Learning to Program While Being a Parent

The Beginning of the PC Era

When I was about 8 years old, I remember my parents picking me up from daycare. I remember seeing in the backseat something new. My dad said it's our new computer. I don't recall the model of it, but it was an 8-bit 8 mhz tandy equipped with a fancy 5.25" floppy drive and 256kb of on board memory. What a time to be alive. It was really exciting and we were all really thrilled to get it home and hooked up. I don't even recall what software was on it, but I know it had some sort of games and some desktop publishing software. While we loved having a computer around, it was beyond slow. Cool, but slow. It was time for an upgrade.

Introducing the Compaq Pentium Presario. 

This was indeed like night and day. Blazing fast (for it's time), equipped with 16x CD ROM, 3.5" floppy, 16MB RAM and 2G hard drive. I still remember the sound from the first time we hooked it up to the internet. Good ol' dial-up. The AOL "you've got mail" still brings back flashbacks to our old Compaq. There were games galore! Decent, Hover, Sim City 2000, Tomb Raider, Need for Speed and Duke Nukem. 

"It was revolutionary, and I wanted in."

The real magic happened when we got our Compaq connected to the Internet. Dial-up for the win. You could click connect, go to the bathroom and come back and you might still be waiting, but the idea of being about to browse the web and have all of that information and games at your fingertips was incredible. I look back now at the technology we had in the computing world and wonder how we ever made it with such lackluster specs. Truth be told, it was great for it's time. Now we will live in a world where fast is never fast enough. 2 TB is not enough memory. 64 gigs of RAM just won't cut it. It's never enough. I knew at that time I wanted to be involved in the computing technology. I was so intrigued at how the websites were created. How we were able to connect our computers, type in a web address and get information displayed right in front of us. It was revolutionary, and I wanted in.

Years went by. Between Middle School, High School, and eventually normal jobs after I graduated, I never pursued what I knew I wanted to pursue early on. I essentially forgot about it and put it on the backburner. Over the years in my 20's, I thought about learning web development. I never really thought I was going to have the skill or motivation to learn such an involved skill or be able to be good enough at it. I was always dettered from the topic. Lesson #1; never underestimate yourself. Once you start doubting yourself, it becomes too easy to undervalue yourself and your potential. When I stopped under estimating myself, I found myself learning web development, and over the last 5 years, I haven't looked back.

The Journey to Web Development

I am now 34 years old with my wife to be and two beautiful, and at times, headstrong and stressful boys. I started learning about the web when I was 29. Every day I wanted to learn something new. I thought it was so cool when I created my first input fields on a form. I felt like I was creating something so advanced already, but I knew there was a long ways to go. I started learning some basic CSS so I could style my new found knowledge of HTML. CSS quickly became my favorite as it was relatively simple to learn and it was loads of fun. You can get creative and really make projects your own. I was in it to win it. 

"It was going to require sacrifice, late nights and lots of coffee."

Of course after that, I needed to learn JavaScript. This is really where I found some frustration. HTML and CSS made everything look relatively simple. Adding actual programming to my projects was an entirely different animal. Variables, arrays, control structures, constants, JSON, functions, scope and the list goes on. I became insanely overwhelmed and intimidated. I felt it would take a mathematical genius to take on such programming language. What I really found out is it just takes time and effort. It takes time to understand the foundation of programming and learn the core concepts and learn them well. It takes the time that I honestly felt like I didn't have. It was going to require sacrifice, late nights and lots of coffee. It was going to take discipline.

Juggling the Craziness of Life

Life is always full of surprises. When my first son was born, I was really trying to figure out a way to continue learning and excelling with web development. I took a few months off just to acclimated to having a little person in the house. My wife and I didn't know what we were doing, but we figured it out. Having a child is wonderful for us, but it alters the current day to day schedule. How do I play the part of husband and dad at the same time while also learning a new skill? Will I have enough time to put into it? How long will it take? How late will I have to stay up? Is this still going to be achievable? These are all questions I was asking myself, sometimes I still ask myself these same questions. What I found out is it's not about how much time you put into it, but it's the quality of time.  It's about still getting that quality family time, because that is what refreshes the mind and let's me take a step back for a while and enjoy the time away from programming. 

"I wanted to get paid while learning to code."

At the same time all of this was going on, my wife was going to a four year University. Not only was I learning a new skill, but she was a full-time student. Talk about having to juggle schedules back and forth. Two years later, we find out we are having a second child.  Surprise! It sure was for us. What I thought was already difficult, but manageable was about to turn into something even more complicated. We now are juggling our schedules around a toddler and a baby, school and work. We really had to learn to work as a team and keep each other motivated. We have already put in too much work to let all of the hard effort go to waste.

Getting Paid to Learn to Code

I started building websites on the side and took on a couple PHP projects while still taking classes. Essentially, I wanted to get paid while learning to code. This is a concept I could get used to. Yes it's true, you can in fact get paid while learning how to code. I stayed up late at night learning all I could while also creating websites for some local clients. I was really learning as I went, but I knew I had the ability to learn what I needed to create great looking sites that performed well while still completing the websites in a respectable amount of time.

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