Figure it out

I kept bugging him, over and over again. How does cd work? How do I search my previous commands? How do I exit out of Vim? Wait, what even is Vim? And then how do I string multiple commands together? What fonts should I use for my terminal? Why are we using Sass and how do I use that weird app to bundle files together? Wait, now it’s stopped working and everything is shouting at me. How do I-

“Robin! Buddy! You just have to figure it out.”

I’d been an intern at this web design agency for a month or so and by this point I’d already asked this chap about ten thousand questions. The whole room went quiet though and I remember being so horribly embarrassed.

My first thought was: Wow! What a colossal jerk! But after I got home and calmed down a bit I realized that I had become dependent on this chap to get anything done. So much so that I couldn’t figure anything out for myself and had forgotten how to learn things independently.

But, in my defense, making websites in 2013 felt ridiculously complicated. There were all these build steps and templating languages and wizard-like commands that seemed to require inherited knowledge. There was the all new hotness of HTML5 and CSS3! Sass and Less were taking the world by storm! New React-ish ways of building websites! It felt insurmountable, paralyzing even.

I assumed that making websites professionally for money would be rad and cool but these kinds of websites were so very different from the simplicity of what I was familiar with. It all felt ugly! The building of websites like this, I mean. Everywhere you looked there was this horrid complexity that just built up and up until even a medium-sized website was a towering behemoth of complexity.

There are some subjects you can’t figure out for yourself. Medicine, for example. But this whole web design business is something you can learn independently and over time those towering behemoths of complexity will turn into regular ol’ Wordpress websites in your mind. There are tutorials and websites to help and so, when I went back home for the holidays that year, I locked myself in my room.

I was going to learn the command line.

And then...I did.

After a few late nights of exhilarating tutorials and thrilling demos I had figured out how to navigate through the back door of my computer. Being stuck and then pushing myself through something wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. Teach an anxious boy to fish, etc. etc.

So all this taught me a valuable lesson. Half of this gig is being scared and unsure and then finding the answer for yourself. And my lack of confidence in being wrong until I’m suddenly right (still, to this day) holds me back from being a great designer and engineer.

I should still ask for help when I truly need it, sure, and I should always try to help others who are coming up behind me.

But, sometimes, you just gotta figure it out.