Learning Priorities

I seem to continually forget something: This is my blog.

I shouldn’t be shy here. This is my space to express my feelings and my thoughts. Yes, it’s public and people can give their opinions in return, but I control what’s here. Of all internet spaces, I should never be uncomfortable. So long as I keep in line with WordPress’s policy, I should never feel it’s unsafe or embarrassing to write something here.

So, I won’t.

Lately, I have talked about my goals. While I have never enjoyed school, I enjoy learning (I can’t get over the irony of a place intended to support learning destroying the love of it), and I want to learn several subjects. Human languages, programming languages, science, math, design. The list goes on, but those are at the top. However, I’ve realized there is such a thing as too much learning. Or at least, too much in a short amount of time.

My 29th birthday is this year and I can’t get over this mental/emotional crisis that I am “late”. However, overwhelming myself won’t slow down time or help my mental stability. A new friend who is helping me learn a certain subject advised me to prioritize what I want to learn that will help me now versus later. My fiance and a different friend also gave me this advice. I can’t say I disagree with them. However, I have decided only on two priorities, and am struggling to choose a third.

What I decided so far:

  • Spanish. I’m not dumb enough to think I can advance my skills to almost native-like in one year. I couldn’t do in twenty-two years, despite exposure to the language, so it certainly won’t happen in one! But at the bare minimum, I want to become conversational. This is mostly because my (future) in-laws are Hispanic and some do not speak English (or not do not speak it well enough to be understood). I also want to avoid embarrassing myself. I tried to tell my fiance’s mom I loved her Christmas dinner by saying “Yo lo amo (I love it)”. Not only is this not linguistically correct (it should be “Me lo encanta”), but my pronunciation utterly sucked and she may have heard it asĀ “Yo te amo”, which means “I love you”. I do love her as my (future) mother-in-law, but that was not what I wanted to say! I’d say “awkward” in Spanish, but I don’t remember that and I will not look it up right now (“embarazada” means “pregnant”, not “embarrassed”!).
  • JavaScript. Since I want to be a front-end developer, and I can’t seem to learn much more from HTML and CSS, I want to advance my very minimal skills in JavaScript. I am taking a boot camp that focuses on front-end development, so I will need to prioritize this anyway. Now, those aren’t the only languages used front-end. Some others are React, Angular, Vue, jQuery, and Swift. JavaScript can also be used for back-end. But it HTML, CSS, and JavaScript seem to be the main “trifecta”.

I want to say the third priority is Java. However, my only reason for learning at this time is for software development boot camp my job offers. If not for that, I would have never bothered to learn this language for the time being. Java is more commonly used for back-end development and mobile development, and I want to eventually learn the latter (which will probably go hand-in-hand with the former), it’s not my focus right now. If I don’t choose Java, my choice would be math. Specifically, pre-calculus since I plan to pursue a degree in computer science some years down the road. Of course, I can always change priorities.

In the end, my ultimate goal at the end of 2023 is to not be in the same position at work I am currently in. I want to prioritize whatever will get me out the fastest.

Not Old (Yet), Not Young

I’m 28. Maybe that isn’t old, but it certainly isn’t young either. Really, I stopped being honest about my age offline after I turned 26.

I talked a little before about teaching myself coding. The good news is there are a lot of community spaces for learners and newbies. The discouraging news is I find myself very outmatched in age. It seems in so many, if not all, of these spaces, everyone started coding at the age I was still carrying around a teddy bear.

Yes, yes, I know. “You’re never too old.” But figures of speech are just that. Figures of speech. I can never stop being reminded I wasted my youthful years doing… whatever I was doing that is wildly insignificant now. If God is real, when I die, I will ask why he didn’t give me better intuition as a small child. Seriously, why did I miss out on the intuition to build a necessary skill? Probably because I was stupid and wanted to build blocks, and adults let me so I would shut up and stop crying. *sigh*

Eh. Maybe that’s harsh (probably not), but if I had a child, I would absolutely get them started on coding and programming at as early an age as possible so they avoid this problem. Even if they grew to not want a career related to IT, they’d have a skill they can fall back on. That’s the one thing I miss about not having a child. I won’t have the pleasure of watching my child have a better and brighter future than I do. Granted, I’m fantasizing, but I know I do that a lot. I’m beginning to understand why some parents live through their kids. It’s tough to admit you don’t have the capacity/capability to reach your dreams, and your kid has better chances than you via youth. That’s a terrible thing to do to a kid, but I think I understand it.

Truthfully, I don’t think I am capable of learning because coding is such a humongous field, and IT never stops evolving. There will always be things to catch up on, so I have no idea at what point I could consider myself employable, if that point can arrive. Supposedly, it’s not about memorization, but I want to see how that holds up in an actual job. I feel like it doesn’t. But I’ve also known for a long time I’m not good at anything, so why am I talking like this is surprising? It’s not, but you get my drift. I mean, I’m good at finishing coursework, but so are kindergartners, so who cares? I want a skill most tiny children don’t have, not one most do.

Well, this quickly delved into a post of self-loathing. But it’s really honesty and trying to humor myself. I remember being asked what’s unique about me, and I answered I don’t know because I don’t know. Professionally, there is nothing unique about me. I work in a warehouse, I worked in retail, and I finished coursework. By the way, roughly 39% of the US population has a bachelor’s (not associate’s, which is what mine will be) degree, and it can still not be enough to qualify for anything. It really is little more than a piece of paper to bypass filters. Part of me feels like I’m getting it solely to prove I’m not a total idiot (of course, the two are not mutually exclusive).

Do I have any positivity to add to this post? I really don’t. I’m painfully aware my thirtieth birthday is coming sooner than I would like, and I’m simply glad there is no upcoming high school reunion.

Well, I can always achieve my dreams through fictitious means. And really, my only dream was financial stability. I didn’t even reach for the sky and I still fell flat. Ouch.

Call back: “What Do You Want To Be?”

When you grow up?

At the not young age of twenty-eight, I finally have the answer: a UI designer and front-end developer. I can’t say I’m surprised.

The problem is technology is very difficult to break into, especially without a degree in computer science. It’s not impossible, but so much harder. Add design on top of it, which is not exactly notorious for being an in-demand skill, and enough said. Coding itself is endless learning, and I can’t see the day I’m ready to make a project, let alone have a job, arriving in the near or far future. Doesn’t mean I won’t try, but like my previous attempts at any job outside of warehouse and customer service so far, it’ll likely prove fruitless. All my plans for the future are made with my current wage because it’s not a good idea to bet on an income you don’t have. And no, saying “I will have X” doesn’t make it happen. I would have an unbroken family, and be an only child, if that were the case.

Coding isn’t necessary to be a UI designer, but it is necessary to be a front-end developer. I have no interest in back-end or being full-stack, so I don’t care about that. Interesting thing about college graphic design programs is most require a portfolio, which is weird to me. If you can make a portfolio, a graphic design program is likely little more than a formality. I’m attending college because I don’t have the skills and am a poor self-learner. Speaking of which, I’m envious of people who can give themselves college-esque structure. Student debt is never a concern for anyone who can learn outside of academics. Yes, I can learn outside of it. School just does it better than I can. In short, I either devote more time or more money, and the latter has a specific number, so I prefer that. Easier to network when you pay for it too. Not a guarantee, but easier.

I don’t even have my certificate from my trade school anymore. I lost it at some point, but considering how the jobs from that turned out, it’s not something I want on my resume anyway. It’s still embarrassing to be ten years out of high school and have nothing to show for it, but it’s not like there’s a reunion, so who needs to know? In truth, I’ll probably be in a warehouse for the rest of my life, but it’s still better than retail, which is a much worse fate. No one is paid enough for that nonsense.

Sometimes, I feel I want degrees and courses only because I don’t know how else to move on. As I said, I am not a good self-teacher, so those are proof I’m capable of something. Granted, bachelor’s degrees are said to be the new high school diploma, and I’m getting an associate’s, so I’m still not on par. But that’s my life in a nutshell from birth, so what else is new?

A Self-Imposed Deadline

I have a new goal: Become debt-free by 40.

Paying off my debts is already a goal, but that’s focused on my credit card debts. I want to have zero debt whatsoever. No, I don’t care about “leveraging”. Owing money in no way makes me feel good. It really serves only to give me anxiety.

Credit cards: $5,210

Community college: $3,629.10

Student loans: $27,800

Private loans: $10,392.40

Total debt: $47,031.50

So, altogether, I am in $47,031.50 worth of debt at this moment. My 28th birthday is in next month, which means I am giving myself twelve years to pay down all of this debt without accruing more.

($47,031.50 / 12 years = $3919.30 per year) / 12 months =$326.61 per month.

I’ll round it up to $330. I must give a minimum of $330 per month to my debts to be debt-free by age forty. In twelve years, that would total $47,520. Not accounting for interest.

Why did I choose age forty? Because I feel like if I don’t have my life together by that age, there is no hope for my life in any capacity. I am embarrassed to not have my life figured out when I’m nearly pushing thirty. It took me too long to figure out what I want to do as a job. It’s not a good look to have the life of a 20-year-old (school, work, living at home) while everyone else your age, older, and younger is getting married, has kids, new houses and cars, travels, and vacations. And no, that’s not an exaggeration. I’m the only one of my friends who will have completed college, and while it is something I want, it really feels like it pales in comparison because they’re in the place someone around my age is expected to be. At thirty, you’re expected to have the career, the marriage, the kid(s), the car, the house, and the trips. Not all of them have all of that, but all of them have at least one. So, what the heck am I doing? Don’t answer that.

I’m not “young and fresh” anymore. I’m not the future. I’m not a 16-year-old who everyone looks at and thinks of having a bright future ahead. I don’t have all the time in the world. On the contrary, I’m running out of it. If I wanted kids, I have no idea where I would fit them in. I couldn’t imagine where I would fit them in if I went on the standard path, so I can’t imagine how I would fit them in on the unusual path I’m on.

That said, I’ve thought about that a lot, so I want to map it out.

Ages 14 to 18 would be high school.

Ages 18 to 22 would be college.

Work right out of college, so career at 22 (I know that doesn’t always happen, but it’s presumed).

I don’t know when marriage would happen, but I wouldn’t want to marry while in college. No idea when I would meet someone, but I met my boyfriend a few months before my 21st birthday. I would want to wait at least four years before marrying (yes, I know the length of time is irrelevant; it’s a comfort thing), so let’s say 25.

Married at 25, and working for three years. I highly doubt three years is enough to consider yourself “established”. At 30, I would have eight years in the field if I didn’t stop working, but it goes without saying having even one child would interrupt that. I also wouldn’t want to have a child right after getting married. Maybe I wouldn’t wait five years, but I must admit I’m unsure how I’d plan that.

Come to think of it, no one ever says what to do after college. Go to college to get a job. After that, what do you do?

But my point stands, so I repeat: if I couldn’t figure out how to fit a child into my life when I’m doing things right, I have no clue how I’d do it when I am doing everything wrong.

Of course, with 40 being 22 years since adulthood, being debt-free and having a college degree is very little to claim for one’s self. My friends with kids will be halfway done with child-rearing by then, and will no doubt have many more accomplishments (and that of their kids) to their names. And I know it sounds weird to talk about all of this since, as I said, I don’t want kids. But I do occasionally wonder if I’m supposed to want them. The feeling didn’t really happen until one of my friends became a parent, and I sincerely like kids, so it’s not a hate thing. Of course, that would mean I want to be a parent to fit in, not because I want to be a parent, which is a terrible reason to take that plunge.

I also grew up in a family that cared excessively about their image to strangers, absolutely chastised me (and that’s putting it mildly) for not caring, simultaneously sheltered and abused me, and I faced bullying throughout my all of my K – 12 school years. So, that’s probably also influencing my thoughts.

Hopefully, this degree will lead to a job where I make enough money to afford therapy.

Disconnected

I want to emphasize I am not perfect, I never claimed to be, and I know I never will be.

However, I find the older I get and the more I learn about my family, the more disconnected I feel from them. This is especially true of my father. It amazes me how I had the best relationship with him as a kid, but as an adult, it’s the polar opposite. I suppose that’s the curse of losing one’s innocence.

The biggest barrier is my attempts to learn financial responsibility. It really astounds me no one – absolutely no one – in my (immediate) family has any clue about finances, and at this point, it’s now a case of being unable to teach an old dog new tricks. My biggest mistakes – attending college when I wasn’t ready and financing my first car with a co-signer – came out of pressure, but the upside is those mistakes made it abundantly clear my family, no matter how much I love them, are not the people to go to for life advice. Regarding cars particularly, knowing about them does not correlate with having any financial sense.

For the record, I am aware financing a car can be a good decision. However, my father makes barely more money than me (I bring in roughly $2K a month), but his car payment plus insurance nearly equals my household’s rent. And in all the years he had to save money with his late girlfriend paying most of their household expenses (including rent), he never did. Simultaneously, my dad complains constantly he hates living with his dad. Find the problem.

I taught myself planning, budgeting, and saving, and as of late, I’m learning about investing, which a good friend got me started on. Am I perfect? Absolutely not. But I reached the point I’m able to plan out a month’s worth of expenses, and move them around as needed. Though I have a bad habit of frivolous spending I’m trying to kick, I stick to my budget, including savings, and I don’t sacrifice bills for pleasure. The bit of money I spend frivolously is the remainder after all my week’s expenses are paid.

It’s indeed strange to be berated for trying to be responsible, and I feel the more I try to pull myself together and recover from my mistakes, the more distant I grow from my family. It’s truly not something I like, but have no clue how to fix. How do you re-connect with people you can’t talk to, you can’t look up to, you can’t trust with advice? I don’t mean my personal goals. I can’t talk to them about the future, about finance, about feelings, about anything. How do I re-connect without feeling like I’m making myself small?

If you know, please teach me.