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Becoming a Creator

Life Advice from a VHS Tape

On a late 1990’s afternoon, I left my house with no idea where I was going. Somehow, I’d managed to grow up without becoming anything I’d ever wanted to be.

The dreams I held as a child – to be an astronaut, a professional skier, or a designer for Lego – never happened. It turns out the people at NASA and Lego don’t go door to door handing out jobs. News to me. So, I left my house looking for something. I didn’t know what that something was so I stopped in at a place called a Borders Bookstore hoping they might have the answer.

Borders didn’t have as big a magazine collection as my first bookstore choice, Tower Books, but it was closer and a place called Blockbuster was next door, in case the bookstore didn’t have the answers I sought.

I enjoyed browsing through computer and design magazines at bookstores, especially the large European imports that included a CD-ROM with software demos. While flipping through these pages, I noticed a VHS training series on HTML, packaged in a clam-shell and wrapped in cellophane. Titled “Make Your Own Website!”, it made me wonder if I could create my own website. Could these tapes unlock my creative potential?

Priced at $149, the tapes were beyond my budget as an unemployed twenty-something. However, I had some credit available, so I purchased them. Excitedly, I returned home, unwrapped the tapes, and eagerly inserted the first one into the VCR. A man and woman in business attire appeared on screen, standing behind a news desk. Little did I know, these polished presenters in khaki would provide me with the direction I desperately needed.

That day, I fell in love with the web. I bought every coding book from a website that conveniently delivered them to my door. I learned design, coding, and marketing, and started a web design company. I created online platforms for schools, radio stations, tombstone makers, comic book creators, rock bands, startups, and even for my mom.

I’ve made a living building websites, apps, video games, publishing platforms, and podcasts. I founded a summer camp teaching kids game development with Unity, and I’ve produced hours of original family entertainment. My daily work involves art, storytelling, and engineering. I thrive on creating content.

It turns out, I didn’t become what I had dreamed of as a child, because the career I would eventually love hadn’t been invented yet.

I often reflect on the irony of bookstores being put out of business by the very skills taught in the books they sold. While it’s easy to laud the technology of Amazon and criticize traditional stores for not adapting, I miss bookstores. Many of us found our way because of something hidden on their shelves.