2016 is both the year that won’t end and the year that’s gone by too quickly, taking far too many people with it.
It seems that we’ve been grieving someone or someones for the entire 12 months– Oh wait. It’s been a painful year. Water access is political. I know people who’ve lost their lovers and their siblings. Entire cities have been destroyed and refugees are still seen as a threat. My Papaw died in February. It’s a scary time to be queer. We remember individuals killed by hate crimes. We remember the Pulse shooting. I have friends who used to frequent that club. So many of our icons are dying and those who don’t approve of us feel safe to act on their violent thoughts.
Claiming them as “our icons” doesn’t quite feel right to me. So many of these musicians were a part of the awakening and self acceptance of many of my peers who grew up outside of the conservative churches I was a part of as a teenager. My LGBTQ family was deeply hurt by the loss of David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and others; I looked them up after their deaths to find out who everyone was talking about. But there was one death that put me in tears instantly. When I woke up and read that Carrie Fisher had died I– stayed in bed and ached and sobbed.
Star Wars feels like one of my only connections to normalcy.
Star Wars is one of my few ties to pop culture that has been a constant throughout my life. I watched the original trilogy as a kid and Attack of the Clones was one of the first movies I saw in theaters. Princess Leia has long been my favorite princess character. She’s brash and witty and knows what’s what. I could go on about how great the character of Leia Organa is and what she means as one of the first female role models in science-fiction, but there have been plenty of people who’ve done that. Carrie Fisher, the human, is who I look up to most.
She was open about her struggles and talked about them in a blunt and honest way. Some are saying that she was killed by the aftermath of heavy drug use, but that’s short sighted. If anything, Carrie Fisher was killed by her mental illness and the things she did to feel better. I’m not excusing drug use as good coping. I am saying that mental illnesses are serious, and when they are left untreated those of us who have them develop unhealthy ways to cope. Addiction, to a substance or an action, is often one of them.
That’s what made her such a meaningful role model. She lived through pain and didn’t give up.
Carrie got help and worked at finding what worked. Perhaps one of her most admirable aspects, to me, is that she never really did “get better,” yet she didn’t let that get in the way of living and making her own life. The things that she did with that life are similar to many of my own aspirations in several ways. Working in entertainment and show business is fast-paced no matter what branch you’re in, and she was in so many. She did that while her brain was attacking her. Tears came again when I read her quote about following dreams while mentally ill:
Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.
Knowing that Carrie Fisher was a person gives me hope. When the world is as crazy and dark as it is right now it’s hard not to let hopelessness creep in. The temptation to give up is strong sometimes. But then, when I’m able to be receptive (I’m not always), reading about people like Carrie is just enough push to get me back to hope. She didn’t have struggles and do amazing things anyway. She had struggles, and was knocked down by them, and overcame them, and did amazing things.
Thank you Carrie. Thank you for being so big of a person. Thank you for showing us your weird and your kind. Thank you for all that you’ve left here and all that you inspire us to do.
Thank you for showing us that monsters don’t have to win.