Computers suck

Agile isn’t about bucking up and pretending things are working when they aren’t. It’s not about acting perfect and unflappable, but it is about finding ways to see clearly and act out of curiousity and joy, rather than out of fear.

Many years ago, I was at home, learning with my little unschoolers, when I heard a loud GRRRRR! coming from the next room. I went to investigate, and there was one of said little ones, sitting in front of his computer, in the posture of one who is about to smash his head into the keyboard (the step immediately before throwing the monitor against the wall).

I went into problem-solving mode, and studied the situation. It was familiar, somehow. “Ah!” says I to the little one. “I know what the problem is!”

He looked at me wide-eyed. “You do? What is it?”

“Computers suck.”

It may be that everyone except me who makes computers do stuff does this with serenity, all the time. But I get frustrated sometimes. Today, in fact, I teared up more than once while working through Agile Java.

It’s not the end of the world.

I considered not being public with this tendency of mine. But you know, if programming means hiding who I really am, I have no interest. I’ve become convinced that who-I-am is actually just fine, and my weakness are intertwingled with my strengths, so I choose to be present as a full person.

And I hope that, as it helped my little one all those years ago, it might help somebody else who thinks maybe they have to hide their own fears and frustrations around this stuff.

As a full person, I know that my kid has certain kinds of curiosity and talent, and also some limitations, particularly since he’s so young. In my own experience, I bring some really creative thinking around edges, for example, and also some fears and weaker areas. I notice that I like to understand deeply and early, and develop fluency with terms. Today, that banged up against Agile Java, where I’d be better off skimming past the terminology, and letting the deeper understanding come later, with experience.

We always have options.

I didn’t actually just say “Computers suck” to my little one. What I really said was:

“Computers suck… sometimes. If you’re going to make computers do things, (little one), sometimes you will get frustrated. I can’t say why, exactly, but I know that, at least for me — and apparently you — it’s just part of the process. It just is.”

He looked at me. “So, what do I do?”

We have lots of options. First, we have to get out of the closed-up frustration-space. We can take a walk, get food, change tasks, draw a picture of a Pokemon eating a computer.

For me as a grownup, part of that is pulling my head out of my — stories about not being good enough. If I’m actually not smart enough to code, I’ll figure that out during calm evening hours or during a Sunday walk in the woods, not during the duress of having a “computers suck” moment. So for now, I want to also remember that my not-good-enough stuff is stories that I’ve created to protect myself from something. (This is a whole ‘nother topic, so I’ll leave it at that for now.)

After drawing the Pokemon and remembering that we’re good enough comes get help. We are collaborators, we humans. For problem solving, trying alternatives, and even deciding when to give up, for now, and look for a work-around, having other people involved helps immensely.

Mostly, collaborate.

So this is my route out of computers-suck-land: Clear my mind, find my center, then find a collaborator. What’s yours?

3 thoughts on “Computers suck

  1. Angela… I used to teach a class of computer noobs how to do the basics. First words, the first day? “Computers suck.” I told them that when goofin’ around with ‘puters, it was easy to fall into a space where you feel like *you’re* wrong. In fact, tho, it’s the computer. The computer is always wrong. Put it this way: when the pliers lose their grip and fall off the nut you’re trying to tighten, do you blame the nut, the pliers, or yourself? Riiiiight.

    But I didn’t really start this comment to share that little tidbit.

    Thank you. It’s brave to tell scary stories about yourself, and braver still to suffuse them with such openness to love. Keep it up. — Mike

  2. Hello. Not sharing my name for fear of the google, but you know who I am, and if you can’t guess, I’ll let you know later.

    I am a professional programmer; I charge a pretty high amount for my work. There is not a week that goes by that I don’t spend time thinking, “I’m totally faking this; Why are they paying me? I have no idea what I’m doing, and it’s only a matter of time before someone finds out and I get fired.”

    Computers Suck.

  3. @Mike, thanks. It *was* scary. Is.

    @Anonymous, thank you, also. I bet that’s pretty much the default experience for developers and other people in creative work. In my other life as a writer, I know that I and my writer friends have had to work to remember that we were being paid to bring the whole of our experience and skill to the task, and not paid, for example, to type words.

    The question is, Anonymous, what do you do to get out of that mindset when it hits?

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