It’s Monday, and it’s not a holiday, and I’m not at the Recurse Center, and that’s strange, but it’s also such a clear marker of change. This, too, is a new chapter. Just a tiny one, a single week long. This is that week where New York still feels familiar, still feels like home, even though I’m not doing the thing that I came here to do, because I already succeeded at that.
This still sounds a little funny to me. Not strange, just funny. I started a thing with a cohort of people, and I finished it.
Maybe this is unremarkable to you. You went to college, a lot of you, right after high school, for a lot of you, and you went to classes and you made friends and you got grades and then you got the fancy paper that, despite the fact that it is NOT shaped like a key, opens a lot of doors both obvious and invisible.
I, too, went to college right after high school. I went to a strange little place on a hill that felt, for all its 3000 miles from my place of birth, like home. But things happened (long story short: at 19, I was not great at setting boundaries or doing anything that at ALL resembled conflict), I took a break, and I never went back. I moved back home, was a disaster, finally cared enough about not caring, and started making a plan.
I took a class at a time while working full time at a natural foods store, checking off the boxes on Bastyr University’s prerequisites (for the Herbal Sciences degree). I finished all of them, then moved to France. Because Reasons, as we say here on the internet, I did not apply to Bastyr in the end. I did not end up returning to the Pacific Northwest for a few months after my French contract ended.
When I returned, I ended up in Portland because of my incredible family. My amazing older sister Inara said, “hey, if you want to do the figuring-out-the-next-chapter thing but not living-with-your-parents-in-your-twenties, we’d love to have you in Portland for a bit, and I think you’d really like Portland.”
14 months later, I had both a job AND a real non-college apartment with a friend. The desperate longing for France had subsided as soon as I got to Portland, and not a moment sooner, to my profound relief.
From there, from 2008, it’s all been tweaking and tuning.
There is something very liberating and very lonely about doing things on your own all the time, though. People have helped me, to be clear. And I have had the good fortune to be part of incredible communities. But there is never a sense of completion unless I quit something. This is not satisfying.
But ah! Then there was RC.
I heard about RC a couple years ago, when it was Hacker School. A friend who made the amazing helper-robot mural in the library nook was there. (I didn’t quite understand what she was doing, but she was enthusiastic about it!) And I knew someone very bright who applied and didn’t get in. And every conference talk I have seen by a Recurser is sharp, interesting, joyful.
This all made me feel like the following was true about RC:
- Incredible people go there, and
- People who go there tend to be incredible
- Even really smart people don’t always get in, and
- I am not all that remarkable, so
- Probably I would not get in if I applied
Spoiler alert: I was wrong. I enjoy being right, and usually am (I’m serious!), but I also love learning when I am wrong, because it’s usually not the worst thing ever, and then I know more things. And I LOVE knowing things.
A number of circumstances conspired to get me here, and here’s how I’ve been describing it to folks: I finally got scared enough that doing nothing was no longer the easiest option, and I knew that I would regret it forever if I didn’t just find out what happened if I applied. If I was right, and I wasn’t accepted, then at least I knew what would happen.
Post continues below the line, on Wednesday, so you can think of the line like a time machine. Remember your lines, and also your time machine.
So I got in, and then I had a new problem, which was “how do I move to New York in a month?” My profoundly supportive partner and I talked about it, and decided that he’d come along as well, and so we drove ourselves and our bikes and some other things across the country and started this summer adventure we’ve had.
I’d like to write a more “about RC” post soon (a “return statement,” if you will), but it is clear to me already that everything is subtly and yet profoundly different.
I’m less afraid, for one. I know that I can succeed at something that isn’t open-ended in a timescale way (my 750words.com streak has taught me that I can commit to something for a long period of time, but there’s no end date there). And I am never going to be alone again in my quest for learning.
Liene, Summer 2 Recurse Center alumna
p.s. For the curious and thorough, you can find ALL my Recurse Center posts under the “recurse center” tag here. Each week has its own tag, too. Things at least marginally related to Actual Computer Programming are under the category Programming (which is most, but not all, days), and also the tag Learning. The difference between the latter two is due to a secret algorithm in my head that I still haven’t pinned down.
All my daily updates are under the Daily Logs category (including the aforementioned programming-heavy days, as well as ruminations on grief, productivity, and more).