Day 7&8 – Now the challenge REALLY begins

It’s been a while since my last post … more than a week ago? I feel like those past days quickly lapsed into a vacuum of inaction. Maybe what isn’t documented isn’t really lived. Wow, that’s pretty scary.

On a positive note, I dragged myself back on track on a weekday morning, and finished jQuery, which helped add a whole new level of dynamics and structure to my codes. The weird thing is, all the codes are organized in such a beautiful hierarchy that, I realize the more time I spend writing and reading them, the more it changes the way I think and look at things. For example, now when I read books, I feel like I’m reading codes, just in the language of “english”, and all I see is structures, which actually helps me to read and understand faster.

Coding is reshaping my brain, in a scary but exciting way.

And now is Friday evening, my slow and often jolty Amtrak train already passed New York’s Penn Station and is on way to New Haven. Having being sedentary on the train for so long made me a bit nauseous, but I semi-reluctantly opened my laptop anyway, and started the next section of FCC — the basic front-end development project, which is supposed to take 50 hrs in total. The project consists of two tasks, and the first one is to build a tribute page that looks like this —


I immediately felt overwhelmed at the task and doubted I remembered anything that I have followed along and learned in the past few weeks. Maybe I was learning fast only because there were many hints and examples in the lessons. Maybe I didn’t spend enough time to review, and actually retain all the new knowledge. Maybe I didn’t know how to code after all. 

Endless doubts aside, I told myself that the best way to learn was by doing, and that I would learn so much more after I fail, learn, fail better, and end up building this tribute page by myself.

However long it might take.


Day 6 – Finished Bootstrap

Saturday afternoon, a cup of soy latte, dozens of dried berries, a few Facebook distractions later, I finished the 5-hr Bootstrap session! I realized i’ve spent way less than 5-hr, probably 3-hrs to finish this section.

I also scrolled the FCC forum and saw posts by folks who said they got their first coding job even before they finished the certification in front-end development. That’s truly inspiring.

I can’t help but imagining myself becoming a “maker” through coding one day.

Now time to hit some golf balls on this lovely fall afternoon!

Day 5 – Starting Bootstrap

Today I started the second 5-hr session on Bootstrap. Bootstrap is a CSS framework that allows you to build responsive design so that your website can fit the screen of any mobile devices.

Pretty cool, right?

As usual it’s not too hard to get a hang of the basics in the first few sessions … I spent about 30 minutes until I reached the mini-session about “ditching CSS” all together. But I like JUST learnt it … I was so proud of my CSS baby, and now I have to let it go?

Fine fine … if Bootstrap is smarter.

I guess I’ll spend more time with it tomorrow then. It’s Friday night, time to go home now!

Day 4 – I finished the HTML/CSS lesson!

It’s another looooong day at work but we finally finished our report. When I got home bleary-eyed, I felt soooo tempted to just crash and watch tv shows ALL night.

Which I did. for the first half the night.

Then I started coding again, and half an hour later, I realized I’ve finished the entire 5-hr lesson on HTML/CSS since I started! Wow, every small step feels so doable, and looking back I feel like I’ve just completed an amazing 5k race!


While I progressed, I was worried that I would forget things I learned from days before. Turned out FreeCodeCamp did a wonderful job refreshing your memories on previous codes while teaching you new things. I’m absolutely in love with it! More interestingly, as I started coding, I thought I would be tired quickly, having worked intensely all day. However, I discovered that I felt more relaxed and refreshed as I was dissecting, analyzing and remembering my codes. Much more so compared with how I felt after an hour of TV shows. Is it crazy to think that an hour of coding might cause more relaxation than an hour of Netflix?

Maybe learning challenges are to our brains like what exercises are to our bodies. The more we work them, the more refreshed and rejuvenated they will feel!

Day 3 – From Wholefoods to lifestyle design

When you set an intention to achieve something, sometimes you feel like the whole universe is pulling force around you to help get you succeed, or at least … inspired.

After a dentist appointment at 8am this morning, I suddenly wanted to get some muesli rounds I’ve been OBSESSED with lately from Whole Foods. I know there’s one near the metro station, but just as I was pulling up my phone, the screen went black. The phone died. AT. EIGHT. AM. IN.THE.MORNING.

I quickly made a mental note to myself — never play with my phone before bed because one should charge it instead — then decided to try my luck. As I was stopping at a red light at the crosswalk, I saw a woman standing besides me so asked if she knew where Whole Foods was. She said, “yes, its just two blocks away. In fact I’m headed that way so I can show you when we get there.” She had a soft-spoken, caring voice that comforted me like my thick scarf against the chilly wind. I liked her immediately.

“So do you work or live around here?” I asked.
“Oh, I live around here. I’m a mom of a ten-year-old and an eight-year-old, so I haven’t worked for eight years.”

“wow, that’s such a nice luxury! I wish I could have a flexible lifestyle like that.”

“Yeah it’s pretty nice. Although it can be hard sometimes. Like right now I’m trying to work 10 hrs a week, and I feel I have to get used to sitting in front of a desk all over again!”

I told her that my goal is to have a flexible work schedule — being able to work anytime, anywhere. I also told her that vision also led me to learn programming recently. She said — “yeah, it’s pretty interesting. When in school, we are only thinking about getting a job. We never think of the kind of lifestyle we want that comes with a job.

I agreed with her adamantly, as I reached Whole Foods and waved her goodbye. I love the idea about lifestyle design, that maybe we should design our lifestyle first, then choose our profession based off of it.

That also makes me wonder — how fluid can our lifestyle be? how fluid can our professions be?

Fast forward, as I got home tonight from a colleague’s bday happy hour, it’s already pretty late. My mind numb with alcohol, I didn’t feel particularly inspired to learn coding … But after some procrastination I opened the bookmarked link at 10:30pm anyway, and spent about 40 min coding. As I looked at the course navigation, it surprised me that I was almost at the end of the 5hr HTML/CSS course.

I’m looking forward to another muesli round tomorrow morning, and another round of coding.



Day 2 – “happy happy joy joy”

An online survey shows that 80% (ok, I made up this number)of the young professionals surveyed said the biggest hindrance to professional development is the lack of time.

It’s true. Tonight when I got home from a dinner gathering, it’s already 8:30pm. After some meaningless scrolling on social media and shower, it’s already 9:30 and my mind was going slooooooow.

But i already set an intention this morning to dedicate an hour to learning anyway, so I sat down in front of my desk, and clicked on that bookmarked link.

Time flew by … but it’s almost 10:30, and looking back I’ve made some decent progress —

  • learned how to nest elements
  • learned how to add checkbox, radio buttons, text input and forms on a website
  • learned how to set a “dead link”
  • learned how to set default choices and placeholder text
  • learned how to force users to submit data

I love how FreeCodeCamp break the learning into mini 3-4min sessions, you feel like you’re eating some chips, one piece at a time, and without knowing, you’ve finished the whole can of Pringles! But instead of guilt, you feel the joy of learning.

Btw, when I finished one of the mini sessions, the site congratulated me with “happy happy joy joy”, pretty fitting, ha!


OK, time for bed …

First day – learning HTML and CSS

So I spent about an hour and a half with my first real lesson on HTML and CSS in a Barnes&Noble cafe today, and although there were multiple times I felt utterly confused, in the end I made so much progress! It’s incredible that I was able to grasp the basics of HTML, and know what CSS is all about for the first time (adding style to your webpage in an efficient way). It’s pretty cool seeing what your code turns into — this mock-up of a CatPhotoApp — very empowering to feel that you can MAKE something on your own by coding.


Although I loved the overall interactive design of FCC, I felt like there were places where they could have done a better job of explaining some nuances to absolute beginners.For example, it’s really through trial-and-error that I learnt when to add a “.” after your style tag, and when not. I think my biggest lesson learnt is, when you’re stuck, simply move on to the next lesson.  That way you’ll be able to see what the correct codes should have been for where you got stuck.

Can’t wait to learn more!