God and Our Desire for Creativity

Creativity is a beautiful concept. The very foundation of our existence. We were created by a creative creator. So it makes sense that many of us have a longing to be creative. God is abundantly creative and He wants us to live life abundantly and be fruitful because He loves us and we were created in His image.

Human head concept

I’ve always been so intrigued by God’s creation and I’m often in awe whenever I travel and observe nature. Lately, I’ve been inspired to share my thoughts on this topic because I noticed my longing to be more fruitful and creative for His kingdom. I wanted to find the source of this desire because it’s been more intense than it ever has and I’m sure many believers can relate to this.  It’s a longing to go deeper with God and explore the many ways He wants to use me. I’ve been feeling so honored to be in His presence and so humbled by the Holy Spirit that it’s caused me to really think deeply about my identity.

As Christians, we adopt the biblical worldview of being in the world but not of it as Jesus so mercifully says in 1 John 2:15-17 ” 15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

From a very early age, I’ve always felt like a foreigner in a world I did not belong to. And this is before knowing Christ. I was bullied often and told that I’m different. Well, maybe there was some truth to it, my adolescent years contained some pretty peculiar attributes- for one,  the enjoyment of singing in various languages in a household where that deemed rare and often made me the target of comedic relief. But I always felt the difficulty to conform. I struggled for a while in addition to being painfully shy but eventually, I was able to climb out of it somewhat and that just led me down a rabbit hole of mistakes. I was trying to be someone that I was not. Nonetheless, I discovered my unique talents and abilities and created a path of success for myself, or so it seemed (in retrospect I see God’s hand in it all). I wrote a play in high school that was elected to be performed by professional actors, I worked on a set for a film which has my name in the credits, I worked for former president Bill Clinton, was chosen to be valedictorian of my class and the list goes on. Yet I still believed I wasn’t creative; in many words, fruitless.

Of course with hills, there are always valleys in life. Valleys of stagnation when you feel unfruitful. That fruitlessness-despair which can sometimes lead to depression is a cry of our inherent desire to reconnect with the Father and be fruitful again. That desire has encouraged me to have a strong spiritual longing for fruitfulness. It’s as if those accomplishments in my past hold no value because I’ve found something so much greater! And it’s exactly what God wants from us. However, in retrospect, I do understand why God set me apart. Jesus says in John 15: 1-2 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” He gave us talents and spiritual gifts to edify the church in preparation for His return. This walk is not to be taken lightly it’s much deeper than just accepting Him. He is a creative God who has implanted creativity in us and unique gifts to be fruitful and be used by Him. Imagine if we were all aware of our gifts how much we can do!

Are you bearing fruit?

I pray that God blesses you and His Holy Spirit encourages you to seek the gifts He has implanted in you and use them for His glory. I pray that God will raise up a generation of believers that are so on fire for Him and are willing to perform and witness many signs and wonders again.

God bless and continue to spend more time in His presence.

With Love,

Vanessa

Trusting God Through Difficult Times: Part 1

We live in a fallen world where everyone desires to maximize comfort and minimize suffering. Everyone is striving to reach their next season of blessings where everything seems to go so well that worrying becomes a sin of the past and sadly we forget about the trials we’ve faced. Living in the age of social media, I notice people rarely speak about the seasons of suffering; the process that God allows us to endure to draw us closer to Him before the blessings are poured out; not acknowledging that suffering can be a blessing in itself. People rarely see suffering as a good human experience that produces growth and I understand. But isn’t it interesting that the countries where Christians endure the most suffering and persecution seem to have the most faith-filled believers? Although my suffering is nothing compared to many of those who are persecuted in these countries, I am guilty of questioning God about my life sometimes.

What does it mean to suffer?

We can learn a lot from the disciples and early Christians but let’s focus on Apostle Paul for a minute. He is a great example of suffering outside of Jesus and would probably find some of the things we complain about to be quite humorous if he was alive today. Here’s a man who gave his entire life to Christ,  who he has never met in the flesh (only in spirit) and trusted Christ so much so that he was willing to be persecuted, endure pain and rejoice in it all for the glory of God.  The man who so famously posits “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” -Phillippians 1:21 But what does this look like for the 21st century Christian?

Surrender All 

What are you holding on to? I was holding on to a lot that only left me feeling empty. But I learned that tough times are temporary, God is eternal. Money, nice cars, houses, careers, friendships, beauty are all fleeting. Jesus Christ is everlasting. Only in Him am I  truly rich. Nothing on this earth is truly satisfying without God. I know this from experience. I thought my life was so full. Great things were happening consecutively and I was happy for some time but I was hungry for more. Each time I sufficiently conquered something, attained an accolade, I would say to myself “this is just not enough, there has to be more to life than this”. As an ambitious person, it was hard for me to stop seeking. Even as good things continue to happen in my life still nothing can satisfy me like Jesus. My joy comes from Him. Happiness comes and goes but joy is permanent. This joy is supernatural and transcends all the dark moments in my life. He’s my best friend and my Father. Only He can carry me through and out of tough times and make my good times so much brighter.

Therefore, it wasn’t until I surrendered everything to Him that I truly felt peace. Trust me, the money will only make you happy for a little while but without Jesus, you’ll always be wanting more. I’ve heard stories of wealthy people who sold all of their possessions and gave their lives to Christ. Isn’t it interesting how the depression rate in the US is on the rise and that those statistics include the wealthy? Whether you are rich or poor, if your life isn’t surrendered to Christ, you’ll always be desiring more. It’s because we were created by God and for God. We were created to desire a divine relationship that cannot be substituted with anything earthly. Thus why we feel a longing for something more even when we have so much. Often times, we don’t feel God’s presence in our circumstances and we fall subject to the idea that maybe He’s not there. That maybe He’s not listening because our circumstances are seemingly too unbearable. However, His Word is truth and you can stand tall on His promise that “he will never leave you nor forsake you.” -Deuteronomy 31:6.  We can trust that our unity with Him in heaven is a greater extension of our unity with Him right now on earth. So ask yourself, is there something you are still hanging on to that you need to lay at the altar? Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting that you sell all your possessions and give up on everything. I am simply suggesting a paradigm-shift; that you shift your focus so that it is Christ-centered. Is He your priority? You can still be an electrical engineer who loves travel and dirt bikes but how much do you love Jesus? Your efforts to focus on Him will help you to trust in Him more. (More about surrendering in a later post)

Have Hope in His Goodness

We can rest our hope in our Father’s promises because the scriptures prove He’s faithful to the end. He always finishes what He begins unlike us who struggle with this. If we truly know who God is, we will be able to put our complete trust in His character, His wisdom and His sovereignty. Whenever we are faced with a challenge that seems absolutely unbearable and impossible to get out of, it will be easier to understand that God has us right where He wants us. He wants us to draw closer to him and He has something up His sleeve. He is about to do the impossible in that situation so that He can get all the glory for it. Amen? Let’s reflect on the many times He’s done that.

Paul writes in Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Because God is good and there is nothing He cannot do, we have to make the effort to have faith that He is working all things out for our good. Because of the fall in Genesis 3, we were separated from the presence of God and pain and suffering became inevitable but God sent a Redeemer, He gave His only begotten son Jesus Christ so that we can live eternally with Him. Is there a greater love than that?

Ask for Wisdom, Perspective and have Faith 

Consider Job. A man who was considered very pleasing in God’s eyes. He was the most faithful in all the land yet God allowed Him to endure suffering as a test of his faith. In just a matter of time, He lost everything yet he still rejoiced to say in Job 19:25 “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end, he will stand on the earth.” How many of us can have faith like this? Job so faithfully abandoned his trust in God even when his circumstances didn’t make sense. His wife and his friends didn’t understand it. But God has a way of giving us greater perspective by revealing His omnipotence for example when He says to Job in Job 38:4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me if you have understanding.” Eventually, Job overcomes his trials and his losses are restored in double. A story that so profoundly exemplifies the beauty of the journey, highlights true faithfulness and trust in God. Like a woman who endures the pain of childbirth, if only we were all aware of the joy that lies on the other side of our pain. To do this we must seek wisdom and perspective from the Lord. In James 1:5 it says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” God wants to give us wisdom during these times so just ask for it and have confidence in the wisdom that He gives you.

Develop a Discipline to Turn Your Pain into Glory

On the topic of developing perspective and discernment, there’s a posture in which this is cultivated. Many of you know the trials I’ve endured with losing my father and dealing with my mother’s illnesses. It’s truly been a journey but God has never failed to comfort me and give me perspective throughout. However, I had to make an effort on my end, I had to make a choice. As difficult as it seems, we have to choose to feel better and this comes out of full devotion to God and dwelling in His presence. The more time you spend in God’s presence (worship, prayer, reading etc) the more your thinking patterns will change and you’ll be more encouraged as the Holy Spirit exhorts you to develop a discipline to turn your circumstances around. Whether that be waking up earlier, going for a run, reading scripture, reading devotions, worshipping, spending time in prayer, journaling, and blogging. In addition, spending more time at church, or with friends, brothers and sisters in Christ and family, being active in your church’s ministries and maybe starting your own. Maybe it’s finally starting that business God told you you should start or going on that missions trip, interceding in prayer for that friend or relative or sharing the gospel with a stranger. It will all be food for your spirit and help you to grow closer to God. You’ll begin to see your life transform. As mentioned, God allows us to go through tough times so that it can be used for His glory so ask Him what you should be doing in this season that will bring Him the most glory. We have to be intentional about our healing and often times this includes helping others going through similar struggles. I truly believe purpose is found in that.

No matter how hard it gets, please don’t forget that God loves you – He gave His only begotten son. You are so valued! Heaven went bankrupt for you. He wants a relationship with you and wants to turn your pain into glory. And He’s working things out for you for your good. He has your best interest at heart and has a really good plan for your life. In due timing, that situation will disappear, just continue to have faith. Trust that the pain you are enduring is only for a season and that this chastening and sanctifying process is so that you can be Christ-like, be a light in a dark place and be prepared for better seasons to come. No matter if you are Christian or not, no one is exempt from the struggles in this world that resulted from the fall but if you have Jesus you will for certain have peace and hope that transcends all understanding. He makes everything better.

May God bless you!

I hope this was a blessing to you!

P.S. God created us for community. Never go through tough times alone. I am your friend. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me for anything.

Much love,

Vanessa

To Be Continued Because The Journey Never Ends…

Selecting A Programming Language and Mapping Out Your Career in Tech

What are you looking to build? That should be the first question when selecting any programming language to start with. On your journey, you will hear many different opinions about which languages are best. Many will say JavaScript is a great language to start with and others may say Ruby on Rails but it’s very important to do your own research and to assure that you aren’t wasting your time learning how to code in a language you may not use. Hence, choosing a language is like choosing a spouse; you don’t want to marry the language that won’t be conducive to your future and you definitely don’t want to continue divorcing one and moving on to another. In this post, I will demonstrate how to marry the language suitable for you and hopefully help you map out your career path.

Technology is evolving at a much faster pace than ever before. Programming languages popular a decade ago are no longer popular. This is largely due to the influx of computer usage and programmers over time with their passion to build improved, and more efficient products. In turn, they’ve mastered the ability to tailor the former languages which were mostly lower-level, machine code languages requiring a compiler (which I will explain in more detail later) into higher level scripting languages that do not require a compiler. Programmers have always searched for shorter and more convenient methods to use code to convey instructions using the simplest most readable syntax. Keep in mind, a lazy programmer is an effective programmer because he/she saves a lot of time executing an instruction using fewer lines of code. As a result, there are approximately 256 programming languages to date. However, you’d want to hone in on the top 5 most relevant languages in 2016:

1. JavaScript

2. Java

3. Python

4. Ruby

5.c++

 

What Would You Like to Build?

Stay true to your goals and do not let anyone convince you otherwise. What do you want to achieve as a programmer? Before I started coding I became very overwhelmed with the number of languages there were and which ones would suit my dream idea. I started with JavaScript because I’ve heard so much buzz (and also confirmed via research) about it being the most significant, front-end, beginner-friendly language, that allows you to build almost anything on the web. And because my focus at the time was to build web applications, JavaScript was definitely the first choice. However, not only did I notice that JS was moving down the spectrum in demand a bit but my interest in building iOS and Android applications increased. Therefore, I decided that I should focus on Java and Swift. I ended up practicing in Ruby and Python just to grasp the skill of coding in various languages when I really didn’t have to. Focus on the one you are going to need to develop that prototype you’d like to create even though your language of choice may not be relevant in a few years. It’s perfectly fine to take the route I did and explore a bit with different languages but like with everything in life, if you are willing to get anywhere fast with the least amount of confusion, focus on one thing at a time. Wait until you’ve mastered programming in one language before moving on.

Stay In Demand

Your main objective should be to stay in demand. Not only do you want to be true to your goals but you also want to choose the most relevant and profitable tools to help you achieve those goals. Once you’ve mastered coding in one language, chances are it may not be the most in demand next year. Although there’s always a need for developers in every company, your salary may be contingent on the type of language you use. This can apply to independent web-app developers, mobile application developers, freelancers, tech start-up entrepreneurs, and job seekers searching for employment in the tech industry. For example, I work in Investment Banking and we rely on legacy code and tons of data with high security. Due to the exorbitant amount of data and security, our risk management software is built on C#, WPF, and Java. Unfortunately, my skills lie primarily in Javascript but this has been a great learning experience for me. My team also has plans for migrating to Javascript to get up to speed with the newer technology of the time but of course, they prefer the AnguarJS over the ReactJS framework and this will for sure be a slow process.

The diagram below ranks the demand for programmers in 9 language fields according to the amount of available positions for each in 2016.

programming-languages-for-2016_graph

Also, keep in mind the importance of developing good data structure and algorithms problem-solving technique. It’s important to fully understand these concepts in any language you choose.

In conclusion, choose the programming language that best suits the industry you’d like to pursue, focus on mastering that language first and all the concepts and then start learning other languages.

Happy Coding!

 

Tired Blood: My Battle with Iron Deficiency

For the last few years, I pondered why my energy has plummeted over time. I often speculated if it was somehow linked to my decision to officially become a vegetarian-pescatarian in 2014 or if it had anything to do with stress. Yet I know I shouldn’t make excuses for myself I still do it. This health deficit has really affected my life in so many ways. It has caused me to feel very fatigued and lethargic and appear unmotivated at times. On some days I’ll have this huge rush of energy and on other days I feel like I’ve exhausted all of it even when I may not have done much at all. My body often feels weak and my brain feels tiresome. But what could it be? A good German friend of mine once told me “Vanessa I think you’re just being lazy!” I admire his German predisposition to be transparent with me which is why that statement has probably been the best observational, tough love I’ve ever heard coming from a successful computer scientist who has also struggled with the same issue from time to time. Yet, I’m not entirely sure if it’s laziness hence I continue to feel this way and I’m constantly struggling to overcome it every day. I feel like I’ve experimented with every energy inducer that exists (ie. I drink a cup of coffee every morning and Maca root which provides an even shorter relief) and my flesh still wants to rest. Although I trust that God will bring me out of this I still worry about time and relationships. I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to get things done and it also hinders me from building better relationships with relatives and friends. I can’t ignore that this is the worst time to feel fatigued and that something is wrong.

During this season of fatigue, my appetite has changed. I no longer desire the food I used to love, my ability to maintain healthy communicative relationships with people have declined, and my fatigue and sense of time-lack have led me to regret being less productive on the days when I had less responsibility. Nonetheless, I assumed that inability to sustain an adequate amount of energy throughout the day was probably linked to health problems. After discovering that my mom had Sickle Cell Anemia when I was 10 years old, I then discovered that I had the Sickle Cell trait as a result. But after learning that it as only hereditary, asymptomatic and a non-contagious trait, I didn’t think much of it. However, I am now convinced that my fatigue may be influenced by this trait despite all of the research that proves my argument incorrect. Yet there are some rare cases of people with SST having symptoms. So I expressed my concerns to my primary care physician in which she immediately deduced that there may be an issue with my blood; something occurring internally that is probably the common denominator in all this madness. So I agreed to let them run some tests and she found that I was severely iron deficient. Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve been told that I was iron deficient and I am aware that nearly 20 percent of African American women are iron deficient but this was a seemingly different case. My doctor explained that I was so alarmingly iron deficient that it was most likely caused by my blood’s inability to store iron. Our blood contains a protein called ferritin, needed to bind to iron and store it within our bodies. What she was describing was my body’s lack of ferritin or inability to bind the protein to the iron and how that may be linked to cancerous tissues or any other organ problems. Whenever I hear the “C” word I get very afraid. Hence, this was the second time I’ve heard from a medical professional that I may have cancer. I was mortified. I went on a 2-month mission of frequent painful examinations and procedures such as endoscopy, x-ray, and biopsy. I was determined to find out what was wrong with me only to discover that they didn’t find anything…which is a blessing. My doctor later determined that the only plausible issue was my diet. Due to my recent transition to vegetarianism, my body was lacking in a few vital components.  Therefore she prescribed iron supplements and I thought my life was going to improve dramatically. According to her, Iron and B12 were the missing links and by increasing my intake, I will no longer have this issue. We were sadly mistaken.

While taking the 100 supplements, I continued to feel the same way. Initially, I thought I was improving but now I’m convinced that was all psychological. Post-Iron supplement experience, I feel the same way I felt going into it. I’m still unsure if it’s my diet though and I’ve had the sickle cell trait my entire life and have never experienced fatigue the way I do now. All I know is that there is something wrong with me and the doctors may not have been able to detect it yet. Meanwhile, every day is a push for me. Every day I battle against the forces of sleepy-ism and I have to say I’ve been fighting it pretty well lately. Maybe it’s stress. Maybe it’s my depression. Although I’m a little embarrassed to post this, I’ll do it anyway because life is all about transparency right? A lesson I learned from my German friend. Maybe I can help someone out there. Maybe someone knows exactly what I am going through. Maybe we can help each other. In the meantime, I’ll continue to pray about this.

 

Coping with Parent Loss

As Father’s day approaches, I feel numb reflecting on the past 10 months of not having my father around and evaluating how I coped with grief since  he passed away just a few days shy of my 25th birthday. I do not know how I am supposed to feel. My 25th year has been a roller coaster since then, filled with peaks of joy and valleys of sadness. I do not know what to expect but I am reminded that there is no defining way to grieve. The test of time may make coping easier but it also depends on the individual. So I can’t promise that you’ll overcome your grief with these methods but it may hopefully make things easier for you. What helps me cope are the powerful words of Jesus Christ and this quote in particular in 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 reminds me that one day things will be a lot easier: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” So beautifully stated and humbling to know which makes this is one of my favorite scriptures! Notable Neurologist and Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud also said

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”

We all strive to reach this point. So in efforts to help you cope, I’ve listed the 6 coping mechanisms that have helped me find peace in my struggle:

1. Stay Prayed Up

I found that having a consistent prayer life has helped me when my emotions begin to stagger. I am a witness to the amazing results consistent prayer can provide. When I pray, I trust that God will deliver me from whatever is troubling me and He does. Also trusting in God will help you realize that there is something far greater than your troubles. This is the most essential part of the grieving process.

2. Build and Maintain a Support System

Having a great, circle of supportive family and friends can really improve your outlook on life during this time. The first thing you will probably think of doing is isolating yourself but absolutely do not do this, it will only make matters worse. I am an introvert by nature so this definitely fell victim to isolation. Therefore, I can’t say there aren’t going to be days when you do not want to do anything, go anywhere or be around people for that sake. However, we heal and grow faster with human interaction and relationships. Surround yourself with family and friends who have a positive vibe and provide words of encouragement. If you do not have this type of support system, then join a support group. There are many ways you can meet new people with awesome websites like meetup.com.

3. Allow Yourself to Hurt

Do not allow yourself too much time alone to dwell on negative thoughts such as the “I should haves” or “I could haves.” Hence, this event was out of your control. Yet, create a balance in which you’ll be able to maybe go to a park and cry or even cry in the shower if you have to. While surrounding yourself with supportive friends on other days. Either way, you should never hold it in. I find that talking to a trusted friend helps but do not allow yourself to get angry at someone’s response to your despair. Not everyone is going to understand or know how to react to your loss. I still struggle with reacting appropriately to other’s loss. Therefore, you may need more time alone to grieve before surrounding yourself with people.

4. Develop a More Positive Outlook for this World’s Finite Nature

This was a tough pill to swallow for me but I understand that everything in life is finite. Not only human life but even this state of being that you may be experiencing. You won’t always feel like crap.  There will be good days. Learn to appreciate the bad days and trust that it is only temporary. Demonstrating this gratitude will assuredly bring you out of this funk. However, it’s easier said than done.

5. Keep Yourself Occupied

After my dad passed away, I wanted to keep myself as occupied as possible. Although it has been difficult to even climb out of bed some mornings, I refused to just lay around depressed. I wanted to get involved and possibly help others who were experiencing similar struggles. Use this time to keep yourself busy. The best way to relieve depression is to be a blessing to someone suffering in a even worse situation than yours. Initially it is very hard, I have faltered many days when I do not want to do anything at all but it’s so worth the pain in the end once you have finally pushed yourself. This will galvanize a change in your attitude that others will marvel at. You will feel stronger  and one day you will relish in retrospect at your own strength.

6. Reflect on the Good Times

I know this may be difficult but it helps. Remembering your mother or father’s laughter or the loving words they shared with you can be all the joy you need to make it through the day. I love my family. They have a way of recreating the feelings of laughter and joy that we’ve felt in the past and in return changing the mood in the room. This is why reflecting on good past experiences are very important.

Are you a victim of parent loss? How have you dealt with it? I appreciate your comments. Thank you for reading! I hope this helped. We’re in this together.

My Language-Learning Experience with Hello Talk

imageSince I’ve entered high school, I’ve been on a journey to become a polyglot. A Polyglot is a person who understands and can communicate in several different languages. My enthusiasm for learning a new language and learning about other cultures was surprisingly inspired by the video games I played during my youth. However, later on, I realized that video game technology serves as one of the most common introductions to new languages. So as you may have guessed, The first language I wanted to learn was Japanese. I was so fascinated by the culture and the language that I started listening to Japanese music orchestrated by the singers on the soundtracks of my favorite video games. One being Utada Hikaru from the Kingdom Hearts video game soundtrack. Believe it or not, I’m actually blushing. Blushing at the fact that I actually shared a portion of my nerdy past with you, which is something many people do not know about me but I love Japanese language and music! I’m also blushing at the fact that I thought to learn a new language, let alone Japanese, would be easier than it actually is. I set goals for myself. I talked myself into believing that I was going to be able to speak at least 5 languages by the time I graduated from college. I was so determined, telling all of my closest relatives and friends at the time. I am currently 25 years old and still feeling like I can barely hold a full conversation in a language that I’ve studied for 2-3 years. Why is this? Lack of commitment, lack of immersion? There are so many reasons but I tried my best to solve the issue in my early 20’s. So I ventured out on this journey to find resources that will help me enhance my ability to speak all of the languages that I so desperately wanted to learn. One of the resources I’ve recently discovered is “Hello Talk.” Hello Talk is a language exchange mobile application platform that allows anyone to converse with native speakers worldwide to enhance your communication in a foreign language while simultaneously enhancing their’s free of cost.

As my struggles learning Japanese inclined, my interest in it declined and I started to focus on what I considered to be languages that were less difficult to learn, the Romance languages. Now, I’ve taken French for 3 years in High School and passed the New York State Regents exam. I’ve taken Spanish for 2 years at the college level and received an A in each class. Although I understand enough Spanish to say a few basic sentences, I still have not practiced enough on a daily basis to confidently speak it and I am barely able to say anything with ease in French. However, as I got older I turned my attention toward other Romance languages such as Portuguese and Italian. There was something really capturing about the Portuguese language, however.  It is a very beautiful language, I know many people who speak Brazilian Portuguese and I was just added to a Brazilian WhatsApp group with a bunch of new Brazilian Portuguese-speaking friends and therefore needed to understand what they were saying. And so I became filled with this desire to learn more. I really appreciate the convenience of mobile application – based learning, so I tried, Coursera, Mondly, Duolingo, italki and many others. Eventually, I found Hello Talk while watching a YouTuber who announced the App in one of his videos. I immediately downloaded the app and set up my profile. I was so fascinated by how many people from Brazil wanted to converse with me and practice their English. They were not only excited to learn from me but they were excited to teach me. I enjoyed the friendly new faces I would meet in these chats every day. However, it became entirely overwhelming.

My inbox suddenly became inundated with messages from Portuguese-speaking natives from all over the world and I found it impossible to maintain each conversation. The messages would pour in at such a rapid rate at all hours of the day. One day I woke up to over 700 messages in my inbox. Most of them started with “Ola Vanessa, Tudo Bem? I lost track of how many people asked me how I was doing in both English and Portuguese and as a result, I felt guilty. In addition to this, my iPhone storage space reached its limit and I realized the app was taking up so much space. So I was forced to make a decision. You guessed it! I had to get rid of it. It was really sad for me because I initially had so many high expectations and enthusiasm when I started using the app and deleting the app, meant that I would lose all of the friendships I made with awesome people overseas.

Despite the inbox overload, I’ve learned so much with Hello Talk. I love the features it possesses. For example, it’s transliteration feature is great! I have been able to enter text in English and completely translate it through the app without using Google translate. I’ve also been able to translate any text sent to me in Portuguese via the app. The app also allows you to hear the pronunciation of the words used in either language. Another awesome feature I admire about Hello Talk is the ability to make corrections to the sentences sent from the sender. For example, if the sender misspelled a sentence word, I can correct the word in the message box and the editor would automatically use the “strike through” feature in red font while presenting the correct sentence structure in green font, below it. This made me feel like a certified English instructor! I’m sure my students enjoyed the corrections in grammar and syntax.

Overall, I give this product, a 3.5 out of a 5-star rating. The lack of filtering and organized structure with messaging was a bit disappointing. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the app’s features and the conversations with the people I’ve met. You are bound to improve your communication skills in a foreign language with Hello Talk. You are bound to create lasting relationships with people worldwide via Hello Talk thus I highly recommend this app if that is what you are looking for. If you are like me a person with very little iPhone/iCloud memory space and find it difficult to manage a large inbox of messages which rapidly increases over time, then this app is not for you. Despite the loss, my journey to become a polyglot ensues. My mission is to become fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, and German.

Please comment below and let me know if this was helpful or if you’ve experienced language exchange using the Hello Talk app or any other language app. I’d like to read your feedback. Thanks for reading!

 

The Untold Truth About Getting Started in Tech

I’ve come to realize that getting started in technology or any related field is a lot more difficult than I imagined. It requires a great deal of time, concentration, logical thinking skills and motivation. If you come from a non-STEM background, you are going to be using your brain in ways you haven’t used it in a very long time and it will be tough if you are not willing to be patient and persevere. So I’ve created a list of some of the struggles I’ve faced and the techniques I’ve used to combat those struggles.

  1. YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE DOUBTS

There are going to be days when you feel like an impostor. You’re going to question why you’ve chosen this field and if you’ve made the right decision. You’ll start questioning, am I too old? Will I be able to retain all of this information? Will I be able to deliver? Will I find a good paying job? If you’ve asked yourself any of these questions than you’re giving yourself an excuse to fail. The reality is these are just doubts that will only delay you even more if you allow it to. Then you’ll really be too old to do anything. Make it a mission to suppress doubt and to keep a positive and sound mind each day. Whatever you do not achieve today, will get done tomorrow.

2. IT’S PAINFUL

Using your brain in this unfamiliar way has the potential to create neural pathways to reorganize and restructure itself for adaptation. This is called Neuroplasticity. Therefore, this is a tough and new challenge that is going to reshape the way you think and this can be really difficult at onset but the good news is that it gets easier with time. We have to be willing to do the hard stuff in order to get where we want to be. The pain is only temporary.

3. YOU’RE GOING TO BELIEVE THERE ISN’T ENOUGH TIME

It’s going to feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. Prioritize and do not Procrastinate! Study piece by piece and do not allow it to overwhelm you. Especially if you are teaching yourself how to code, there’s no rush. Assuring that you understand the material rather than struggling to develop a product next month is so important. I’ve found that the Pomodoro Technique helps me to manage my time better by focusing on a particular field of study for 25 minutes at a time and taking  5 minute breaks in between. BeFocused is a simple and effective Pomodoro app that I use.

4. YOU WILL COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS

You will see others living what we think is a “stress-free” life, traveling and enjoying their time with family. They may have already achieved much and are living with a satiable income. You may feel stagnant or as if it is taking you too long to accomplish your goals. Remember, God’s timing is different for everyone. You are exactly where you should be at this present moment. Learning how to program takes time but it is not impossible. If you can trust that you’ll have your desired outcome despite it being unseen now, you will feel a lot more motivated. Also, surround yourself with a supportive group of friends and mentors who will only encourage you to continue on your path.

5. YOU WILL GET DISTRACTED

Whatever you do, avoid social media as much as you can! I am a victim of phone addiction and social media always gets me. However, I’ve learned how to consume less in order to get more work done. Your eyes may glaze over while reading about functions but try not to divert your attention elsewhere unless you’ve been focusing for at least 25-30 minutes. Furthermore, keep a healthy, balanced social life.  Having a social life is very important but do not let your social life get in the way of your study time. It’s OK to sacrifice Friday nights out and live like a poor person for awhile. Your focus should primarily be on apprehension and retention of the material, so try your best not to allow any unnecessary distractions to pull you away from it. It will all be worth it in the end. So get out there and start developing!