I am Star Wars. The eternal struggle between light and darkness that is fought among the stars is at the core of who I am. I have grown with it, I am shaped by it, and I am who I am because of it. That is because the ever important notions of destiny in Star Wars are not just narrative elements, they are real and powerful in their effect. Of course I don’t mean that in a metaphysical sense, otherwise I would be a fully fledged Jedi by now. Instead, I’m here at this desk writing about it.
The three most significant events of a person's life say a lot about who they are. It can paint a picture of what we love and care about, the things that we do, and our place in the world. For me those three events were when I met my wife for the first time, when I moved to the United States, and the first time I ever saw Star Wars at the cinema.
It was 1996 and in the lead up to the release of the first of the prequels, Star Wars was finding its way back into people’s lives. I was five when my dad took me to see the release of the special editions. I have vivid memories of walking into the cinema in Tea Tree Plaza in Adelaide, Australia. I didn’t know it then, but it was one of the most important moments of my life. I remember the ships, I remember the clash of lightsabers, and I remember the faceless evil of the Empire.
That was when my childhood really began. From this moment on, everything was Star Wars. This obsession was nurtured with cool toys and books. I was so obsessed with the books that I was almost reading at an adult level in the second grade. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Star Wars is directly responsible for my lifelong obsession with the written word.
When I wasn’t reading at school, I was roping fellow classmates in to pretending that we were X-Wings. Or maybe sometimes we were Jedi, sometimes we were battle droids. During a childhood hospital stay I made friends with a young nurse who would play stormtrooper with me around the ward. Her kindness to a nerdy little boy and the fun I had ducking around corners still makes me smile.
As I hit my teenage years it all started to take on a deeper meaning. Star Wars wasn’t just about the spectacle of space opera. It was about some of the most important things that someone can learn while growing up. There was a lot of talk about the fulfillment of destiny and the belief that we are all serving some great cosmic force. I’m still agnostic but I can understand the appeal of this kind of metaphysical thinking. I took a different view of the lesson of destiny. For me at least, it seems as if we are responsible for making the choices and taking the actions that help us fulfill that destiny.
While Darth Vader may always be the most iconic character to come out of Star Wars, the one who always resonated with me the most was Luke. As a young lad he found himself thrust into the center of a great conflict, barely grasping the cosmic significance of the path he found himself set on. He lost his family and left his home, he found out his father was a genocidal space wizard, and took up the mantle of responsibility for returning balance to the Force. Honestly, it felt a little like me growing up.
I had taken on responsibilities at home that most teenagers don’t. I had issues with my father that were as stark as the contest between light and dark. I was thinking about who I was, what I wanted to do, and what my place in the galaxy was. And with Star Wars having such an important place in my life it was natural for me to look at a character like Luke for answers.
When Revenge of the Sith came out in 2005 I remember feeling an acute sense of emptiness. The story of Star Wars had come to an end. While I knew that I would always have Star Wars and that I could draw on it whenever I needed, it was more than a little sad to think to consider that it was the end. The end of something that defines who you are does something to your identity. It hollows you out just a little bit.
The decade after this turned out to be some of the worst years of my life. Family conflict, the loss of a friend, bad relationships, and prolonged experience with anxiety and depression took everything from me. An exile from my own life, I would cling to what little I could. A message of hope came in the form of a frenzied Facebook post. My friend claimed that Disney had bought Lucasfilm and had immediately announced the release of new Star Wars films.
It took a few years but we finally had it. 2015 turned out to be a big year for me and for Star Wars. I had started to find my feet again and I was feeling a sense of optimism that I had never felt before. Not only was I watching the trailer for The Force Awakens every night before the film's release, but I was getting my life together. For the first time in a long time I knew what I was doing and the direction my life was going in.
I’m not ashamed to say that I cried at the premiere. It was a signal that it was okay to live again, to start anew and make my way out into the world again. With this new beginning came a new story and a new cast of characters to learn from, to bond with, and to enjoy. The return of Star Wars to the world's consciousness marked the beginning of a renaissance of the Force. Not only did we have new movies, new books, new games, but I had a new lease on life. I planned to take advantage of that.
So I worked hard. I honed my craft and I worked on bettering myself. I marked those efforts with a tattoo, a rebel symbol on my right forearm. Funny enough, this is what brought me to the attention of my future (now) wife. So I guess in that respect you can say that Star Wars is also responsible for my marriage. As she is American, I guess it’s also responsible for me moving to the United States this year.
Rogue One marked yet another milestone. Shortly after the release in December I went to visit the US for the first time. I remember on the flight that we hit some rough weather about 4 hours out of Sydney. I used to be a bit of a nervous flyer, so to help with that I channeled my inner Chirrut Îmwe and chanted “I am one with the Force, the Force is with me.” You’d be surprised by how well that chant actually works when you need to calm down.
The future of Star Wars is as bright as mine. It is a universe full of possibilities and potential. For the first time in my life, the current crop of Star Wars heroes are around my age (actually a few are younger) and while their struggles may be ones of cosmic significance, mine are probably a little less important than that. But I am thankful that I can look to them and their fictional experiences for moral guidance.
There really is quite a lot more than that I am thankful for. I am thankful to Lucasfilm and their forward thinking stewardship of the franchise. Opening up Star Wars to contemporary audiences by recognizing the importance of representation to marginalized groups was a positive and long overdue step, and one that has the scope to go further. Being more inclusive will help the franchise grow. I am also thankful for all of the amazing actors, artists, writers, and directors that drive the saga forward. Their combined creativity has created something truly magical and meaningful in their scope. I can only hope to count myself among their numbers someday.
While many of us are now counting the days to Christmas, I am counting down to The Last Jedi (as of this writing it is 35 days and 8 hours). In the month between now and then you can bet that I’ll watch the entire saga again, possibly twice. Star Wars will once again find itself everywhere and the world wont be able to ignore it, and nor should it. The moral lessons it can teach us about our lives and the world that we live in are invaluable. I’ll never be a Jedi but I will always be a better person because of Star Wars