Personal

Domains and self identity

helen blog, having long been at blog.helenyhou.com, now rests right at the top level of helenhousandi.com. The old helenhousandi.com landing page is gone. Tweaks will come, since I don’t want the front page to be a blog, and I’m sure there will be a few bugs here and there (please tell me if you encounter any), but the move is complete.

When I got married and changed my name, I bought helenhousandi.com. Instead of replacing helenyhou.com, which had long held my website as a pianist, I decided it was time to start embracing my move into web development and put a semi-crappy landing page (that I never did change much), a WordPress blog about WordPress (leaving helen blog as a more personal stream), and a brief portfolio listing on the new domain. At the time, I was also actively working and performing as a pianist, deriving about a third of my income from such, so this split between the content of the domains reflected what I was doing.

Fast forward a few more years: music is no longer a part of my professional life, and if I’m being honest with myself, it’s relegated to a very very small corner of my personal life – the one where I play piano for my son because he enjoys it. I wish I could say that I don’t regret this, because it is the result of conscious decisions I have made and have achieved success with, but that would be a lie. I’m very sad to let go of something that I worked so hard to master and had earned success and respect in.

It feels silly to talk about a change of domain name like this, and I’m already worried that I sound a bit “woe is me”. But the reality is that I’ve been sad about my professional musician identity slipping away for years now. I get huffy when my husband and his brother (who also happens to be a pianist) talk about performing together, even though I know that it’s a completely different rapport. I feel twinges of jealousy behind expressed pride and excitement when I see friends giving their Met Opera or Carnegie Hall debuts, or when Adrian gets to play ensemble concerts with music I’ve always wanted to be a part of (Knussen, swoon!).

I know I could have kept on with being a musician – as much as I struggle with impostor syndrome, I am not afraid to say that I am a damn good pianist and collaborative musician. But to do it, I would have had to give up dreams of having a family and not moving every year or two. I chose stability and family over a career that often made me tired with having to play my own booking and debt collections agents. In making that choice, I found a place in which I’ve arguably become even more successful than I would have been as a pianist. Great pianists are innumerable in the NYC metro area – permanent core committers to WordPress are, well, just me (and Matt when he’s around). To be one of ten in the world to earn such a status on the software projects that powers over a fifth of the internet is not something I ever would have dreamed of, and it totally intimidates me, but I’m enjoying it and it fits into the big picture of what I want my life to be.

In the next day or so, I’ll also be redirecting the whole of the helenyhou.com site itself to pages here instead. I don’t want to completely take down things like performance audio or my repertoire lists, but it’s time I stop pretending that that side of me is still big enough to warrant its own presence. I’ll always identify as a musician first, and I married one, so I expect it will always be a part of my life, just maybe not a part of my work.

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One thought on “Domains and self identity

  1. I expected a zillion comments on this, interesting.

    Being an old man now, I’ve noticed that most people who are really good at something tend to choose to give up other things that may have interested them. I’d really love to be a cabinet maker, and make beautiful things out of wood. But if I want to be really excellent as a software developer, I don’t have time to spend weeks in the shop making a bed.

    On the other hand, there’s a really excellent… cartoon? that explains how you actually get multiple times in your life to be excellent at something: http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2722

    You’ve had music, and now you have software development. You may be doing something completely different 7 years from now. Or you may not. I’ve been doing the same thing for almost 20.

    Leaving something you’re good at, recognized for, and love doing for something else (which at the beginning gave you perhaps none of those things) is very very hard, and I admire your ability to have done so.

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