There I was cruising along the highway in the middle lane, and I felt it. It started slowly and then all of a sudden – a complete black out.
“What’s happening to me?”
“Am I dying?”
“What about my wife and kids?”
“I can’t die now?”
These were the thoughts running through my head in that exact moment. I was terrified. Pins and needles rang through my body and I was focused on just getting myself to the ER.
I made it there after some careful navigating and a constant voice, screaming out in my head, “is this it for me?”.
The Early Days
It all started years earlier. You see, when I left high school in 2004 I knew that the traditional route of going to college and getting a degree and corporate job was not for me.
Ever since I first got my hands on a computer I was tinkering and figuring out how it works. Very quickly I stumbled upon the QBasic programming language and I started building games with it. I was somewhat of a big gamer at the time, but more interesting to me was, how are the games built?
I spent hours each day building those games and eventually after months of hard work I had published my first title.
Published? Yes, published, but the problem was, there was nowhere for anyone to find, download and install my games.
I very quickly realised that I was more interested in the web development space than in making games. So I transitioned into focusing on web development.
Being a young 16 year old at the time, I spent my days (when I was not on the computer) with a bunch of friends. Hanging around town, the skate park and of course the local McDonalds. The problem was, all this cost money and I wasn’t making any.
I somehow figured out that I could actually make money on the internet and started playing around with advertising on my websites.
This led me down a path of doing 3 business internships in the United States and ultimately, on to developing WordPress websites.
How WordPress Changed My Life
I started building WordPress websites and blogging about it in 2005 (my blog archives are a testament to that). And almost as soon as I started using it, I fell in love.
I loved the open source model, I loved the sense of community and I loved the software. I knew this was something that I could work on for a very long time.
And so, I did. I started contracting and doing freelance WordPress work. I setup a business called WP Geeks. And life was quite good!
Around 2009 I joined a startup as a co-founder and lead developer and I almost single handedly built a plugin called MobilePress that got hundreds of thousands of downloads.
In 2012, after many years of being a contractor I decided that I needed a change. I was recently married, I was about to have my first child, and felt like I needed some stability in my life.
And so, I took a full time job.
I’ve got absolutely nothing bad to say about that job. I learnt a ton and was working for a great company. I made excellent friends and was able to make a difference in the work that I was doing.
The problem was, I was slowly but surely dying inside.
I wasn’t doing what I was passionate about. I wasn’t waking up every day and saying, this is what I could do for the rest of my life. I wasn’t working on open source software. I had zero ownership. As a developer, I wasn’t growing in the areas that I wanted to be growing. And lastly, I wasn’t satisfying the entrepreneurial spirit that lives inside of me.
I was working very hard and because I wanted to stay relevant as a developer. I was doing a bit of contract work in my spare time and trying my best to push out a couple blog posts and learn new technologies on the side.
I was working on a legacy banking system that was closed source and written in a language I did not have a passion for.
In 2015, it took its toll on me and I started burning out. Fast forward to June 2015 and I got a serious lung infection that had me out of action for weeks.
And then, November 2015. That’s when the fainting started. That’s when, for the first time in my life, I started having thoughts about dying. I really thought that during this period, it could be it for me. As much as I didn’t want it to be.
The only thing that was holding me together was my support system. My wife looked after and comforted me and my friends supported me.
That’s when it happened. I got absolutely clarity in my mind about the future. I needed to quit my job. It was a SCARY realisation. I’ve got a family now and 2 beautiful kids to support. Financially, I was really comfortable with my full time job.
I knew that WordPress was where I needed to be again. It was like a home that I had been away from for far too long. I needed the open source, the community and a space where I can express myself.
On to a New Beginning
So I quit! My last day was just over a month ago. Due to my experience in the past with WordPress and still keeping my feet wet in the space, I was able to land a dream gig at XWP.
I started blogging again and putting myself out there. The momentum has been great. This year I’m doing video courses and recording a video every single day.
I’m writing open source code and contributing back to the WordPress core.
The absolutely best thing is, my health issues have disappeared. I’m feeling great! I’m happy again. I feel at home.
My Takeaway for You
So what does my experience mean for you? It’s clear in my mind…
Do whatever your heart is telling you is right for you. Don’t deviate, it will affect you in ways that you never thought possible.
Enjoy each and every moment. Appreciate that we get to work on awesome software and be part of one of the best software communities in the world.
My hope for you is that you find your path and walk it every day. If you’re feeling like you’ve taken the wrong path, it’s never too late to turn back or forge a new one. I am a living testament to that! Go out there and live your passion.