Hacker School Day 6: On which I felt lost and found

It’s week two, day two (day six overall), and I feel behind. There hasn’t been enough time to do as much as I want, and I felt overwhelmed and a bit lost today. I also feel I haven’t been living up to the goals I had set myself (such as blogging daily). I started two other posts last week, but finished neither of them. I set myself up a huge chunk of tasks to finish over the weekend, but ended up doing life bits like laundry and a touch of leftover work instead.

I came to school early today (7:30am), which felt great. I’m still here now (9:40pm), and I still feel great (albeit tired). Obviously this is not sustainable, nor do I intend to maintain this pace, but I wanted to reset a bit today. I wanted to play catch-up, or at least not fall further behind. I am afraid to acknowledge that in the 14 hours I have spent here today, I have barely maintained pace. I suppose that means my goals are too big.

I had the opportunity to speak with an alum today who helped me see the beauty in focus (or rather the danger of spreading myself too thin). If I delve deep into one language, I’ll get down to the good parts and learn about how best to structure complex pieces of code and solve tough problems; whereas if I try to learn two or more languages, I’ll stay in the shallow waters with both. In light of that, I’m concerned with the amount of time I’m spending on studying this SICP stuff, but I think the mindset I’ll gain from it is worth a significant chunk of time. I’m also delighted at how hard it is. A large part of me wants to give up and consider myself stupid for being unable to maintain pace with the others in the class, but I refuse to give in to that familiar voice and course of action. It’s fine if I feel like the dumbest there. It’s even fine if I AM the dumbest there (though I refuse to believe that such a thing exists–degree of dumbness is not a linear spectrum… more like a sphere within which we all float). In response to the fear that wells up when I find my head swimming in terms I can’t quite grasp, today I admitted my struggles and accepted an offer of help.

In accepting help on math and logic (things I generally consider strengths of mine), I felt somewhat like a belly-up beached whale, flopping helplessly and shamefully, resigned to the help of another for my survival. That’s okay. It helped that I was beyond tired and hungry, so my brain was functioning at about one third capacity, rendering me even more willing, lowering my usual self-standards to the point of asking for a refresher on logarithms. Again, that’s okay. It felt good to let myself not understand. I am usually the one explaining things, so this was a huge role-reversal for me. Again, it was uncomfortable but healthy.

After another stab at some SICP problems (with no measurable result or success), I put down my pencil and opened this window. ‘Twas time to blog the day.

For tomorrow: I want to understand window.requestAnimationFrame and why I’m using it. It’s doing great things, but I would rather control my elements individually with many setInterval() calls. Therefore, my goals for tomorrow are: picking apart that mysterious function (and/or replacing it altogether), implementing a sprite png for my character, seeking advice on how to structure the pile of spaghetti that is my game, determining when my character hits a block, … and that is more than enough.

That’s all for now, folks!

P.S. While I’ve nothing directly technical to report (and I’m too tired to write it clearly even if I did), I learned about Proof by Induction today. I hate it, but it’s darn useful. Here’s the example A used to help me understand: if I can get on a rung of a ladder, and if being on one rung implies the ability to get to the next rung, then I can get to every rung after that initial (base case) rung. I think! Please comment if I’m wrong. I’ve tried to restate this about 20 times today and keep confusing the assumption/condition and the result/proven statements. Aye!

2 thoughts on “Hacker School Day 6: On which I felt lost and found

  1. Polina Giralt

    Sounds to me like you’re making great progress, so don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s great that you realize that pace of 14hr marathon sessions isn’t sustainable. It’s also worth keeping in mind that you probably know a lot more than you’re giving yourself credit for. Thanks for sharing your feelings, helps me to realize I’m not the only one who feels lost and distracted here.
    Good luck with your game!

    1. emily Post author

      Thanks, lady!
      Indeed: we ought to remember more frequently that we’ve made excellent progress even when we can’t see it just yet or as much as we would like.


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