Every single person who has ever been helped on this site owes it all to an unsung Austin WordPress developer and polymath named Julie Gomoll. Quite literally, this blog would not exist and could never have had the reach it’s had if my life hadn’t intersected with Julie’s in April 2012 at a BlogathonATX “Room for Improvement.”
My blog was a couple weeks old. I had exactly three posts — The Unified Theory of Cake, The Humiliating Dance of Pick Me, and Ego Kibbles. That’s it.
The Room for Improvement was just that — a room you’d sign up to be in the presence of Julie, who would happily criticize your site and tell you how to make it better. And she did that with grace, good humor, and snark. I was so impressed, I asked if I could hire her, to teach me some WordPress tricks — and that was the beginning, folks. Ten hours with Julie.
She taught me SEO. “You don’t buy it, you earn it.” (Meaning, don’t sign up for scam services, build your site organically. Choose the right theme. Name your graphics correctly.) She taught me plug-ins. She told me I needed a tagline.
“What do you want people to DO when they land on your site, Tracy?”
“Uh, I dunno. Keep reading.”
“No, you’ve got a NANOSECOND of their ATTENTION. What do you want them to DO? Your design needs to telegraph that immediately.”
I went into some long, waffly diatribe about all the bad infidelity advice out there, and how I wanted to stand for self-respect and leaving cheaters, but hey, there’s cartoons too… and…encouragement for better days ahead and…
“How about ‘Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life‘?”
Julie coined that, people. She NAILED it. I changed my banner to Chump Lady — Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life.
Here’s the other thing she said the first time she met me. “I love the cartoons. I think you should sell the cartoons. Have you seen The Oatmeal? They remind me of The Oatmeal.”
Two years after that conversation with Julie, I got a literary agent. The same agent as The Oatmeal.
And when the blog flipped a million I was at another Austin BlogathonATX, and she beamed and boasted because it was her baby. She got a mike and said “Hey! Guess what?!” and happily embarrassed me and told everyone.
And every milestone, and when that tagline became a book, and when the blog flipped 15 million, and when Hollywood called, Julie was there every. single. time. to cheerlead.
I’m glad I could thank her. But I could never, and will never be able to thank her enough, because she killed herself last weekend.
I was just reading my Facebook and saw tributes to Julie coming over my feed and was like, WTF? Apparently, she suffered from depression. Apparently, it all became too much. A recession in 2008, the loss of her home, trying to get hired as a middle-aged woman in the Austin IT world, isolation, loneliness, a life-time’s struggle with mental illness. I didn’t know these things. I knew Julie as a vibrant, funny person. An adopter of dogs. A person who knew all the cool restaurants in Austin. The person who lit up my social media the antics of Mr. Pants, her shepherd mix.
A person who did not know how much she was loved. Or how many people she helped. She helped all of you. She brought this site into the world.
Fuck, I hate suicide. The whole point of this place is to fight darkness. To come back from insurmountable odds and be mighty and not give in to the undertow that wants to drown you, that says “You’re not good enough,” “You’ll die alone,” “You’re a failure.”
I hate when we lose anyone. I can’t believe we lost Julie.
Her sister wrote a tribute that said she used to sign her emails with “Leap, and a net will appear.”
She was a net for others. Please keep her memory alive and get help if you suffer from depression. I’d like to think Julie’s still here, a ghost in the WordPress machine, still encouraging, still cheerleading, forever vibrant.