People who know me outside of WordPress know that I’m passionate about WordPress and, more specifically, its community. Those who know me from within WordPress know that I’m passionate about my family; so much so, that I’m sure that if you were ask anyone within the WordPress world who has known me for longer than five minutes, they’d tell you that it’s hard to get me to talk about anything else. Yup. It’s no secret that I love my family.
Now, traditionally, in most professional settings, children were the things that people spoke about at work around the water cooler or during coffee breaks. There’d be the occasional, “Bring your brat to work day,” which was, likely more often than not, more exciting to the kids than it was to the parents. And then there were the rare times parents would bring kids to work because they had to (sitter called in sick and other such circumstances).
I have *mostly* been an entrepreneur my whole adult (and a lot of my child) life. The few times I was not did not end well (not that all my endeavors ended well, either). And throughout my life as a business owner, I always had this feeling that I’d never be satisfied until I found a true community in which I could be a part. It only made sense to me that the only true path to success *for me* was if the people around me also experienced success. But it had to be more than that. I wanted to be around people who participated in the success of others. People who recognize that if we all do well then we ALL do well. While it sounded a bit like Fantasy Land, I always felt that I would not be truly professionally happy until I found that land. It took me until I was 45 years of age before I found it.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all peaches and cream, and as with anything that involves more than two human beings, there are politics. But the main underlying philosophy of those within the WordPress Community is that of a rising tide floating all boats. And it’s that part of the Community upon which I tend to focus.
The Importance of Congruence
Several years ago I saw a therapist. I was going through a lot of crap and had things to work out. Mostly, it was a safe place where I could talk about my feelings and not feel like I was being judged. At that point in my life, it was really important to have someone who wasn’t judging me. To be honest, I don’t remember a lot about those sessions. I know I talked a lot and I know my therapist wouldn’t let me off the hook when it came to things I needed to do. But one thing she said to me which really stuck was that in order to achieve happiness, one’s heart and head needed to be congruent. Until then, there’d always be internal conflict and I’d never achieve the peace I was looking for.
That single thing hit me hard enough that it was the one thing I needed out of therapy to change things in my life. Specifically, I needed to pursue the things that both my head and heart said were achievable. For me, it meant Community. For me, I realized that my greatest sense of accomplishment was always when I helped someone become part of something bigger than they were. To see their success and happiness was my success. Whether it’s an old friend or someone I just met, it always only made sense to me that being a part of someone else achieving great things meant that the world around us improved, if just by a little bit.
My pursuit became to be part of a community of people helping people, no matter whether it was personal or professional. The only way my heart and head could remain in line with each other was if I could find that place.
Today, I live in a neighborhood that is more like a community than anything I’ve ever experienced. The neighbors do things together and we’re a pretty tight-knit bunch. When we moved to Milwaukee, this was key in our decision making process. And when I was 45 (Oh – it may have been 44. The point is, close to my mid-40s), I discovered the actual Community of WordPress; a group of like minded people working to make the lives around them better while improving their own lives. While I am at the high end of the age spectrum within that community, I’ve never been made to feel so, and age rarely, if ever, comes up. As is required of a community, we, also, are a close-knit bunch and I’ve been lucky enough to make some true friends within the Community.
So, what does all of this have to do with my kids? What does it have to do with me taking them to the occasional WordCamp? The answer might not be what you think. No, I am not setting up the next coding dynasty. No, I do not even expect my kids to follow in my footsteps. Eli, for two years now, has his eye on growing up to become a biologist. Brenna wants to be a teacher, a mother, a police officer, a photographer and a few other things that I cannot remember offhand. I can assure you, however, that neither WordPress Developer or Designer are on the list. I expect them to follow the path that suits them. But what I want to show them is that the land of Community, both professionally and personally, does exist and that no matter what they pursue as they get older, they should always seek out communities that are supportive and realize that they need to be equally supportive of the people and communities around them. And if they see it first hand, they’ll pursue it. And if they pursue it, they might just find it before the age of 44. Or was it 45?