The Neighbors On Your Frequency



The internet/youtube is like a microcosm of high school- cliques and trolls and popular kids and it's easy to get lost. RealToughCandy made her own "high school" of likeminded people who are self-motivated, constantly learning, and who want to build the internet and community- without the gossip and backstabbing- and she's the coolest ever homecoming queen.

A few years ago, I was living at home again, reading the New York Times digital edition using a student subscription again, and generally feeling like I had no purpose in life except to drink craft beer and watch Grateful Dead concerts on YouTube…again. 

It was pretty depressing. 

Once again, I was at a standstill in my life, a stasis familiar to many creatives who aren’t able to transform their artistic passions into financially-sustaining ventures (or choose not to). As a musician, I had produced numerous albums over the years but just never had the motivation to sell much of it. The idea of mass selling seemed so weird to me: Why would you sell something you love? Why would you commodify something from the heart?

I ended up giving most of my music away over the years, and tried to focus on jobs throughout my life that let me be a little creative. Just a little spark, a small flame of soul, to keep me going. 

But now, mindlessly scrolling through the Times’ headlines, I didn’t have a job and I didn’t even want one. What was the point - so I could switch career fields after six months because the work was boring, or my co-workers sucked?

I was in complete self-loathing mode and had no desire to exit. Beer me! 

About to cancel my student subscription, because what was the actual point of anything, I saw something about the need for web developers in America. How the pay was pretty good, and how there were new ways of thinking and doing things. It wasn’t just a movement; it was a new era. It all sounded nerdy and foreign...It also sounded creative and within reach. And if I was already spending hours a day using the Internet, why not find out how to make the Internet? 

So, I did.

That night, I enrolled in a free online mini-course. It taught the basics of Python, a beginner-friendly programming language.

I totally bombed the course and - still in self-loathing mode - thought the whole thing was lame.

But that little spark wouldn’t die. Something kept pushing me. At night, I often couldn’t sleep, because I would be thinking about programming languages, or mind-mapping the basic structure of an HTML file. For the next year, I spent hours at tech Meetups, going to tech conferences, engaging in Udemy programming courses, reading books, watching hundreds of YouTube videos – any opportunity, snatched and maximized. Sponging, processing, and filing away this esoteric information that, with the right touch, enabled somebody to take a mere idea and transform it into something awe-inspiring on a computer.

Learning the differences between MongoDB and MySQL was fine on this journey, but I needed something a bit more interactive. Besides, I still felt like I didn’t know ANYTHING. Not a stitch! I needed to level up, for real. I had this YouTube channel where I posted just about anything: kombucha taste tests, cat treat reviews featuring my cat Celina, political conspiracy videos – it was desperate. In fine random form, again feeling like I needed something, I decided to upload a video chronicling my coding adventures on a site called freeCodeCamp. 

By web developer standards, the video went viral. As the views rolled in and my subscriber count shot up, I was no longer some random chick, but now RealToughCandy. People were going out of their day to watch my material! An audience? For chatting about water-cooler web development topics? No freakin’ way. This was getting awesome. And RealToughCandy was kind of a badass chick. I liked her. 

But the totalitarian theme of a typical YouTube video where somebody talked, and then faceless people wrote a response in a comment box, wasn’t my idea of creativity in tech. It needed a community element. Was that even possible on the uber-vicious YouTube? I was already getting death threats and trolls were blaming my ladybits for my lack of coding skills, so why not just try it? 

So, I did. 

The trolls are vicious, and it takes a lot of work from planning to post production. But I’ve found that when you put your frequency out there, people on that same wavelength often get the message. A few people - a few special people indeed - respond to that call.  (And by the way, screw the trolls. They’re not paying my bills, never will!)

I’ve learned a lot about coding over the past two years, especially after I revamped my YouTube channel. Can I slice a JavaScript array like sushi? Absolutely. Bootstrap my way out of design hell? You know it. But in this coding journey, the people I’ve met continue to guide me deeper into the tech rabbit hole. And that’s exactly where I want to go. This tech rabbit hole is my school, my teachers are my neighbors on this very special frequency.  

yes, a thumbnail with muppets and a skeptical furrowed brow are all very on brand for Candy!

yes, a thumbnail with muppets and a skeptical furrowed brow are all very on brand for Candy!

About Candy

Web developer and musician RealToughCandy got her start with computers in junior high, building Geocities sites that earned her more than one visit to the school counselor's office. After serving honorably in the United States Air Force and spending a few years hiding out in colleges across America courtesy of the G.I. Bill, Candy realized that her calling was beyond a basic 9-to-5. Today, her numerous technical side hustles ranging from YouTube content creation to music production have all combined to create one big hustle. She lives in a bunker with wifi in a nondescript Midwest location. 

Here's a link to Candy's free Electric Pomodoro album. 

Be sure to watch RTC's youtube videos which are both hilarious and educational. 

Don't know what the heck Pomodoro is? Go watch my vid.