So I’ve got some really fantastic news. I’ve been accepted into the third cohort of the Ada Developers Academy, a tuition-free programming school for women. It is based here in Seattle. Unlike a traditional college or university, this non-profit throws you into the deep end with intensive, on-site courses held 9am-5pm for seven months. Phew!

In addition to scooping Ruby, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript into our skulls, we’ll also be accountable for 15-20 hours of homework each week. Once we’re done with the classroom portion, we move onto internships with local companies. In short, we Adies (the name given to cohort students) will be SUPER BUSY, and I am extremely grateful to have this opportunity!

The expectations are high, and the recruiting process was like an American Ninja Warrior obstacle course designed by Spock. It involved panel interviews, video recordings, and logic tests. It. was. intense.

At this point, I won’t be surprised if we walk into the first class and they ask us to program a Lego Mindstorms robot that can solve this Rubik’s cube.

Gigaminx, a really intimidating Rubik's cube variation

C4U-Gigaminx-01” by Tetracube – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Obviously, it’s going to be a huge adjustment for everyone. We’re putting everything on hold for programming over the next year. I wanted to take some time, record my initial thoughts, and answer some questions before classes start.

Does this mean you’re gonna stop writing?

Psssh. As long as I am breathing, I’ll be writing. Even after my brain gets uploaded into some fancy future flash drive, I’ll still be slinging out blog posts, fiction, articles, and telling stories on stage while building Spotify playlists and chugging coffee. That’s just never gonna stop. No matter what.

Moss from the IT Crowd writing an email while the office burns down

 

However, I will need to be smart about my time. Since Ada Dev Academy is a 40+ hour a week commitment, I’m setting aside ALL of my paid writing contracts and work. I have already sent out notices to my dear client companies with an end date set this April. The editorial teams I’ve worked with have given me platforms to write and speak, and I am so incredibly grateful to them. I was able to work as a freelance writer for nearly three years because of truly amazing editors.

But seriously, putting all of this on an indefinite hold is terrifying. I’ve grown so used to measuring out my days based on deadlines and word count goals that the reality of stopping is just…yeahh.

While I’m taking a break from professional writing to complete the Ada program, I’ll still be working on these sorts of things during bus rides, holiday breaks, and weekends to UNWIND:

  • reading for pleasure (horror, thrillers, sci-fi).
  • practicing and listening to more oral storytelling, “talk story” for all my Hawai’i peeps tuning in (sometimes I perform at The Moth. I also lurk and listen at Rain City Slam events).
  • growing my collection of short stories. While Rotting Apricot was my first piece of published fiction, it certainly won’t be my last!

As I’ve mentioned to friends earlier, I plan to blend my upcoming coding skills with writing and queerness and occult mysticism to create some of the most literary punk rock unicorn web experiences you’ve ever seen.

 

Robot Unicorn Attack title screen

The level of awesome that I aspire to reach someday

Why Ada? Why not just go back to college?

When I came across the Ada Developers Academy website for the first time, my internet browsing screeched to a halt, and I really paid attention. Here was an opportunity to get back into a classroom, learn something incredibly valuable, and jump into experiential learning – all without paying tuition or having to take out massive loans. Now THIS is a system that my values really align with!

Some of you may already know that I’ve applied to graduate programs in the past, because I really love school. And reading. In April 2013, I got accepted into a competitive English master’s program on the East Coast. But I declined.

Why? Because I’ve become extremely resistant to funneling my money and time into a higher education system that I believe is failing students financially. I can totally soapbox about this for hours, cite stats from the National Center for Education Statistics, and recommend “Ivory Tower” over and over, but here are the main points that make me cringe every time:

  • The combined* $1.1 trillion in U.S. student debt* prevents folks from taking out loans for houses and cars, fucking over our economy in general (not that I’m in a huge rush to stop being a bike-riding nomad)
  • The average student leaves college $30,000 in debt. Just the average. I have peers who are struggling with $100K debt with few release valves for that type of pressure.
  • It is unlikely that I’d be able to find a job in academia.

Beaker looking hella apprehensive

Keep in mind, it’s the financial system of academia that really frustrates me – never the instructors, professors, and students I am surrounded with and respect. I have always loved the classroom. I deeply enjoy the creative stress of a challenge and a group effort to find a resolution.

I have always wondered, how can students be expected to create amazing things and contribute fully to their communities, when they are fighting for survival beneath unprecedented levels of debt?

It seems to me that the Ada Developers Academy is creating an excellent environment for women to learn, contribute to STEM, and have greater economic agency without the threat of forever debt. That’s just incredible and I want to celebrate it and shout about it from rooftops. :O

I just wanna keep expanding

To close out my first Ada blog post, I want to say how excited I am at the prospect of blending disciplines to build new and wonderful things. The women in my cohort will be contributing their experiences and knowledge from countless other fields, which can only make us stronger.

I have never felt comfortable lumping myself under one umbrella or discipline. While I’ve been working as a writer for nearly three years, I’ve always been steeped in technology (retail, repairs, and training) through my work at a certain Fruit Stand. I feel that there is a strong value in blending multiple perspectives and disciplines.

The Ada Developers Academy gets its name from Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the poet Lord Byron. As a mathematician and a philosopher, she was never limited to a single viewpoint or field. She once insisted, “Will you give me poetical philosophy, poetical science?

I’ll be keeping these words in mind as we approach our start date and get ready for an epic programming adventure!