Every major change in my life has been filled with grey areas that usually fall between opposing feelings of resentment and appreciation, anger and acceptance, bitterness and nostalgia.
I hated Rice University for its lack of diversity, rich kids get drunk to have fun culture, and for how isolated I felt. But without it I would have never met two of my best friends or studied abroad in Vietnam twice, eventually making it home. I needed the bad to get me to the better.
Sometimes I struggle with anger and bitterness over investing so much of my energy into Automattic when I had that kind of energy to give, but without those several years I would have never reached this position in the WordPress community or gained the confidence to build from scratch again. I also know that I would have never met another best friend for life and seen other interesting parts of the world. I needed the company to teach me how to sharpen my craft but also teach me how much I needed to slow down and gain balance. Given the chance, I would never work there again, not even for a second, but I would in a heartbeat tell others to join the company because inside of it are incredible individuals. It’s a remarkable experience.
Examples are endless. I regret my relationship with my father but after his death I have been filled with nostalgia for days in Kilgore, Texas, with him, eating white bread and ham and macaroni and cheese and candied yams and buttermilk pie and collard greens.
And I feel guilt for investing the last twelve years of my life so much into Vietnam when America has moved on without me. Nephews are becoming taller, my grandmother and mother are getting older, and society “back home” is becoming hardly recognizable. But everyone in my family from top to bottom supports me and I need to be here, most of the time anyway, for inner okayness.
Most things are grey and there are mostly no absolutes. I am learning that black and white, 0 and 1, yes and no, hate and love are awfully simple ways of understanding the world around us. Mostly everything is nuanced. Twenty fifteen taught me that.
Almost Goodbye WordPress
WordPress is no longer at the center of my life. Those days are over. I work with it every day and actively contribute to Core, I still run a growing business that heavily uses WordPress in our tech stack, I still ship themes to WordPress.com and love working with Automattic, I still do my best to keep _s stable and maintained, I still organize meetups in Hanoi and am mulling over what a WordCamp Hanoi 2016 might look like, and I still write plugins and educate. I haven’t stopped working with WordPress, but it’s no longer the first thing or the last thing I think about every day before I go to sleep.
I’ve given a lot of myself to the software, still do. Since 2003 I’ve given thousands upon thousands upon thousands of hours to WordPress, so it feels weird that I don’t care about it the way I used to. I used to argue for weeks about why I thought Infinite Scroll was bad. I used to write long essays about why the direction that every theme marketplace, including WordPress.com, is taking is upsetting. I used to fight with colleagues about what saying openness means and what really being open means. I used to care so much that people knew I was one of the best theme makers and theme reviewers in the world. WordPress was so deeply ingrained into my identity. I felt that without Automattic and WordPress I wasn’t really anyone.
And then I quit Automattic, did a very hard reset on my life, stopped traveling so much, met a girl, fell in love with her, got married, and took the blinders off. It’s the best thing that could have ever happened to my life in 2014 and not caring about WordPress or its community, or its drama, the way I used to has made me better at coding it.
I give 8 or so hours a day, probably much less, to thinking about WordPress now. It’s been replaced by arguments with my wife about naming our new cat or mulling over what to cook for dinner, or building out strategy for our new clothing store, or trying to find land to buy. WordPress is just something I do now; last year it stopped being who I am and I’m much better off because of it.
I’m an American expat who speaks Vietnamese. I love music. I have an amazing wife and we own a clothing brand. I’m a full stack developer. I’m not bad at design. I can’t dance but I do anyway. I have bad problems with anxiety and panic but everyone in my life seems to love me even more for it. My stomach is weak so I cancel plans often but friends still love me and understand me. I’m an interesting person who doesn’t really need WordPress to be interesting anymore, and it feels so incredibly liberating. It’s just a thing I do well, it’s not really who I care about being anymore.
Twenty Fifteen was when WordPress stopped being my future and started becoming my past. My life with it won’t stop. I’ll continue working with it. But it’s just not the solution to every single problem I’ll run up against in the next future.