On Breaking Things

Before starting the Flatiron prework I had never been inside my terminal window before. I knew what it was, but I never ventured in, mostly out of fear of breaking something. I knew terminal was serious techie territory; navigating around on the computer without it was just using an interface, and those who knew the terminal were just computer geniuses. I however, wasn’t that. I have always been good with computers, comfortable and capable of general problem solving. I mean, I even knew what terminal was; not many I know do.

While doing the prework and going over command line basics, my mind was in many ways blown. A simple -ls while in a directory I knew very well from the GUI side of things suddenly had a whole new display. Navigating through directories, making (and deleting, but very carefully) files from the command line offered me a sense of control over my machine* and an understanding of what it all looked like, really.

One thing I have been grappling with through the prework and in the first days of school is the fear of breaking things. Through the command line, I’m in a different world than what I’ve always been familiar with. And this world feels more serious. Before, I could move a file through dragging it, and I wouldn’t lose it or get confused, because I myself physically put it there. From the command line, things could get confusing if I’m not careful or paying attention. Before I could delete a file of folder and it would go safely into the trash bin. Now, a simple rm -f or rm rf deletes it forever. That’s serious.

Even with code, I’ve paused before running it not out of anticipation of what it might do, but with what might break, even if it’s just testing. I’m used to living in a world where I can’t really break my computer, because I’m just on the surface. The command line changes this. One of the most important things with programming is being comfortable with breaking things, and I’m trying every day to have more courage in doing that.

*Once you start referring to your pretty MBP Retina as a machine I think means you’ve crossed over to the nerd side of things :)