2017: Personal

This is the side I usually share but once a year. 2016 was transitional. That’s another way of saying awfully hard and sometimes outright cruel. Here’s a look back, so that I may enter Twenty Seventeen having closed this year snugly and with no more desire to reflect.

The Professional will come soon. 40 minutes of 1-take me me me is enough for a Monday in the mountains.

(Previously: 20162015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011)

Mid-Year Update, and WordPress Thoughts

As I age my tolerance for sitting for hours and typing is diminishing. So I’ll try something new. All of these were done in 1 take, with the exception of one due to my wife’s giggle-fits, and I haven’t reviewed them.

Unfiltered and honest. That’s all I can promise.


Life post-Automattic

My diminished role with _s now

What’s my role at Professional Themes?

Thoughts on “commercial” shops and how we communicate licensing to our customers

Advice for anyone applying to or working at a remote company


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.



(Previously: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011)

Twenty Fifteen

2014 came and went, and some important events happened along the way…

Most of that sounds like work, but the year didn’t feel like work. When I left Automattic in February I took some time off to hit the reset button and think about what it is that I want from life. Leaving a comfortable job was probably the most difficult thing I’ve had to do in the last several years and it hurt a lot, but I’m in a much better place now than where I was a year ago. I’m calmer, more relaxed, less sick, and happier.

I’ve met someone also. I spend all of my free time with her and my life has become six hours of work per day, eight hours of sleep per day, and ten hours of finding life per day. That means drinks with friends, cooking at home and exploring Hanoi with my girlfriend, watching movies and listening to music, and doing things that makes life feel enjoyable.

There wasn’t much travel this year and that’s okay. I needed to stay still for a while and to think. I needed to get back to the basics and rediscover my smile. Because I wasn’t on planes the entire year I also wasn’t sick, which was a big bonus. I have no idea what will happen next year in terms of professional changes. I have a hunch or two and some exciting news coming soon, but everything’s in flux right now and that works for me.

Next year I will move into a new apartment (bigger and cheaper) and look into building more of a daily life here in Hanoi. This feels more like home than it ever has to me and I want to be nowhere else but here. There will be more travel, to be sure, but I’m not looking to escape or run away from Hanoi. I love it here. I’ve found peace here.

Life is so very short and I’m doing everything I possibly can to live it. Sometimes the decisions I make seem random or weird, but they all come from my fear that time is running out. It’s priceless, time, and next year I imagine that I’ll be even more vigilant about protecting it and honoring it.


(Previously: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011)

Twenty Fourteen

2013 came and went, and some important events happened along the way…

  • I mastered a response to the question “So…where are you living now?” (or a variation of it: “So…[look of confusion]…do you live here or…”)
  • My 84-year-old grandmother and I shared quality time with each other in Houston, Playa del Carmen, Tokyo, and Verona. She remains my idol in so many ways.
  • I had the pleasure of attending or speaking at several WordCamps: Seoul (April), San Francisco (July), Tokyo (September), and Nepal (October); I also very much enjoyed my trip to PressNomics 2 (October)
  • I reached the 2-year mark working with Automattic Inc. (October)
  • The WordPress.com Editorial Team came to Hanoi for a meetup, and I had the pleasure of playing guide-slash-errand-runner for a week. It felt amazing to be able to share my love of Hanoi with coworkers. (November)
  • The Vietnamese WordPress community took off, and we’re pushing hard to create translations for WordPress that any Vietnamese person can use in order to better enjoy the experience of publishing with WordPress; our plan is to hold WordCamp Hanoi in 2014.
  • My family spent its first Christmas together in over 10 years. (December)

Two years ago I wrote that my personal life — the one that revolves around health, relationships, family, and friends — needed some attention. I still find that to be true, and have made an incredibly focused effort during the last six weeks to spend more time thinking about the things in life that matter most. Things like my family and friends, my physical health, my emotional and mental makeup, and my spirituality. I’d like 2014 to be a year that I spend more of my time focused on the aforementioned.

My professional life also needs to be scaled back a bit. I’ve learned that it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things if I work 80 hours a week or 30. If my health and the joy with which I approach work suffers because of how much of myself I put into it, then why do it?

I’d like next year to be one in which I fully realize how much more important relationships are to me than clocking hours. I come from a father who valued men who put in work, who wake up every day and bust their butts to provide for their families. I learned good lessons about work ethic from him, but he didn’t tell me that giving so much of myself to a company, or work, is incredibly frustrating and unhealthy in all aspects of life. I figured it out, though.

Lots of change coming in 2014; it’ll be interesting.

(Previously: 2013, 2012, 2011)