It’s Oscar Sunday. Like many actors, I have been inspired to dream big by this ceremony. But today I want to honor a real life hero whose unexpected passing is a true loss for the world.
If you’ve been following the conflict in Syria, you know that the war correspondent Marie Colvin was killed earlier this week. While the name may, or may not, mean anything to you, it means something to me.
This bad ass chick had a profound effect on me that I will never forget.
Marie Colvin reported from the front lines of the world’s most atrocious conflicts. Often to gain access to such dangerous areas she had to sneak in – using disguise, smuggler’s routes, bribery, and other tactics.
Her obituary recounts,
“In East Timor in 1999…as Indonesian troops closed in on a United Nations compound in Dili where 1,500 people had taken shelter, the UN wanted to pull out and leave the refugees to their fate. Marie Colvin and two other female journalists remained in place, defying the UN, and the world, to do nothing. Eventually, shamed by the courage of the reporters, Indonesian forces allowed the refugees to leave and the international community stepped in. Marie Colvin’s presence had undoubtedly helped save many hundreds of lives.”
Not to mention the fact that she lost her eye in Sri Lanka when a hand grenade was flung at her.
She opted for the eye patch rather than a glass eye.
I told you she was a bad ass.
As per her usual way, she was one of the last journalists to leave the conflict in Syria. It was this decision to stay one extra day to finish her story that led to her death.
I got to meet Marie in person in 2005 after a screening of the documentary “Bearing Witness.” The film, by Barbara Kopple and Marijana Wotton interviews five female war correspondents, Marie Colvin included. My friend was a dp on the shoot, and invited me to attend a screening. At the after party, several of the women featured in the film were in attendance. Including the pirate lady.
Marie Colvin cut a rather intimidating figure. The eye patch alone, her most visible battle scar, marked her as a fearless warrior. Clearly this woman was not fucking around. After seeing “Bearing Witness” and then realizing I was in the same room with this fierce and determined woman, I had to take the opportunity to speak with her.
I’m so glad I did.
Speaking with Marie Colvin had a lasting impact on me. Many women who rise to the ranks of great influence and power express masculine traits – aggressiveness, assertiveness, ruthlessness. Sure, Marie Colvin employed many of these traits in her line of work. But speaking with her in person, I was truly floored by the depth of her femininity. When I expressed how inspired I was by the documentary and how truly grateful I was for the work she was doing, she was gracious, kind, and humble. There was a gentleness in her demeanor, and a vulnerability. She was quietly powerful, engaging and charming.
Yes, she was a bad ass, determined to brave horrors of the world even the most hardened male journalists would not risk. But I think it is precisely because she was a woman that made her so exceptional at her job. Her compassion, empathy and vulnerability brought humanity to the atrocities of the world that would otherwise go unnoticed and unchecked, if not for people like Marie Colvin.
I was truly moved by the documentary and by meeting Marie. In fact, at the time it led me to question what the hell I was doing with my life. I started to feel stupid, inadequate and utterly useless. What business did I have pursuing such a frivolous path as the life of an actor?
For a long time I toyed with the idea of going back to school to study journalism, following in the footsteps of Marie and the 4 other war correspondents chronicled in the film.
But here’s the thing.
I now realize that what was so striking about Marie Colvin, in addition to her achievements, is this:
Marie was doing what she loved.
She was a living, breathing, boundary pushing, determined example of a woman who had answered the call.
The basic structure of every story includes a moment when the protagonist is presented with a call. A call to adventure. A call to self improvement. A call to embark on the hero’s journey. And the hero of that story has two choices – to refuse the call or to answer the call. Heroes who refuse the call deny repeated opportunities, warnings and ultimately meet a tragic fate. Heroes who answer the call embark on a journey where they are tested repeatedly to grow, change, overcome and ultimately win.
And to me, the life of Marie Colvin is a shining example of someone completely and utterly answering the call of her soul.
Earlier this week her mother said, “…she was totally, totally committed to what she did and the importance of telling the story and writing it and getting it out to the world, no matter what…She died doing what she loved.”
That means she also lived doing what she loved.
For a long time after my encounter with Marie I misunderstood what I was feeling. I thought I should change the course of my life to follow in her footsteps. But I see now that what I was truly seeking was not that. I am not meant to be a war correspondent. I just don’t have it in me. It is not my calling. What I was seeking was to follow the principle of what she seemed to embody – to fully answer the call of my own soul.
What better way to live than by honoring what you are meant to do? So that at the end of your life, the people closest to you can undoubtedly say, “She lived doing what she loved.”
Anderson Cooper was one of the last people to speak with Marie as she reported on the Syrian conflict. After her death, Cooper said,
“People keep saying she’s fearless. And I don’t think that gives her enough credit. I think she, like many people who report from war zones, she felt fear but she never allowed fear to stop her from going. I think that’s what makes her heroic, and that’s what made her so brave.”
I think this is true for all of us. Regardless of what the path is, whether it be the journey of a war correspondent or the artist following the call to serve through creativity, to be the hero in your own journey means feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
Each of us is here to make a difference in our own unique way. My path is mine alone. And the more I compare myself to the path of others, the farther away I get from my own truth. Zig Ziglar says,
“You are the only one who can use your ability. It is an awesome responsibility.”
So do right by your soul and answer the call. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Live doing what you love.
Leave a comment. Who has had a profound impact on your life and why? What action can you take today to honor them?