Unrequited Love

The greatest stories about unrequited love in human history, if stripped of all the drama, prose, and soul-crushing heartaches, can be summed up in these words:

He loved her madly. She didn’t care for him at all. End of story.

What My Friend Said

My friend, who is an artist, told me once that every piece of art begets another piece of art. It could be anything: a poem begetting another poem, a song begetting another song, or a painting begetting another painting, and so on.

I wasn’t sure if I agreed with her. But this morning, while listening to a Rachmaninov piece over the radio, I suddenly had the urge to pick up a book. So I did. It was a collection of short fiction and while reading it, I suddenly had the desire to look at something pretty, so I went down the hall where the paintings were hung and just stood there for some minutes. While gazing at this portrait of a lady in 19th-century dress (oil on canvas), I suddenly thought of my friend and had this longing to write something.

So I’ve been sitting here all day writing stories that are, directly or indirectly, related to her. I’ve called in sick and have been scribbling these notes for hours now. Meanwhile, the vinyl records are all out of the closet, and I’ve played all of Mozart’s piano and violin sonatas at least three times. A couple bottles of wine have been uncorked, and there are books strewn all over the floor.

I forgot to ask her, how do you end this loop?

Reading Lydia Davies

This book that I am reading is by Lydia Davies. The stories are brief. Or let me rephrase that. They’re long enough for a cup of coffee in the morning, a piece of sonata in the afternoon, and a glass of wine in the evening.

Confession

I felt that I had arrived so I pulled over to the side of the road.

I have played this moment over and over in my head for such a long time that I couldn’t believe I was now actually here. The old gate looked the same. It was still black but the paint had started to peel off. Beyond the metal bars, I could see the hospicio. It still looked grand but it seemed to have aged another century.

I honked my horn a few times. A young boy emerged from the garden beside the building and ran towards the gate. He peered through the metal bars and looked at my car with great curiosity. He opened the gate and approached me.

I lowered my window and called out, “Hi, my name is Daniel. I’m looking for Donna. Does she still work here?”

“Who, sir?” the boy said.

“Donna Sarmiento. She was one of the staff nurses here. I used to do volunteer work here as a student.”

“There’s nobody named Donna Sarmiento here, sir,” the boy said.

“Oh.” I stared out into the yard. I saw the giant acacia trees lining the walkway. They cast long, wide shadows on the ground.”

“But the hospicio is still here, right?” I said. “They didn’t close it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And it still employs in-house nurses?”

“Yes, sir. Do you want to come in, sir? I can ask the people in the office if they know anyone with that name. I can open the gate for you.”

“Sure, thank you.”

He ran back towards the gate and opened it.

I pulled into the yard and parked the car beside one of the trees. The hospicio looked much older. Its facade was still green but greatly faded. An old lady was sitting on a rattan rocking chair in the hallway. The boy closed the gate.

“Please wait here, sir,” he said.

I got out of the car and stretched my legs. It was a few minutes past noon yet the sunlight was mild and gentle.

My stomach rumbled. The sari-sari stores and carenderia were still there across the street. That is where we used to eat during our lunch breaks. I walked towards the hospicio and saw a group of elderly men and women walking slowly down the garden. A male nurse accompanied them.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The air seemed too pure for my lungs. I scanned my surroundings and tried to recall the past. There used to be an old man who lived in that room near the entrance. He loved to read, especially spy novels. On my last day here, I gave him my copy of Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography as a parting gift. He could barely walk because half of his body was nearly paralyzed. I wondered if he’s still there. That was more than 5 years ago now, and he was already 88 when I met him. He was a naval captain and after suffering from a stroke, he lost everything, his wealth, his wife, his family.

I saw the boy again and he approached me.

“I’m sorry, sir, but there’s no Donna Sarmiento here.”

I smiled and thanked him. I was about to go when he said, “There is a Donna Cimafranca, but we just call her Sister Teresa.”

“Sister Teresa?” I said, confused.

“Yes, she’s one of the nuns who run the hospicio. They’ve informed me that her real name was Donna Cimafranca. After her husband died years ago, she became a nun. Now she’s just known as Sister Teresa. She may have been a Sarmiento before she got married. Shall I bring you to her?”

It was raining that day in August when we arrived in Barili. We rented a van and travelled for hours from our university to this town. We were all excited because it was our first internship assignment outside the city. We were told that provincial hospitals were usually less busy than city hospitals, so we could expect not to have a lot of work to do, and we would have more time to go sightseeing.

I jumped out of the van first and opened an umbrella for the girls in our group. Then we brought our bags into the house and gathered in the hallway. Our clinical instructor briefed us on our itinerary for the day. She then showed us where we were going to stay. The boys were assigned a room on the second floor, while the girls were given a room on the first floor. From the balcony, I could see a pool near the edge of the yard.

We woke up early the following morning for our first official duty. The hospicio was a walking distance away from the old house, but rather than walk, we chose to ride a tricycle just for fun. We arrived at the hospicio in no time. An elderly man greeted us at the gate and showed us in. I was struck immediately by the beauty of the building when I saw it. The architecture was American in style, and I later learned that it was built in the 1920s. It sat on a vast estate and had dozens of rooms. The entire complex was painted green. There was a dining area near the hallway and a garden at the far end of the building. On the other end was a chapel.

We were then assigned our patients that morning. Mine was a lolo in his 80s. He walked in a shuffling way with half of his body apparently paralyzed. He later told me, when we got to chat, that he used to be the captain of a ship. He travelled overseas and visited many countries. He had everything — money, women, possessions — but then he had a stroke. So he lost his job and went home to his family. He spent his days drinking, resenting his fate and the things he lost. He then told me that he wasn’t really a nice man — he was cruel, bitter, and difficult to deal with — so eventually he lost his family, too. And that was the reason why he ended up in the hospicio, because no one was left to take care of him. Later that day, he invited me to his room and showed me his collection of books. He told me I was free to borrow them any time.

It was while I was wheeling my patient into the dining area that I first saw Donna. I didn’t know her name yet at that time. It just travelled as a whisper between my male classmates who were curious to know who she was. I overheard it from my friend Ronan, who told my friend Chris, that there was this girl in the hospicio who was very pretty. I instantly knew who they meant.

Donna was one of the staff nurses in the hospicio and she was in charge of preparing the medications for the patients. Even now I still feel a bit breathless each time I say her name, so I don’t say it often. I’ve kept it to myself all these years like a secret. She was always with someone each time I saw her. I came up with all sorts of excuses just so I could get close to her. I kept coming back to the dining area even if it wasn’t necessary. I kept going to the garden hoping she’ll be there, so I could at least say “hi”. And I kept on going back up and down the hallway in the hopes of bumping in to her, so I could smile and make small talk. But she was never alone. She was always either with a patient or chatting with the other nurses. The boys in our group were especially eager to talk to her and they were much more skilled than me in thinking of schemes so they could sit near her. So I just hung around in the periphery, making sure I could at least hear her voice when she was speaking. From what I’ve overheard, I learned that she wasn’t actually just a nurse. She was an actress, too. They asked her which films she’s been in and she told them the name of a local movie that was about to be released. She then invited them to the screening of that film.

On my last day at the hospicio, I finally bumped into her. I was on my way to say goodbye to my patient and give him my book when I saw her standing outside his room. I froze. I wanted to speak to her but I was also frightened, so rather than stop and chat, I just glanced in her direction and went inside the room. When I got out, she was no longer there.

Weeks later, my friends and I went to the screening of the movie in a mall in the city. I wasn’t particularly invited but I went with them anyway. And there, inside the darkness of the theatre, I saw her again, her face on the large screen. Whereas in the hospicio I only heard her voice faintly from afar, here inside the cinema I could hear her voice full and clear, as if she was standing right in front of me.

After the showing, my friends and I lingered in the lobby outside the theatre in the hopes of meeting her. But she was nowhere in sight, and I never saw her again.

“Sir?” the boy repeated. I forgot he was there. “Shall I bring you to Sister Teresa?”

I nodded and he led me down the hallway. I had forgotten about the chapel. I never got a chance to see it up close when I was here the first time. The door was wide open and I was struck by how dark it was at first when I stepped inside, but slowly my eyes readjusted and I saw the beams of light shining through the Capiz windows. The pews were almost empty. A couple of patients were sitting near the aisle. One of them was in a wheelchair. I saw the altar. It was lit partially by the candles near the tabernacle and partially by the sunlight that filtered through the stained glass windows above.

The boy went and greeted a nun who was kneeling in the first row of the chapel. She stood up and went with him. From out of the depths of my memory, my fear returned to me. I thought it had been buried by time, but here it was again, as fresh and as raw as when I felt it the last time I was here.

To my astonishment, she hasn’t really changed much, but seeing her in a habit threw me off.

“Sister, this is Daniel,” the boy said to her. “He wanted to meet you.”

“Sir,” the boy said to me, “This is Sister Teresa.” Then he excused himself.

“Pleased to meet you, Daniel,” she said, smiling. “How can I help you?”

My heart raced within me and I felt like I was a student again.

“Hi, sister,” I said awkwardly, not sure whether I should shake her hand or not.

I extended my hand finally and felt the softness of her palm.

“My name is Daniel,” I continued, not knowing what to say exactly. At that moment, I had forgotten why I was there. “I used to work here when I was still in nursing school.”

“Oh, did you?” she said.

“Yes,” I said. “I was an intern here in college, and we stayed here for a week. I mean, we stayed in that ancestral house down the road, and I got to work with some of the patients here.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful. I used to work here, too, when I was still a nurse,” she said.

“I know,” I said.

“You know?”

“Yes, I actually met you here many years ago. I mean, I saw you, but I didn’t really meet you. Not formally, anyway.”  I felt more and more embarrassed the more I spoke.

“Oh, did you?” Her face became more animated.

“Yes, I’m pretty sure you don’t remember me. That was too long ago. You must have worked with hundreds of students in those days.”

“It seemed a lifetime ago. Things were different back then. I was many things. Being a nurse was just one of them.”

“Yes,” I said. “I remember seeing one of your films.”

She laughed. “How did you know I was in a film?”

“When I was here, you mentioned that you were an actress, and you invited my friends to the screening of this movie. We went and saw it.”

“That’s very interesting,” she said wistfully.

We walked towards the dining area and continued our conversation over lunch. The patients and nurses greeted her by her nun name. She smiled at them and made small talk. Then she brought me all over the hospicio to show me how the place has changed over the years, which parts have been closed due to irreparable damages, and which parts have been renovated to accommodate more patients. She told me that after she got tired of acting, she settled down. She got married to one of the great-great-grandsons of the family that owned the hospicio, so she ended up becoming one of its owners. When her husband died, she chose to enter the convent. After some years, the task of looking after the hospicio was passed on to her by her in-laws. She never got to continue her nursing. There was a time when she thought of working abroad, but she changed her mind after she got married.

It was already late in the afternoon when we ran out of things to talk about. The sun filtered through the trees and the hospicio was bathed in golden light.

“Sorry, Mr Cuevas,” she said after a long pause. “You never got to tell me why you were looking for me.”

I was caught off-guard by her question. I had forgotten to come up with a plausible reason for why I was there. The silence between us grew longer as she waited for my answer and as I tried to conjure up all kinds of explanations in my head.

We found our way back to the chapel. I looked up and saw the beam of light shining on the altar at the end of the aisle. The place seemed brighter now even though the day was ending.

I took a deep breath and made my confession. “I wanted to see you, Donna.”

By the time I drove out of the hospicio and bid her goodbye, my fear has already dissipated. I smiled at the boy who was waiting for me at the gate and thanked him for his help.

On the way back to the city that evening, I was filled with a profound sense of peace.

A 21st Century Person’s Guide to 18th Century Love

Let me share with you a couple of quotes. Here’s the first:


“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

That, of course, is from Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, one of my favorite novels of all time. (I get teased about this a lot because I always seem to bring up Jane Austen in almost every conversation. And that’s true. I believe Austen has a lot to say about many aspects of life. But I digress.)

And here’s the second quote:

“You put the boom-boom into my heart. You send my soul sky high when your lovin’ starts. Jitterbug into my brain (yeah, yeah). Goes a bang-bang-bang ’til my feet do the same.”

And that, I’m sure you know (unless you were born in the 90s and onward), is from Wham, one of my favorite bands from the 80s.

As you can see, there’s a world of difference between these two quotes, in the quality of their language and in their method of expressing themselves toward the object of their affections. The first is more elegant, passionate, and profound, whereas the second seems, well, superficial, vapid, and inelegant, although it does sound funny and fun. Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that both came from very different eras and milieus. Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy came from a more intelligent era, one with a lot of nuance, sophistication, and self-control, whereas George Michael and Wham came from a more, let us say, frivolous period.

But this essay won’t be about the difference between these two eras and how they approach love. Rather, this will be about how to win the heart of the object of your love in the manner in which Mr. Darcy, or Elizabeth Bennet, won theirs.


Let me start by making two bold assertions.

The first is this: A Gentleman wants and needs a Lady, and conversely, a Lady wants and needs a Gentleman.


The second is this: To deserve a Lady, a guy must first become a Gentleman, and conversely, to deserve a Gentleman, a girl must first become a Lady.

(Of course, there are exceptions to this. A Gentleman, although he may naturally want a Lady, may choose to devote his life to a vocation or calling, and vice versa.)

In Jane Austen’s novels, what attracts a man to a woman are her qualities as a Lady: the beauty of her mind and character, and not primarily her external qualities. And what attracts a woman to a man are his qualities as a Gentleman: the beauty of his mind and character, and not primarily his external attributes.

There is a wealth of wisdom in this idea. We, moderns, have a tendency to think that a way to a woman’s heart, for example, lies in appealing to her senses by advertising our external traits, such as the size of our biceps or the extent of our net worth. What Austen is saying is that these are not what women really want in a non-superficial way, although some do fall for that trap, which is a tragedy. What Austen’s heroines find irresistible is a man who is not just a man, but a Gentleman.

It follows, therefore, that in order to win the heart of a Lady, you must first become a Gentleman, or in order to win the affections of a Gentleman, you must first become a Lady.

So how does one become a Gentleman, or how does one become a Lady? I think we can answer these questions by taking a look at the Gentlemen and Ladies in Austen’s fiction and identifying their most common traits. And then we can decide whether we want to emulate them or not.

So here are the attributes of a Gentleman:

1. A Gentleman writes well. He has a good command of language and is able to express his thoughts in a careful, elegant, and articulate manner. He also takes time to write to friends and family.

2. A Gentleman reads well. He knows the importance of books and reading and takes time to read quality literature.

3. A Gentleman thinks well. He is careful, clear, and logical in his thinking.

4. A Gentleman dresses well. He is excellent in his person and appearance.

5. A Gentleman is punctual. He wakes up early and is always on time.

6. A Gentleman is polite, courteous, and respectful. Good manners are essential for him.

7. A Gentleman converses well. For him, conversation is an art, and while there is always a place for light banter in any chat, words should be taken seriously and used responsibly.

8. A Gentleman, whether alone or in the company of friends or strangers, behaves or conducts himself well. He knows the importance of good breeding.

9. A Gentleman works well. He is thorough and excellent in his work and is able to achieve great things in his profession or enterprise.

10. A Gentleman recognizes objective and universal values. He knows that values such as truth, goodness, and beauty are not merely subjective, and therefore he is able to appreciate them as objective realities of human experience.

11. A Gentleman lives out the virtues. He is prudent, just, temperate, and has fortitude.

12. A Gentleman is faithful to his duties and obligations. He is able to see things through and fulfill his promises and responsibilities.

13. A Gentleman loves well. He is faithful to his beau.

14. A Gentleman prays well. He starts and ends his day with a prayer. He is aware of the central importance of faith in his life and morals.

15. A Gentleman, whether married or not, is chaste and pure in his heart, thoughts, and actions. He is mortified by any impurity in his words or deeds.

16. A Gentleman is a modern-day knight. He is noble, valiant, and gallant, and is able to defend himself and his beloved from any figurative dragons in life.


And here are the qualities of a Lady, at least so far as I have observed them in Austen’s heroines:


1. A Lady writes well. She, too, has a great command of language and is able to express herself in words thoughtfully, delicately, intelligently, and with elegance and grace.

2. A Lady reads well. She also knows that books are important for a healthy intellectual life.

3. A Lady thinks well. She takes care to think clearly and rationally, even as she relies on her feelings, hunches, or instincts to arrive at the best decisions.

4. A Lady dresses well. For her, dressing well or beautifully is not a superficial nor trivial thing.

5. A Lady converses well. She is careful, clear, graceful, and elegant in her words and expressions.

6. A Lady conducts herself well. She knows the importance of propriety and good breeding in her behavior.

7. A Lady works well. She devotes herself to whatever endeavor she chooses to pursue with thoroughness and excellence.

8. A Lady lives out the virtues. She is prudent, just, temperate, and when the situation calls for it, her courage rises to meet any challenge.

9. A Lady is faithful to her duties. She is aware that she has obligations and fulfills them.

10. A Lady loves well. Loving well and being faithful towards the objects of her love are traits that come naturally to a Lady.

11. A Lady prays well. She also recognizes the centrality of faith in her life.

12. A Lady is pure and chaste in her thoughts and actions. This comes much more naturally to her.


These traits, taken together, are what makes a Gentleman attractive to a Lady, or a Lady attractive to a Gentlemen.


It follows that in order to deserve a Lady’s affections and win her heart, a man must first become a Gentleman. And in order to deserve a Gentleman, a girl must first become a Lady. Both always aim to be excellent in their mind, character, and person and are therefore irresistible to each other.


This Valentine’s, if you want to start winning the heart of anyone you admire, you must first become worthy of their regard.

MongoDB, Mongoose, and the Fun Thing That is Data

I never thought I’d say this, but I had lots of fun handling (read: tinkering, manipulating, playing around with) data and databases this week.

(Isn’t that a super geeky thing to say? I mean, who says that? What kind of human being actually says he likes “managing data”. What a nerd.)

And yet, it’s true. I had lots and lots of fun this week learning about MongoDB and Mongoose.

What Kind of Animal is a Mongoose?

So that’s what we’ve been studying all week at Lambda School. In particular, we covered these topics:

  1. Importing data to the MongoDB database.
  2. Modeling relations between collections.
  3. Embedding documents in schemas.
  4. Linking collections together through refs (references).
  5. Populating data in endpoints.
  6. Querying data.
  7. Creating middlewares.
  8. Custom validations.

Essentially, MongoDB is a database. And Mongoose? Well, it can be defined in several technical ways: a JavaScript framework that you can use to interact with your Mongo database; an Object Data Modelling (ODM) library that helps you model your data; and etc. But what was most helpful for me was to think of it simply as a tool or technology that helps you use MongoDB more effectively and efficiently, in the same way that Express is a tool or technology that helps you utilize Node.js better.

The Problem That MongoDB Solves

Why use MongoDB if you can use Node.js? Well, the problem with Node.js is that as soon as your server goes down, your data goes down with it as well. So there’s no data persistence. With MongoDB, the data persists even if you “kill” the server. So that’s the problem MongoDB solves.

If you’re wondering what it looks like, here it is (running on Windows terminal):

MongoDB

The text “[initandlisten] waiting for connections on port 27017” indicates that your Mongo server is up and running.

Once you have that, you need to open a second terminal to run your “Mongo Shell”. It looks like this:

Mongo Shell

You can now navigate through your Mongo databases from here. All you need are a few basic commands:

  1. show dbs (to show the list of databases)
  2. use <insert database name here> (to choose a particular database)
  3. show collections (to open a database and list the collections within it)
  4. db.<insert database name here>.find().pretty() (to display the documents or data within each collection)

The First Things You Need to Know When Studying MongoDB

So the most important terms you need to learn when first studying MongoDB are these:

  1. Databases
  2. Collections
  3. Documents

Documents are simply data (e.g., json files) that are contained within collections, and collections, in turn, are directories contained within databases.

You can do CRUD operations on your data in the MongoDB database through the Mongo Shell in the same way that you can do CRUD operations on your data through Postman and Compass. That is to say, Mongo Shell, Postman, and Compass are these super cool tools that help you create, retrieve, update, and delete data or documents inside your MongoDB database.

Postman looks like this:

Postman June 9, 2018

And Compass looks like this:

Compass June 9, 2018

They’re pretty intimidating to use at first, but are fun to play around with when you get used to them.

They’re certainly very useful to use together when you’re creating your back end applications and testing your endpoints.

Sprint Challenge

By the way, I’m so happy I was able to get to a Minimally Viable Product during our weekly Sprint Challenge today. I worried that I won’t be able to do it because I initially got stuck in trying to wrap my head around the concepts of models, schemas, refs, and data population. I was overjoyed when I was able to create new databases and collections and store documents into them, and when I successfully tested them in Postman. How can technical things like these be so happiness-inducing?

***

Lambda Ambassador Program

I’ve signed up for Lambda School’s Ambassador Program because I literally cannot stop talking about my school. If you’re interested in getting into their Full Stack Web Development and Software Engineering course, go here: https://mbsy.co/lambdaschool/37941124.

A Fitbit for Programming

I just discovered (well, technically, it was shared to us by our Program Manager), this awesome tool called WakaTime. It’s a plugin for text editors or Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) that can track the amount of time you’ve spent coding. I started using it three days ago and this is what my stats look like:

WakaTime Stats as of June 9, 2018

Isn’t that super cool? It gives you data on how long you’ve been programming per day, what projects you’re working on, the language/s you used, and the editor you utilized. It’s gives you a super simple way of tracking your productivity.

It’ll probably enhance my development habits from here on out, much in the same way that Fitbit enhances the habit of running in runners.

One of the Best Ways to Learn Programming is to Teach Programming

It is a truism that one of the best ways to learn any new piece of knowledge or skill is to teach it to somebody. That has been one of the main reasons why I’m writing about my experience as a Software Engineering/ Full Stack Web Development student in Lambda School — to retain most of what I’m studying by teaching others about it or talking to people about it in public; in this case, through the medium of the Medium blog.

Last week, we began the back end side of programming by studying Node.js and Express.

What Are Node.js and Express?

In essence, Node.js is a tool that lets you write JavaScript codes outside the web server environment. (Note to Software Engineers: If I’m incorrect about that definition or any of my definitions here, please let me know in the comments.) Its purpose is to create web servers.

We used Express, a popular Node.js library and/or framework, to quickly build web servers. It was fun/fascinating stuff. Basically, we wrote codes that performed CRUD (or Create, Retrieve, Update, and Delete) operations on endpoints. CRUD corresponds to specific HTTP Resource Methods like POST, GET, PUT, and DELETE.

Wait a Minute, Mr Postman

In order to test whether our CRUD operations work (i.e., whether we are really able to create/post new items to our databases, retrieve/get those items (and specific arrays within those items), update/put those same items/arrays, and delete each one of them), we used this cool tool called Postman.

Postman

Postman was a big help to me in understanding how CRUD operations or HTTP resource methods worked. And writing the codes for each of those methods wasn’t that difficult because basically there’s a boiler plate for them. The only thing you need to do is understand how they work.

Last Month, I Had Zero Clue About What React Was. Today, I Built a React App.

Tons of things have happened since I last wrote about my Lambda School experience. I have so many things to share and I don’t know where to start.

Well, how about with this:

Front End Project

Building a React Web App From Scratch

That’s a note-taking web app I built using React. It looks quite plain, I know, but what’s amazing about this is that four weeks ago, I didn’t even know what on earth React was. (Remember how worried I was about learning applied JavaScript? It turned out that React was even more challenging to understand, at least initially, than the Document Object Model). Was it a language like JavaScript? Was it a framework? Was it a kind of software? (You can tell by the quality of my questions how much of a newbie I was.)

Now, of course, I know a bit better. It’s actually a JavaScript library for creating or rendering user interfaces.

Obviously, I didn’t build this up in a day. We were given the whole week this week to create and develop it. Our goal was to at least reach a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and if there’s still time, to add more advanced features like refactoring React to include Redux (another JavaScript library that’s used to manage the state or data of more complex React applications), make the data persist (i.e., make the information that the user inputs into the app, in this case, the “notes”, stay within it), give it some search functionality, give it the ability to convert text into Markdown format, and many others.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to do any of those stretch goals. But I was happy just to reach MVP.

Surreal

Just to digress a little bit, I used to just hear about “MVPs” and “bringing a product to market” from podcasts and blogs. For example, I’m a big fan of the Y CombinatorMasters of Scale, and Indie Hackers podcasts. I hear about MVPs, users, product-market fit, “creating something people love”, and so on, all the time. So it’s super surreal that I’m actually starting to do these things already — that is, create a product or software, think about its UI and functionality, be sensitive about what users might want, and etc. To be sure, I still have tons and tons to learn about React and Redux, and miles and miles to go before I come to a place wherein I can say that I’m confident about my ability to build a good product, but at least now I have begun my journey.

Awesome Peers

Anyway, many of my peers were able to add several of those advanced features in their apps. A few of them were even able to do all those stretch tasksWe had a cohort-wide Demo Day earlier and many of their presentations were mind-blowing. It’s challenging enough to add Redux into your React codes, but to include all those other features? Truly impressive. Every single day at Lambda, I feel like I have walked into a room full of brilliant folks, geniuses even. To be honest, I sometimes imagine that I have wandered into a Harvard or Stanford classroom where everyone is just super smart and mentally quick.

Team Standup May 26, 2018

Of course, we’re kind of a mixed bag in our cohort. Some have prior, even professional, exposure or experience with programming. Others, like my wife and I, have only begun to code last March when the mini-bootcamp started. But there were a few who even with relatively-recent programming background was able to achieve impressive feats.

Thank You

So many people have reached out to me to thank me for writing about my journey with Lambda School. Some of them are incoming Lambda School students. I have nothing but gratitude for these guys, and to you dear reader, for reading my articles in the first place.

Next week, we’re going to begin learning about back end stuff. It will probably be more challenging than the material on front end, but it will be exciting nonetheless.

Trusting the System

Today, Lambda School’s fifth batch of students graduated. They demonstrated and defended their capstone projects in front of a panel. I was able to witness it a little bit. One comment from one of the students really struck me. He said to simply “trust the system”. A lot of the stuff that he was learning didn’t make a lot of sense to him during the second month of their curriculum. Heck, it didn’t make much sense to him during the fifth month, either. But suddenly, everything just clicked for him. Everything just made sense and came together: He already knew how to program and he didn’t even realize it.

So, yeah, I want to just “trust the system”, too.

The Fastest, Surest Way to Become a Software Engineer

If you’re interested in becoming a Software Engineer but still quite “ on the fence” about where to learn, let this article be the sign for you. Lambda School is probably the surest and fastest way of achieving that goal. The number of applicants is increasing, so the rate of acceptance will probably decrease a bit. You can increase your chances of getting in if you’ll do the pre-course work or the web development 101 course, which is free. Go here:

https://mbsy.co/lambdaschool/37941124.

My wife and I attended the bootcamp in March. They’ve recently revamped the format to allow the would-be student to get to really experience what it’s like to be in Lambda School. So today’s applicants will get to watch an hour of lecture from an instructor, get to work on a mini-project or assignment for another hour, and have the chance to work with a team and project manager for the last hour to simulate a real team in a tech company.

App

The Office was a co-working space somewhere uptown frequented by web developers, software engineers, and startup founders. It buzzed with activity and energy during the day, and at night, as you can imagine, the place was bleak and desolate. Ryan liked to go there in the evenings because A, the bulk of his clients were based in the Western Hemisphere, and B, he detested people, or rather, he abhorred direct social interaction.

He parked his car in his usual slot, grabbed his backpack and “lunch” from the backseat, and made his way to the rear entrance. As usual, the Office was going to be all his again tonight. He will hole himself up in his cubicle and code for hours, prowl its dark corridors during his breaks, and convert its couches into his makeshift bed.

He held his proximity card in front of the electronic reader and pushed the glass door open. The scent of coffee immediately greeted his nostrils. The staff always made sure he had enough caffeine every night by preparing the coffee maker for him before they logged out of their shifts.

He closed the door behind him and slowly walked down the hallway.

What he saw, upon turning a corner, almost struck him dead. A girl was walking directly in his direction, carrying a mug in her hand. He couldn’t make out her face clearly, but it was surely a female, and he could see that she, too, was frightened out of her wits by the suddenness of their unexpected encounter. Her gasp was audible to him from where he was standing. The next moment, however, the girl let out a laugh and exclaimed, “Gosh, you scared me!” She had an accent he’s not familiar with.

Extending her hand, she said, “Grace.”

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“I’m Grace,” she repeated when he did not respond. “And you are?”

For ten long seconds he could not, for the life of him, recall his own name. No one had ever asked him that before. Not point-blank, that is. He scanned his brain but was unable to retrieve the word that designated his person.

“whoAmI[‘name’];,” he muttered in panic. “console.log(whoAmI[‘name’]);”

“I’m sorry?” the girl said.

He didn’t hear her.

“const whoAmI = {
name: ‘ ‘,
age: ’25’,
location: ‘Cebu City’
},” he said. “console.log(whoAmI[‘name’]);”

She laughed again, and this didn’t help him at all. Blood rushed to his cheeks and all he could say was, “The name property is the object is empty incomplete. It can’t return my name.”

They didn’t speak much after that for he had marched straight to his cubicle, his head bowed down, and did not dare go out again. She did not have her own cubicle, so she took as her spot one portion of the long table directly outside his space. This table was reserved for those who did not want to rent their own private office.

He tried to code but couldn’t get any of his syntaxes right. He could hear her footsteps outside his door. She was talking to someone on her phone.

He stared at his monitor but couldn’t make sense of what his client was really asking him to do. He must have read the instructions a dozen times by now and checked the mockup twice as much, but none of it was registering to him.

He closed all of his applications, restarted his machine, and started afresh. He always did this whenever he felt like he was hitting a brick wall. It was a sort of ritual for him: whenever he was stumped by something — a User Interface he couldn’t render, a feature he couldn’t create, a problem he couldn’t solve — he always resorted to deleting his app’s codebase and begin again from scratch.

In a way, this kind of behavior paralleled his personal life: every time he couldn’t make things work out with someone, for example, he reacted by “deleting” this person from his life. This was what he did with Tanya, almost a year ago now. After telling him that all they could ever be were “friends”, he simply stopped seeing her, ignored her calls, and suppressed all memory of her down to his subconscious mind. He’s pretty sure he’s going to forget her name, eventually, give or take another year.

The knock on the door jolted him out of his musings.

“Hey, sorry about earlier,” the girl called out. “Did I embarrass you? I felt as if I did. If so, I apologize.”

This girl was very sharp. He had spent less than a minute in her presence and already she has read him through and through. Among all the other species of females, he thought, this type was the most dangerous.

“Are you there?” she said.

He had to make some sort of a reply. “Yeah,” he said finally after clearing his throat. “No need to say sorry. It was my fault.”

“Truth is, I’m really glad I’m not alone tonight,” she said behind the door. “This place gives me the creeps, to be honest.”

She waited for his reply.

“Are you new here, too?” she said. He still hasn’t opened the door.

“Yeah, I mean, no,” he stammered. “I’ve been here a while.”

“Oh. I’m new here. Obviously. Tonight’s my first night,” she said.

She waited again.

“So,” she continued. “Where are you connected?”

“I work freelance,” he said.

“Great,” she said. “Are you a developer?”

What gave me away, he thought. “Yes,” he said.

“I guessed as much,” she said.

He felt like the rudest human being on earth for not opening the door for her. Even a weirdo like him knows that he should at the very least open up and invite her in, but he figured that if he only waited for a few seconds more, this conversation, awkward as it was fast becoming, was eventually going to wind up, and she will go away and leave him alone.

It did not end, however, and she did not go away. They talked for a few minutes more. Their conversation was interspersed by numerous bouts of silence, long pauses, and embarrassing “dead airs”, but it stretched on and on and on. He found out that she has just started her own startup and that she was scouting for a technical co-founder. He learned that she’s originally from Sweden, but that she grew up in Germany, finished university in Amsterdam, and is currently traveling Asia to do two things: first, to “find herself”, a very cliche and unoriginal undertaking, she said, and second, to build a company around a tech product she has developed as an intern in Google. She’s a software engineer, too. She did the first phase of her goal last year and is now intent on doing the second.

And the funny thing was, he didn’t mind all this interaction at all. He found that the more he listened to her, the more at ease he felt around her. The more she spoke, the lighter his mood became. And the more he opened up and responded to her, the more he “found” himself, if that makes any sense. He loosened up and rediscovered the joy of “small talk”.

In fact, he got too comfortable that he finally stood up and slid his door open.

You can understand a program. It has its own logic, rules, and algorithms. You can comprehend a component. It has its own language, codes, and syntax. You can definitely cognitively grasp an app, which is composed of programs and components. You can break it down into smaller pieces and make sense of it. You can hold it up in your mind’s eye and peruse it. And that is what he’s been doing all these years — staring at applications upon applications. Analyzing them, thinking about them, and deriving satisfaction from having understood them.

He felt like he can stare at this girl for hundreds of years and not come close to any satisfaction of understanding her. There’s something about her that glows and bursts forth out of her face and skin. Seeing her more clearly now under the orange light above her head and at a closer distance than earlier, he is utterly, completely perplexed. She was her eyes yet she was not her eyes. She was her nose and lips yet she was not her nose and lips. She was her shoulders and arms yet she was neither of those. Her meaning was not contained within any of the physical parts that compose her. You cannot break her down. You cannot make sense of her. She doesn’t have definite properties that you can analyze and map as data, but it’s undeniable that some sort of language was flowing from her, whether she opened her mouth or not.

He took a deep breath and leaned on to his desk for he was quickly losing his balance.

“Ryan,” he said. “Yes, that’s my name. My name’s Ryan.” He remembers it now.