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Mon 29 Nov 2021 02:01:38 PM EST

what the heck is Advent of Code?

glad you came prepared with questions today random internet citizen.

I don't know the particular history or why the tradition continues, but I've known the Advent of Code to be a set of challenges through the month of December that is... well challenging.

For my regular readers (hey mom!) this may seem like a complete pivot from what I have been involved with as of late, machine learning blurbs, weeks of silence, and then seemingly no progress on coding projects I proclaim that I am doing...

err moving on.

I am participating in the Advent of Code this year, not because I have a renewed sense of faith in myself to complete it (well a little bit, just keep going), but because Rodrigo over at is taking it upon himself to help people like myself through the challenges this year.

Literally, what an angel.

I have attempted the Advent of Code many a time, and I have attempted many coding challenges many many times, only to be extremely discouraged because I wasn't able to solve a complex coding problem.

Cue negative self talk -

This means I'm a bad programmer..

Do I have to start my learning over from the beginning? I must have missed something in the basics..

How will I ever be a successful programmer if I can't solve some challenges???

so on and so forth and continue into self-induced programming burnout.

Self learning is hard, plain and simple. When you're learning something all by yourself you have no idea how much you know because there are no tests, no syllabus, no pass or fail.

You only have the results produced by your own efforts and your own self judgment.

This is a part of my learning I didn't even understand that I needed to supplement. The part including other humans. And I didn't realize how important it was until just the other day...

( fades into black, with day dreamy type harp music )

When I start watching tv at home I usually start guilting myself as well - thinking about how unproductive I'm being, thinking that there is a better way to decompress, etc.

So I opened my laptop and figured I won't feel guilty about half-paying attention to tv if I have the Python Discord open.

(For those of you not familiar with Discord, it's a messaging app and there are different communities, Python being one of them. This specific community exists for help with coding and other things that surround it)

I've done this sporadically before and it can be extremely affirming to passively solve a problem that someone is getting assisted with in the main channel, and being correct.

The other night a member of the channel spoke up about feeling burnt out and having not touched code/projects in a few months and feeling sort of directionless when it came to starting up again.

And I responded. I've been there, my last job was so much of technical problem-solving all day long that I didn't code for nearly a year, that after nearly 8 to 10 hours of this, I didn't feel like creating my own technical problems (read: programming).

What I advised this person, and what I was really advising to myself was that learning how to program, or learning how to do anything over time will change in it's meaning to you the longer that you do it. I started a long time ago and the same motivations that kept me plugging away, day in and day out don't feel as tangible, realistic, or pragmatic now and this is because I was beginner and I didn't even understand what was possible.

So when I started, "becoming a programmer" seemed like a solid goal. Or becoming a better programmer. These are terrible goals to be honest. They're not specific enough and non-specific learning goals will most definitely end in learning burnout.

Now, programming is a way to continually challenge myself and a tool that I can use to learn about other things as well. And now, more than ever, it's a way to engage in a community.

I bought into the Rodrigo's Python problem solving bootcamp because (well first it was $25 dollars with early bird pricing) I always think about doing these type of coding challenges to build my chops in computational problem solving. I'm not a classically trained computer scientist and sometimes have FOMO for the types of problems these young go-hard CS students had the opportunity to solve in college. It has been awhile since I was brave enough to step up to the plate for any type of coding challenge activity and what has sold me here is that along with the bootcamp there will be analysis into the challenges afterwards and a community provided along with (in a Discord group). There is essentially some hand holding to these challenges, but this is an opportunity I've never had with many other code challenges. Even if you finish a challenge on your own, you may never know why you were able to do it or other avenues you could have taken to solve the problem.

And in being wrong or failing to complete a challenge shouldn't be a hard stop to learning but most coding challenges do not offer a route to understanding what you previously did not understand to solve the challenge. This way, if I fail here, I don't have to quit the challenge rather, I get to learn from my mistakes, with a community.

And failure is my best teacher. This way, I'm just enhancing my failure.

This isn't a sponsored plug for Rodrigo but I definitely recommend trying it out. I'll be there so that's reason enough. I also didn't find this out of the blue but am a subscriber to Rodrigo's newsletter because I find the subject matter quite compelling.

Here is the Advent of Code about page.

Thanks for reading.