Why I’ve Gone MIA, or What Next

This has probably been one of the quieter years of my life. I no longer post indiscriminately on social media, I don’t check messages often, and when I do it’s almost always about business. I’ve approached the point where replying to some people would most certainly have to begin with an apology.

WordPress as a stable means of income has become less reliable and the last time I heard from WordPress.com about premium themes was far longer than a year ago.

While we anticipated such an abrupt pause to premium theme submissions before it happened, we didn’t realize that pause meant moratorium. We’re okay and work continues, but from a practical level I would be lying if I didn’t admit that my team and I have long been hard at work to shield ourselves from the whims of 3rd-party platforms.

That said, WordPress businesses are grueling work and 15 years is a long time. I don’t know that I personally have another 15 left in me for it.

5, at best.

If I had to put a number on it I’d say that my focus since a few years back has been 80% blockchain and 20% WordPress. My staff’s focus has been the opposite. They are who help me keep things running while I’m busy shoveling dirt and paving a new road ahead.

My future is in blockchain. Not WordPress. I’ll give WordPress 5 more years at most. If core development teams continue to put such a high burden on us to adapt to new development patterns while supporting legacy ones, my exit will likely be sooner. They put 12 more monkeys on our backs while we deal with those already present.

In short, nothing’s changed and I still make the best code I’ve ever made. But everything’s changed and I’d be a fool to ignore the tide shift that’s occuring. I cannot survive in respond mode.

Blockchain has been my greatest joy in these last several years. I just haven’t talked about it much until now. I feel light, exploratory, funny, joyful, and like I’m in control of my destiny when I’m working with it. I stopped feeling that way with WordPress in 2013.

So we build and keep building, and themes and plugins will keep coming, but it will be up to my apprentices to carry on all the work I’ve done since 2003. It’d be a shame for that to be wasted and I trust them.

I’ve also just sorta-finished building a house that’s not complete. We’re at 90%. Next month we’ll likely be at 99%. I cannot think of anything harder that I’ve gone through this year than building my home. Nearly three months of morning to night general contracting and monitoring, as well as paying all costs fully upfront. I have no home debt. None. I owe nothing. Given everything I wrote above about my uncertainty with WordPress, you might imagine how good this feels.

Home ownership feels good. I’ve quietly been adjusting to it. I’ve been alone but not lonely.

My wife and I are also talking about baby stuff again. Sometimes life seems to push me into silence and thought when so much is happening at the same time.

I feel so much responsibility to be a caretaker, a boss, a leader, a hard worker, and a good family man. Sometimes I need to be left alone to sort through it all.

I haven’t spoken to my family much.

I haven’t checked Twitter or Facebook much.

I am on Telegram, LinkedIn, and deep in blockchain project white papers daily. My free time is almost spent exclusively thinking of what the next consensus mechanism or ICO will be that people go gaga over. I’m obsessed with the space now and have been for some time.

I don’t follow prices of anything that closely. I follow code and teams and research and token metrics and figuring out if blockchain matters. It’s not a buzzword to me. It’s a toy that I picked up and can’t put down.

I don’t regularly follow politics outside of technology regulations now.

I have no idea what songs are hot.

And I absolutely have no clue what’s going on in America outside of what my family tells me. I check on the weekends but not like I used to.

I’ve fallen into an obsession that may or may not be a horrible idea. And the only way I’ll know the answer to that question is if I do it.

I’m a little quiet right now but not where it matters. The best I can compare it to is relocating my cord from one outlet to another. I’m still charged up but just somewhere else.

I regret how little sleep I’m giving myself and how little exercise I’m getting.

Sometimes I eat ramen all day.

But it tastes so good.

Whatever happens moving forward I will never be homeless. This house is forever. It belongs to nobody. I have no decades-long loan on it. It’s ours.

In short, I’m free to explore new roads while my staff tend to old ones, and I am quiet right now because I dare not lose my focus and get lost on the way.

I’m happy for my friends who are having babies and traveling and changing careers and evolving. I miss many of them. I’m proud of everyone who is also silently or loudly staying steady.

I think of them often. And I hope they’re doing the same for me.

I’m floating in choppy waters and letting the waves come into me without resistance.

By the Time You’re 40

Should you have had a child already? What about a home that’s paid-in-full? All debts paid off? A career well on its way in an upward trajectory? A happy marriage—a decade into it, no less—and that ideal vehicle you always wanted? Vacations in locations with hard to say names?

Maybe. Maybe not. I guess it depends on if you plan on dying by 100, 80, or 41.

I’m playing my game with blinders on. It’s much too complicated to play by anyone else’s rules.

Social Media

Facebook was great for keeping up with family while I was abroad in Vietnam during 2004. It’s still how I keep up with what old friends and distant family are doing. It’s now toxic though and creates false glimpses into people’s lives that make me feel bad about myself. The news feed is unusable. Stories aren’t interesting. Notifications are high noise and low signal. I don’t use it that much anymore. A few minutes per day, if that. I would not miss Facebook if it went away.

Twitter was how I met every single close friend who I made in Hanoi from 2009 onwards. I didn’t know anyone up north, searched around for tweets related to the city, and participated in a few meetups. Fast forward nearly a decade, and the platform has become, for me at least, an information firehose for political news, trending topics, cryptocurrency drama, blockchain and WordPress developments, and a timeline that’s almost unusable. I would not miss Twitter if it went away.

Snapchat used to feel fun and a little exciting. Private Snaps with friends felt intimate and temporary, forgotten the moment I watched them twice. Now the platform has an utterly terrible UI, aggressive and offensive advertising, unhappy celebrities who are abandoning the software, Stories that are impossible to navigate, and filters that are its only saving grace.

WeChat is my China hookup. LINE is my Japan hookup. Zalo and Viber are my Vietnam hookups. I enjoy all of these apps.

Instagram stories are pretty good. Out of all the platforms that do stories, this one does them well enough. The food porn, hot influencers, funny videos, and passing glimpses into the lives of friends far away make Instagram enjoyable. It’s one of my favorite time sinks.

Telegram is where I go to have real conversations with groups of people who I have never met and who are all interested in the same things: blockchain tech, the best memes on the internet, and cryptocurrency. Telegram is fantastic. I check it often.

Medium is okay, not great. I’d use it for a company blog, but when it comes to content discoverability and enjoyable reading, Medium’s quality is starting to get a little thin. I do support the platform with a monthly subscription because I do like rewarding better writing.

Anything I didn’t list is probably something I don’t use enough to care about one way or another. WordPress doesn’t count; to me, it’s just software, not a means of being social.

Everything I’m Doing Is Wrong

I’m building a home. It’s a perfect little home, with brick walls that are surrounded by mountains and greenery. It’s small and quaint, taking up approximately forty-five square meters on a plot of land that’s three times as large. There’s plenty of room to grow flowers, plant a tree, exercise, play with the cat and her friends, live in privacy, and sit and watch the mountains during sunrise.

I could not ask for more. I dare not ask for more. This is everything I’ve ever dreamed of.

And yet it’s not enough.

The neighbors ask why the house is so small. Passersby seem surprised that the only foreigner they’ve met in their entire lives wants a house that’s the tiniest on the street. And friends and family meddlers continue urging my wife and me to adjust our budget to add this or that because without it we’ll be unhappy. This introduces palpable stress into our marriage.

It’s a strange feeling, to want nothing more than what I can afford, upfront in cash, paid-in-full, taking on not a shred of home debt, while at the same time facing pity. It’s odd. I’ve never dealt with something like this before, probably because we don’t have a child, but it’s incredibly strange.

I don’t know if it’s a Vietnamese thing or a human nature thing but trying to actively convince someone else that I’ve never been more content with what I have and desire nothing more, all while facing skepticism, is weird. It’s just weird. I don’t know how to process it.

This will probably happen again. It will most certainly happen again if we have a child, and the struggle I’m now facing is how to remain as firm as I am without being mean. I lack gentleness when it comes to meddling; I get triggered by it quickly. I lash out like a rabid animal whose cave has been invaded. Whether it’s my mother-in-law or extended in-laws, a best friend, or my own mother or siblings, the reaction is the same.

Get off my lawn. I am my father’s son.

I’ll need to work on my people skills. There must be a way, in short, to say that I’m happy. I’ve never been this happy. I have what I want exactly as I want it and I wish for nothing more because unhappiness is primarily produced by choice and unrealistic expectations.

I don’t know that I’ll ever have enough. If the internet and advertising are any indications, my life up until now has been a complete and utter disaster. I’m doing everything wrong. Everything I’m doing could be remedied by more. This is what I’m being sold.

And yet I feel nothing but the opposite.

Brief Update on Life

I haven’t shared much about what’s going on.

I’m still developing WordPress themes, plugins, and custom client work. I cut ties with my business partner last year, WordPress.com all but shut down premium theme submissions until they say otherwise, and it took a little while to secure trademark rights to a few of the more important parts of We Cobble.

That said, with WordPress now at a firm 30% of the web and my team being so close to the launch of our site and a ton of new themes, I’m still long-term bullish on work in this space, even if it means giving more control over to my staff. Gutenberg seems to be all the rage these days. It’s like, so in man.

Since late 2016 I entered the cryptocurrency market (again) and have since then slowly but steadily immersed myself in all things blockchain. This takes up a small portion of my time but gives me the most hope. The community is just as catty and nonsensical as WordPress’, so I feel right at home. 2018-2021 will be like nothing we’ve ever seen. If WordPress democratizes publishing, then blockchain technology democratizes the entire web. The tide has already started to shift.

I started building a new house today. They say it’ll be done in a month. I’m tired of renting and if I go broke in tech at least I can say I’ll never be homeless.

My wife and I are still trying to have a child without success. When the house is done we’ll likely go to Thailand for a while and do IUI. I’m not super-antsy about this. I’d like to finish the house first before thinking about a child.

I haven’t been to the States in 3 years. I haven’t traveled anywhere interesting in 2 years. Feels odd. Very odd.

I’m fat again. My diet now is pretty restricted. I’m at the age now where being fat is a multiplier for how miserable I’ll feel in my 50s. Trying to clean it up.

Anxiety stuff is gone. I haven’t had a full-on meltdown since moving here and only on a few occasions have I needed medicine so the trade-off of living in a boring place seems to be peace of mind. I don’t have panic attacks, intrusive thoughts are nonexistent, and the existential crises are long gone. It’s difficult to get me worked up right now.

I’m ready to move out of this karaoke bar. It’s noise torture, lack of sleep, lack of privacy, and feels like jail. The customers here are insane and drunk. The house can’t come soon enough. This is a major source of tension and stress right now. I’m ready for it to be over.

I don’t miss the States.

The cat has turned into three and the doggy next door loves me. Star is still the boss but several other cats have become addicted to hanging out with us. It’s probably the free food.

I’m not asking for much right now. I’ve learned that it only leads to unhappiness. I’m okay with what I have. I don’t need much more. I’m trying to stay patient.

Vietnam is still looking like where I’ll die. I’m good with that.