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Determined to Rise

“There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise.” – W.E.B Dubois

In fact, there is no force equal to a passionate, courageous person determined to rise. I am on the ascent, wings flapping powerfully, soaring above the clouds, and as I reach toward the sun I happen to look to my left and see… Shane Dawson.

They say misery loves company. Not that I’ve been miserable by any means, but when you’re in the trenches wrestling with growth, it’s comforting to know you’re not alone. I think that’s why I became so transfixed by the Shane Dawson/Jeffree Star series: I recognize ways that Shane’s journey to becoming a beauty guru parallels my own journey into tech, right down to some eerie timing alignments. I know it sounds bizarre, but stick with me and strap in, because it’s going to be an emotional roller coaster.

If you have no idea who these people are, Shane Dawson is an OG YouTuber who made videos investigating conspiracies and trading lives with people. Jeffree Star is a beauty guru/ridiculously savvy businessperson/dog lover/lots of other things. Just Google them. So anyway, these two are filming a series together documenting the creation of their joint makeup collection, and in the beginning of the series Shane was insecure about his evolution because he worried that people viewed him a certain way and wouldn’t recognize that his efforts to break into the beauty world were genuine. As someone who has been known as a bibliophile and word nerd since elementary school, I, too, worried that tech was too big a departure, going so far “off-brand” that it would make people question my sincerity, and maybe my sanity.

Throughout the series, Shane also exhibited painfully familiar self-doubt. He was plagued by whether or not he could live up to others’ expectations, and what would happen if he let them down. Can relate. While Shane and Jeffree threw their hearts and souls into building a makeup collection, I enrolled in a coding boot camp (which you can read all about right here on this blog, in fact). The first day I set foot in the LEARN Academy classroom, coding shifted from something cool that I enjoyed playing around with to something I was serious about, and suddenly everyone had an idea about what that meant for me. Even if I still didn’t know whether I could – or even wanted to – go all the way and take my skills into the workplace, as soon as I voiced those doubts, I was met with, “What do you mean? I just assumed you would. Why else would you be doing this?”

Why else indeed. Why do I want to be a software engineer? Why does Shane want to be a beauty guru? Arguably, the pay is better in both cases, but that’s not actually a determining factor for either of us. Sure, I’d love to own a house someday, but I’m a non-famous millenial living in California, so… probably not going to happen. The truth is, I fell into my first job after college because I applied to hundreds of positions and that one took me. Then I fell into project management after applying to everything under the sun and settling for the job I could reasonably worm my way into with my limited skill set and work experience. It was never a dream or even a goal of mine, but after spending an embarrassingly large chunk of my life and time dedicated to becoming a college English professor and then realizing that – surprise! – I didn’t actually want to do that, I stopped trusting myself. My metaphorical sense of direction had proven to be just as craptastic as my literal sense of direction, so like a girl scout lost in Yosemite, I plonked myself down and waited for the direction to find me.

When I started teaching myself to code, it was strangely like finding my way back into familiar territory. As a kid I loved logic puzzles, and my mom and I used to work through Encyclopedia Brown books together (I recently asked her if she remembers doing this. She does not). When I got a little older I would play an online roleplaying game, in which I spent most of my time building my own little levels and writing what I didn’t realize at the time was code to make them interactive. Imagine being shown a door you’ve walked past a thousand times without realizing you could go through it, and then taking a few tentative steps inside, and discovering that you really enjoy the place on the other side. Even as I questioned my ability, my fortitude, and yes, even my sanity, a little underlying part of me whispered, “Ah yes, this is right.”

I can’t say whether or not this is how Shane Dawson feels about makeup, but nonetheless, our journeys tripped along in parallel. He worked on his eye shadow palette, I worked on LEARN’s coding curriculum. He stayed up late editing videos, I stayed up late working at my day job. He felt overwhelmed and cried in the bathroom, I felt overwhelmed and cried in the bathroom. Each Friday an episode was posted on YouTube, I grabbed my phone and ran to the gym to watch it from the elliptical, a welcome break from work and code and all the doubts and fears swirling around in my mind. The day the palette reveal aired, I grabbed my phone and ran to the gym – but instead of watching Shane and Jeffree’s video, I watched a Traversy Media video on PHP development, because I had my first-ever technical interview two days later. “Sorry guys,” I said to the two YouTube celebrities I do not actually know, “I have to study, but I figure if anyone would support hyper-focusing on your goals, it’s you two.” Then I remembered I was in public and pretended like I was wrapping up a call with someone.

On Thursday, October 31st, my favorite holiday of the year and the day before Shane’s palette launched, I bombed my technical interview. I was so nervous I made stupid rookie mistakes – I forgot to call the function, for crying out loud! – and humiliated myself in front of two full-stack software engineers. I genuinely wanted to cry, but I couldn’t because I was wearing makeup to hide the fact that I was exhausted from staying up late studying and agonizing and agonizing and studying. I descended from the upstairs conference room in the LEARN building, defeated. I couldn’t focus on work, so I started watching the palette reveal I’d skipped. As I wrapped up the episode, I got a call: they offered me the job! Except they couldn’t put it in writing until they got approval from the CTO, who was at a conference until the following week.

The next day, Friday, the palette launched and I distracted myself from my nerves about the unconfirmed offer by following the drama on Twitter and speculating about what was wrong with Shopify from a technical standpoint (I’m a Rubyist, after all!). The following Monday I got my offer letter. On Tuesday, I gave notice and cried in my boss’s office. Still teary-eyed over how much I was going to miss working for my current company, I arrived home to find the Conspiracy and Mini Controversy palettes in my mailbox.

I just finished watching the final episode of the series, the cherry on top of my first week at my brand new software engineering job.

When “Thrivin” by Ryan Caraveo began to play, I felt it in my bones. Shane and I have arrived. All the hard work, stress, grit, setbacks, courage, self-doubt, perseverance, growing pains, and sheer force of will led to this. Triumph. We’re done and we’re only just beginning. We rose and we’re rising. We did it. Congratulations, Shane (and Jeffree)! And congratulations, me! Now let’s continue to crush it.

</XOXO>

[Photo credit: CodeCopyCoffee]

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