I like to tell people that I was a nerd before nerdisms were cool. I had the glasses before they were ironically chic. I scaled my own mountain of books, I carried the love of fictional realities, a knowledge of Star Wars and astronomy. I adored history, I checked out so many books with each trip to the library I could barely see over the pile as I carried them to my mom’s car. I played with my microscope far more than an other little girl I knew (in fact, I was the only little girl I knew who owned one- stolen from my older brothers and jealously guarded lest they ask for its return. Lucky for me, their interests turned more to the automotive side rather than observable science). I even went so far as to do ‘math puzzles’ for fun (something I still find ironic because I grew into a woman who still cringes at the thought of even the simplest math without a calculator- I still subtly use my fingers to count out a tip at a restaurant). I knew I was a bit of an odd little duck, and yet, I always had a pressing desire to fit in. So I did what every self-conscious young girl does; I hid the pieces of myself I thought others wouldn’t understand. It can be a lonely existence when you closet away your deepest obsessions out of what amounts to simple insecurity as a child. I’ve always been odd, but it took me awkward year upon awkward year to embrace it as I discovered other like-minded indivdiauals who carried their passions like a badge of honor, an invitation to others who shared that love.
Growing up and leaving high school, I met more diverse people than my small town had to offer. Suddenly I found people I could have interesting and different conversations with. One of the first things I found I could bond with my new ‘nerdy’ friends over was none other than the epitome of geek culture: Star Wars. I own every movie (with special features), though it’s been, admittedly, a long time since I have watched some of the originals. My friends carry their storm trooper tattoos on their arms with pride as we all tromp into comicon together. Star Wars was a jumping off point for me, a doorway into a world of acceptance that I deeply craved when I was growing up. Filled with intriguing characters and a rich storyline, it also brought new fodder to my always active imagination. And right there, in the center of it all was a young actress named Carrie Fisher.
It is always a sad day when the heroes of our past prove to be mere mortals. Hearing of her death felt like a punch to the stomach this morning. When she had her heart attack on Friday, I was convinced that she would be okay. After all, she had spent her life being a fighter. Nothing was going to get her down. No, she was far too tough for this life, something so simple would not be the end of such a strong, charismatic woman. And yet, I could not run from the truth for long.
I’ve read some of her books in the past, in fact, I fell in love with the quirky attitude in ‘Wishful Drinking’ only a month ago and couldn’t stop talking about it. I listened to the audiobook and couldn’t get enough of the hilarious delivery and energy that she threw into her work. She was not just an actress; she was a fellow writer, an odd duck, a woman who was unafraid to share her experiences if it would assist someone else from following her troubled road. She spoke of difficult topics with a self-depreciating candor and vital humor that allowed room for more open conversations about topics that were sadly swept under the rug for far too long. She was who she was, a princess of the stars in more ways than one. And she never apologized for that. She owned who she was with a bravery that I am still learning to find within myself.
What hurts with her death is the feeling of camaraderie I felt towards a woman I have never met (well, apart from sneak peeks at a comicon, but that doesn’t count). She was undoubtedly an odd little ducky; and yet, that is exactly what drew me to her. Because I am an odd little duck too, a duckling that spent far too long trying to find her way. She inspired me to embrace who I am with humor and dignity, to smile at the people who don’t understand the type of person I am, without feeling like there is something inherently wrong with me. She taught me to have open conversations about difficult topics with people who have a new perspective to offer me. She taught me to have compassion for others as well as myself. I was, perhaps, more of a fan of her words, rather than her acting (though that was also inspiring); but it was her truth that she shared without apology that genuinely intrigued me. She embraced who she was and reminded me that is okay for me to do the same.
So tonight I send this tribute to a woman who I never knew, but who had an impact on me nonetheless. This is for the princess who showed us all the stars. This is for the woman who proudly proclaimed who she was to the world and never asked for forgiveness. This is for the woman who showed us the true power found in humor and honesty. This is for the actress who helped inspire a cult following; one who helped me find others who carried a freak flag that looked just like mine. This is for the woman who built cultural bridges that we all can cross if we are willing to open outselves to the passion of the experience. This is for the woman who reminds me of the little girl I was, secretly playing with microscopes and staring at the stars.
May you find the peace that you so deserved in life. May you find comfort in knowing that you have made a difference; we all mourn our mutual loss tonight, though for many different reasons. Thank you for the lessons you imparted, for the brave and open way you fought your most personal fight. Thank you for all that you gave the world, it is a better place because of your presence. Thank you for the laughter, for the insight, and most of all, for the courage to be completely true to oneself.