Introducing Sophia DeRosia
Sophia is a young WordPresser who’s interested in multiple aspects of life. She’s a taskmaster and the chief lover of dinosaurs.
Tara: This is Hallway Chats, where we meet people who use WordPress.
Liam: We ask questions, and our guests share their stories, ideas, and perspectives.
Tara: And now the conversation begins. This is episode 97.
Liam: Welcome to Hallway Chats. I’m Liam Dempsey.
Tara: And I’m Tara Claeys. Today, we’re joined by Sophia DeRosia. Sophia is a young WordPresser who’s interested in multiple aspects of life. She’s a taskmaster and the chief lover of dinosaurs. Hi, Sophia. Thanks for joining us today.
Sophia: Hi Tara.
Liam: Hi Sophia. How are you? Thanks for joining us today. Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself, please?
Sophia: I’m homeschooled. I spend my whole life being homeschooled. I’ve also spent my whole life growing up in the WordPress community, which has been a really interesting childhood, but pretty fun. There isn’t a whole lot to tell. I mean, I’m a lot like any other normal kid.
Tara: Tell us a little bit about, I guess, for those who might not recognize your last name, why you’ve grown up in the WordPress community, what’s brought you to that.
Sophia: My dad got into building websites back before it was really a thing, and then throughout the years, got into WordPress – I think after my parents were married – and then made multiple friends. Then he got my mom to do it. Ever since I was super little, either. My dad has worked in WordPress, or we’ve just been involved in that community for as long as I can remember.
Tara: And what does it mean to be involved in the community? You’re going to WordCamps and meetups and that type of thing?
Sophia: When I was really little, my dad would go to some WordCamps. Not as many when I was little, but the older I got usually the more that he would go. I think when I was in like seventh grade my parents started to travel more and go to more WordCamps.
Tara: And you would go with them?
Sophia: It depends. Normally, we would stay home, especially the older we got. Like now we hardly ever go with them to WordCamps. The meetup for Grand Rapids, we’ve always been pretty involved in. I know Brian Richards was … I’m pretty sure he was in charge of it a couple of years ago, and then once they started to have more little kids, then my parents started to kind of take it over. So we’ve been pretty involved in that over the last couple of years.
Tara: How many WordPress t-shirts do you have?
Sophia: I don’t actually have that many.
Sophia: I got a ton in seventh grade when I thought they were cool, and then I realized that I don’t want to have a ton of oversized t-shirts that I don’t know what they’re about. So I got rid of all of them.
Tara: So because your parents are so involved in WordPress, and we mentioned the beginning that you consider yourself to be a WordPresser or so, there must be something about it that attracted you to it. I think we’ve spoken to other people on this show who have children. I have children as well. Liam does too. My children want pretty much nothing to do with WordPress. So tell us a little bit about your decision to learn to use it and what you do with it?
Sophia: I got a blog when I was 10 because my parents made me and I never wrote anything on it because like, what does a 10-year-old write on a blog? I’m a writer at heart. My whole family is. So the older I got, the more that I realized how much I love writing. That’s what I primarily use WordPress for as an outlet for my writing. And then just growing up, that was the thing my dad did. That was the coolest thing ever. I don’t know, it just felt cool to get sucked into that, be involved in it.
Tara: Okay. So you are you’re the child’s that many parents want to have who thinks that thinks that their parents do is cool. That must make your dad feel very good.
Sophia: I don’t know.
Tara: That’s nice. What kind of things do you write about on your blog?
Sophia: I write about all the crap in life. So just things that I learned here and there. Just a lot of my failures and the things that I learned through those so that other people have the opportunity to learn from my mistakes, and gain the wisdom that I did to help guide them through their circumstances.
Tara: Who are writing for? Are you writing for your peers, people your age?
Sophia: It’s not for just people my age. Part of being the WordPress community is I’m really comfortable talking to adults. I’m really comfortable talking to anyone in any age. So I’d like to think that my writing can help someone like an adult. It isn’t really geared toward a specific audience. I like to think all the things that I learned anyone can learn.
Liam: When you write and you publish your posts about your mistakes and your trials and your tribulations and your challenges, and that what you’ve learned, do you just write it and hit publish and leave it? Do you then send links to people who might be interested? Are you on social media? Do you tweet about it? How far are you putting it out there? Because my own experience, it’s one thing to have a blog for me and nobody visits my blog so I can pretty much write whatever I want and nobody reads it. But I wonder in the sense of giving back how far are you pushing it out there as a vehicle? That takes bravery, and that’s, I guess, where I’m going.
Sophia: I haven’t pushed super hard. Not because I’m afraid to, just because I don’t know how necessary … I’m, learning how to – I can’t think of the right word for that – but just get everything out there and gain a social media presence. I’m trying to decide how much I want to get out there. My blog has always been totally empty. Like, I never got any feedback from anyone. I think I got two comments and it totally scared me because somebody else that I didn’t know was talking to me. So I was trying to figure out what I was going to do in those situations. And if that was something I wanted to keep doing, because I like the idea of having a community, but I don’t know how to stay safe necessarily if that makes any sense.
Liam: Yeah, that totally does. It totally does. It’s interesting. It’s one thing to push it out there and it’s quite another then to if you realize people actually read it and then they engage in it. But to do so in a safe way, that’s wonderful. But sometimes it can be a little scary. I think I shared this with you before the show, but somebody saw you present at a WordCamp and were very impressed by you. And that’s why we reached out and asked you if you wanted to be on the show. Can you tell us a little bit about your WordCamp talk, and what was it about? And how did that come about? Did you just say I want to do that or maybe there were some gentle pushing and support from the parents? What was that whole process like for you, Sophia?
Sophia: So there was no pushing at all. My parents encouraged it but they didn’t make me do it at all.
Liam: Sure, sure.
Sophia: A couple of years ago, I saw a need at my church for … it wasn’t exactly a need, but it would have been helpful to have a place that was safe for a ton of all the youth group kids to be able to talk to each other because we had an age range from 11 to like 18. So I decided to use BuddyPress and make a social media site for everyone that was completely safe and secure but we would all be able to talk to each other. And there were leaders and potentially parents who could be on the site. And so my BuddyPress talk, that’s what it was. It was a BuddyPress talk. It was very basic because I’d never spoken before. So it just gave a layout of the widgets that I used and how I made it and the people that I got help from. I just chose to do it because it sounded fun. It was when my mom was organizing WordCamp Grand Rapids, so I said, “Hey, I can do that.” Because actually, I love to speak and write presentations and everything. It was fun.
Tara: That’s impressive. Not a lot of people are really comfortable doing that.
Tara: So it sounds like you do more than write. Do you enjoy the technology aspects of WordPress? You were talking about widgets and BuddyPress. BuddyPress is not exactly an easy thing to work with.
Sophia: It is not. I am not really a technical person. I can be but I don’t enjoy it a ton, so I don’t necessarily like … I wouldn’t dive into it. But I could be if I tried to do.
Tara: And how about the design aspects of it? I think your artistic. Do fiddle with design in WordPress? Do you know any CSS code or anything like that?
Sophia: Not really. I tried to do some CSS when I was creating the BuddyPress site and without my dad’s help, I could not figure it out. I think I would enjoy it more if I tried, but it’s just not my thing. I’m not like, “Oh my gosh, CSS. I love CSS.”
Liam: Yeah, if you’re not interested in something it’s hard to dive deep into it. Absolutely. So how did the site turnout? Do your youth group use it a lot? Did everybody engage with? Was it fun? What happened?
Sophia: So nobody used it. It was one of those situations where it’s a great idea, and it totally fits a need. People are sheep. People aren’t going start using something unless you make them use it. And so, just to say nobody used it, and it just died. It was way too much for me to try to handle, try to keep it up to date and everything. So, but I did learn a lot about project management and trying to get people who aren’t being paid to do a certain job. It’s not fun. Don’t do it ever.
Tara: Volunteering to organize something and be in charge you end up doing a lot of the work yourself.
Sophia: Oh, yeah.
Tara: Definitely true.
Sophia: Especially with teenagers.
Tara: I can imagine. I would bet that they probably prefer a Facebook group over a custom BuddyPress to interact with each other. Tell us a little bit about this dinosaur thing.
Sophia: I just love dinosaurs. My sister and I growing up, she always loved dragons and so that was a huge part of just our childhood. We’d go to the lake and be terrified because there was a Loch Ness Monster in this teeny tiny lake. I just like dinosaurs. They’re just cute and fun.
Liam: Do you have a favorite one?
Sophia: I do but I don’t remember what it’s called. It the basic long-neck dinosaur that eats plants and has a super long tail. I can’t think what it’s called.
Liam: Or maybe it’s Brachiosaurus? I’ll tell you the least favorite one I have is, you know, that one that’s like has long as—
Sophia: Every letter of the alphabet.
Liam: And it’s an alligator. It’s basically like a Megalodon.
Liam: That scares me.
Tara: Sophia, what does success mean to you? How would you define it?
Sophia: I would define success as discovering and utilizing your gifts as well as possible and in the best way that you can.
Tara: Do you have a way of identifying your gifts? Do you think they change over time?
Sophia: I don’t think that they change. I think each person is built with a certain skill set. And no matter what they’re doing, they have the ability to use those skills in any situation. You said, “How would you define your skill set?”
Tara: Your gift. How do you identify it? You said success is utilizing your gifts. Do you know what your gifts are or is it something that you’re still trying to figure out?
Sophia: I guess it depends on how you define gifts. I’m a Christian so I tend to focus on spiritual. When I think of gifts, I think of spiritual gifts. The things that you’re good at. Mine is wisdom. I tend to think deeply, I guess. I tend to consider every option and try to pick the best one. I don’t think lazily about something. I guess, to figure out what gifts you would have is to just think about the things that you do. When you’re in a situation what would you lean towards? If you have to pick a pen or pencil or an eraser, which one would you pick? Once permanent, one can be erased and one doesn’t leave any marks.
Tara: I like that. Very introspective.
Sophia: Thank you.
Tara: So your wisdom you think is your gift. So making the most of your wisdom is success. How do you implement that?
Sophia: I just use it in any situation that I can. I use it through my writing. I use it when I talk to people. I use it in my decision making which is very valuable and really, really annoying. Just in any stage of life that I’m in I try to just kind of like think naturally. Not overthink it, but trying to make the best decisions that I can.
Tara: I like that. What role has homeschooling played in your trajectory to where you are as a young person maturing, becoming an adult?
Sophia: I like to think that it’s helped me become quite the adults. I’m a social person, which helps with that, but ever since I was little I could talk to adults. So I’m not afraid to talk to adults. I’m not afraid to answer questions. I hate talking on the phone, but that’s a whole ‘nother thing. Homeschooling, it’s helped me be really independent. That’s one of the main reasons my mom wanted me to be homeschooled. A lot of homeschoolers that are Christians, you think, “Oh, well, they’re homeschooled, because they don’t want to be … Well, the other kids, you know, they are sinners.” Don’t quote me on that. But my mom wanted to keep us homeschooled so that we wouldn’t be pressured by other people. So that we would be ourselves. And it gave us the freedom to be ourselves and to develop who we are and what we’d like to do without feeling pressure or judgment from other people.
Tara: Two things. Tell us the hardest thing about being homeschooled and the best thing about being homeschooled.
Sophia: The hardest thing about being homeschooled, for me, is the unknown. I like having a plan. When you go to public school, it’s laid out. You take four years of classes, and then you take the SAT and then you go to college. But with homeschooling, it’s completely flexible. Like my sister and I both, we took a year. Or I’m going to take a year and she took a year to finish up some school. I think the best thing about me homeschooling is that you can play to your strengths. I’m not good at math in any way, shape, or form. So a lot of the times my mom would be able to look at it, even if I got every single question wrong, my mom will be able to say, “Okay, so you understand this, you just have a problem with the little things. I wouldn’t add something right, I wouldn’t multiply something right, but I would know the core of what the problem was. So she would let me pass. So I didn’t have to be perfect at something, I just had to know what it was, how to do it, if I needed how to do it in the future. And it’s my favorite thing in the world that I don’t have to be perfect in every situation. Like when you go to public school, you’ll get judged for not having good grades, or you’ll be expected to be, you’d be really good at this thing that you’re just not made to do.
Tara: I know that your dad has worked for himself as a contractor, having his own business and work for others. Have they instilled in you any sense of independence, entrepreneurial ventures type of thing? What would be the ideal employment situation for you when you grow up, let’s say?
Sophia: It’s given me the realization that there are options. There was a while when I wanted to be a freelance photographer. There was a while when I considered making BuddyPress sites for people. At the moment, I want to be a teacher because of how much I’ve learned from being homeschooled and how screwed up the school system is. I want to be there for the kids who are can’t understand some things the way that I couldn’t necessarily. But I like that, I know that there are options. Part of the reason my mom wanted us to learn WordPress was so that when we were growing up, and if we couldn’t get a job, then we would be like, “Okay, we can learn how to do this thing in WordPress, and then make money off of it without having to leave our house.” So it gives us the freedom and independence that we wanted.
Liam: It sounds like freedom and independence pretty important to you. A number of times you’ve mentioned if not those exact words, kind of that theme.
Sophia: Yeah, it’s kind of always been a part of my life. I mean, my dad’s always worked at home, and we’ve always been homeschooled, and my mom didn’t start working until a couple of years ago. So if we wanted to just get up and go, we could. So part of it was just being used to that lifestyle.
Liam: Yeah, I could definitely see liking that. I’ve worked for myself for a long time, but my wife does not. She has a career as an academic. And it’s only so far that you can go from the school building and get there every day before it gets a little tricky. Sophie, you had mentioned when we were just chatting before we hit the record button out here on our virtual little hallway that you’re pretty artistic. You shared with us that you like to write. But what other sorts of ways do you express yourself artistically?
Sophia: Through photography, definitely. I’m not super into it. I was when I was little but now I just kind of focused on phone photography. I kind of want to sell stock photos at some point, but I’ve been so busy, I haven’t the opportunity to look into that. I love writing haikus. There’s so much fun. I know a lot of people hate them …
Liam: Really? People hate haikus?
Sophia: Well, hate writing them. Well, maybe everybody likes to read them, right?
Tara: It’s true.
Sophia: They are fantastic.
Liam: Can you crank out a haiku as we speak? Haiku on command. And I never remember. Is it 5-7-5?
Liam: 5-7-5. All right. 5-7-5. I won’t put you through that, Sophia. That’s hard to do. What do you write haikus about? Everything? Something in particular? Focus on dinosaurs?
Sophia: You know what? I’m a really emotional person. So my writing, my art, it’s all usually a strain of whatever I’m feeling at that moment. So if I’m super depressed, I’ll just throw whatever I’m feeling on a piece of paper. If I feel really attached to a certain person, I’ll write a haiku about them. Whatever I’m feeling it’s just the root of my art, which is interesting because that means that music and sounds and feelings can also affect what comes out of the art? You know, like what the end product is.
Liam: Where do you record your art, your writing? Do you journal? Do they all make it up on your blog? Do you kind of put it down on paper and it sits on your desk or in your room for a while and then eventually life happens and they get thrown away or something? What’s your medium? How do you record?
Sophia: Primarily through my blog. I publish twice a week. Most of my art I try to keep off social media only because when I was little, I was the youngest of my sister and two cousins. We basically grew up together. All of us are artistic and so I always thought that I wasn’t as good as them because I was like two years younger than two of them and five years younger than one of them. So they had a head start. But also I would look at other people’s art and think, “Well, it needs to look like that. It’s not good unless it looks like that.” So just by keeping it off social media, I’ve learned it helps me not compare my art. It helps me see that art is dependent on what people think and what people feel, which is why some people are going to like my art and some people won’t. That doesn’t make me a bad artist. That just means it that it means something different to other people.
Liam: Yeah, art is very subjective. Very, very subjective. I’d agree with you there.
Tara: Has being homeschooled allowed you, you think, to pursue more in different art than you would have if you had gone to traditional school?
Sophia: I don’t know. I didn’t really fall in love with drawing until two years ago. And so I wonder if I had been in a public school, like if I would have found that sooner, and had more opportunities for art classes and references and just experience in general. But being homeschooled, it’s given me the freedom to teach myself, which I like. One of the best ways that I learned is just through trial and error. And just learning by myself and figuring things out by myself.
Liam: Figuring out by yourself as a not a bad skill set to have.
Liam: But I wonder if I can ask your question about advice, where maybe you figured something out not by yourself. I appreciate you’re still young by my measure and by Tara’s measure, but what’s the best advice that someone’s ever given you, shared with you, and that you’ve successfully worked into your life in some way?
Sophia: There are no mistakes, only happy little accidents by Bob Ross. That has changed my entire life. It’s taught me that it takes the pressure off. A lot of the times you think … I’m a musician, too, so I’ll be singing in church or trying to record something or something and think it needs to be perfect. And actually, I kind of worked through this yesterday. But you think that he needs to be perfect, and it doesn’t. No one actually expects you to be perfect. It’s really more yourself who tells you that it needs to be this perfect thing and nothing can go wrong. But people are people. People make mistakes. So if I miss a chord while I’m playing guitar, or if I miss a note or something, that’s fine. That’s how it was supposed to go. That’s just how it happened this time. That doesn’t make it bad. That doesn’t make me a worse musician. That’s just how it went this time.
Liam: That’s a very healthy perspective that allows us not to beat ourselves up and still leave room improvement without painting us in a corner of unhappiness or failure or rejection.
Sophia: And a lot of the times, our mistakes turn into something a lot better. Like a lot of the times, I’ll be painting something and totally screw something up and just roll with it because it’s too late to go back now.
Liam: It was just a little bush and it just needs a little bit more color here.
Liam: You learned that from Bob Ross. That’s the artist, right? Was that like in a quote book or were you watching the TV show on some kind of rerun? How did you stumble upon that?
Sophia: I don’t remember. My parents told me about him at one point. Then I actually went to a church retreat at Lake end camp and they had painting with Ben Ross. He was just one of their counselors at the camp and he just taught us how to paint and it was so much fun. And that kind of what kick-started me into Bob Ross. I just wanted to like—
Liam: They are related or that just happened to be that guy’s name?
Sophia: No, his name was Ben, and so they just gave him a blonde like curly wig and he was Ben Ross from there. It was hilarious.
Liam: When you paint? What do you like to paint? Are you a landscape person? Are you an abstract artist? Are you doing stills? Are you painting the apple bowl on the kitchen table? What inspires you?
Sophia: I paint everything. I paint what’s in my head. So sometimes it’s landscapes. Sometimes it’s a person looking at something. I’ve noticed a lot of my art is … I don’t know if it’s just because I can’t draw faces or what but a lot of my landscape is people looking at something. I like to think that it’s people like somebody searching for something a lot of the times or like walking towards something, leading towards something.
Liam: Do you ever go to do art somewhere? So do you take your paint set to the lake or do you take your paint to the town square or something like that?
Sophia: I do not.
Liam: You deliberately putting yourself out there?
Sophia: If I go to my grandparents’ house or something, I’ll take it with me and go in the woods sometimes and will draw. I haven’t taken them anywhere. But I’ll draw. I haven’t actually tried a ton of different things. I’m still getting used to it a little bit.
Tara: I’d like to see your art. And that brings us to wrapping up our chat with you today, Sophia. Can you tell us where people can find you or your art?
Sophia: I am on twitter @Erin_Go_Blog. And then my art and my writing are at my website, eringoblog.org.
Tara: Tell us a little bit about that name because your name’s not Erin.
Sophia: When my cousin and my sister and I were little, we would make games. And so we’d always have these made-up names for each other. And one I made up before we grew up and got out of it was Erin. That was the most recent one. So that was always just my name for everything. I still use it. So that was going to be my pen name when I was 10. My mom suggested the name Erin Go Blog because it’s similar to Erin Go Bragh. I don’t exactly remember what it means. It’s like a chance or something. Or it’s not a chance. I can’t even think of what it’s called, but like an encouraging phrase that they would use.
Tara: You do have a couple of Irish people here. Liam?
Liam: I think you’ve got it, Tara.
Tara: No, you go for it.
Liam: If I remember correctly, it’s “Ireland Forever.”
Tara: I think that’s it.
Sophia: Oh, yeah.
Liam: I’m not sure of that.
Tara: I punted to you in case—
Liam: Yeah, in case. You set me up. You set me up.
Tara: I set us up as Irish experts.
Liam: That’s entertaining. Sophia, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been an absolute pleasure getting to know you a little bit.
Tara: It’s been great.
Sophia: Thank you for having me.
Tara: Thanks so much for joining us.
Liam: We’ll see you soon, I hope.
Liam: Thanks for listening to the show. We sure hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
Tara: If you like what we’re doing here – meeting new people in our WordPress community – we invite you to tell others about it. We’re on iTunes and at hallwaychats.com.
Liam: Better yet, ask your WordPress friends and colleagues to join us on the show. Encourage them to complete the “Be on the show” form on our site, to tell us about themselves.