Congratulations on your Perl gig! I've noticed that your Perl has improved markedly over the past little while; you seem on the right track.
One thing that occurred to me after my earlier post: It may be that in the early 80's we had lots of opportunities to tinker since every computer came with a programming environment. That lowered the barriers to entry to programming as a hobby, and even helped a lot of people (such as myself) decide what to study. But there were two things we didn't have: First, the Internet, which serves us now as both an inspiration and as an endless source of study and available projects. Second, quality user groups: There were hobbiest groups, but now we have organizations like Perl Mongers, programming Meet-Ups, Unix/Linux users groups, and so on, which give us an opportunity to learn, be motivated, get involved in projects, and associate with other professionals and hobbiests alike.
I'm not sure if people just getting started know what a powerful resource they have available to them in the learning and networking available with user groups like PerlMongers, Python Meet-ups, C++ Meet-ups, Unix Users Association of whatever groups, Big Data meetups, **your local area** Open Source groups, as well as access to the broader Internet programming communities such as PerlMonks, specialized mailing lists ( *@perl.org ), and so on.