As 2016 continued its wrath towards humanity, it took out somebody who was influential in my life in ways that only a few could perceive.
Carrie Fisher was more than just an actress - a person defined by a single role in four films - Leia. She was an outspoked advocate for mental health and depression. She fought her demons, Hollywood, and her past - and still looked dignified & beautiful.
But what was it that made her special? Other actresses have done great things, but it was Carrie who gave us something greater - a sense that it was OK to be imperfect, it was OK to be ourselves - and more importantly, that it was OK to not live by the standards that people were being dictated to be. All of this - while living in the shadow of her mother, of Hollywood's double standard, and while battling her own issues.
In a lot of ways I identify with Carrie so much more than what others would see. Her battles with addiction, depression & mental health - and her ability to be open & descriptive about it helped me overcome issues in the same vein - Her words brought me strength when the battle for me was almost lost - twice. To me, when she talked about her struggles with trying to find a normal touched me - and reminded me that I was not alone.
And then there's Leia.
For me, as a gay youth in a decade where tolerance was not acceptable, she represented a sense of empowerment and of great dignity. Carrie gave us this personality in Leia that demonstrated that it was OK to say things as they were, to let us be who we are, and to stand up for what was right. Here was this icon of a three film series that was larger than life, powerful in her message & an icon not compromising to anybody. Her strength kept me going through the tumultous years where I always felt that I would never be able to be me. I owe that to Carrie.
What made Carrie's portrayal of Leia so good was that she imparted the sense of self-empowerment. She was betrothed to no one, she was her own leader, and she was able to fight off the worst of an enemy while in the shadow battling her own loss. And you could feel her strength of her own life through this role.
On my 40th birthday, I was at Disneyland. I had battled through a very rough summer of a lot of depression & anxiety - and this was my ultimate way of letting go of the summer and its issues. I love Star Tours - even the new version (Watching the stupid alien creature from Episode I get splattered across the windshield of the Star Tours vehicle is satsifying!). As the ride started... I was the rebel spy! And it was Leia who projected out - and in a lot of ways, it sent a resounding message to me: Leia was watching over me. And it made me feel so good that in such a cheesy way she was there. It closed a dark chapter in my life - and opened another that would bring me forward.
I have read every book Carrie published, and have seen her stage shows as well - Wishful Drinking is a beautiful & very somber message that life doesn't always play by the rules. And it showed me that even the strongest people hit rock bottom. Carrie was telling me - and all of us - that we are human, that we are all fallable, and we are all able to overcome.
I often wonder if there is an internet/Facebook/web on the other side. If there is, I hope Carrie gets to read this. As I have a message for her:
Thank you for being you. Thank you for giving me the strength to keep moving forward. Thank you for telling me that it is OK to be me. And thank you for reminding me that no matter what we can all make mistakes and we can grow from them. Carrie - you are nothing short of an icon for my life, and somebody I take great strength from - and I will always carry with you the messages you taught me. The world is a better place because of you.