I Failed My Coding Goals in 2015, and That’s Okay

I Failed My Coding Goals in 2015, and That’s Okay

Learning While Black & Trans


In 2015, I applied for a paid coding fellowship in DC, specifically oriented toward social change. I was discouraged after not being accepted, but eventually decided there was no reason I couldn’t learn coding myself.

At the time, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do or have the language to describe it besides “make stuff.” I knew that I wanted to create websites and apps with Black and non-Black people of color who are trans, queer, non-binary, and gender-non-conforming in mind. The idea that sparked my interest in development was an app for trans people that listed healthcare providers by location and let people leave reviews and ratings for them based on cost, accessibility, quality of care, etc. Luckily someone else is making that, and MyTransHealth is being developed right now. Eventually, I learned the vocabulary to define my learning path: full stack web development. Along the way, I’ve studied HTML/CSS, Javascript, UX principles, UI concepts, and web design fundamentals. I’ve poured through free resources and free trials.

I was immediately attracted to the idea of coding bootcamps. I’m the type of person that needs learning structure, chronic depression requires it. Bootcamps seem like decent, fast-tracked career paths and opportunities for mentorship, and I was definitely tryna get paid as quick as possible. But I realized bootcamps weren’t an option for me because of the high price point. Although there are many bootcamps that offer financial aid, it’s usually in the form of partial scholarships and loans for tuition. Setting aside tuition, there’s still travel costs, living expenses, and months of unemployment to take into account. These are unsurmountable costs for me that no amount of loans or aid is going to cover.

I settled into free resources like Codecademy and Free Code Camp. I’ve shifted my focus to web design, but for the rest of my development journey, I’m sticking to FCC, because I’m consistently impressed with the work that the community puts into developing the resources and learning challenges there.

Along the way, I also decided to blog about my experiences. I want to leave a record of my learning process for others who might want to learn. I’m at the point where the work I was designing a couple months ago is embarrassing to have online, so I’m thankful for my improvement.

But this narrative is much more linear than my actual process. I’m a messy learner. It’s been a jumble of resources and zig-zagging through methods that’s not recommended. My excitement comes in waves: when I’m having a high energy day, I overwhelm myself with my own goals and visions. During depressive episodes, I’m convinced I can’t do anything.

My life gets in the way. I started learning when I was unemployed. This wasn’t a choice in the sense that I chose to quit my job to learn how to code. During several months of unemployment, I was unapologetically crowdfunding to raise money for my rent. That didn’t leave room to crowdfund for a bootcamp.

In late October I did get a discount scholarship for Telegraph Prep’s online JavaScript course, but my internet was disconnected shortly before the class started and I was unable to take it. I narrowly avoided eviction thanks to the support of someone dear to me who organized on my behalf. I was hungry. My depression grew daily. The only thing I thought about was an immediate paycheck.

I eventually got a seasonal retail job with long hours and a long commute. After getting home late at night, I didn’t have the physical or emotional capacity to open up Photoshop or struggle through writing loops. I did nothing for around 8 weeks and was nowhere near any of the goals I set for the year. I lost the rhythm I grew to love in writing code. Now, my fingers stumble over the keys and it feels awkward and unfamiliar. But I forgave myself. I refused the idea that I wasn’t motivated enough or didn’t work hard enough. I focused on my survival.

My desire to learn web design and development is dedicated to my own dreams as a Black, trans, queer, non-binary, person. I take inspiration from from Kortney Ryan Ziegler and TRANS*H4CK and Angelica Ross and Trans Tech Social.

In my own learning process, I’ve wanted to create a blueprint for other people in my community who come to programming with no experience and little resources, but want to build and design a world by them and for them. I’m inspired by apps like Thurst, a “comprehensive dating platform for queer people of all gender identities.” I’m driven by the possibilities of a world with apps and technologies that center the experience of Blackness and what it means to engage with technology while navigating anti-Blackness. I want to design for Blackness. I want to develop for Blackness.

Eventually, I hope to gather a collection of free resources with Black LGBTQ people in mind. I hope the landscape changes. I hope that people learning with and after me can find more accessible resources developed by people that reflect their experiences. This is the type of critical learning community I want to participate in.

So, I didn’t meet any of my coding goals in 2015, and I’m cool with that. I’m running on passion now and a love for myself and my community. I’m committed to being gentle with myself in the process. I take my failures as they come and let my love guide me.

Kyem Brown