I see no path, just the wilderness

I think i posted a question not unlike this one a few years ago. Nothing has changed. I have a masters degree, im educated and i can learn. Math is High school level and that is only with some serious crash review course. i dont retain.

I’m on disability, and the absolute best job for me would be on a laptop, whenever and wherever …I have a state agency behind me to provide funding, but they dont seem to do much “counseling”. gong back to school as a matriculated student is not an option.

I feel so lost and overwhelmed so put it off…for years now…where to even start…i cant see, no vision! is it feasible? will i have a hurdle 6 months or a year from now which renders it all a waste? i understand you will always have to refresh skill and learn new ones, but it seems like in this field its a constant balance of learning new stuff and trying to hold a job? I like this stuff, i do. even some of it i could tolerate. but do i have a PASSION? i feel like if i did, I wouldnt be here cap in hand asking anything, i would just be doing. I feel like theres a 100 paths, and each one of those then split into another hundred. lost in the details. do i know the first step, i think i do…take a coding course. learn some code. rethink after. But ive got to sell this agency on it, and i have to have a better idea of the end result. with so many things to do, i just dont know what i should be thinking about. money is important, yes. making side gig money with the skills even more so then your rat wheel 9 to 5. flexability is important, time and location. i just cant learn, career advise and tutor myself. I wish someone would drop out of the sky and say " this is the path…step here". any thoughts would be appreciated.

In your false-starts so far, have you tried the freeCodeCamp curriculum? I know that the accessibility isn’t perfect, but we really are trying to prioritize things like screenreader compatibility and we try to respond to any reported accessibility bugs quickly. I’ve met a few blind programmers, but I didn’t talk to them about what tools and resources they use. There might be an online community that you can tap into though for recommendations.

I think that the messaging around “passion” for programming is toxic and gatekeepy. It’s difficult and frustrating and a lot of work. Most of us don’t love every moment of our jobs. The question I ask programming students to ask themselves is “Do I get enough satisfaction from the process to want to keep doing this?”

I don’t think it will be a surprise that need for extremely high flexibility will make the job market harder. It’s not impossible to get a regular salary position that will allow you to work irregular hours, but it’s still much less common than a job with set core hours. Self-employment is usually the option of choice for people who need that level of flexibility, but that is always a hard field to break into.

To some extent, it sounds as if you are getting frozen up before you even begin because you are trying to anticipate all the problems that you might encounter in the future. Try to be kind to yourself with your expectations. Embrace the exploration phase of early studies. You can use free resources to learn the core skills, so it doesn’t require a large risk or commitment to just give it a try and see what you think.

Good luck and happy coding!


It’s unclear to me - you mean that metaphorically or literally?

I feel like theres a 100 paths, and each one of those then split into another hundred

In coding? No, there are thousands of paths. But you don’t have to learn them all. You don’t even have to learn “one”. You just pick a direction and start learning.

When I started, I knew that I had loved programming long ago. OK, let me see what I can find. I heard that web dev was one of the easier branches of coding to break into without a degree. _I’m too old to go back to uni and too busy for a bootcamp. OK, let’s see what is online. I found FCC. OK, I’ll learn web development. FCC taught React. OK, I’ll learn React. I heard good things about React Native for mobile apps. OK, I’m a React developer, but I’ll learn React Native out of curiosity. Then I got a few jobs on upwork with React Native. OK, I guess I’m a React Native developer now. Then I got hired as a React Native developer. OK, I guess that’s my field.

I didn’t pick mobile development, I just kind of kept learning and we found each other.

I wish someone would drop out of the sky and say " this is the path…step here".

That would be like saying, “I don’t know whom to marry, I wish someone would just pick someone, make her love me, and do the paperwork.”

You want a path? Pick one. FCC is a good path - when you get done, you have the basis in a MERN stack. With that, you keep learning and building things. That’s what I did, at least.

i just cant learn, career advise and tutor myself.

But you seem to hate the “rat wheel 9 to 5”. In my experience, people doing pickup contract jobs are actually more disciplined and more self-starting.

i understand you will always have to refresh skill and learn new ones, but it seems like in this field its a constant balance of learning new stuff and trying to hold a job?

Yes, but don’t freak out about it. In the beginning, everything you do is learning. When you get a job, you focus on that, and you pick up new skills as you learn their stack. You learn a lot on your job. And yes, I spend some of my time learning new things - I try to spend a few hours each week working on learning a new language, maybe a few hours working on my personal side project. I pick up a coding book every now and then and read through it. Maybe I read a blog post while I’m eating my lunch. It’s not some all consuming thing that sucks up all my free time.


“a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

Ultimately the idea that there is a “right path” to take to go from point A to point B, and everything else you do is wrong is something I dislike. I dislike it, not only in regards to career building, but in life in general.

If every step you take is a piece of the journey, you’re always on the path as long as you’re moving!

This is vastly easier said than done. It’s more likely there is this idea of “not wasting time” because if you’re “stepping” in the wrong direction, that only means you have to take another step “back” toward the right direction. This might be true if you’re crunched for time or “at risk” in the sense spending too much time going the wrong direction means consequences.

If time is of the essence, then you could also determine the path based on this “distance”. This might require some estimates. Say you’re given 5 years to live. 5 years is time you could spend doing what’s important. If it’s only 5 months, then that path has become shorter, but easier to plan. Even if your life isn’t on the line you’ll know the distance you’ll need to “fit” your journey in. Ultimately priorities become clearer if you’re more time constrained.

This is the main point I’d sit on.

Why “this stuff” in the first place? You don’t need passion to be a developer, but you do need a level of grit. You’re constantly learning, you will also be in a continual state of some frustration. Because if you aren’t, you probably aren’t learning, or just “building up work for others” or yourself in the future.

This is less of a career question, and more of a self-goals question. If these things are important, or maybe even critical for you then the “paths pick themselves”.

Being a developer isn’t the only job you can do that meets all your requirements. You also might need to rank what’s most important. Who doesn’t want to "get paid a lot, have flexible hours, work remote, and “do cool stuff”? What about if you only get to pick one of those? Which would it be?

I’d suggest to write out your top 3 priorities in order of importance. These can “point” you in the direction of what sort of job you must have. Free food might be a cool perk but odds are it wont be #1, or even in your top 5!

There is only one person who could make these decisions with the utmost accuracy, who you get to blame and hate all you want but will still be the best source. Its yourself. You are the only one that knows what’s important for you, what you can and cannot do, what you enjoy and what you hate.

Knowing who to refer to should be the easiest factor to help you determine, you must determine what your willing to take, what you need to take, and what you need to do. No one else can make the decision for you because no one knows what your “best decision looks like”.

If you’re scared of “blaming yourself” just know that every second is a second you don’t get back, and that you can hate yourself for it but you can’t get away from yourself. This is true for this decision, and every one you’ve made and will make. You are ultimately tied to yourself, and the choices you make. Being scared of that fact shouldn’t change how you act because you can’t do anything about it. It’s also ultimately what makes choices meaningful in the first place.

So ask yourself what’s important to you in a job, rank them and write them down for a job.

Then ask yourself what parts of your scenario are important and worth keeping in mind. Something like being on disability, and having an agency might mean you must get specific requirements for a given job.

Know a timeline so you can “form your path” within a set time frame. If you have nothing to go off of, then use some external goals like when you want to retire or something.

Finally, ask yourself the usual:

  • “what do you like to do?”
  • “what can you do?”
  • “what do you think you can do?”
  • “what are you currently good at?”
  • “what do you think you can get good at?”

These questions will form the basics of knowing roughly where you stand right now and what you think you could do in the future. These aren’t as important as your “job priorities”, or life priorities (which aren’t part of this, at least so far)

but they are important in helping you pick at least a direction to go explore. As the “do you think” questions can’t be answered without you trying something.

Ultimately you build your own path using yourself as the metric.


I will say that there may be developers like this, people that obsess and spend (nearly) every waking moment doing coding stuff.

The great musicologist Richard Taruskin just passed away. This is was a legend. A friend of mine ran into him at a conference. In the bathroom. The man was reading a book. While standing at the urinal. That - that is dedication.

But you have people like that in any field of study. Those are the people that (usually) rise to the top and are the legends. You want to be a 10x dev that rises to the top of a major company? Yeah, then you probably want to do that. Me? I don’t care. I like coding, and I want to be good at it, but I also don’t need to obsess about. I like playing music, reading, cooking for my wife, playing chess, sitting in the park with my pipe in one hand and a begleri in the other. I have a life, I live it.

I will also add that … er … how do I put this delicately?

You may want to focus on your attitude. I don’t mean that in a hostile way, but if you change your perceptions a little, you might do better.

I’ve come to an understanding that there are only two ways people make money:

  1. Do something for someone else that is something that they want and either can’t or don’t want to do for themselves.
  2. Work for someone that is making money with #1.

That’s it. We trade 40 hours of our precious time each week for money, medical/dental, and a retirement.

Must it revolve around “passion”? No, passion is for my hobbies. I tried making a living with my passion - jazz guitar. It left me with burnout and no savings. If you can make a living doing your passion, then go for it. But I think that is a fairy tale they tell you when you’re a kid that leaves a lot of people feeling like failures when they get older.

Do I need to freak out because someone is supervising me, judging me, telling me what to do? No, that’s why they pay me. And I’ve found my way to a good company with good people so I really don’t mind. And I have a steady paycheck and paid vacations.

You seem put off by the idea of working for a company, or at least the “9-5”. I know a lot of people think the freelancer lifestyle is some magical life, coding on beach in Thailand one week, taking a week of to hike in the Andes, then work a week on the ski slopes of Colorado… I think this is a little overly glamorous. A few of the people I know that do work like this work a lot harder than you think. And there is a lot stress - I remember being a musician, constantly having to hustle for gigs and students, some weeks having too many gigs and some having not enough, worried I was going to have to dip into savings for rent. Sure, they get a little more freedom, but I get paid vacations and a steady paycheck. And I have a team I can rely on - I don’t have to do/know everything myself.

It sounds to me like you could focus on changing your attitude. You seem a little scattered and anxious. You seem a little resistant to conforming to what is expected. I would suggest that it is easier to put on a pair of slippers than to try to carpet the world. We don’t live in a fairy tale world where the world conforms to what we want. If we want to succeed in the world, we (at least the vast majority of us) need to conform to it. I mean, you don’t have to, if you don’t want. I’ve known people like that. They live in a cabin up in the hills without running water. Or they rent a basement room in someone’s house and work 15 hours a week so they can get beer and books. They travel from place to place and make a few bucks here and there. If that makes them happy, if their freedom is that important for them, then go for it, I’m happy for them. Me? I like eating in a nice restaurant every now and then. I like to know that if I get a suspicious looking mole on my back, I can go get it checked out. I like being able to travel.

To some extent, for 99.99999% of us, freedom is an illusion. We live in a society of rules. To the extent that we can conform to that and produce something that helps, we will be financially successful. But we all live in a cage to some extent or another. For 99% of human history, that was accepted. It’s just in the second half of the 20th century that there came this idea that you had to be free of “societies chains” or whatever. But it’s a fairy tale and illusion. Personally, I think those chains are a good thing. They built the society that put me through school, that provides a fire department and police force, that built the technology that created this computer.

OK, I’m rambling now… But if you shift your attitude a bit, you might have more success. Find a path and stick with it. Put in the hours. Put in the work. It may take a few years, but your effort will be rewarded. There isn’t a perfect path, just learn and build things.


Very powerful, insightful, pragmatic and realistic comment. I am struggling to land into IT jobs and your comment does help streamlining my thoughts, attitudes and priorities. For the past 2 years, I been jumping, learning Java, PHP, Python, SQL, and all that comes with SQL Developer jobs like SSIS, SSRS, SSAS and then jumping to Data Analytics with Excel Power Kits, PowerBI, Tableau and so many more. I enjoyed pretty much all of these technologies but the reason I may be not getting any job offers because I am not highly proficient in any of these. So I need to narrow down and focus on one stack out of all these. I now decided to learn MERN and PERN Stacks basically focusing on JavaScript both in front end and back end. Question is can I stick to it for the next 15 weeks in which I aim to learn enough or would I end up jumping to another stack like I been doing for the past 2 years. Many Thanks! :grinning:

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Yeah, I think learning one stack well will serve you better. Learn it really well and all (or the most common) supporting libraries, etc. Once you get that down, you can branch out a bit and get more breadth. I think focus on depth on one stack and then get shallow breadth on other things.

It reminds me of my music days. There were fellow university students that wanted to learn every instrument. Unless you are teaching, that won’t get you many jobs. People generally get gigs because they play one instrument/style very well. After that, you branch out into other styles on that instrument. Then if you want, you learn some other instruments. That should be the first goal, imho.

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Thanks a lot for such helpful and mindful reply. I always enjoyed PHP as in Linux, Apache, MySQL & PHP stack and made some progress and then I sided away. Jumped into Python, learnt all the basics including OOP and failed to continue for whatever reasons. I enjoyed Java and learnt the basics but not the OOP and thought I am gonna get down to Java Spring Boot Stack but did not continue. Learnt SQL (MySQL, PostgreSQL and Microsoft SQL Server) very well, including normalizing but realized its not even 50% for getting a job as SQL Developer and still not sure what SQL developers really do. Hence stopped learning SQL related tools like SSRS, SSAS for now. Learnt R programming and really enjoyed it because its kind easy to work with data in R than in Python and still have future plan to utilize it as in becoming Data Analyst or Business Intelligence Analyst but not right now. To be honest with your I have not learnt JavaScript well and now realized it may be the hart beat for dynamic database driven web applications. I realized, full stack web applications in Postgres, Express.js, React.js and Node.js (PERN Stack) and MongoDB, Express.js, React.js and Node.js (MERN) are now most popular stack for whatever reasons hence decided to learn these as oppose to LAMP or Python-Django which I was originally aiming for. There are some good courses in freeCodeCamp YouTube channels on PERN and MERN Stack which I sure will watch. Also I enrolled courses in these in Udemy with some top instructors who promised once you finish these bootcamp courses, your chances of getting hired will be pretty high. These two instructors are Andrei Neogoie and Colt Steele. I have seen Colt’s Linux lecture also been hosted under freeCodeCamp channel. In your opinion, do you think these are good decision for me to learn PERN and MERN from Andrei and Colt respectively in conjunction with freeCodeCamp YouTube lectures? Ideally I would prefer to stick with LAMP stack as I was doing well with PHP. I am not sure about Python-Django stack, I learnt python enough but I struggle with it. I learnt some Java and enjoyed it more than Python, so what you think? Java Spring Boot or PERN / MERN? LAMP stack as I understood is not popular any more and there aren’t many lectures and tutorials on the web these days so I kind of shy away from PHP. Thanks Again!

If you want to do Data Science (really just a fancy term for statistics), you need Python. R really isn’t the best tool in that space, and anything R can do, Python can do.

Excellent suggestion and yes other folks I have spoken told me same. I enjoy maths and I like maths most when try to solve it by utilizing R. Python, the reason I do not like it much cos even though I learnt all the foundations, I still kind of find it hard to implement to solve problems. Somehow I just do not get it. I learnt basics of Java and implemented it well to solve many mathematical problems that one can encounter in college Algebra books. But with Python, I simply cant get my head around. And on top of all these, here is an issue of Data Analytics and Data Science. Some articles mentioned Data Science is more of developing mathematical models and pretty much University degree level course. Data Analytics on the other hand just deal with data and create visualized results by utilizing tool kits like Excel Power Query, Pivot Table, Power Pivot, DAX, and Power BI or Tableau. I went that way as well, learnt Power Kits a bit and also learning DAX and PowerBI now to keep my option opens.

Whatever you want to call it, it is still just doing statistics. R is a dying language I’d avoid.

In all fairness though, R is still the most popular language among pirates.


When it comes to doing maths (including statistics) I like R. May be because I am old-fashioned but I got this book brilliantly written by Professor Brian Dennis at University of Idaho, Moscow. Dr. Dennis got me into R through his excellent book which teaches how to do maths in R. I also have a book by a gentleman called Amit Shah who shows us how to do maths with Python. I found Shah’s book relatively hard to follow. No idea why though? I learnt all the basics of Python but still I find it hard to utilize it in solving real problems …but with R, I can solve lot of maths problems and I enjoy working in R : Big Thanks to Dr. Brian Dennis

thank you for your time. i just finished a small course on “JustBASIC”. i didnt ail miserably, but the jargon is so hard to conceptualize and internalize and make sense of. Plus, I ran into a problem with hidden files and it got me thinking that its just unrealistic of me to think i can teach myself in any meaningful way without in class work. if i have someone show me in the computer, its ok i can get it. but having to take directions and follow them, harder. i wrote this note here a long time ago and ive only just now begun to put some effort in. wanted to thank you for your reply!

im just now coming back to this, and i wanted to thank you for your time. what you have said makes complete sense. i need to dive in . thats it, pretty simple. my path will reveal itself when the time is right. but i need to start walking…

thank you for your time, i know this took a moment or two to put out and wanted to let know i appreciate it. im only just now coming back to this question i posted. i will need to reread this one a few times and spend some time reflecting, thank you!

you aint kidding man. your right and i agree with everything you have said. my attitude has improved some, but this stuff goe smuh deeper than a coding forum. i just wanted to add, about the 9 to 5…the fear is exactly what you have put forth, the trading of units of life for units of currency…whihc is fine, and the why the world works , put on your slippers, yes. but that currency for many is next to meaningless. consider your 9 to 5 at Mcdonalds, who keep you under FT to avoid benefits. you work and slave only to subsist. to pay for a roof under which you sleep to rest to return to the slave camp. that, to me, is Hell. and while on disability and taking advantage and not having much money, my freedom is, well, worth it. id like all the things you have described, and i would conform for them. but the basic shit wage? no. so i just wanted to clarify this point. and yes, LOL, your picture of the freelance coder on the beach and slopes is hilarious but unfortunately not far from what many people think of. and those that do it are highly intelligent, skilled , the cream of the cream i would say. not for most mere mortals. i just finished a simple course on JUST BASIC. i need the next step now…thanks again for your time it is appreciated. sorry it took so long to come back and look at all the great advice and people here.

lol, this is the kind of comment which confirms my nightmares…see? but i can come full circle and see i need to pick something and get real, real good at it.

elaborate? must be 20 characters long, there you go…

Kevin one thing i do know, is im a math tard. i cannot learn coding and relearn math . i need to avoid math like the plague. from my understanding, this rules out data science, machine language?