Andrey "Rarst" Savchenko

Finding Your Place

Photo of Andrey “Rarst” Savchenko

Andrey “Rarst” Savchenko

When Topher contacted me about HeroPress project, he didn’t sound confident about me. He asked what I am passionate about, and what I want (no, MUST) tell others.

I thought — “I had a moment like that, let me tell him something”.

Here I am. Let me tell you something.

Six years in two words

I was never good at having and showing fealty to something. My favorite shirts have no logos on them. There are no stickers on my laptop. My Twitter bio made no mention of WordPress.

I failed to put my relationship with WordPress into words with clarity and precision. At time I doubted there was a relationship at all. At other times I doubted if there should be.

Until one day I could. What my Twitter bio now says is “WordPress atheist”. I am faithless pragmatist in community of idealists, that is my place and role.

Let me tell you how I got here.

Tinkering

In 2008 I wanted a blog. I mean I had a personal hosted blog already, but now I wanted a serious one. To explore, tinker, practice my English, and see where it could take me.

I settled on WordPress as an easy to install option. Built with popular PHP programming language. It is of some surprise to people that I still see WordPress like that — a tool for a task.

So tinker I did — there were few lines of code left untouched in the theme I used. I peeled back layer after layer to see how WordPress worked. Then I decided that I wanted to make my own theme. This time I looked for a theme framework.

Hybrid

In 2010, after some evaluation I went with Hybrid framework for my theme development.

This had two unexpected and profound outcomes for me:

  1. I joined Hybrid forums and acquired a habit of learning through answering other’s questions. It pushed me faster and farther than my own pace.
  2. I got into the orbit of Justin Tadlock (Hybrid’s developer). See, if I had to name my WordPress hero it would be Justin, no contest.

Justin became my role model for standing your ground in WordPress community. When you agree with it and when you don’t. His calm (to outright icy) attitude showed me a path to my own fit with the WordPress project. It saved me from slamming door on it.

Stack Exchange

Later I moved on from Hybrid forums to WordPress Stack Exchange. Q&A site where users get points for answering questions.

My points started adding up. A throwaway remark stuck with me — that I may be rising quickly, but I would not get to the top. That was a challenge I soon crushed.

Going pro

In 2011 I had quit my day job to take on a full–time remote WordPress role. This was in many ways due to my activity at WPSE. But… if you expect the post to end on a success story — it wasn’t one.

I had my skills put to the test and built some complex solutions.

Other qualities of myself got increasingly questioned:

  • my integrity
  • workplace expectations
  • teamwork skills
  • professional worth
  • personal motivation
  • and mental stability

In 2012 I received invitation to the first WordPress Community Summit. It would have been my first interaction with WordPress people in person. I was one of the few people denied US visa and unable to attend.

My lows got lower. I wrote an email to my employer and said my sense of being productive at my job is gone: I quit.

Freefall, or maybe flight

I started 2013 with:

  • a healthy bank account
  • freedom to pursue anything I wanted
  • a glob of quiet darkness filling my head.

It took a while for the sparks of ideas and inspiration to come back and chase the darkness away. I turned some of my oldest strategic ideas into reality. I spent time to expand my PHP programming experience outside of WordPress bubble.

A year after I missed Community Summit, I was on the stage at the first WordCamp Europe.

In 2014 I started to take on WordPress work again. Less than I had before or could have. I became more careful in regards to what I could handle, enjoy, and sustain.

I spent a lot of time on code, but I also spent quite a bit on people. It was that quiet period that helped me figure out which connections meant most for me. Who always listens to me speak, and whom I enjoy listening to. Who reinforces me at my strongest, and who augments me at my weakest.

This is the mode I am still in today. Will be tomorrow. Then… who knows? I am not confident about that, but neither am I afraid.

Actions and humans

There is a common advice in WordPress community that you should show up and take action. I think it is grossly incomplete.

That only action that will push you forward is the one that you can sustain and put your name next to. Find what it is for yourself, don’t let others dictate what you should do.

And find people. You may feel like to have your own place in community you need to have a voice everyone listens to. You don’t need the whole community to listen to you, or a half, or a quarter, or even a fraction. You only need a few people who really do, a few people like that are enough.

Then one day you will ponder about your place and your own answer will come to you.

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