Today is my six year anniversary of becoming a full-time, sponsored contributor to the WordPress open source project. There are many ways I would describe it—rewarding, complex, cutting edge, difficult, ever-changing, meaningful—but at the end of the day, I want to be able to describe it like this:
For the past six years, I have supported a software that stands to bring more equity into the world, by unlocking opportunity and believing in the freedoms of open source. I have supported a community that strives to remove barriers to entry for that software, by uncovering what was once arcane and connecting to one another for strength. And I have supported a space that works to welcome those from whom we hear the least, but who could benefit the most from the tools that WordPress enables for them.
Happy Six Years to me! And cheers to the community that I serve!
I walk past a middle school at lunch every day. Most days we all just carry on with our own work (mine: dog walking, theirs: game playing), but today was different.
As I walked by the school yard, one of the kids kicked a ball over the fence and across the street. She asked if I would throw it back over, apologizing a lot as she did. It’s no real burden for me, so I retrieved it and threw it back over.
Another student asked if I could help retrieve a second ball, and then a third (there wasn’t a fourth). Again, not a problem, so I returned those balls as well. And then he said this:
“You’re so generous! Thank you! If I could pay you $100 I would, but I don’t have any money. Your dog is beautiful and healthy. Have a good day!”
Now, I can’t be sure of what drove him to have that little interaction with me. But I would like to imagine it’s a mixture of these things:
Having a very high valuation of time.
Having a very low valuation of a dollar.
Having an innate sense for the existence of reciprocity.
Which then led him to decide that, knowing that he needed to pay for the use of my expensive time, a compliment to my dog was worth $100.
I was at dinner with friends recently and, during the course of our mutual catching up, was told that I have the most spectacular stories. We’re all travelers in that group, both for work and for pleasure, so the fact that I seem to have the most unusual experiences of all of us is notable.
Here are the most memorable circumstances, occurrences, and happenstances from the past year or so:
I told a 20-something man to stop verbally berating an older woman who was struggling to lift her luggage. He looked as though he might strike me, and for a moment I was worried he would. He did not.
A ticketing agent argued with me about my name for 10 minutes. She called a “Joseph Haden Chomphosy” to the desk, and I was sure it was my name but had gotten cut-off. We resolved it with me saying “If you think that somewhere on the planet, there is both a Joseph AND a Josepha with my last name and they both just happen to be in this building at the same time, you have a lot more faith than I do.”
A passenger had a panic attack in the door of the aircraft and her service dog got loose and wandered around the cockpit.
I flew out of an airport that was so small it hadn’t started taking electronic tickets yet. To this day I am not sure how they managed to get me on the plane, because it wasn’t with a paper ticket.
I had a long conversation about the educational system and how it doesn’t properly account for populations that suffer from systemic inequality.
On an entirely different flight, I had a long conversation about racism, college application processes, and real estate.
Three times I have practiced an upcoming presentation on random strangers (because our flights were delayed).
I was sent through security three times in 15 minutes at the same airport. They tested the same bottle every time even though it had been marked by them already.
I have been transported by random, non-taxi cars by two separate travel companions and have lived to tell the tale.
Twice I have shown up to an airport, ticket in hand, and been told that I am not a ticketed passenger.
And I didn’t even travel that much last year.
I was recently told by an absolutely brilliant woman that the best place for observational research is an airport, because that’s when people are their most honest selves. But if I believed what airports have to say about me, you’d think I was the unluckiest traveler around. 🙂
WordCamp US is over and I’m watching scores of recap posts slide by on my feed. I don’t have a recap of the content, which will 100% not cause anyone to miss vital information, but I do have a recap of my experience.
It was my invitation to this event last year that changed everything. In my five year plan (yes, I have my own five year plan) one of my major goals was to speak at WordCamp San Francisco, a place where the cream of the WordPress crop could be found. My plan had that set for 2016, so when I got to check that off my list in 2014 I admit that I wasn’t sure what to do next in that arena. My time spent at WordCamp San Francisco and the accompanying events was the most enriching experience I’d had to date. Thinking back on it, and the renewed admiration I had for this community, I couldn’t imagine that this year would be any less fantastic.
Which brings me to WordCamp US.
I spent much of my time with contributors and collaborators who build and guide the WordPress project and my heart and mind have been irrevocably expanded. This may seem like an incredibly difficult way to spend a week, but I truly feel more invigorated for it. Being around this community, even if it’s a small subset, always reminds me of just how wonderful they are.
What do I love so much about them? I have a short list here.
They are giving, but self-aware. Most don’t give more than they have, but all of them give what they absolutely can.
They are passionate. We don’t all have matching things we’re passionate about, but that only makes me want to hear about what they love so deeply.
They question things when they don’t know or don’t agree. The willingness to question where you are, no matter how you arrived there, is an admirable thing and one that takes an immense amount of courage.
They look out for each other. I have no other things to say about this one. It’s just wonderful and true.
There are other things of course. There are things that aren’t so great, too, because we’re all people. People are delightfully complex no matter how well they work together.
So, here’s to all you wonderful WordPressers out there. May you never cease to amaze.