What I learned about myself from RSpec failure

A sweet house in Cambridge we saw on our Easter walk.

This weekend’s coding challenge involved writing a lot of rspec tests. I got stuck pretty badly. In fact, am still stuck, hoping my coach can respond before I submit; I have shown my test to two cohort peers who couldn’t figure out what was wrong, and I do have a few more suggestions to try.

Having been stuck for about 72 hours, I feel the following:
1. Like a failure
2. Like I’ve wasted my money on the course
3. Exhausted (partly because it was Easter weekend and I had a lot of company, all of which was wonderfully fun, but which was tiring as well for this outgoing introvert)
4. Stupid
5. Worried I won’t get a job because I got stuck in rspec tests and couldn’t figure it out

To put matters in context a bit, I am used to working hard but not used to struggling — a key distinction. I graduated from university with highest honors and I had a successful career as a violinist. While at university I took hard courses but in topics that were my forte — English, music theory, Spanish, and of course violin. I steered clear of math and science because I didn’t have a very good math/science background and I was afraid of getting a grade lower than an A.

So Makers is the first time in my life that I’ve stretched myself to work outside of my comfort zone. I have to remind myself that I started violin lessons when I was eight and had many, many years of focused, individualised training that enabled me to reach the standard I have. I’ve been coding for 5 weeks. Of course all of this is new, and of course I should be struggling.

Struggling is hard. I have been realising over the past 72 hours how much of my identity is wrapped up in being right. I feel emotionally exhausted, and not just because of rspec and because I am outside of my comfort zone and struggling: because I have realised that so much of my identity throughout my life is wrapped up in being right that the thought that I might not always have the right answers to more important questions (such as personal relationships) makes me a bit sick.

I watched Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on vulnerability yesterday and the thing that really struck me was how vulnerability and the absence of certainty are so related. If you’re certain about being right (or even wrong!), you’re not vulnerable. And without that crucial, scary, uncertain component of vulnerability, deep connection with other humans (and, I’d add, with oneself) is impossible.

So here’s a baby step towards vulnerability, courtesy of rspec: I don’t know the answer and that’s ok because people will help me to find it.

Update: the story does end on a good note. My coach and cohort came through and I was able to resolve the errors and finish most of the problem.

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