My first project felt like visiting a foreign country

I started working on my first real world project this week after convincing my boss that our company needed a website update.

I recently read the “Why Learning to Code is So Damn Hard” article about the different phases of learning to code. After the first phase, the hand holding honeymoon, comes the cliff of confusion and one of the things they suggest to survive this phase is to “start small and build constantly”. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to work on something small, grow my experience and get to code during my day job!

The first week was pretty much what I’d imagine visiting a foreign country for the first would be like. I’ve been practicing and studying the language, I can recognize it and hold a conversation. When does my flight leave? I’ve got this!

I land and start looking for my hotel, but when I ask for directions everyone is talking too fast, I can’t understand what they are saying. I start to sweat a bit. I decide to grab some food, to sit down, regroup and fill my belly. That makes everything better. I sit down in this adorable restaurant and start looking at the menu. But I realize I don’t know how to order food that I’m familiar with. How do I make sure I don’t wind up eating raw liver or something else gross? The anxiety twists in my stomach, I need to use the restroom. Where is the restroom? How do I ask where the restroom is? What is the word for restroom? Full panic sets in at this point! Was this a horrible idea? Should I not have come here? Did I waste all that time studying the language? Am I going to die???

Then I see someone else get up from their table and walk towards the back of the restaurant, I follow them. Maybe this is their family’s restaurant and I’m following them into the kitchen and this is about to get weird. No, they were going to the restroom, whew! I see the sign above the door and feel relieved that I may not know exactly how to say it but I’ll be able to find this again at other locations by knowing somewhat of what it is called.

On the way back to my table I look at the food everyone is eating and find someone nearby is eating something that looks safe, when the waiter comes I point at their food and order the same. I can breathe again. I’m not going to die.

This isn’t going to kill me, but am I going to make it here? Then as I start to speak with people and they hear my broken sentences, they start to slow down and speak at a pace I can understand. They are not monsters, they are supportive and understanding. They have restrooms and food that is somewhat “normal” to me. This may all be foreign to me, but many people have come here before me and turned from foreigners to friends. With humility and persistence, I think I’m going to make it just fine.

Only, I don’t feel relieved at realizing I’m going to make it, I feel excited! The type of excitement that comes with taking on a big goal and making small victories over the challenges along the way.

This is awesome, I should learn even more languages and visit more countries…wait, where’s my hotel?