Finding Joy in 2018

Last year, I talked about my preference for intentions over resolutions or goals. I don’t like being specifically bound to any one thing. I like exploring ideas and following my heart, and I like joy in my day-to-day.

So, after some thought, I decided what better guiding principle for 2018 than joy. Do the things that bring you joy, and kick everything else to the curb. 2017 had some really teachable moments when it came to figuring out what brings me joy (and what doesn’t), so I’m using what I learned last year as a guide.

Career joy

Learning brings me so. much. joy. I’m still cranking through Bov Academy, and I have loved every part of the program so far (seriously, I cannot rave enough about it). Not only have my JavaScripts skills improved immensely, but the folks at Bov are so incredibly kind and supportive, and I feel like Richard and Co. really are setting students up for success. It’s been the most positive experience of my career as a frontend developer to date.

I think I’m about half way through the program, and I have a rough goal to see if I can complete it by the end of March. By the end of 2018, I will have a great grasp of all things JavaScript, know React really well, and hopefully will have some time to dabble with D3 on the side. Because nothing brings me more joy in coding than thinking about all the fun things I could do with JavaScript + React + D3. 😄

But what about WordPress?

WordPress is undergoing some major changes this year with the Gutenberg project, and truly hope the project is a massive success. But one thing I realized in 2017 is that WordPress has no place in my future career.

I love the frenetic, break-neck pace of Silicon Valley. The excitement here over new ideas and technologies is contagious, and I’ve missed working within that. And frankly, I also miss earning Silicon Valley wages. I haven’t worked this hard, or invested as much [time & money] in my career to earn less than I did when I was 26 years old.

EDIT (Feb. 6, 2018): I’m an idiot. Have you played with the WordPress REST API? Thanks to Zac Gordon’s Frontend Masters course, I delved into last week, and I am addicted. I’m hoping to push up some changes to my site in the coming week or two to add some REST API-driven features. It wasn’t super difficult to learn, and it’s. SO. MUCH. FUN. If my a future WordPress career could involve more hands on with JavaScript and the REST API, I think I’d be pretty damn happy.

Side projects

I needed time to mentally adjust from working full time to learning full time. And during that time, I became much more protective of my free time. This means I no longer work on things after 6:30 p.m. when my husband gets home from work. It’s been a refreshing change of pace, and frankly, I think it’s helping me solidify my learning a lot better.

This isn’t to say that I haven’t been working on a few things on the side here and there. But I have been trying to keep my side project time down to a maximum of 15 hours per week so I’m mostly focused on studying.

And maybe it goes without saying, but my side projects these days are not WordPress centric. I am not actively maintaining any of my current WordPress projects, and will likely make a few repos private in the coming months.

EDIT (Feb. 6, 2018): Still a derp. Nothing new from a WordPress projecting perspective yet, but I’m mulling over some ideas to pursue in the near future.

Personal joy

Holy shit. There is life outside of coding. Did you know that? I almost completely forgot about that since transitioning careers. I used to spend most of my evenings and weekends working on coding side projects to learn and keep progressing, but I realized in 2017 that I’m too old for this shit™ (in case you’re curious, I’ll be 35 in ten days).

I haven’t exactly pinned down how I want to focus my personal time in pursuit of joy, but these are some ideas I had:

See more live music shows

A few weeks ago, Darren, my husband, and I went to see BadBadNotGood in Oakland. The show was pure magic. In fact, I think it usurped Sigur Rós at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley as my new favorite live show of all time. There is just something so magical and amazing to me about jazz and jamming. So I’m going to keep an eye out for more shows this year. I’d love to catch Bonobo, yet another STS9 show, and others. I’m still kicking myself for not getting tickets to Cut Copy in November. Oh well.

Take up a musical instrument (again)

Maybe I’m still caught up in the after effects of BadBadNotGood, but I’ve been thinking about taking up the tenor saxophone again. I played clarinet and tenor sax in high school, and it was so much fun. I still believe if I’d started my music major with the sax, I’d have finished my degree as a music major (but hey, Latin American studies was just as awesome). For that brief year I was a music major, I also learned to play piano as part of the curriculum. I enjoyed that immensely, and I’ve been debating between buying a sax or investing in an electric piano.

Update (Feb 6, 2018): ha, this probably ain’t happening. I haven’t thought much about it since writing this post, which is why when it comes to ideas like this, I let them simmer before I go too far.

Travel for leisure

I’d like to do more traveling. I did some in 2017 for WordCamps, but none for pure leisure. I always felt pressure to get back to work, but this year, I’m not even sure I give a fuck. I’ve still got a good 30 years of my career left, so maybe I should enjoy life while I’m still young. I don’t have any particular destinations in mind, but I haven’t been out of the country for several years, and wouldn’t mind going abroad. Australia was so great Darren and I went for our honeymoon, but Hong Kong seems enticing. Likely, we’ll go back to the UK to visit my in-laws, which would actually be really nice. I haven’t been back to the UK since I left in 2013.

Skin care

Some women like fashion, some like makeup (I mean, I don’t wear a ton, but I do really like it), and some are obsessed with skin care. I fall pretty squarely into the last set. I got somewhat serious about skin care shortly after moving to California in 2005. One day I went to get my eyebrows groomed, and Claudia, the esthetician who helped me recommended I try getting a facial. I was skeptical of the up sell at the time, and it took me five or six visits for brows before curiosity got the better of me, and I got a facial. And holy shit, it was so damn amazing. Not only was it super relaxing, but after about a half a year of facials + better skin care products, my skin was looking clear and radiant.

Unfortunately, I haven’t really had the extra cash for facials since I moved back to California in 2013. That said, I’ve recently delved into the world of Korean skincare and brands like The Ordinary. I’ve been slowly transitioning from using Aveda products, and my skin is actually improving again. It’s been more hydrated and glowly, than it has been for some time, and it’s been fun researching products to figure out what best suits my needs.

I have a lot of other less-than-half baked ideas around personal joy pursuits. I’d love to do something for the greater good. But I don’t know if that means getting involved in a political cause, or helping kittens in a local shelter. I do know it is something I need to explore further. Either way, I know that whatever I decide, it needs to bring me joy.

What will you do to bring joy into your life 2018?

Updates: Intentions and JavaScript

At the beginning of the year, I posted about my intentions for 2017, in which I laid out a set of learning and project goals. But as these things go, a lot changed in the first half of the year, and basically derailed every. damn. intention.

I quit my job

After about a year at WebDevStudios, I decided it was time to part ways. I had pretty mixed feelings about this. Most there are kind and supportive humans who are more than willing to share their passion and knowledge for all things WordPress and web development. At the same time, however, there were a variety of other factors that caused me a lot of stress and were leading me to burnout city.

Working from home might be overrated

One of the shittiest things about working from home and feeling stressed and burnt out is that you can’t get away from those feelings. EVER. Personally, I want my home to be a safe space, and I’m giving up on the idea of remote work. Well, I’m thinking about it. I’ve worked remotely most of my professional career (since 2006), and only when it wasn’t at all possible to go to an office did it become an issue.

I think completely losing face-to-face interaction is the main issue here. And while WebDev very kindly and generously organized an annual retreat, getting to see your co-workers in the flesh once a year isn’t enough. When you’re interacting through computer screens its easy to dehumanize your co-workers and forget the kind and awesome humans they are.

In a moment of, oh shit, something’s gotta change, I started looking at local opportunities. Like, super local. Right in downtown San Mateo local. And there are some great opportunities for front-end developers / engineers, but with only two years of experience under my belt and a considerable lack of JavaScript understanding, I realized I had my work cut out.

I enrolled in a dev bootcamp

Every front-end developer job in the Bay Area is heavily focused on JavaScript (JS) and JS frameworks like Angular, React, and Vue. So I while I wasn’t disheartened when I was skimming local job listings, I knew I needed to put more intention and focus behind my JS studies. So in April, I began researching different developer bootcamps, looking at both local, in-person immersive bootcamps and remote bootcamps. From a sea of potential candidates, I narrowed my choices down to Hack Reactor and Bov Academy.

Hack Reactor had loads of great reviews, and seemingly a pretty good job placement rate. However, it also came in a the hefty price of close to $20k (for a three month program). 😱 That’s more than my total tuition for the undergraduate degree I earned from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005.

Bov Academy on the other hand, was about half the price, and is conducted solely online. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep working or not, but I did like the idea of having flexibility, a life, etc. Not to mention, the syllabus for Bov stressed teaching JS fundamentals over frameworks, which really appealed to me. Oh, and it’s run by Richard Bovell of JavaScript is Sexy fame, which I’ve talked about in previous posts. But what really sealed the deal for me is that my good friend and former colleague Eric was enrolled in Bov, and his JS knowledge is truly enviable. I wanted to channel my inner Eric, or at least the JS ninja living somewhere in my soul.

It ain’t a bootcamp if you’re not flying through the material

I started Bov in May, and got off to a slow start because not only was a still working, but I was giving a talk at WordCamp Orange County. Regardless, I tried to put in an hour or two after work most days, starting with learning about Markdown and the Command Line, and fast-forwarding through a bunch of stuff to do with HTML and CSS. I tested out of those chapters because if I don’t know that by now, what have I been doing for the past two years, right? 😏

By July, I was free of talk-writing obligations for a few weeks, so I was able to jam on all things JS. It started slow. There was a lot of review of the basics, including data types, etc. However, as I worked through each exercise, I realized things are clicking and sticking for the first time. I was confidently working through problems, and making loads of progress, but not necessarily consistent progress.

Assessing priorities and future goals

At the same time, the weight of work stress was crushing, and I wasn’t able to move through my studies as quickly as I hoped I would. I had to assess where I was professionally and where I wanted to be. I did a mental risk assessment, talked things through with my husband. Ultimately, the payoff of rejoining the Silicon Valley workforce sooner made more financial sense than staying at my job and taking more time to work through Bov. But couple that with the stress situation, and leaving was the only sensible answer.

And now I’m pretty fucking happy

I’m two weeks into studying full time, and I couldn’t be happier. I spend somewhere between four and eight hours studying / writing code. There are no more 7a.m. starts. Hell, I don’t even get out of bed until 8a.m. My overall productivity has been much better. I managed to launch my updated site, am working on refinishing an interior door in my house, and am working on my next WordCamp talks.

What the future holds

My dad is also coming to visit next month, so I’m looking forward to catching up with him, and exploring the greater Bay Area. After that, I’m giving two WordCamp talks, one in Sacramento, and the other in Salt Lake City. If you want to learn about component libraries or get some ideas for methodically approaching WordPress theme development, snap up those tickets!

Otherwise, I’m going to focus mainly on blasting through Bov, with hopes of completing the bootcamp before the end of the year. As I go, I’ll be actively thinking about what I really want to do. Lately, I’ve been loving the idea of coupling data visualizations using D3 with React dashboards.

What about open source projects?

I hope to spend more time working on my open source projects after WordCamp Salt Lake City. A few months ago, I made substantial updates to Alcatraz, where I refactored a load of the Sass and made some minor accessibility improvements.

I’ve also started a new project, the WP Component Library (repo here), which is basically a plugin that allows designers and developers to create and document components used in their WordPress projects (I’m using on this site!). This idea is the cornerstone for both my Using Component Libraries for Rapid Theme Development and Supercharge Theme Development with Component Libraries talks. I wanted to create the plugin as a basis for others to create their own component libraries, and am hoping to add more prebuilt, WordPress components to the site in the coming months.

2017 has been a doozy, but I’m hopeful that the strides I’m taking now lead me to a more fulfilling future. 😄

Intentions for 2017

I hate resolutions, and I think they’re an utter waste of time. Resolutions seem like a one-off list of things to accomplish, they seem to rarely have any concrete action plans behind them. Perhaps that’s why so many people give up on their New Year’s resolutions after a few weeks.

I kinda hate goals, too. As someone with the rebel tendency 1 it’s difficult to hold myself accountable to goals, no matter SMART I try to make them.

But I ❤️ intentions. Instead, I tend to note down things that sound interesting, add a bit of a description, and if I have the time / motivation, I’ll flesh out a plan of attack. For me, it’s a low-stress way of achieving my goals, while also keeping a list of things I can tinker with in my free time.

Learning

There is this weird snowballing effect when you first get into development. At first, you’re probably thinking, “Oh, I just need to learn some HTML, CSS, and maybe some JavaScript, and I’ll be good to go.” But reality often sets in after those initial lessons. You start feeling comfortable, and realize there’s even more you need to know, and it starts to feel overwhelming. I’ve finally gotten to the stage where I’ve accepted I’ll never know it all, but I still want to keep learning.

Learn JavaScript Deeply

I know everyone in the WordPress community has been banging on about learning JavaScript deeply since Matt Mullenweg uttered that phrase in his 2015 State of the Word. From a WordPress fan in the Bay Area, I’m interested in JavaScript not only because of the WordPress REST API, but because even Silicon Valley has been going nuts for JavaScript in the past few years. Learning JavaScript seems like a good way to future-proof my career (for now, at least).

I’ve had a lot of false starts learning JavaScript, but I’m ready to make 2017 The Year of JavaScript!

JavaScript for WordPress Master Course

Zac Gordon used to be the WordPress teacher at Treehouse, and after Treehouse decided WordPress—which powers 27 percent of the world’s websites—wasn’t a worthy technology to teach any more, he undertook teaching the WordPress community JavaScript. I was an early-bird enrollee for the course, but only recently started working through the lessons, and I’ve already learned a lot. I actually feel like I could drop jQuery in favor of vanilla JS soon! 😎

ES6 for Everyone

My employer, WebDevStudios, very kindly signed the front-end dev team up for Wes Bos’ latest JavaScript course. I worked through almost the entire first section of the course before deciding it maybe I should learn more about basic JavaScript before digging into ES6. 🔥

JavaScript 30

JavaScript 30 is another Wes Bos course, and another course I got partway through before deciding I need to take a step back to review some JavaScript basics. The simple projects I did complete were fun, and I’m looking forward to digging in again in a few weeks / months. 😬

React for Beginners

I feel like a fucking Wes Bos fangirl now, but I signed up for this course when Wes offered it on sale over Black Friday. React is the shit in Silicon Valley, and I’m not only excited to learn more about it, but I’m excited to learn how to build JS-driven web apps. And from what little I do know about React, this web component approach is very, very interesting.

Miscellaneous front-end topics

Not unlike one’s stock portfolio, it seems important to diversify one’s learning plan. While JavaScript will be the core focus of my 2017 learning, I’d like to sprinkle in a few other topics.

Front-end performance

Now that I have a more-than-reasonable grasp on front-end development, I’d like to learn more about writing better, more performant front-end code. I also feel like this ticks my maximizer strength 2 nicely—taking already good code, and making it better. ✅

CSS Methodologies & Sass

After exposure to several large-scale development projects involving larger teams of developers, I’ve developed an interest in better organization of CSS and Sass. There are loads of different methodologies out there including SMACSS, OOSCSS, and ITCSS, as well as different suggestions for methods for naming CSS classes (BEM, for example). I’ve already been experimenting with SMACSS and BEM, and look forward to sharing more of my findings in the future. 🙌

Test-Driven Development

This point goes hand-in-hand with learning JavaScript, but I’ve come across a few really great articles in the past few months about other front-end development tests (such as visual regression testing), and would love to learn more about these areas. Optimize all the things! 👩‍🎤

Passion Projects

I love having a variety of side projects. I find side projects to be a nice way to relieve stress, practice new language skills, and otherwise try out new ideas.

Redesign & Develop a new theme for this site

I hired my friend Clayton Gerard to design a logo when I thought I’d still be freelancing 3. And even though I’m no longer interested in freelancing, I am still very interested in updating my site, and utilizing the new visual identity.

Alcatraz

Alcatraz is a theme framework I started with my friends Braad and Jordan. We were hoping to solve two problems: 1) frustration with a shitty Theme Forest theme heavily utilized at my former studio; 2) boredom (because of said shitty theme). I’m basically the sole maintainer of the project now, but I’ve been actively working on the theme through 2016, and am hoping to merge my mega pattern-library branch back into master before the end of January!

WP Style Tiles

I’m really hoping to release WP Style Tiles to the WordPress repo before the end of the year. It’s in a good, workable place right now, but there are things I definitely need to tackle.

A To-Do List React App

How I organize my learning intentions in Basecamp 3
I use Basecamp 3 to organize and manage all of my intentions.

I know absolutely nothing about React at this point (other than a few passing mentions), but I feel like it could be a good candidate for making a little to-do list app. Right now, I use Basecamp 3 to track all of these intentions and each little step within them. It works wonderfully, but paying $30 a month for multiple non-revenue projects is a bit shit.

Managing These IntenTions

I listed a lot of stuff to focus on in 2017. One might say too many things. But that’s the beauty of intentions. I list out all the things I am interested in, and use them as focus for my free time, not a hard and fast list of deliverables that I need to finish by the end of the year (I’m certain many of these intentions will carry well into 2018).

If you have a hard time sticking with resolutions or New Year’s goals, consider trying intentions in 2017.

To-Do List

I have this running list of things that I want to work on at any given time. There is so much I want to learn and try out that it’s been tough to prioritize things. Here’s a small sampling:

  • Keep learning JavaScript:
  • New website copy + redesign
  • WordPress Plugin ideas:
    • WP Style Tiles
      Currently, this is very messy because I have a lot of other dependencies (Advanced Custom Fields Pro, a Google Font plugin), but that’s OK because it’s at its proof-of-concept phase, and I’m actually happy with the progress I’ve made so far.
    • A  portfolio plugin
    • A plugin utilizing JS to create pattern libraries within WordPress (maybe something like React components?)
  • A proper website for Alcatraz
  • Sign on new projects or get a job working with inspiring designers & developers
    I like the idea of working for myself, but I think I mostly like the idea of working from home, and collaborating with designers and developers who are willing to give me challenges and guidance when needed.