Sharing Something Close to my Heart

Sharing Something Close to my Heart

Have you ever played out a ‘What-If’ scenario in your head? One of those doomsday what-ifs? Where the situation can’t be avoided, and you can only focus on the worst-case scenario? Well, I want to share one of those what-ifs from my youth. As you will come to see, I’m sharing something very close to my heart.

I was in Year 10, my attendance was low, and parents evening was looming. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be worried, but this was the first parents evening that my dad would attend, and I could feel my butt getting sore as the day grew closer!

Like a quantum computer before its time, or erm, an Avenger, I had calculated 14,000,605 different scenarios, all of which ended in my dad knocking me into the following week! Somewhere in amongst those what-ifs, my imagination got the better of me and things got weird…

The night of parents evening arrives, we pull up at my school. As the engine shuts off, Reggae stops blasting out, and there is a deafening silence. It’s time. We walk into the hall. My dad has his belt wrapped around his knuckles, he is in full whooping mode, and he looks scary. Heck, he is scary! But wait, this is a good thing, maybe my teachers will take pity on me… no, no this is a great thing, I’m saved! And then I remember my Maths teacher. Nope, not Mr Knight, he won’t care, I’m doomed; he’ll chomp popcorn and watch me get a whooping! 😭 👀

Hollywood dramatisation? Hell Yeah! My imagination isn’t that wild! There was a parents evening, my dad did really attend, Reggae music was blasted the whole way there and back, I really thought Mr Knight hated me, and I really was worried! I didn’t know it then, but I had reached an educational milestone and pivotal point in my life - highlighted by this event. It wasn’t until I started learning to code that I discovered I’m Twice Exceptional, and sooo many things begun to make sense!

You see, it took me just thirteen months to start structuring 5-plus word sentences. Like Usain Bolt, I was straight out of the blocks! But if you’re expecting to hear about a child prodigy who went on to take Mensa by storm, this isn’t that story.

Born to a barely literate mother who believed children should be seen and not heard, a vocal toddler wasn’t encouraged and certainly not nurtured. But with this thirst for knowledge and mental enrichment, going to school would be my platform to shine, right? Well, yes and no… it’s complicated!🤪

Up until year 8, I was considered between average and above average in all my subjects. In year 9, it was decided that I’m actually really good at Maths. Then all of a sudden, I started Year 10 in the top set for most subjects, and was cruising! 😎

You’re probably thinking,

“Cambridge, no, Oxford!”

But you’d be wrong! My final two years of Secondary School were turbulent, to say the least. My attendance dropped to below 55%, and life at home was a mess. Although, there was some kind of silver lining; remember that parents evening? Let me tell you what really happened.

Parents evening started well. I had a strategy to butter my dad up with good reports, so I directed us to my favourite teachers first. It was working, his beaming smile lit up the room, and he was one proud father! Then we got to Physics. Mr Murray starts by opening the register. My heart sinks as I think of all his classes that I’ve missed. My worst fears were realised in the first half of his opening sentence,

“Considering Clayton’s attendance (me - 😱), his grades are remarkable (me - 😅).”

Now all I had to do was get through Mr Knight, and I’m home free - remember him! His lessons were fast-paced, and he would frequently call on me for an answer while making fun of my Micky Mouse - non-scientific - calculator. This was a teacher who didn’t play around; he was teaching us GCSE Maths in Year 9, his standards were high, and I always thought he didn’t like me. Maybe he did like me, or maybe he didn’t, but on this evening, I at least discovered that he thought I was intelligent!

As it turns out, rarely being in class but still managing upwards of 90% in most tests was enough for my dad. It seemed he only heard that his kid was one smart cookie (whose butt wouldn’t crumble on this occasion)!

I wish I could tell you that all the hard work and extra studying when I could’ve been out playing had paid off, but I can’t. Don’t get me wrong, I always did my homework, but no more, no less. I grew up in an environment where education meant school, and the University of Life started at home.

What actually happened is, everything just seemed to click all of a sudden! At the time, I didn’t know why. I mean, I didn’t feel smarter, but apparently, I was! And well, who was I to argue!

From then on, education in a formal setting bored me, and I found it more enriching to teach myself. I didn’t consider why I had struggled before, yet didn’t anymore; I just got on with things. If I was interested in something, I found it easy to learn; if I wanted to do something, I did it. From music to business, no problem. So JavaScript, easy as pie! Or so I thought…

Dipping my toe into the JavaScript world was like going back to school (before everything started to click). It was so frustrating to be back in a space where I understood complex things but struggled with the basics. I reached out for help, but it wasn’t easy to come by.

I had a Senior Developer mentor me for my first two weeks (I think I drove him crazy after that 🤪). He couldn’t understand how I could follow, and even explain back to him what was going on with the flow of data, state, and what each function was doing, yet was unable to do basic things. I also meet a Junior Developer who offered to work with me on a project, but after going through my code, he told me that I knew more about React Native than him, and he wouldn’t be able to help me!

It’s crazy, imagine having to convince people that you don’t know as much as they think you do! And to top it off, the libraries! Oh, the libraries! The journey starts like 🤓, then it becomes 🧐, and before you know it it’s 🤬🤬🤬; with a side of 😭! At one point I had an all-out war with Formik! Let me tell you, that got messy. After sleep deprivation at the battle of You Blink First, I ended up dropping the React Hook Form bomb, declaring it a draw and moving on.

I never thought my school days would come back to haunt me, but there was Casper, floating around my screen. Things got really bad when I started having conversations with myself,

“You didn’t wake up smart one day in your teens, but did you suddenly wake up dumb?”

All I needed was hair growing from my palms. It was touch and go for a hot minute!

But if I was to conquer JavaScript, I would need to understand how I conquered school. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I armed myself with Google and set out on a path of self-discovery. What I discovered was enlightening.

“Twice-exceptional! Woo-hoo! Who would've thunk it! Not me! 🤯 Hey, look at that, I’m gifted!”

Remember when my dad ignored my poor attendance? Well, I had a ‘Like father like son moment’! But when the excitement of self-understanding subsided, I got to the business of addressing the disability side of 2e. And it was no Humpty Dumpty. This was a tougher egg to crack!

Thinking back to my school days, I didn’t solve my struggles, I overcame them by learning more until everything clicked, which sent me on another train of thought. How I learn deviates from the norm in some areas, but I learn just fine in my own way. So maybe I don’t actually have a learning problem, but a problem.

I realised that it didn’t matter how deep the water is, I will swim - or at least keep my head above water until I work out how. So ‘what-if’ I find some water that looks appealing and just jump in?

Now I had a new strategy, push my understanding and wait until the blanks fill in. So I decided to up the ante and learn TypeScript. One day, while watching a YouTube video, an ad flashed up for a course on Advanced React Patterns. I rarely click ads, but this one grabbed my attention. It was slick! It started by addressing the source of my React migraine, then went on to mention things I didn’t know - and naturally, I wanted to know!

This course looked like the deep end that I was looking for, so I did what any impassioned and impulsive individual would do, I ripped off the armbands and went cliff diving! That’s right people, I bought the course! 😁

The course turned out to be exactly what I needed. Code above my pay grade, explained in a way that was simple to understand and easy to follow. I didn’t get a silver bullet, golden hammer, or even coding superpowers (although the last one would have been pretty useful). But I did get a lot more than I bargained for! Blanks started to fill in, things began to make sense, and questions that I had before the course got answered.

I went from a frantic doggy paddle to a flashy backstroke in a matter of days. Okay, slight exaggeration, but hey, my brain was lighting up like a Christmas tree, I was excited, and besides, this is my story!

It felt like the lights were always on, but suddenly I was home, and boy was I having a hell of a one-man rave in my lounge! Things got a little hazy 10 shots in, and I woke up with the mother of all metaphoric hangovers. There was still work to be done, and I had many gaps to fill. Coffee in hand, I set out on my walk of shame, destination: Laptop.

Yes, I had turned a very gratifying corner, but it wasn’t an educational milestone on par with my teen years, and I wasn’t out of the woods yet. The entrepreneur in me identified my problem and sought a solution. My innate inability to raise the white flag guided me to a ‘what-if’ moment, and that lead to a leap of faith where not only did I land in water, I didn’t drown.

It was a fantastic feeling to be back in charge of learning JavaScript. Unfortunately, the Formik War was not the war to end all wars, the libraries, frameworks, and consequential options came thick and fast,

“Do I need Redux now there’s useContext? Hold on, useImmer looks like a better choice. GraphQl or REST? Urql, Apollo, oh wait, what about React Query, what’s even in Beta now? Tabs, spaces? err…”

// TODO: You get the point...

/* Don’t you? 🙃 */

I’m sure you’ll agree, choices are great and I love learning! This brings me to that something very close to my heart, Devcher. We’re aiming to build a community-driven mobile platform where choice isn’t fatiguing, and learning isn’t daunting. A place where everyone is welcome (and that includes you), so consider this your official invite!

Together, we can learn, grow, and build a better tomorrow.

Let’s do it! 🦾

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