2020, Part 1

“It’s been a while,” you say to yourself. “A long while. You should probably write something, so they know you’re not dead.”

Dead. Dead. I mean, you mean, you’re dead on the inside. That’s the kind of gallows humor you’ve had lately. You don’t know how else to handle everything.


You’ve been working at an instructor at the coding boot camp for eight months now, three ten-week cohorts, about 75 students total.

It started rough, and the negative student feedback was a wake-up call that you were in way over your head. You are matched up with your two coworkers, both of whom previous public school teachers. You learn what SWBATs and CFUs are, methodologies for student engagement, while trying to cram Ruby on Rails, a tech stack you hadn’t done for a couple of years. But you don’t want to look bad — that’s losing face, after all, and you maybe three time zones away from your Chinese parents, but you will not lose face.

You work six days a week, ten to twelve hours a day. You win over — or win back — every hesitant student and coworker, save for one. Can’t win over everyone, you say to yourself.

The school changes the back half of its curriculum next cohort, from Rails to Full-Stack JavaScript. COVID happens as well.

You work another sixty for another ten weeks. Your coworkers and students laugh off the exhaustion and monotony. Is this what working remotely is like, they ask? No, you say, this is what working in a pandemic is like.

Your partner’s brother, his wife, his two closest friends, and the friend’s partner, they’re all public educators, and when you bemoan the mandatory working weekend, they laugh at you. “Yep,” they all say. “That’s the life of an educator.”

But you’re a different story, and they know that, and you know that. You read up on educational videos and Coding Train YouTube playlists and research hundreds of JavaScript exercises, not because you don’t understand the content — because you do — but mostly because you don’t want to let a bunch of strangers down. Also, there’s a global pandemic. What else are you going to do, go clubbing?

More preparing for lectures. You give a pep talk to a student who’s feeling discouraged over Slack. He thanks you, feels better afterward. That’s one of the more natural parts of the job, honestly. You go back to your 100-item team kanban list.

Every once in a while, you let yourself be vulnerable and immediately regret it afterward. You’d be lying to yourself if there isn’t a part of you still smarting over that six-month job search you went through last year. You remember the well-meaning recruiter who told you you had the skills of a junior engineer when you had spent the past three years managing a team. Fuck you, Greta, you mutter to yourself. You don’t know me.

The next day you deliver a two-hour lesson about asynchronous JavaScript. You keep your self-deprecating humor to your fucked up family while answering detailed questions about the Event Loop. You look at the student asking the question in the eye, even though it’s Zoom, and no one knows any better. And when the afternoon lectures are over, you turn off your ring light and walk that twenty feet over to the bedroom for an afternoon nap. When you shut your eyes, you see the white “O” from the ring light seared into your brain.