Let's face it. 2016 SUCKED. A LOT of greats died, and a lot of things almost happened.
But this one. This one went too far 2016.
Carrie Fisher passed away this morning, December 27, 2016. She was ten years older than me. I lived a life parallel to hers in many ways.
And yes, it started with Princess Leia. I was ten years old when Star Wars hit the theaters in 1977. We'd driven four hours to see the movie. I was mad that we weren't going to see "Herbie Goes Bananas" instead, but my brothers insisted on this sic-fi movie. So we waited and waited and waited for stupid seats. We got first row balcony seats, and I will never ever forget that first scene from episode 4. I. Was. Hooked. I fell in love at ten, when Luke looked up at the Twin Moons of Tatooine, and then fell in love again and forever when I was 14 when Han kissed Leia. I have yet to see a movie more times than Star Wars. I had the trading cards, the t-shirts, the bed sheets, the Lego Millennium Falcon, the posters from the teen beat, the real-hair Leia buns that actually won me many costume contests. I laid in my bed at night and listened to each John Williams' masterpiece (I also listened to some knock off version from a "Moog Orchestra," my parents had gotten that one time on accident. I. Was. Star Wars. And I will never forget that feeling being part of 4-5-&6.
But the real pull to Star Wars for me was Princess Leia. She was not only a princess, she was an ambassador. AND A GIRL. If it wasn't for Leia, the galaxy far far away would not have existed. At a time when every hero was male, this was unprecedented. Leia never took orders from any man, and often came up with her own solutions. She didn't need any short stormtroopers to save her; she did her own saving thank you very much. Sticks became blasters and light sabers, and I was Princess/Ambassador Leia fighting the bad guys that couldn't breathe very well and for some reason needed a helmet and a cape. I was the Leia that bargained with the Empire for my home planet. I was the Leia that put the plans to the Death Star in R2D2 and told Kenobi that he was "our only hope." I was the one dishing out the quips like "you're braver than I thought," and "scruffy-looking nerf herder." The feminist in me will always love Carrie Fisher.
As I grew into adulthood, I became a more complex being; much like Carrie did. She struggled with drug addiction and mental illness. She wasn't so lucky in love. Her best friend passed away in the night sleeping in her bed.
She not only endured these things, she made them....OK. And funny. And real in a way that I could relate to. She became more than Princess Leia to me then. She became a real hero. She wrote some brilliant things. Postcards from the Edge is a real masterpiece. Her memoirs, spread out over three books, are a delight. You can't just read them though, you have to hear her read them. That is the only way to experience them.
I got to meet her and talk to her at Salt Lake Comicon's FanX the end of January 2015. Nobody was at her table for a moment, and as a artist/vendor, I usually don't have time to go talk to the celebrities (even tho I really love to do that). But there was no one at her table, and she looked bored, so hey why not.
It was like talking to your really super odd older sister. We small talked about her dog. Her really ugly fugly dog. Of course I fell in love with the beast, and he seemed to like me too but not as much as his mommy. The first thing I told her was that I was listening to her second book on Audible. We talked about that for a moment, and she kept being so clever. I told her that if I sped audible up 2x, she sounded just like the Princess Leia of my youth. I lamented that I wish I could do that with more than my voice. She said "You can do that," and to prove it, I pulled out my phone and showed her. We sped it up, then we slowed it down. She laughed. We small talked some more (the air in SLC, how can you breathe?). And then I told her that I had always thought of her as my hero. She chuckled and told me to be my own hero, and also to set my sights higher. I thanked her for talking to me, told her how odd it was for a nobody to talk to a celebrity, and then started to walk away. I turned around, and then said..."I gotta say it." She knew exactly what I was talking about, because I'm sure 89403859302790 fans had done this before to her.
"Goodbye. I love you," I waved.
"I know," she smiled as she waved back.
A moment that she would no doubt forget moments later, but one that I will remember for a lifetime.
I'm dang angry that she is gone. I love her more now at 49 years old than I did at 10 (and that was a lot). She still has books to write. People to meet. Butts to kick. Ceilings to break.
When she appeared recently on Stephen Colbert, she quipped "Even in space there's a double standard for women." While that may be true, it is because of her that double standard is a little more equal.
A former student wrote this on her social media wall today: "A few months ago, I was babysitting, and the kids wanted to watch Star Wars VII. After hearing someone call Leia "General," the 9-year-old girl said quietly, "I didn't know girls could be generals."
I told her, "Girls can be anything."
And that is what Princess Leia means to me."
And that is what Carrie Fisher will always mean to me.