What do you want to do for living? Depending on where you stand in life, this question can either be the most easiest or an incredibly tough one to answer. When you are ten or fifteen this question is exciting and it has the power to open a whole box of wishes and dreams that seem to just be waiting to be realized.
Well, with 25 and a university degree in civil engineering in my pocket, that was probably the most unpleasant question you could have asked me. This was not like I imagined it to be. The feeling was wrong. Instead of being eager to finally put the acquired knowledge into practice, I somehow felt like I’ve just spent the last 6 years of my life for nothing. There was zero enthusiasm in picturing me working in civil engineering field…not now…not ever.
Life is perfect…well almost :)
The year was 2009 and some big events are underway in my life. First, on April 4th I turned 25. OK, that doesn’t sound like much now, but for me, then, it surely was:). In May I got married to Marko. By the way, he is helping me write this and he won’t let me write epics about him, but otherwise I certainly would:). In June I finished my studies and in September I officially moved to Germany to live with my husband. Somehow, it still sounds strange when I say “my husband”, soo serious :) .
When I recall these events now I can see what a great year that was. Still, there was this big question mark hanging above my head; what am I going to do for living? Beside having a major in a field I had no intention of pursuing a career, I now had another barrier… german language. If you’ve ever heard German talking you probably know it doesn’t sound like a piece of cake thing to learn:).
The first year in Germany I spent learning the language and working some part time jobs in restaurants, hotels and even giving dancing lessons. It was fun, new country, new language, new people. I even applied for a couple of jobs related to civil engineering, but luckily didn’t get them due to insufficient German knowledge.
Why study something you don’t want to do?
I guess this question might have crossed your mind at least once by now. To better describe the whole thing I need to give a bit more insight into my background and life prior to meeting Marko.
I was born in Kotor, Montenegro that was then a part of Yugoslavia. Kotor is a relaxed small town on the coast and in my memory it imprinted itself as a great place to be a child. Most people that heard of Kotor, probably visited it on board of one of one of the large cruising ships that stop there daily.
Unfortunately, in the beginning of 90’s terrible things started to happen all over Yugoslavia, the country started to fall apart and my family decided to move to Croatia that have just announced independence from Yugoslavia. We ended up on the small island Losinj, another tourist destination, where I lived with my parents until I was 18 and was time to go to college.
Although spending childhood in such beautiful small towns like Kotor and Losinj may seem like living in paradise for many people, there is always another side of the coin. For me that other side were missing options. It was like, there is a way how things work here and you have to get used to it. The sooner you forget about some unconventional ideas about your future the better :) . And I’ve had a lot of those. I was interested in playing piano, dancing, design and so on. It was all acceptable as a hobby, but no one really considered those to be a serious occupation option.
Well, with time, I forgot about many of them as I tried to fit in and as a result I ended up studying civil engineering for the sole reason that it is, among maybe 3-4 other studies, traditionally considered “a good choice” in this country.
Nothing without a support
As people say, “better ever than never”. I don’t know and don’t want to know what my life would be like if I’ve forced myself to follow the path I had in front of me at that time, but I guess forcing yourself to do anything long term is receipt for failure.
I figured out that “a good choice” doesn’t mean much if you’re not satisfied with it.
It is a common saying that there are always alternatives, but sometimes it is really hard to see them. Especially if you live in an environment that doesn’t want or is afraid to see them. Moving to Germany to live with Marko changed my views and I started to open myself to new opportunities.
Although Marko originally comes from the same small island my family moved to in the 90’s, we first met in 2006 when he was already living in Germany. His way of thinking is quite unconventional by Croatian standards and although he also tried to ignore his own urges for some time, he dropped out of “a good choice” college just before the finish line and went to Germany to work as a musician.
He inspired me to rethink my options and supported me from the day one no matter what choice I make. All at once my choice was clear.
I always wanted to do something creative and design was my wish for a long time although I’ve never done anything even remotely like it. Marko and I sat down, I told him what I’d want and he was like; great, take your time, start learning and sooner or later it will pay off.
So, I started browsing all over the net trying to find good sources that I can learn from. First I actually started creating logos, but very soon I was hooked on web design. I started learning HTML/CSS and even enrolled myself in the online based web design course that turned out to be a waste of time as the concepts that they taught were 10 years behind the times. However, persistence does pay off and within a year I was ready to try selling my first template.
Themeforest was an obvious choice, but the quality was not there yet. When I look at those first templates, they make me laugh, but you have to start somewhere:). Anyway, the templates got better, got accepted and I started to feel comfortable in what I was doing.
WordPress all the way
The year was 2012, I’ve had a couple of templates and a couple of small clients behind me, but with all these CMS solutions growing, HTML templates seemed like a dead end. In the meantime Marko and I decided to try to build a business selling only finished templates instead of developing custom websites for clients.
Our goal was to build a business that is independent of the place of living.
The way I got introduced to WordPress wasn’t very romantic and there is nothing really inspiring in that story. We were looking for a bigger market that could make our plan work and growing sales themes on Themeforest led us to one conclusion… WordPress.
I didn’t know anything about it and was quite reluctant to start learning it, but Marko can be quite stubborn:). He was like, “come on, it can’t be that hard”, although at that time he didn’t have any knowledge of it what so ever:) However, that kept me going and the more I learned about WordPress the more I liked the whole idea behind it.
Community of like minded people
From my very first steps with WordPress I was pleasantly surprised how helpful people in the WordPress community can be. Complete strangers were ready to take their precious time and help a beginner learn some basic concepts. This is something I’ve never experienced before and that is one of the greatest values of being a part of such a community.
In 2013 we launched our own site Anariel Design where we offered our HTML template as well as the first theme or two. Here again complete strangers, that run a very popular site Codrops, help us promote the site at the very beginning. In the meantime we got to know them in person so they are not strangers anymore :). Thank you Manoela and Pedro!
2014 was a turning point when, out of the blue, we got an email from Philip Arthur Moore ( work for Automattic at the time ) asking if we’d like to sell our themes on WordPress.com. It was such honor for me to be invited. It was like an ultimate confirmation that I’m doing something right an that was finally something I actually enjoyed doing. Thank you Philip!
When You Least Expect It
2013 had its dark side as I was going through a series of panic attacks that seemed to start out of nothing. It was completely confusing as everything was going great in my life and then all of a sudden such a horror. I even ended up in a hospital for 2 days cause I felt as if I was having a heart attack so they kept me to do some tests.
Marko helped me analyze the situation and I discovered how much baggage I’ve been carrying around for a long long time. Things I’ve never talked about. Things I was ashamed or afraid of. Things I should have straighten out a long time ago, but didn’t. Opening up helped me a lot and it got better with time.
At the time the panic attacks started happening I got a gift, cute small teddy bear. It may sound funny or strange, but this teddy bear we named Bubi helped me calm down in my worst hours. Especially when Marko wasn’t at home. In the meantime Bubi became our lucky charm and he’s now with us where ever we go.
A Glance at the Future
The last two years were really a joyride. We achieved our goal of running a business that doesn’t tide us to a certain location. In 2014 Marko took a long needed break from music to learn WordPress and beside doing the business side of things he became an awesome support agent:).
We are now working from a home office or from where ever we find ourselves at the moment. We like to attend WordCamps whenever we can and meet new people. There are so many interesting stories as most of these people lead unconventional lives.
No one knows what the future brings and how my life will be in a year or in five years.
However, WordPress showed me that everything is possible if you invest enough time and effort. It helped me grow confidence in myself and in other people. That is something that no one can take away and that is what I’m most thankful for.
Thank you note
With every project you, me or anyone else ever started there is always someone who knows something you don`t. Someone who can help you out when you get stuck, someone from whom you can always learn something new.
So, in this last part i’d like to thank all the people that helped me on my way:
- First thanks Topher DeRosia for inviting me to write the essay and go out of my comfort zone ;)
- special thanks to Marko for all the help & support, without you I wouldn’t manage all this
- Big thanks to Matt Mullenweg & Mike Little and to all that are contributing to WordPress
- Philip Arthur Moore ( you are my “hero” ;) ), Caroline Moore, David A. Kennedy, Ola Laczek, Ernesto Méndez, Jack Lenox, Tammie Lister, Fränk Klein & all Automatticians – I learned so much from you, thanks a bunch :)
- Thanks to all volunteers and organizers of the WordCamps, you are doing a great job :). Special thanks to Emanuel Blagonic & all other Croatian organizers and volunteers for organizing amazing WordCamp Croatia ( next one is in September in Split: https://2016.split.wordcamp.org/ )
- Big thanks to theme reviewers on WordPress.org, specially to Joe Dolson for the theme accessibility reviews, I learned a lot from you :)
- Thanks to Manoela & Pedro from Codrops
- Big thanks to Jonathan Atkinson & Andrei Surdu, you advices helped a lot at the beginning :)
- and thanks to all great people & friends I met during my work & WordCamps, so many beautiful & inspiring people out there :)