When I was 19, I spent all my time writing a novel about a girl who discovers she’s a magical Fairy. My boyfriend back then was majoring in computer science and I remember I tried his programming homework. I sucked at it. “Duh,” my friends said, “You’re an English person, not a Comp Sci person!”
I was EnglishPerson. Everyone knows EnglishPerson can’t be CompSciPerson.
Creatives can’t be logical thinkers. Scientists can’t be artists. Dropouts can’t be intellectuals. Writers can’t be programmers.
We love to classify things in the world around us and identify with certain groups. Yet so often we take on one label about who we are, and in doing so we close ourselves off from all the other possibilities of what we could be. Today, I intern as a developer. It’s a surprise to friends from college who thought they knew what I would do. Yet it was only after college, when I let go of labels, that I realized all I could do.
What’s your label? Forget about it, and open up to the discovery of everything else you might be.
The Danger Of Picking A Major
Rewind. I’m a 20 year old student and I’m depressed. It seems everyone got to college and picked one major, one label, one perspective. And I just can’t choose. I mean, I’m EnglishPerson, so English major, right? But my parents say no, because everyone knows EnglishMajorPerson can’t be WealthyPerson. Still, I try to major in English. Problem is, I despise all my English classes. Not only do I hate them, but I become BadEnglishStudent. I’m not allowed to write my novel in class, and I can’t write an academic essay to save my life. How come you don’t know this stuff, they say, why don’t you know this? Well, I was Homeschooled growing up. I learned to write from reading books. I don’t really know any of these damn writing rules. Structure? Formatting? What?
Oh, Homeschooled. Duh, they say, this explains it all.
Because everyone knows HomeschooledKid can’t be Well-EducatedKid. HomeschooledKid can’t be SmartKid.
I realize that before school, I didn’t know I was HomeschooledKid, didn’t realize I was just that. I think about how before school, I was something undefined, and I was happy. I’m still dating CompSciGuy and his major still seems cool. Didn’t my sisters and I like to code long ago, when we were kids? But it’s hard to remember much before this label, and I just know EnglishPerson can’t be CompSciPerson, so I can’t. I’m still in college and I’m miserable. Yet I stay. I’m CollegeStudent and I can’t leave. Because everyone knows Dropout can’t ever be HappySuccesfulPerson. I try to focus in class. I put my novel into a box, I put myself into a box, I chose some major. I no longer write outside of class, because everyone knows BadEnglishStudent can’t be GoodWriter. This all lasts about six months. I break out. I leave college. When I go, I take on a label that I fear more than almost all others. Dropout.
Alternative labels include LoserPerson and GoingNowhereGirl.
Yet a funny thing happens when I find myself with this label I used to dread.
I discover that I am actually okay with others labeling me this or anything else they want. I discover that labels can never truly define who I am or even begin to describe my identity. I discover the truth about me, and you. You are so much more than your label.
Life Beyond Labels
After college, I work as an assistant, a tutor, a fashion model. I’m getting into coding and I’m finally writing again. I start my blog.
CompSciGuy and I break up. He says he doesn’t know who I am. I don’t know either. I am something undefined, and I am happy.
I get a programming job and I love it. I keep blogging. With no labels, I see so clearly now. I see the english person is also the computer science person. I see the dropout is happy, succesful and proud. I see the girl without a label, the girl who can be a blend of anything she decides.
I’ve started learning full stack development and it gives me the same feeling I had when I wrote about fairies. The joy that comes from using a language to create something that feels magical and out of this world. A few months ago, I wrote an article called How I Went From Fashion Model To Software Engineer. It’s my story, and the title has been referred to as clickbait. Why? It’s an unusual path, yes. But the reason it’s just so attention-grabbing as a title is because it’s so far from what they expect. Because everyone knows BeautifulWoman can’t be SoftwareEngineer. If I showed that article to you as a kid, you wouldn’t be so surprised. As a kid, you could be an Actress, Astronaut, Rockstar, Engineer or all four at once. Yet this was before you got older and became GrownUp. Before you put yourself in a box and became Well-EducatedPerson. Before you began to limit your life by adhering to labels.
So, what’s your label? Forget about it, and restart the discovery of everything you might be.
While I used to write about a girl who discovers she’s a Fairy, now I write about a girl who discovers she can be anything.
She’s me, and she’s you.
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