I can see the same path for an HTML/CSS beginner.
Of course the problem with that is the code you ARE proud of rapidly becomes the kind you aren't proud of as you learn more.
Actually a bit is being kind. It's rare to come across a site not using jQuery. I write a fair few personal scraping scripts and it's very rare I actually have to add jQuery.
jQuery has two big benefits for me: cutting down on verbosity a bit, and on making a cross-browser solution possible. For the latter various polyfills solve the problem effectively, but the verbosity problem still remains.
The handwritten code I used to use for element detection was a thing of evil, that kept on getting cut-and-pasted around because it worked.
The conciseness and cleanness of using jQuery was a welcome change.