Like for most people, 2016 has been a shit year for me. Yes, much good has come from it, but I also suffered three significant losses. The year kicked off with the sudden and heartbreaking death of my cat, Bandit, whose illness was swift and crushing. A few months later, I lost one of my best friends, my Auntie Bea, whose loss is felt even more during this holiday season. And now, Carrie Fisher.
I am aware that she is a writer and actress that I never met. But her influence has inspired my life in surprising ways. When I was younger, Star Wars was re-released in theaters and Princess Leia was everything I ever wanted to be: a beautiful princess, a passionate fighter for what is right and good, and the girlfriend of hottie Han Solo. I used to dress up in my bathing suit and leap around my couches, escaping from Jabba’s clutches and bringing an end to enemy forces. (Please don’t analyze that). Princess Leia was the one action figure this girly girl desired (and okay, I also got Han Solo because one, hottie, and two, she needed her mate!)
As one does, especially at that age, I grew out of my Star Wars obsession and kind of forgot about it for awhile. But flash to junior year when my roommate and best friend, Stephanie and I discovered we were both past-Star Wars fans and decided to watch the movies again. Instant magic. Princess Leia was still the feminist icon I admired from my childhood and I grew even more enamored by her and her love story with Han Solo. I like to refer to Harrison Ford as my elder bae because at any age, he is still a hottie.
Watching those films again at an older age made me curious about the actors behind those roles. I’d seen Harrison Ford in a bunch of different things and certainly knew of Carrie Fisher by name, but I was surprised by what I learned about her. She was so much more than Princess Leia, but Princess, now General Leia, is still a bad ass chick in my book.
Carrie endured years of drug abuse and struggling with her addiction, as well as mental illness. She not only survived, but she flourished. No doubt some days were harder than others, but she persevered and lived a damned good life. Through it all, she laughed, because as she would say, if we didn’t laugh, it would just be sad. Humor in tragedy makes the inevitable need to move on that much easier. She was sassy, brilliant, charming, and vulnerable in her fearlessness. I discovered this from watching interviews and reading her books. Many will not know this, but Carrie helped me through my one hundred pound weight loss. At the time, she was being berated online and in the media about her aging and weight gain, and although she made a strong effort to lead a healthier life, she also spoke out about self-worth and self-love no matter one’s weight or age. No doubt, it could not have been easy to hear these comments, but she continued forward, and it was this confidence that inspired me to find my inner strength and be a healthier and happier person. I would not be the person I am without Carrie Fisher.
I got to see her perform her one woman show, Wishful Drinking, live in Baltimore with my sister a few years ago and it is a memory I will forever treasure. As will the autograph she was kind enough to send to me and Stephanie after we sent her an embarrassing fan letter, which, for whatever wonderful and quirky reason, she signed twice.
Another moment of her influence stands out. I’ve always been a decent writer, but I didn’t consider myself to be a writer until I read Carrie’s books. She made me want to continue taking creative writing courses, which ultimately led to my moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in writing. Carrie was one of the finest authors and script writers in Hollywood. Her characters, whether fictional or real, made me feel, made me vulnerable, and made me want to continue on with them throughout their journey.
I wish Carrie’s journey had not come to an abrupt end. I wish we had more books, more movies, more tweets, and more stage shows. I’ve never had one of my absolute favorite celebrities die before and I’m having a difficult time grasping the reality of it. There will be no closure, no making sense of this tragic loss. I will mourn and cry, but I will try to pay her back for all that she has unknowingly done for me. I’ll watch her movies and tv shows, I’ll read her books, I’ll remember the strength and the spark in which she she so bravely lived. I’ll remember her. And I’ll say it again, I am not the person I am today without Carrie Fisher. I wish I could have gotten the chance to tell her thank you.
Carrie Fisher drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.