. I struggle with the syntax of some new concept for a few minutes, fiddle around, and then I get it, and then I know it forever. And it’s fun. After years of feeling worthless, after mopping the same office floor alone at the end of every veterinarian’s assistant shift, I am starved for validation, dying for problems to solve, and this bootcamp gives them to me in measured doses, each day seemingly exponentially increasing what we students can do with computers. So far I’ve barely even had to take homework home. I love helping my fellow students understand once I’ve finished the work on my own.
Stamina remains an issue. Last week I got to Friday afternoon and was so wiped I could barely drive home. I generally start to fade a couple hours after lunch, but the bootcamp’s free coffee has helped me power through. This, too, is an epiphany. I think my year of constantly pushing myself at the vet’s office was painful, but good, again, because it showed me how to shove at my limits, and even circumvent them (sometimes), develop strategies to lessen their impact. Even a night of severe pain and elusive sleep can’t stop me from rushing to class and taking a million notes and racing through the day’s exercises like I’ve seen it all before. If there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s apply the blowtorch of willpower to a concrete problem until one or the other fails, and, well. My spirit was never in question.
And these two weeks have already begun to change me away from the person I’d become, afraid to commit, afraid to take the chance, because inevitably my body would let me down, and let others down. I have survived ten years of seeing the one thing I was most afraid of come true, again and again. I have been tempered by pain and heartache and loss and terrible suffering. I have come through it all a sharpened blade. Now when the internal hater array takes aim, when my old fears threaten to choke me, I step back, and I imagine: what’s the worst thing that can happen? I fail out of the bootcamp and waste several thousand dollars and have to sell the house immediately to survive? Well, would I die? No? Then that’s okay. I could get through that. And the voice that tells me I’m not good enough, already so much quieter since its physical manifestation moved away and cut all ties, goes silent. With every day that I don’t have poison whispered into my ear, I become less vulnerable to its effects, and more determined to never let it tear me down again.