I want you to know that I love my website. I am telling you this because I spent a lot of time trying to make things that I did not love, and I would be mystified by my own unhappiness. Isn’t that silly? Anyway, don’t let me forget this. Thanks!
Why-ary a diary
Because I like the idea of a diary! I mean, a journal is cool and all, but diary carries with it this powerfully intimate, spill-it-all energy that I disassociated myself from for years and years and years.
(And blog? I… I’m not going to use the word “blog”.)
The point is, whatever it is that I’m writing here, I’m writing for my diary. Which basically means for me! Any other eyes that happen to see this are incidental.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to share it. The world I want is one in which people do and make things because they want to, and then they share those things because those things could help others get better in touch with what they want to do or make.
The cool thing about my diary is that I get to enact the above ethos and be self-indulgent about whatever it is I write here, all at the same time!
A personal timeline of website
Here is my recollection of my website-making journey, as far back to as far forward as I can remember:
Doing the Microsoft FrontPage tutorial with a copy that my dad brought home from work, ca. 1997. As I recall, the tutorial was a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Of course this website never made it online.
There was a free hosting site called homestead.com, which… apparently still exists? They had various templates, and one of them was a Java applet chatroom. I remember deploying one of these chatroom templates with a starry sky background and somehow convincing a couple of my elementary school pals to join me in it!
At some point, I discovered that we got a tiny bit of free hosting — what, like 5mb? less? — through our dial-up internet service provider, and I also stumbled onto Lissa Explains It All. I think wanted to know more about colored scrollbars, and ended up learning about, like,
<frame>and stuff. I made a personal website called Pixilated (like “pixel”, but also like “pixie”?) where I posted a rant about iPods. That website is has been lost to time.
I had a SpongeBob phase in fifth grade that was ruined by this absolute creep who went by “Spongesteve” who pretended he was 14 and ended up being 34. Gross! That’s not particularly relevant to the website journey except that I tried to recover from the abrupt end of my SpongeBob phase by pivoting into a Rocko’s Modern Life phase. I put a Rocko’s Modern Life website up on Tripod, which is still up today. I find it embarrassing for the sole reason that I stole most of the content from other websites, did not link back to those websites, and then even had the audacity to say “no stealing” after openly admitting that I stole that content. Ugh!!!
Now we are entering my uJournal and personal blog era! uJournal was a LiveJournal clone that didn’t require an invite, and you could personalize your page with CSS. But I wanted more control, more!!! I have no idea how I found all the teens and 20-somethings making personal websites, but I remember I thought they were so cool, and I got set up with a Greymatter blog on someone’s subdomain. Later, I remember the very savvy and cutting-edge began moving to Movable Type and then Wordpress, and now apparently nearly half the internet or something is WordPress. Geez.
WordPress is what brought me to PHP… and also Linux, via the LAMP stack. After going through all the trouble of setting up a local WordPress install on Red Hat Linux 9, this is when I realized I could have a dynamic site without WordPress by writing my own PHP! And it wouldn’t even have to be fancy, it could just do exactly what I wanted it to do, whatever that was.
But then… something happened near the end of high school. I got weird about making websites. Instead of posting misguided political rants and cryptic messages about/to my crush, I found myself putting up “I’m on hiatus” pages a lot. One of them was definitely just a verse from The New Year with no further explanation.
In my freshman year of college, I made a custom website for course and professor reviews for colleges within that little liberal arts college consortium… and then I ghosted the people who contacted me offering to help maintain it. I have no idea what happened to it. I literally cannot remember.
I got a computer science degree. My college offered a web dev course, but it didn’t fit into my schedule, and I may have also been snobby about it in an autodidact kind of way? I was snobby about a lot of things in a lot of ways back then, because I thought this was an effective cover for my insecurities rather than a huge flashing neon arrow pointing directly at them.
Am I even talking about websites anymore? The only website I tried to make for a while was an “academic” one, except there was the glaring problem of not actually being able to envision myself as an academic. Whoops! At some point, I went back to my roots and made a little Neocities site that was a list of various projects I’d posted online. This was how I viewed the primary (and only?) function of any personal website I’d have for a while. Very utilitarian, and honestly not very fun at all.
I also made a personal site around this time, and oh god, it was a struggle. I would meet up to co-work with a friend, and sit there feeling embarrassed and wanting to cover the screen with my hands, lest anyone walked by and… what??? I ended up slopping one out (note: that is not the personal website that I slopped out). And then I put it up and felt so ashamed that I never told anyone outside my close internet friend group that I made this personal website and also maybe I was looking for a job to make websites, except I was not really because BIG SHAME TIME.
Shame is so exhausting. Though I made a few more one-off websites in the meantime, it took two years for me to take another shot at a personal website. That was… a few months ago? And once again, I struggled! I spent lots of time getting tweaky about designs that I didn’t even like, coding up utterly pointless components, trying to do things a Hard Way when I was fully aware there was an Simpler Way. But! It all paid off, because I have a website now!!!
Well here I am now!
Absolutely none of the struggle in the stages leading up to now had to do with tech or coding. That’s always been the fun part! But there’s been so much little-t trauma to work through, just great heaping mounds of shame that accumulated over the years.
My git log tells me that it took a month and a few days for me to get this website to a point where I am even putting it online. And I can still conjure up a little voice that’s like, “You spent that long on it, and this is all you could come up with?”
But a huge part making this site (and the general broader process of my life these days) is mediating a genuine, meaningful conversation between that particular little voice and the most earnest parts of myself, so they can both understand each other better. To my delight, what I’m finding is the little shame voice actually loves it when my earnest side stands up for itself, because all along it’s been trying to protect me from imaginary critique from imaginary haters by oh-so-cleverly pre-empting them.
In conclusion??? No this is just the start
How did this website get made? Ultimately, by messing around and taking none of it too seriously. Trying this or that. Opening the inspector and changing a value or five. Fiddling and tinkering. It’s a mess, it’s a playground, it’s a workshop. It’s my freaky little FAFO spot… On-Line.
I am also making this website by turning around and walking away and not touching it when it’s not interesting. When I am bored, I make boring things. A terrible waste.
This is the exercise, the one I will practice over and over for the rest of my days: How do I make something I love, something with love, rather than with shame?