I grew up in the 90s and 2000s which was a weird time for technology. Part of me remembers carrying around a case of cassette tapes and the sound of dial-up occasionally screaming from the living room. The other half recalls hacking into my dad’s email from the shared family computer for the first time when I was ten. His passwords were never very hard to guess.
In 2004 or 2005, I started taking more of an interest in the Internet. I wanted to start a blog maybe, but I wasn’t sure what a blog even was. WordPress was one of the first things I stumbled on, but it was still an infant compared to what it’s evolved into and I had no idea how it worked. Was WordPress a blogging website? Was it a thing I could build my own site with? How did it work?
I just wanted somewhere to be myself online and WordPress intimidated me. So I dabbled, but I didn’t stay. Myspace and Tumblr would teach me to use HTML, because after all, I just wanted my own place to write online.
Finding My Way Back to WordPress
Eventually, my writing career led me back to WordPress. I was in college, studying English Literature when the opportunity for a Marketing Internship opened up. Around 2011, Chartwells Higher Education, a food service company for college campuses, had launched a huge multi-site network of university dining websites.
Their largest initiative that year was to drive website traffic.
Mine was to keep the students from kicking us off campus because of how much everyone hated Campus Dining.
So I started a blog.
“The Inside Scoop” gave students the perspective of a student who works for campus dining. Both goals were met and I fell in love with the idea of using writing to address business problems. Even more exciting, I finally understood WordPress. Although by then, nearly ten years had passed and WordPress had completely changed.
Life Changed (a LOT), but WordPress Was Always There
At the same time throughout college, I went through a major transition from life as an extremely active athlete to someone with mobility problems. I broke my back, went through everything you can think of to fix it, and ended up with a permanent disability.
Thankfully, I knew by then how to work on a computer in an environment that didn’t necessarily require me to be in an office. It took a few years of adjustment, but eventually, I ended up working for a WordPress-based marketing agency remotely from an RV, which I took anywhere I felt like going.
For a few years, I became a professional tourist.
I’d wake up, get some work done, then adventure all day.
By the time I was done, I could tour any city in a single day and still keep up with content writing. But writing content was all I did. Naturally, I still wanted my own website to write on, but all I had was Tumblr. How to actually set up a WordPress site from start to finish was a mystery to me.
My partner at the agency was supposed to build the site for me, but it never happened. By the time my RV broke down in Rhode Island, 3,500 miles from my hometown, I had lost my chance to build a true travel blog and #vanlife became way too much of a fad to interest me anymore.
Learning to Build Websites with WordPress
My next step was to build my own website. I probably owe a lot of my “self-taught” skills to websites like WP Beginner and WPCrafter, but I really can’t remember how I learned other than trying and failing many times.
After a few YouTube videos, I dove in and built the worst website that you could possibly imagine. It was atrocious, but I liked it enough, so I started writing on TaylorElizabethRose.com and building more websites.
Returning to a Burning California
My next few years were spent spinning my wheels on the East Coast and essentially failing at everything I tried. So I made a plan to move back to California and start my own WordPress-based business. By then I had learned a lot about website management, or so I thought.
The first version of TaylordInk.com was launched in May of 2017 before I made the trip back to California in September.
As we drove into Napa Valley, I noticed how dry it looked and said,“This is a fire hazard.” There were no fire breaks and I had seen what the terrain looks like before it burns when my house burned in San Diego in 2007. Napa and Santa Rosa were primed for flames.
But, how many times in one person’s life can their house burn down?
It was less than two weeks later when the Tubbs Fire came through and burned my entire future. The man I’d been with for two years ended up abandoning me. My business equipment was gone. Any professional clothes I may have had were incinerated. All I had were my dogs and my 2013 MacBook Pro, which happened to be with me at the time.
Nothing but a Laptop
Between October and December 2017, I couldn’t tell you much about what I did or what happened except that I ended up back in my hometown: San Diego. It was a blur of loneliness, depression, and complete failure. Finally, sometime mid-December, I logged into my personal website.
May as well start with my own identity.
It was hacked… and gone. I failed to update while I was swimming in my own sorrow.
Luckily, my friend from my agency days actually had a backup of the original site. So I salvaged the posts from his files and started rebuilding. I really didn’t get very far until much later in 2019. I just kept designing and redesigning the same pages over and over again.
On the second or third time I logged in after the fire, I saw the WordCamp San Diego information on the Dashboard and bought a ticket before I could change my mind about going.
Discovering the WordPress Community
WordCamp San Diego didn’t happen until months later, but it was the next time I really did anything productive in my life. It was kind of my last-ditch attempt to start a WordPress business or any business at all.
I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know who I would meet, or how (or if) I would fit in. I certainly never expected to find a community with open arms.
A weight was lifted from my shoulders almost immediately. Where had all these nerds been my whole life? These were my people!
There’s a comfort that comes from fitting into a community and finding your people.
Being in the company of like-minded people makes the future less bleak. I had hope again for the first time since the fire stole that from me.
At some point during that WordCamp, a girl named Sochi found out that I was a content writer. She dragged me by the hand to meet Matt Cromwell at the Give booth. It was extremely intimidating because the entire Give Team was sitting there staring at me. I didn’t know it then, but I was meeting my own future coworkers.
Give was hiring a content writer! In fact, they were close to hiring someone else, but I was intrigued. So I inquired the next day and disrupted Matt’s hiring process a bit.
The next week, I joined Team Give.
Over the next year, I spoke at 4 WordCamps and attended 6 or 7 total.
Working at Impress.org and participating in WordCamps has been incredible and I’ve learned more about WordPress over the past year than in all the years before. I don’t think I would have succeeded as well with my own WordPress-based marketing agency without the community.
More importantly, I wouldn’t have made it through some of the hardest times in my life without WordPress. It was there when I needed to work remotely and it was there when I needed a helping hand to lift me back out of tragedy.