In a little more than a week, I’ll be starting an intensive coding bootcamp at Access Labs as part of the Flatiron School. For a long time, I’ve been hustling as a freelance video/photo guy, but when looking for steady work, it’s hard not to notice the sheer volume of developer jobs. Thus the class starting on November 19 and my inclination to document my journey from pure Jon Snow (i.e. “knows nothing”) to eventual Bran Stark (i.e. “knows pretty much everything”).

The program will last 15 weeks, minus Thanksgiving and the day after and the week of Christmas, so the bulk of my learning will come from November 19 until approximately the first week of March.

It’s my hope that by documenting my progress here I’ll encourage others who are starting late to coding– I’m 37 and will turn 38 during my boot camp– and who have either been stymied when attempting to learn how to program before (like me) or have been too intimidated to start.

I’ve tried to learn how to program on approximately six different occasions in my life, mostly on my own. I had a friend as a tutor at one point in 2012, but I found the lessons he was using too complicated for a beginner, and he found my speed of learning frustrating. We called it quits quietly and never spoke of it again. I tried to plug through the Odin Project, but without clear deadlines and failure states, I felt my focus drift pretty quickly. The same thing happened with lynda.com’s JavaScript Essentials course (no link, because they don’t even offer it anymore) and with the JavaScript class at CodeAcademy. Since I needed a career change for steady work, and I wasn’t having success as an auto-didact, I bit down and signed up for a more structured approach.

Despite my struggles above, I don’t mean to paint myself as a member of the tech illiterati. I’m pretty far from that, although I would never, ever consider myself an expert. I worked in tech support and network support when I was in the Marines, and I was good at my job. I considered resuming my career in IT a few years ago, even going so far as to (pointlessly, expensively) re-acquire my CCNA! In my more recent work as a digital effects dork, I’ve occasionally used the very crude JavaScript implementation in Adobe After Effects called “expressions” to handle easily iterated tasks. Probably more telling than all of that, I’ve been a computer gamer for my entire life, which meant my work in tech support started while fixing sound blaster errors and formatting boot disks to get DOS games to run properly. (If you got those references, congratulations on also being old as dirt for an aspiring programmer!) My work, however technical its nature, has always kept me an arm’s length from actually¬†making the programs that I’ve always depended on for business or pleasure.

As I write this, I’m two labs away from finishing the pre-course load for this coding class. Ironically, I’ve progressed farther in my understanding of programming in these last few weeks of home learning through Flatiron Labs than I ever did when I was working without a deadline to maybe become a coder someday.

There is no doubt in my mind that for some people there is a self-taught path to programming that will lead to job prospects and a new (and ideally lucrative) career in software development. After numerous false starts, though, I’ve been forced to conclude that I am not such a person.