Making a personal site

I've been trying to make a personal website for a long time.

Every time I sat down to build one, I got bogged down in one step or another. The first time, it was when I was just learning React — so of course, I had to build it with that, even though I barely knew how it worked. When I used the handy-dandy create-react-app, I was overwhelmed with all of the tooling that went along with it; webpack and friends were foreign to me.

So, I decided to try and learn about all of the different configuration tools, what they did, how they worked, and build my own configuration.

After writing a few hundred lines of code with nothing even on the page...I binned it, and pushed it down the road. "I'll make a site when I have some projects to back it up, it would be silly to build one now!", I said to myself.

The next time I gave it a shot, I had learned enough about create-react-app to just use the defaults, and tweak only what I needed — I could actually work on the site!

Now, while visual design is a passion of mine (to consume, mostly), at that point, most of my ideas were in my head, and I didn't have enough experience with CSS to turn my dreams into reality. I also hadn't just made enough to get over the hump of my own internal criticisms and extremely high standards.

Many pens fell, giving their life to the pages and pages of mobile, tablet, and desktop displays of what would surely be the coolest dang site on the net. And yet, every time I returned to the blogosphere, my fledgeling hopes wilted in the face of incredible talent. I felt like I couldn't even get on the same field, let alone compete.

After a few weeks, the flame I had been coaxing back to life shook, shivered, and died.

There were some more halfhearted attempts, but the two I've described are the ones that sing out to me when my brain decides to replay the top cringe hits of the past few years.

At a certain point, I stopped caring.

It was around the time I deleted my Facebook. I still had Instagram and Twitter on my phone, but most of my usage at that point an actual phone. It felt really good, and I realized that a lot of what my inner taskmaster was pushing me to do was entirely for other people. Or rather, what I thought other people wanted. To present myself. Dress myself up.

I was so afraid. I couldn't put myself out there. I've always had a problem with competition, let alone displaying creative work. There's a perfectionist that lives in my head, and nothing was getting past them — nothing got built.

The more time I spent trying to curate my Feedly with helpful, inspiring, insightful content, the more I read and heard about getting out of the blogosphere. There's a great talk by Chris Wanstrath that finally resonated a little more. He urges his listeners to just build, and stop giving a hoot about what other people want, or what would look good. At the very end, he says,

Side projects are less masturbatory than reading RSS, often more useful than MobileMe, more educational than the comments on Reddit, and usually more fun than listening to keynotes.

So I started making two lists: side projects that I'd had an itch to build, and languages/frameworks I wanted to learn. I made another for quality of life improvements that I wanted to invest in, like learning vim, VSCode shortcuts and customizations, and etc.

The first thing on that list? Make a personal website.

So this is it! It's far from fancy, at the time of writing, at least. I specifically wanted to make it as stripped down as possible, to make sure I could get it out the door and check that box that had been waiting so long to be marked complete.

I'm not going to write about how I made it — that would be just another article out in the void that I'm trying to get away from myself. I just wanted to get out the why that's been sitting on my chest for a few years now.

I will say that I made it with Gatsby, and that it's hosted on GitLab Sites. I'll also say that it was super easy to do, and would recommend those tools to anyone! If you have questions about it, just check out the code, or holler if that doesn't answer it for you.

I'll be tinkering with the site for quite some time, I think — there are still quite a few things I want to add (a service worker, inline contact form, more fun designs, etc.) — but it's a leaping off point, and I'm glad I finally took the plunge.

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