Chris Wiegman Chris Wiegman

Finding Community

If you were to ask my parents about me they would probably tell you something to the tune of I’m “restless” or similar. You see, I can’t seem to ever be happy where I’m at. At least that’s probably what it looks like from the outside anyway. To me it looks a little different. I know exactly what it would take for me to be happy, I just haven’t managed to find it yet.

That said, the history of it all should probably be enough to make anyone wonder if I could ever be happy. I’ve had more state driver’s licenses than cars, over a dozen jobs and even, depending on how you count it, three different careers so I could see how one might think I don’t know what I’m looking for. What I’ve learned, however, is that each change, whether location, company or career, has been sparked by the same basic desire to find a community I’m comfortable in.

What does that mean? Let’s back up a bit. From the time I was little I wanted to be a pilot or a musician (probably depending on the day you asked me). While I would eventually go on to make make money from both, it was aviation that really stuck. I went to college for it, taught it and eventually rose to fly business jets and then as a captain for a small airline.

With each new job something was missing. When I taught I simply couldn’t make enough money to put food on the table. When I got to the “goal” job and flew business jets the people I was around were awful. These were people with more money than brains and with only one goal for the future: more. They were doctors, pastors, lawyers and others and all of them viewed each other and everyone else not as people but as potential marks. I was out of my element, both socially and in a way that made me feel as if I had sold my soul for the seat in the jets I was flying. It was time to find something else.

I jumped from jets to turboprops next and moved to Hawaii where I was home every night jumping between the islands for a small airline. On paper it was, again, perfect but below the surface it was something else. The airline was run by people whose motivation wasn’t money but petty power. It was so bad that they had, at one point, even had a pilot beaten up. After a year of constant abuse I realized it was time to take an offer of a whole other career and get out of aviation and the constant streams of horrible people I found in it.

Tech may have it’s faults but, as a whole, I’ve found it far less toxic than aviation, especially in WordPress. Here was finally a community that really did seem to care for each other and want to do better for all. The open source community, however, was very different than some of the companies that took advantage of the goodwill of that community and I once again found myself jumping around. From “open source” companies that scrubbed contributors names off their code to managers who thought they were God’s gift to the world I seemed to find all the worst of WordPress and it was frustrating.

I had a career I enjoyed, but I couldn’t find a company I enjoyed. Then I found my current company. Other than the school I went to, I’ve been at WP Engine longer than anywhere else I’ve worked. It’s a company that is honest about its faults and treats people as people, something that is far too uncommon, even in a community that claims doing so is one of its deepest values.

Two out of three ain’t bad, right? Throughout all of it I’ve lived in 5 different states at countless addresses. I loved Hawaii and Carbondale but timing meant I couldn’t make a living. Austin was never home. Sarasota, where we really thought we would be happy, turns out to have the same issue so many of my jobs have had: horrible people everywhere. I’ve been verbally and nearly physically assaulted more times than I can count for things like wearing a mask or being suspected of being this way or that. It’s a wealthy town that seems to encapsulate the worst of why I left aviation and I can’t wait to get out.

Throughout all of these changes there’s a common theme: community. It took me a long time but I’ve finally found communities I’m happy to be a part of both for my career and for my job. Now there’s only one thing to fix: where we live.

I don’t know where this last community is going to be found, but I know I need to try to find it. That’s what would really make me happy.