The news just hit my Facebook feed, and hit me harder than I’d expected. 2016 has been a hard year for all of us. I remember feeling shock when David Bowie died. Almost like I was unaware that he could die. He was such a fixture. But he did die, and suddenly I was flashing back to being a depressed teenager. Sitting outside, smoking cigarettes, and listening to The Man Who Sold The World on my outdated Walkman. It’s strange, how deeply one can grieve for someone they never met. How complete strangers can effect us in life changing ways. Here I am again, processing why a death on the other side of a continent hurts so deeply.
I think about being a little girl and watching star wars. I grew up with parents in the film industry (as did Fisher, on a different level) and spent a great deal of time watching “the classics”. Star Wars was before my time, but it still changed everything for me. Princess Leia was misunderstood. She was not a gold bikini, the eye candy for bored geeks. She was strong. She was clever. She held the team together. My eyes lit up watching her. Carrie Fisher was a half Jewish woman, just like me, and she showed a little girl that being beautiful and strong are not mutually exclusive.
Carrie Fisher lived with a great deal of pain. She was mentally ill, and an addict. And she didn’t hide. She spoke fearlessly and openly. She brought mental health to the forefront and challenged each and every person who could ever assume mental illness, addiction, womanhood, single motherhood, the entirety of her complex existence, implied weakness. She was anything but weak. “I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.”.
I think about my little girl. How at the very top of her holiday gift list she asked for Leia and Rey toys. Because they mean something to her. She’s learning that the world is open to her. That she can be a brave general, a fierce warrior, a beautiful woman, the brains of the operation. Leia taught her that, but Carrie Fisher will someday teach her so much more.
“We treat beauty like an accomplishment, and that is insane. Everyone in L.A. says, ‘Oh, you look good,’ and you listen for them to say you’ve lost weight. It’s never ‘How are you?’ or ‘You seem happy!'”. Someday I hope my daughter sees the truths Carrie Fisher knew. That others will focus on your exterior. They will judge a woman by her waistline and facial symmetry. And they will be wrong. There is so much more to all of us than what sits on the outside.
“I’m fine, but I’m bipolar. I’m on seven medications, and I take medication three times a day. This constantly puts me in touch with the illness I have. I’m never quite allowed to be free of that for a day. It’s like being a diabetic.” Someday, I hope my daughter learns her mental health is simply health. That medication is not the enemy. That one can live, thrive, light up the world while living with mental illness. That addictions happen, and should they happen to her, she can reach her hand out and I will crawl the entire journey back with her.
I hope my daughter continues to look up to Princess Leia. I hope she never stops lighting up when she realizes princesses don’t all wait to be rescued. Some of them join up with the rebels and fight for what’s right. I hope someday, she’ll look up to Carrie Fisher just as much. Because for every battle Leia fought and won, Carrie likely fought and won a dozen.
My heart hurts for what the world lost, but I smile for what we’ve gained. Scores upon scores of little girls who saw a young, beautiful princess sailing across the stars with two buns in her hair, and realized that not even the sky is the limit.