“Le crayon guidant le peuple”
I scrolled through my timeline, stupefied. At first, I didn’t realize the magnitude of the situation, as I have a disproportionate number of French friends and news outlets I follow on Twitter. But as pencils appeared in profile pictures, and Je Suis Charlie was scrawled in cursive across the Internet, I knew it was bigger than I had imagined.
Having spent nine months in France last year, my heart ached for the country and its citizens as they coped with the aftermath of the January 7th attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine, and one I was quite familiar with. While studying abroad, my class had their original cartoons of Mohammed in our French culture class, during a unit on immigration and the cultural tensions between native Frenchmen and foreign immigrants, many of whom are Muslim. The day after the attack, my classmates and I received an email from this teacher describing his reaction upon learning of the death of these cartoonists whose chronicles of historical events he’d grown up with. The truth was unavoidable… this was a big deal.
As a journalist and writer, I was doubly affected. Censorship is an issue I take very seriously, having been told since I started writing online that I have to be careful what I say, careful not to offend anyone, careful not to raise too many eyebrows, because anyone can read this, because if you Google me, you will find me. I don’t think others should have the right to decide what you can and should believe and share and think and write. Your thoughts and opinions are your own, and as long as you don’t harm anyone, you shouldn’t be prevented from sharing what you believe.
Charlie Hebdo’s slain editor-in-chief, Stephane Charbonnier (known also under his pseudonym Charb) once said, “A pencil is not a weapon. It’s just a means of expression.” So whether or not you support Charlie Hebdo as a publication, raise your pencils in solidarity for fellow journalists and in support of free speech, for in that regard, we are all Charlie.
I can’t be the only one. For me, the new year started in August. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t write the customary year in review piece before January 1, 2015. Not to mention, trying to capture my 2014 is like taking the ending of one book and mashing it with the beginning of another. So much happened within the past year, but to only analyze just from January to December leaves out all the backstory. Yet, it’s an interesting mixture of who I am, almost a cross section of the multiple entities I swear inhabit my body. For, in 2014 I was French and Chinese and Indian and American… loud and sassy and a social media junkie and a bookworm… All at once.
Regardless of the jumble encompassed therein, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen of the Internet, I present to you, my year in review (aka my life, in media res).
January: Commemorated 17 with pizza, friends, How I Met Your Mother, and Cards Against Humanity in a basement lit only by our tiny glowing phone screens.
February: Debated ways to improve access to technology and the utility of GMOs in English, at ILYMUN with international strangers. Fell back in love with intellectual arguments and the idea of so many motivated, aware humans congregating together.
March: In Paris and Strasbourg, found out that maybe good things can happen after 2am; in Berlin, experienced the terror of being in a foreign country without speaking the language, and developed a love hate relationship with bikes.
April: Spent a day shadowing journalists at Ouest France, the most widely read daily French paper.
May: Capitol-hopped across Europe, graduated from a Victorian school house and slept on too many buses.
June: Interned at Printpack, embraced the 9-5 grind, attended ISTE and was adopted into the Dell YIA family.
July: Went to Chicago for EFL and was touched at how similar and close I was to people I hadn’t known a week before.
August: Fangirled hard at the One Republic concert.
September: Attended (and helped organize) Student Voice Live! and saw Stromae in concert with S.B.
October: Burrowed into college apps and ran my last 5k for my school.
November: Had Friendsgiving with A.N and met up with S.V (SYA Reunion of 2), and a slew of others quickly becoming new and good friends who share my liking for ice cream, coffee + Calvin and Hobbes.
December: Got in to college and participated in my school’s 24 hour relay with some of my best friends since Middle School despite kind of having the plague.
If I do say so myself, it’s been quite a year. I think it’s taken me some time to see this because for the past few months I’ve had college application tunnel-vision. For those of you who don’t already know, aka haven’t been subjected to the “wonderful” American college application process, the Common App is thenwebsite where you can input all your information to send to most schools and answer any school specific supplements. On the Common App, one of the essay prompts talks about a transition to adulthood. Though this isn’t the prompt I finally chose, I think it could easily have applied to my 2014, the year before I became a legal adult. The beginning of 2014 and the second half of my school year in France was when I resolved to push further out of my comfort zone and try different lifestyles; And the second half of 2014, during my first semester of senior year, I got a glimpse of what it was like to juggle an adult life and strive for that balance between work and fun (family + friends). Who I am grew, and shifted and expanded and morphed, and I realized, I might always be a work in progress… And that’s ok.