WordPress was created when I was 10 years old. I try to imagine myself at 10 and the only images I can conjure up are ones of anxiety. My world both felt so small and was so small yet what I felt seemed so big. I don’t look back fondly on those years. I was a ball of competitive anxiety who was just coming out of being made fun of for years for my speech impediments and finally starting to figure out who I might be. My 10 year old self didn’t like change and didn’t know how to cope. My 10 year old self had no concept of what was being created during these strange years and I’m filled with gratitude thinking about those who were paving the way before I could even conceptualize what a website was.
WordPress has fundamentally changed who I am. I don’t say that lightly. I have an urge to jump into a monologue of, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” when I think about WordPress.
Finding My Creativity
The most profound change started in awakening a sense of creativity and belief in myself. I work hard at things but my earlier black and white point of view often limited any amount of creativity I might have had. I’ll never forget in college working for web.unc.edu, UNC Chapel Hill’s WordPress multisite installation, and discovering that I could create as many sites as I wanted. The ease of use and the unlimited possibilities led me to create site after site. This still happens now with https://letslifechat.com/ born this year out of my desire to share my love of questions and deeply connecting with others, especially during a year of profound disconnection. Along the way at UNC, I got to work with brilliant and kind coworkers who believed in me to the point of encouraging me to apply to Automattic after I had to graduate a year early.
Knowing they believed in me helped me apply and the case of redbull they sent me for my trial helped me get the job!
I never saw myself as creative since creativity was defined for so many years as being art focused (poetry, painting, etc) and I have absolutely no artistic abilities. Being able to make an idea come to life online has changed how I view myself – I now see myself as creative and capable. This shift in how I view myself led me to create initiatives like accelerate.lgbt and Mentor Everywhere at Automattic in my free time. I never realized that my handwriting and drawing abilities could be terrible yet, at the same time, my creativity could be powerful. The results of my creative actions have solidified a sense of belief in myself that is deeply profound. It’s something I fall back on during tough days of self doubt and tough problems.
Finding The World
Because of WordPress’ global and distributed nature, I have been afforded the opportunity to travel to far away lands and to be there for meaningful moments with dear loved ones. Being a “nomad” is something I never thought I’d be. Being connected to people all over the world felt unfathomable and still feels like more of a dream than a reality. It’s challenged every aspect of who I am and I am better for it. Combined with the ability to see the world, I get to work with folks from all over the world every single day thanks to WordPress. This has given me the honor of having a global mindset that I carry with me no matter where I go. I feel I have traveled enough for many lifetimes over. Once you begin thinking at that scale, whether due to a global mindset or due to the percentage of the web powered by WordPress, you can’t go back. Something in you changes for the better.
Finding Who I Am
I think often of LGBTQ+ people of years past and how many likely never would have had the chance at a life that I have. This rings particularly true during Pride Month. On top of everything else, WordPress has given me a platform and a job where I can be my truest self whether that’s sharing my mental health struggles, talking about my evolving thoughts on being born through surrogacy, or imagining a different way of existing with many little homes rather than one. With WordPress, I can share my words and I can be heard. I can fiercely be myself and be amplified rather than silenced. I can join community meetings and proudly share a rainbow emoji as I say hi. WordPress has emboldened me and has given me so many opportunities to use my newfound creativity to lead in various spaces.
None of the above gets to the root of why I LOVE what I do and love what WordPress is to me. Beyond any personal change, WordPress has allowed me to help others and to increase my own impact on this world. Whether it was working with department sites during my time at UNC or helping a local non profit set up a brand new website to bring theirs out of the 90s, I am thrilled to have a job and a passion that centers on helping others succeed.
It’s such a privilege to work with folks during different stages of their sites – it’s always so personal and so sacred.
I can vividly remember the first time this gripped me. I was helping a professor at UNC set up a site and when we finally published it, he couldn’t believe it was “live”. He kept asking me whether other researchers, students, professors, etc. could find him. As I began to explain how everything worked, he was nearly brought to tears.
“I can’t believe my life’s work can be found by anyone in the world.”
I was just a freshman at this point and didn’t quite understand what I had stumbled upon with WordPress. I couldn’t have imagined that this would be my life. I had a friend a few years ago say to me, “You are the last person I ever expected to work in technology.” I grew quiet and nodded solemnly, “Me too”. This great adventure and great chance is truly due to those who helped me patiently over the years. It’s also due to those who enabled WordPress to be what it is today and what it will be tomorrow. I don’t take this for granted.
Finding My Joy
There’s a concept I am stuck on these days. It’s centered on this quote:
“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” – Nelson Henderson
When I was 10, so many were working so immensely hard to create the shade in which I currently sit. This gorgeous, remarkable, world expanding shade that I can’t believe I ever found and that I hardly have the words to describe. I send a tearful “thank you” from my soul into the ether for all of you out there who made this precious life of mine possible.
Just over a year ago, I switched into a Developer Relations Wrangler position at Automattic as a full time contributor to the WordPress project and my hope now is that I can pay forward what has been given to me through planting trees of my own. To have the chance to give back to something that has given me so much is something I wake up everyday thankful for, even on the tough days. Even better, I now get to play a role in encouraging, supporting, and believing in other people as a core part of my job in the same way so many have done for me.