I read an excellent article this morning about learning difficult new things. This sentence in particular stuck with me:
It is not the study of language that is hard, so much as the “feeling” that your present level is who you are and who you will always be.
This resonates with me, because I used to be such a pessimistic learner. When something was difficult, I imagined that I would NEVER understand it. As with learning in general, the more I learnt in programming, the more I realised I didn’t know. It was overwhelming and kind of disheartening. I felt like there was an ever growing library of knowledge (there is), which I would never be able to conquer (I won’t).
But at some point, my mindset has changed. I realise I don’t HAVE to know everything. That no one knows everything (even though you often meet people who seem like they know everything, or at least want you to think they know everything, guess what? There are lots of things THEY don’t know, and I bet you know some of those).
If you were to ask me now, what the single most important thing I’ve learnt so far in my journey of teaching myself to programme – I would say it is that I am capable. I am able to find out things I don’t know.
This seems kind of small and obvious, I know. Once I was talking to my mother-in-law, and she was looking at making something (I think it was a cake), that seemed super-elaborate and tricky. I said to her “Do you think you can make that? It looks really hard!”. She said “Well, someone else has made it, so why couldn’t I?”. There is no way that she would remember even having that conversation, but it has stuck in my mind to this day.
It shows a fundamental difference in the way my husband and I were brought up. He was brought up by parents who looked at life thinking – You know what, that doesn’t look too hard. My sister and I, however, were brought up to think that life was difficult. We were all born into comfortable middle-class Australian households in the 70′s and 80′s, so the reality is that we all won the lottery of life. Despite the similarities, our outlooks on life have differed greatly, and it’s only really since that conversation with my mother-in-law that I realised I needed to actively fight against this ingrained idea of ‘life is so hard’.
I doubt my parents ever comprehended this is how they brought us up, and I’m sure they would be horrified to know that’s what I think (and thank Christ they will never read this blog, no one send it to them). But when I look at my husband and his siblings, compared to my sister and I, I can see the influence this has had. They really do brim with a confidence that my sister and I don’t have, something I know that we could benefit from.
So that’s why I believe that the best thing I’ve learnt in my programming journey, is that I CAN learn. I am not only the sum of what I know and can do now. I am full of potential and capability.
Note: Feelings waver, I’m an emotional rollercoaster. Having written this post doesn’t mean I won’t feel overwhelmed or defeated in the future, but I hope when I do feel that way, I will come back and read this.