A UNIFIED VOICE

I don’t remember where I was, but I remember getting the Facebook message.

Mom: Are you okay? 
Me: … yes …? Something wrong?

Then another message and another.  Before I knew it, I was busily typing away to all my friends who were also studying with me in Paris.  The shooting rocked the city in a way I never could’ve imagined. Seeing all my Paris friends post on social media that they were safe was bizarre in a way. It was a good method to check in but it stood in stark contrast to all the other happy, perky photos and silly quotes posted by the rest of my social circle.

Just when I thought the tragedy couldn’t any get worse, while visiting near Vincennes two days later, heavily armed militia boarded my Metro car.  My friends started getting calls and messages and the entire ordeal began again.

(Ritter, 2019)

This is my daughter’s recollection of the three days of terror that rocked Paris in January of 2015. At that time she was a student at École internationale de théâtre Jacques Lecoq.

On January 7th, the shootings began at the Charlie Hebdo offices in the 11th arrondissement, or district.

Charlie Hebdo is the French magazine that was targeted for its disrespectful depictions of the Prophet Mohammed.

When I learned of the attack I scrambled to remember where she would likely have been at the time of the shooting. Was her school near the Charlie Hebdo offices in the 11th? Why couldn’t I remember what arrondissement her dorm was in? I frantically used my computer to look at a map of Paris to kick start my memory.

Was she at her dorm? Why wasn’t she texting me back?

Being in class all day she was unaware of the shootings that took place the morning of January 7th, until she read my Facebook messenger text.

I was relieved when I finally received a response back from her. She was fine — nowhere near the 11th. As grateful as I was that she was alright, I was devastated as I continued to follow the news closely.

I mourned as I learned the details of the deaths in the building that housed the Charlie Hebdo offices, which included five cartoonists, a copy editor, two columnists, a building maintenance worker, a bodyguard, a police officer, and a travel editor who was visiting the office.


A 20-minute walk away from Charlie Hebdo’s office, art director Joachim Roncin was leaving a meeting at his office at Stylist magazine when he learned of the attack. He and his coworkers gathered together to read the reports that were surfacing on Twitter. I can only imagine the emotions I felt were dwarfed by what they felt as they learned the details.

In an interview with Foreign Policy magazine, Roncin said “I looked at this, and thought, ‘This is part of me. I am Charlie.'”

“Roncin, who designs Stylist’s weekly covers, felt he wanted to say something that would pay tribute to the dead rather than simply repeat the facts of their killing. “

(Groll, 2015)

He tweeted the following:

Two days after the attack, CNN reported that more than 5 million tweets using the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag were posted (Goldman & Pagliery, 2015).

“Within two days of the attack, the slogan had become one of the most popular news hashtags in Twitter history. Je suis Charlie was adopted worldwide, was used in music, displayed in print and animated cartoons (including The Simpsons), and became the new name of a town square in France” (Je suis Charlie, 2019).


When French president François Hollande announced the Republican marches would be held on January 10th, my daughter and I discussed the pros and cons of attending via Skype.

“Should I go?” she asked me.

I was torn.

“As your mom, I should tell you to stay in your dorm and be safe. But honestly, if I were there I would have to go” I replied.

“I wasn’t sure if it was safe to go to the march. Everyone in Paris was afraid that there would be another attack. I called my family and everyone had different opinions.

In the end, I decided that going was more important than anything. Standing up for freedom of speech in person is more powerful than the computer keystroke.”

(Ritter, 2019)

Although I was worried about the possibility of another attack during the march, I was proud of the decision she made. Her act of solidarity made me very proud of the young woman she had become.

“French government officials estimated that the rallies were attended by up to 3.7 million people nationwide, making them the largest public rallies in France since 1944, when Paris was liberated from the Nazis at the end of World War II” (Republican marches, 2019).

With the help of social media, Paris and the world united together with a single voice to express their grief and reinforce their belief in the right to express their opinions freely.

“If 9/11 made global viewers of us, the massacre in Paris was the moment when online media was where readers gathered” (Martinson, 2015).

Embed from Getty Images

On January 7th, 2015 I came to appreciate social media on a whole new level. Up until that time it was a rarity for me to write a post, but that day with a few keystrokes I shared my grief. I was connected to the world community in a way I could never have imagined, and it was a powerful feeling.

“Je Suis Charlie was tweeted at a rate of 6,500 times a minute at its height following Paris massacre” (Whitehead, 2015).

Whether you like it or not, social media has become an essential part of our lives. There simply is no better way to put one’s finger on the pulse of world events. The speed at which we can share news with the world via social media channels greatly surpasses traditional media in any form.

Unlike many of my contemporaries, it took me a long time to warm up to this new way of communicating. But when my daughter moved to Paris, things changed.

In my own small way, my post of #JeSuisCharlie allowed me to stand with others as we showed our support for freedom of expression and the continued fight against terrorism.

Going forward, social media will continue to provide the platform the common man uses to ensure our voices will be heard. Let’s stand together in unity and pledge to use it kindly and wisely.

until nxt time …

References

Charlie Hebdo shooting. (2019). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Charlie_Hebdo_shooting&oldid=912679993

Goldman, D., & Pagliery, J. (2015, January 9). #JeSuisCharlie becomes one of most popular hashtags in Twitter’s history. Retrieved from: https://money.cnn.com/2015/01/09/technology/social/jesuischarlie-hashtag-twitter/index.html

France24. (n.d.). Four years after Charlie Hebdo attacks, satirists bemoan the loss of reason. Retrieved from: https://www.france24.com/en/20190107-four-years-after-charlie-hebdo-attacks-satirists-bemoan-loss-reason-france-anniversary

Groll, E. (2015, January 19). Meet the Man Who Put the “Je Suis” in the “Je Suis Charlie.” Retrieved from: https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/01/19/meet-the-man-who-put-the-je-suis-in-the-je-suis-charlie/

Je suis Charlie. (2019). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Je_suis_Charlie&oldid=909323771

Martinson, J. (2015, January 11). Charlie Hebdo: A week of horror when social media came into its own | Jane Martinson. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/jan/11/charlie-hebdo-social-media-news-readers

Nelson, L. (2015, January 9). The Charlie Hebdo attack, explained. Retrieved from: https://www.vox.com/2015/1/9/18089104/charlie-hebdo-attack What is the Charlie Hebdo attack?

Reuters Photographers. (n.d.). Je suis Charlie. Retrieved from: https://widerimage.reuters.com/story/je-suis-charlie

Republican marches. (2019). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Republican_marches&oldid=893182921

Ritter, L. (2019, August 26). Personal interview.

[Sky News]. (2015, January 10). Paris Attacks: Three Days Of Terror. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnyZ_RIhjzY

Smyrnaios, N., & Ratinaud, P. (2017). The Charlie Hebdo Attacks on Twitter: A Comparative Analysis of a Political Controversy in English and French. Social Media + Society. Retrieved from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2056305117693647

The Media Octopus. (2015, January 8). #JeSuisCharlie hashtag unites the world on Twitter. Retrieved from: https://medium.com/@themediaoctopus/jesuischarlie-hashtag-unites-the-world-on-twitter-7be9bfc237fe

Whitehead, T. (2015, January 9). Paris Charlie Hebdo attack: Je Suis Charlie hashtag one of most popular in Twitter history. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11336879/Paris-Charlie-Hebdo-attack-Je-Suis-Charlie-hashtag-one-of-most-popular-in-Twitter-history.html

BLACK & WHITE

In a way, this image of me is similar to the biographical details reflected in my ABOUT page: an abridged version of my career. The stark difference between the black and white colors mirror the dichotomy of my past and present jobs — CPA, web designer, and project manager. I’ve worked hard to achieve success in each role, and they form the framework of my life’s coloring book. But the details are missing.

So let me take a moment to tell you a little bit more about me. Let’s color a few of the white spaces between the lines.

What’s Your Major?

Even though it’s not unusual, I was uncomfortable being one of those people who wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I entered college. And if I had any doubts as to my uncertainty, I was admitted to my university’s “Division of Undergraduate Studies,” aptly known on campus as the “Division of Undecided Students.” Awkward, to say the least — but true.

First I thought I wanted to be a teacher, so I began taking education courses. Then I took a course in journalism, where I learned some great writing skills that I still use to this day. But in reality, nothing felt quite right, and after a year and a half I left college and went to work.

The Greatest City in the World

The next chapter of my professional life was written in New York City, where I worked as a freelance model and studied acting. It was tough but I was honing my craft, making a modest living, and learning the harsh realities of working in the entertainment field. Working in the Big Apple fed my soul, but after seven years it was once again time to move on.

College – Act II

When I moved back to my home state I decided to resume my studies, but this time around I possessed what I lacked the first time; a laser focus. A business degree was my goal, and I quickly gained my associates degree at the local community college.

Two years later I secured my bachelor’s degree and began working at a well-known accounting firm.

Now I’d like to tell you that I lived happily ever after, but being a CPA was just not for me. Even though it seemed that I had done everything right, I hated my job.

Despite the term “creative accounting,” I found the profession to be — well — black and white. I have great respect for it, and I know from experience the amount of hours accountants put in; believe me, they earn their paychecks. But it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

So I quit. Not right away, mind you, but I did leave.

As they say, it wasn’t my passion.

Passion

So what exactly does “passion” mean in the context of your career? And how do you know when you’ve found it? Since we’re all looking for it, we really ought to know what it is, right?

A good friend of mine recently shared an interesting article on the subject of career passion. It was published in the New York Times — first in their online edition and two weeks later in the print edition — but under two different titles:

  1. Why ‘Find Your Passion’ Is Such Terrible Advice, and
  2. ‘Finding Your Passion’ Takes Some Work.

The article is based on research conducted at Yale-NUS college in Singapore in 2018. Five studies were conducted in an attempt to determine if passion was (1) something you “found” or (2) something that is developed over time (Lee, 2019).

If you’re interested you can read the details of the study or the NYT article yourself, but (spoiler alert) the answer is — it depends on how you feel about what interests you.

If you believe your interests don’t change, you fall under the “fixed” category. That means you are more likely to give up on something quickly if you find it challenging or tedious.

Not you? Then perhaps you’re in the “growth” category, and you “believe that interests and passions are capable of developing with enough time, effort and investment” (Lee, 2019).

I think I’ve been in both camps at different times in my life. Early on I definitely embraced the fixed theory, but these days I believe the growth theory makes more sense. It just feels like a better fit.

The End of My Story … or is it the beginning?

After I left my accounting job I had a six-month stint as a corporate travel agent. It was fun, and I learned a lot, but it wasn’t meant to be long term.

My travel agent career ended when I accepted a position in state government, where I have been working ever since. The positions I have held include:

  • Auditor (yep, I did it again for awhile)
  • Trainer
  • Web Designer
  • Learning Management System Administrator
  • Project Manager

Even though I started out with a fixed mindset, I’ve enjoyed reinventing myself every so often. I’ve worn many hats, and enjoyed almost all of them. Each experience has helped bring me to the place I am today, and I would not be able to perform my current job without the benefit of each one of my “growth” experiences.

The Answer

“Your passion can be anything that simultaneously challenges you, intrigues you and motivates you. Contrary to the idea that doing what you love makes work effortless, a passion puts you to work. It’s what you’re willing to sacrifice lesser leisure and pleasures for. Seek it and where you find it may surprise you.”

(Fisher, n.d.)

The unabridged version of our lives are the crayons. They’re the things we try that help us find our passion and become “T-shaped thinkers” — people who are highly skilled in a specialized area but also have a bit of knowledge or expertise in many areas (Cronin, 2018).

As the famous journalist Jim Lehrer said:

“There are very few really stark black and white stories.”

Thanks for sharing that Jim, because my life has been anything but black and white. It’s the colors that make the journey interesting.

until nxt time …

References

Cronin, G. (2018, January 30). Why we need more T-Shaped thinkers in Tech. Retrieved from: https://www.xero.com/blog/2018/01/need-t-shaped-thinkers-tech/

Fisher, C. (n.d.). How to define your passion in life. Retrieved from: https://work.chron.com/define-passion-life-10132.html

Wells, T. [Tauren Wells]. (2017, June 22). God’s Not Done with You. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTpOlAO3Fs8

Jim Lehrer Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/jim_lehrer

John1948TwelveC. (2015, October 26). Three Dog Night – Black and White [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4f65mO146Zo

Lee, S. (2019, April 21). Why ‘Find Your Passion’ Is Such Terrible Advice. The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/21/smarter-living/why-find-your-passion-is-such-terrible-advice.html

O’Keefe, P. A., Dweck, C. S., & Walton, G. M. (2018). Implicit Theories of Interest: Finding Your Passion or Developing It? Psychological Science, 29(10), 1653–1664. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618780643