Origin Story ūüďĖ‚ú®

TLDR: There isn't one. I am a storyteller. This is my dance space. My page. Read it. Or don't. Avatar Char - winking

Late last year, I came across Adobe's study: The Future of Creativity: 2022 U.S. Emoji Trend Report that had been published in September 2022. It changed everything! 

I couldn't stop thinking about emoji. This is quite ironic because honestly, I've always been rather a word purist, and I can now admit that I was a bit bias when it came to emoji - I didn't like them screwing with language and people taking the lazy way out of writing! 

It is not like me to have such bias usually. And that is something I will be thinking about and writing about in the future, its rocked my word TBH, when I think of the implications. 

After several weeks of thinking about the report, I started talking to a few others about my thoughts. I was already working on a book called, Cog, about universal languages, communications and social systems, and now there was something about emoji that wouldn't leave me alone. People close to me encouraged me to explore my ideas. 

There were many amazing statistics all throughout the report. But the impact of reading that over 90% over users:
  • Like that emoji can communicate across language barriers
  • Like that emoji make it easier for me to express myself
were such impressive statistics as to how wildly successful at universal connection these emoji are. Enough to warrant some deeper study to see how they could be used as communications tools in various fields. I believe the applications are endless. The study part will actually continue for years, perhaps the rest of my career.

What led me to start a blog/online store is a combination of factors. I have wanted to explore online/digital marketing for some time and add it to my 25+ year tech marketing and executive communications skillset. I was already on the path to learning that skill in the next year. I had started another tiny project, and with my new fascination with emoji and print on demand technology, I wanted to created some gifts for my grandchildren for the holidays. 

When I first went to find some emoji to use for the design in Canva, it was slim pickins! And then when I went online, most were proprietary! I couldn't find anything I could customize and create a gift personalized the way I wanted. I was very frustrated and annoyed. That is not how the Internet should work. And in my mind, it was even more insulting with emoji - one of the main languages of the Internet!

The more I thought about it, the more it reminded me of my love for open source principles, the Internet and freedom of expression. The idea for #emojiIRL and Emoji Expression was born. 

Through some research and eventually coming across Emojipedia I was finally able to ascertain that Open Moji was an open source and independent emoji set that was not proprietary or connected to a specific brand. It was created by a communications and design college in Germany by two main professors, over 60 student contributors and 20+ outside individuals. It truly embodies the open source spirit. I love that students and teachers created these. I am an autodidact, always learning. Learning saved me from the life of poverty and ignorance I was born into. Teachers played a major role in guiding me. I also believe that young people are our future. So it was so fitting that these Open Moji emoji be the set that I use.

Some people have been offput by this. A few have said I made a huge mistake going with unrecognizable emoji to the general population. Ones that lack some sheen and polish of Fortune 500 brands with multimillion dollar budgets, ad agencies, and on-staff designers.

I. Don't. Care. 

I spent over two decades in big corporations. I have worked in and cofounded startups. I have had multimillion dollar budgets, zero dollar budgets and everything in between. It isn't about the budget.

I believe the Open Moji set have character and more importantly, they've got heart, guts and a raw beauty that represents what the Internet means to me. And that is why I went with them instead of the more obvious open source choice.
 
I have no idea if people will resonant with my concept of #EmojiIRL, but if they do, I would like to at least consider adding Google Noto to the mix in the future. I dig Google and everything they have done for open source. I think that people who really open access/source, the Internet, and even Google, would understand that. 

It isn't an insult to start with Open Moji. It is simply a love of the "everyday" person. And students. And teachers. In fact, it could even be considered a nod to the heart of where Google started and their continuing stated mission. They have really great open tools, resources, and ideas for helping anyone to get started and keep going online, and have done incredible things for helping the world do many things with an "open" access mindset.

I am a massive fan of tech for good, moonshots and all that tech can do for the world. I love tech innovation, possibilities and solving problems with tech tools. Tech is a great enabler. But it should always be enabling people and telling their stories. Letting people be the star of the show will always come first for me.
 
I have not been this inspired in years.

In fact, I have been wrestling with a ton of trauma. In 2015/2016 I experienced a series major traumas back-to-back over 4 months and was eventually diagnosed with PTSD, then CPTSD. Over the next few years, I struggled with more deaths and some unfortunate business ventures, toxic situations that really made the PTSD worse. I bought a farm to get out of Silicon Valley and build new things, but funny thing... you can't escape trauma that way. It just follows you. And has a way of getting even worse.  After my last tech consulting gig ended in 2022 I was just burned out, and I wanted to re-evaluate if I ever wanted to work in a corporate environment ever again. I loved the innovator I worked with, but I just was over the pace. I'm a workaholic. I love innovation and innovators. I love the rush of launching new things and ideas. 

I also work with startups and visionary individuals, but the past few start ups I've worked on have not always been healthy for me. I got into terrible habit of sacrificing for the big picture. Start up culture can be horrific for idealists. And some people prey on that. I didn't want to go back to being a starving startup or working a grueling corporate pace where I feel silenced. Last year, I started art therapy. It sometimes seemed a bit uncomfortable to me because my comfort levels were digital. When I found the Moji library and started playing around with making gifts for my family... I started unintentionally doing some art therapy in the digital realm. And it was good! So good!

But I didn't feel comfortable expressing myself online creatively. I'm not an artist. I don't share myself that way. I have all these grief feelings and other things I'm going through. Blah, blah, blah... But I am very comfortable being online. And with digital scenes. And with ppt. And now I have this Moji library palette. And I love stories. And universal languages. And all of a sudden my creativity center just starts to open up. I start with music because that's how I feel things. In fact, I think in music and lyrics quite often. In pop culture references. 

I had my alternate "starvingstartups" online account, so I start posting online. I then start to write and express myself. And then more and more comes to the surface. And I'm healing some really important things that I've been working on for years. And in some ways its a bit effortless. Because I'm enjoying myself. And creating. And doing things that are natural to me. I started to fill up with joy again. Blocked things become unblocked. Ideas start flowing. Hope came back.

I have been missing this passion and joy in my work for awhile. I love enabling tech, innovation and the the Internet. I have dedicated my life to supporting innovators, innovations and doing everything I can to move the needle forward on projects I felt were worthy to make the world a better place for humans to communicate more openly, freely and without barriers. 

I have always been very different from your average bear. I think really differently than a lot of people. And I care about really different stuff. It took me most of my lifetime to even really understand that. At first I thought it was how I was raised. In deep poverty, ignorance and abuse. My intellect and determination saved me more or less. I taught myself everything I needed to know through school, books, mimicking teachers and people. And eventually the Internet. Then I found a way to work in tech and be a part of team that were bringing the Internet to the world. That was my way of giving back to the world in my own small way. And I'm mad passionate that the Internet stay free and open. It is what drives me.

I've had lots of trauma labels. Neurodivergent labels. Oh yeah, and queer labels. All my life people have told me who I am, what I feel and what I think. And of course, what I should do. But at the end of the day, I'm just me. A person. For years I got along just fine because I *had* to survive as a parent. There was no choice. So my identity was Mom and my work identity. And that was it. And then partner. And when I empty nested and when I found myself not sure what to do with unhealthy environments and no one to take care of, I had no identity. 

So I took the time to figure it out. I decided not to work on any more startups or in a corporate environment for awhile. Until I could establish some boundaries. They are not all bad, but I have some bad habits. I needed to get them under control and determine my criteria for who I'd work with. I'd already been in therapy for PTSD/CPTSD since a major trauma in 2015, but I needed to step it up. So I did. And I needed to address the potential neurodivergent diagnosis that everyone seemed to throw at me.
My own daughter called me "Bones" as a joke for years. I have a ton of quirks, but I always attributed them to trauma and growing up in the system and abused. I knew I had some synesthesia-like traits and processing disorders. I was always sensitive to noises and could listen to some things loud as hell, but other noises would send me over the roof in pain. And unless it was music, we had silence in the car when my kids were little. And my whole life I warned people to never come up from behind me. I would instantly swing. I have jumpy startle triggers. That might be trauma. Its all jumbled. But, bottom line, there were always signs. I just never knew how to read them until the Internet and people started talking about them in a more communal sense. I think this is true for many people now. 

While naming things and understanding them is really important. It isn't anyone else's business unless a person chooses to make it so. What is important to me as I figure out life as a neurodivergent person with PTSD/CPTSD and who deeply loves people, communications, tech and the Internet is how to make a living doing something that is meaningful, gives back and has me living my values.
At the end of the day, it will always come back to that for me. I love consulting for tech companies and startups, but I'm not sure it will be my future. I have to prioritize my psychological safety going forward. And honestly, I'm concerned about the safety of my family and so many of people who don't understand tech and or how to safely express themselves. 

I am also concerned about where the future of the open Internet is going. But I'll hold that for another day. Enter EmojiIRL - the universal language that unlocked my creativity and helped me start healing and living more fully again - in both worlds. Online and IRL.
 
Doing art therapy, playing with digital art and just allowing my personal and tech ideas to flow, I started see ways I could innovate communications solutions for people to express themselves in safe ways. I have endless ideas. It is both a strength and a weakness. I have to hone in and figure out what to focus on. So this is my playground a bit right now. And I need to work out what I am going to do with it as I experiment and figure out how to build the things that help people express themselves and make a difference.

This is a project in motion. Just me with some customer service support. I have no idea how it will unfold or where it will go. I have a feeling it will be a wild ride, and I am here for it! I hope you will join me because that is what the Internet is all about - it is not just me, it is we! I believe that emoji is a two way communication, a language that can bridge massive communication divides in our world.

Tech is not just for the digital world. It is not good or bad. Technology has always simply been the tools we create trying to make the world a better place. People with ideas trying to solve problems and live better lives. Emoji is a rich, beautiful way to share and connect and bridge divides. Let's connect better IRL too! XO

Cheers,

Char sig

Chief Moji Muser and EmojiIRL‚ĄĘ¬†Creator
#emojiexpression #emojiIRL #getyourmojion #youmatter #writeyourownstory
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