On Sunday, I got an e-mail that was a long time coming, but even though it was no surprise, the words in the subject line smarted more than I thought they would.
“The Registration for your Domains just Expired.”
The domain is question was the first one I ever registered, leadpencil.net. It was 2001. I was 21, just beginning the spring semester of my senior year. I was, at that point, Over College. I was only taking three classes and was focusing on working more hours for my internship at Boston.com and applying for jobs. Over the previous year and a half, I’d become enamored with online journalism, and I was beginning to put all of my eggs in that basket. One step in that direction was purchasing my own domain. Goodbye, Geocities and Freeservers! Hello, shell account and unlimited potential!
I remember agonizing over my domain name. My first choice was littlebluelight.net, inspired by two songs: the Jayhawks’ “What Led Me To This Town” (which sports the lyrics “Blue lights are shining over my life”) and Miracle Legion’s “Little Blue Light.” I got talked out of it (too much KMart association) and settled for leadpencil, a name I thought was very poetic at the time but I soon grew tired of. Too late, though. I was branded. And the more your domain and domain-associated e-mail address get out in the world, the more daunting it is to disassociate yourself from them.
Having my own domain gave me the opportunity to play with HTML and, eventually, CSS. I built several iterations of my website. The first version actually wasn’t so bad, design-wise. I had pages for writing clips, my resume and a bio, but also — ill-advisedly, in retrospect — a link to my Diaryland site (a/k/a Angst Town). Eventually, I hosted a blog, which meant diving into the all-too-fun world of Movable Type installations. At one point, when I was at a crossroads between becoming more of a codehead or continuing to focus on writing, I built a page where I solicited milkshake ratings — for the explicit purpose of learning more about HTML forms. In time, I lessened my emphasis on code, but the HTML playground of those years gave me a basis of understanding that has served me well to this day.
The design screencapped above debuted in 2004 and languished for five years. I can understand why. In 2004, I got my current job. I got married. Life began getting a whole lot busier and crazier. There were more pressing things on my agenda than endlessly redesigning my website, as I was wont to do the previous three years. The website remained live, of course, with the resume updated as necessary and a couple of tweaks made now and then. And the e-mail address was still going strong, as well.
Beginning in 2008, I realized I needed to transition away from leadpencil.net. It took forever and a day for me to transition my e-mail over to Gmail, including updating my e-mail addresses with every online service from my bank to EddieBauer.com. And, of course, my friends. To tell you the truth, the bank and Eddie Bauer were easier to deal with 🙂 Web-wise, I eventually put in a redirect to a Google Pages site I created. Then, I finally bit the bullet and set up shop at georgycohen.com, my new online hub and portfolio. Every few weeks over the past few months, Dotster would send me increasingly anxious (if only in my mind) e-mail reminders about my pending domain expiration. I thought about extending for another year, but I realized that even though a few stragglers might get an error when trying to e-mail my old address, it was time to cut the cord.
So why is this difficult? It’s just a domain name, for Christ’s sake, right? I guess that the expiration of leadpencil.net makes me think about who I was when I first registered it, my intentions at the time, the professional I wanted to become as I sat in my fourth-floor single and sent my resume to anything and everything web. I’m not sure exactly what I expected to get out of all that effort. So, nine years later, who have I become? I may not be working in the same kind of online journalism that I anticipated as an intern at Boston.com, but I am still working in web communications, a field that has evolved to become something that geeky 21-year-old me would marvel at (though perhaps think “been there, done that“). I think overall that she would be pleased with where I ended up.
I suppose that, with the evaporation of leadpencil.net into the domain name ether, this completes my rebranding. But even though I’m setting aside my leadpencil identity, I won’t soon forget my humble beginnings and how my little slice of Internet pie (or sip of milkshake, if you will) helped make me the web professional I am today.