On my one year anniversary at Automattic on September 4th, I was on a plane headed from Toronto to Dublin. I sat next to a French Canadian who owned a winery and a dairy farm outside of Ottawa. We spoke of favorite travels, how fascinating anthropology is, and how it’s a shame most Americans aren’t bilingual.

This year has flown by. Literally. I’ve flown to three major international cities: Auckland, Vancouver, and Dublin. I witnessed the World Cup final where the U.S. handily beat Japan. With my Automattic backpack and my well worn sambas, I’ve been all over the U.S.: Park city, Boulder (twice), Portland (twice), San Diego, Carmel, Big Sur, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chapel Hill, Washington DC, NYC, Winter Park, and San Francisco, my most recent “home”.  I’ve done things I never thought I’d be able to do both personally and professionally.

I’ve learned more about security and WordPress this year than I probably have in all 4 years in this field. I’ve been surrounded by incredible colleagues who never have passed up an opportunity to pass on what they know and to help me grow my own knowledge base. I feel like I should be graduating college all over again just based on how much I’ve learned and how much I’ve grown.

I’ve been able to give back by going home and by helping out thanks to the flexibility of my job. I was able to go home for weeks this past year to see my grandmother. My granddad died right before I started my trial at Automattic so being able to go home as much as I needed was exactly what I needed. I want to be there for my family as my parents get older and my grandma adjusts to life as a widow. I now write post cards each week to my grandma detailing my travels and adventures telling her how much I know my ability to do this is due in large part to her support. Financially, I’ve been able to help my mom travel again to some of the same places I’ve been able to go thanks to Automattic commitment to providing for their employees (she’s coming to Dublin for a week!). I’ve been able to reconnect with my Uncle and see what life is like for him on a day to day basis. I’ve been able to visit friends that I would have otherwise been unable to see for who knows how long. I’ve been able to drop everything (literally) and help when called upon.

In May 2014, I graduated college a year early because my family simply couldn’t afford another year of me in school. I had no set plans for the next year but knew I needed and wanted a job. The call to stay in Chapel Hill was strong: I had a job lined up, my friends who did graduate were mostly there, and it felt safe. Staying comfortable and safe wasn’t in the cards for me though. I couldn’t let myself. Essentially, I saw the next year ahead as a freebie. No matter what, I’d be making some money (hopefully) and could use this year as a head start rather than a step back. I could move wherever. I could go wherever. I could do whatever. Why? Because I was thrown out of my metaphorical bird’s nest a bit sooner than my friends and had no idea what to expect or do other. Looking ahead was the only option. The way I saw it I could spend the entire year making mistakes and it would be a success in my book. Landing a job at Automattic helped me to take full advantage of this attitude while also giving me the means and framework to do so successfully. I could travel wherever I wanted. I could work whatever schedule I wanted. I could dive into whatever topic interested me. I could let my passions take me. I could learn. I could give back to those I love. I could travel and see the world. I could be a financial asset rather than a burden to my parents (finally).

I’ve been given personal freedom, yes. What about professional? Just after my 22nd birthday, I helped co-run an event called Accelerate.LGBT in San Francisco in partnership with Google to help LGBT non profits and small businesses. This has been the proudest moment of my short career. It represented something that I didn’t think I could handle doing. It was the mountain to climb. I climbed it and it’s why I’m here today writing this from Dublin as I am days away from running Accelerate.LGBT here. Beyond that, Automattic supported me doing this WITHOUT question. They trusted me and let me run with my ideas. They gave me the freedom to represent the company and the support to do so.

I’ve found community at Automattic. I’ve found people who are willing to talk about a variety of tough topics without shutting down or giving in to majority opinion. I’ve found people who have my best interest at heart. I’ve found people who genuinely care about the people who use our products. I’ve found people who strive to be better each day both personally and professionally. I’ve found people who are willing to do the hard work in order to do the right thing.

I can’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else. Here’s to more anniversaries. Here’s to being better each day, each week, each month, & each year.

To my coworkers, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You all are more like friends than coworkers.

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