These are my thoughts on becoming a self-taught programmer, how a lump in my neck made me more resilient, and what it really means to accept yourself.

I Am My Own Instructor

When I was a kid, I was curious but bored. I didn't have board games or consoles to play with. A few action figures, some other toys, and a 14 inch black-and-white TV with four channels, but that was it. I was bored out of my mind, all the time.

Until I discovered books. Two books, in particular. One about knitting, the other about permaculture. Both topics seemed like magic to me. How could you make fabric out of a thread? How could you make food from a seed? Amazing!

These two books encouraged me to learn about pretty much everything. Survival, electricity, gardening, history, languages, music. The list goes on. I identified heavily with Number 5, the robot from the movie Short Circuit: I was a sponge of information and I loved it. Wherever there was info, I would absorb it like water in the middle of a desert.

Everything is information

Playing With an AT286 With a Hercules Display

When I was eight years old, my parents bought our first computer. Incredible. My mother borrowed a 5 ¼ diskette with some games on it, so what did little Rodri (yours truly) do? He learned how to format a diskette 😀.

Similar to the computer we had at home, back in the days

It was incredibly fun to learn TSR, Assembly, and the internals of operating systems. I couldn't believe that it all worked so well. It wasn't like life, where things never seemed to work the way they were supposed to. It's how I got into the world of information technology.

(I later learned that life is amazing and things do tend to work out in the end)

Diagnosed With Cancer

Fast-forward to 2002. I was 22 years old, suffering from seemingly random weight changes and a lump in my neck. It took a few trips to several doctors before I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. I won't go in detail, except that I've been in complete remission since 2003, but here are a few of the things I did that ended up being important to me.

When it comes to glands, the thyroid gland is a pretty amazing one
  • I learned a lot about endocrinology. It helped me take ownership of my treatment and talk to the doctors without feeling like I knew nothing.
  • I received enormous support from the community I was a part of back then (when I still used Yahoo! Groups). They even sent me gifts via mail from different countries.
  • I decided that I'd do whatever I could to get healthy. But if the cancer still meant death, I would accept that. It's much less easy for the people around you to accept this too.
  • Stress will make you sick and kill you.
  • Every new day is a gift. Every new day of life is amazing.

Living, Learning, and Loving

Don't wait until you see death in the face to truly appreciate life. Understand that every day is a gift simply because you're alive. Mourn, dance, cry, laugh, love. We feel, therefore, we exist.

Accept the things in your life that you cannot change, so you can work on the things that you can change. To be a better person, connect more with your community. Lend a helping hand to those in need. You might save a life.

Why am I saying all this? Because I've been through enough to understand these basic facts of life. Being self-taught has helped, too, because you cannot change what you do not understand.

It's also important to understand that there are processes that we need to go through alone. When I was sick, I didn't want to be treated differently. I didn't want someone praying by my bed. I didn't want someone to come with me to the doctor.

I understood what I was going through, but it's much harder for the people around you to understand what you're going through. It's a strange world where you – the one who's sick – need to be their emotional support, but it's what ends up happening. Everyone moves at a different pace; not everyone will immediately accept what you might have accepted already.

What I've written might not come close to a general truth on life – if there is such a thing. But it's what I've lived through and what I've learned along the way. If it sparks a debate or even just some thoughts about resilience, acceptance, and the magic of life, then this post has succeeded.