I was six, maybe five. My family and I lived in Amherst, TX - a town that no one in their right mind had ever heard of. My kindergarten brain was easily amused, taken by hours of escape that things like Legos offered. But my life was soon to be changed. An event would occur that would shape the way my childhood was formed. It would take hold of my imagination and fancy and proceed to occupy it for the rest of my life in some shape or another.
I saw Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
And that was it. Those stormtroopers with their gleaming white armor and propensity to be completely and utterly useless in battle. Han Solo's glorious "Yahoo!" as the Millennium Falcon descended upon Vader's TIE Fighter to give Luke a clear shot at destroying the Death Star. The streams of blood flowing openly from Ponda Baba's arm in the Cantina on Mos Eisley after Obi-Wan had severed it. These events, rapidly flickering across an old JVC television, projecting across a curiously brown-hued living room, would meet my six year-old eyes, traveling along my optic fibers and eventually lodging themselves in a very special chamber of my brain, one that would be forever reserved for all the glory of Star Wars in subsequent years.
Over the years, my obsession with Star Wars never faltered (at least not until Revenge of the Sith was released). I quickly procured an unhealthy amount of SW merchandise throughout my childhood. When the "Special Edition" re-release of the films were unleashed in 1997 to commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the franchise's original theatrical release, I went to the theaters with my family to experience the magic of SW all over again.
I can't begin to tell you the excitement I had as a 6th grader in 1998 when I saw the first theatrical trailer for Episode I. It was magical. I absolutely, positively flipped when Darth Maul appeared on screen and powered on his double-edged lightsaber. My mind was crushed with the sheer awesomeness that came along with the thought of experiencing a new SW in my lifetime. I was eleven.
The prequels came and went. I saw them all, took them in, obtained more merchandise, etc. But things began to change as I grew up. Accompanied by the fact that I would never again have the opportunity to witness a new Star Wars film in my lifetime, growing older brought different interests into the place in my mind that had originally been captured by the films a decade earlier. That small compartment began to shrink as other chambers in my brain condensed and grew, begging to be tended to, shoving my Star Wars vault into a dark corner, only to be recalled upon for the sake of nostalgia or other trivial matters.
That brings us to today, without wasting too much of your time. I am twenty-four years old. Star Wars has been out for 35 years. It has been almost twenty years since my first encounter with the franchise and at least seven since the last film was in theaters. Obviously, the times for my excitement concerning this galaxy far, far way have peaked and perished long ago.
I won't make the case for myself that I am necessarily an adult. Sure, I pay bills and have a piece of paper somewhere that says I went to school for some such thing or other. Legally, I guess you could say I am an adult. My problems are adult-sized in shape and form. I no longer worry about raising the funds I gained from hours of yard work and selling Kool-Aid to purchase the latest Kirby video game; I worry about raising the funds to pay for hospital bills and rent for a dingy apartment.
Perhaps the following anecdote will make my point infinitely more clear:
I have a friend I met in the summer of 2005. She was visiting from out of state for the summer and would soon return home to the east coast. I was seventeen at the time. Without getting into too much detail, I made a point of befriending her before she departed. What ensued was the most improbable and strange relationship I've ever had. Though separated by thousands of miles and several years of age, we began a friendship that defied the typically selfish nature of humans everywhere.
Let me make this clear: I am atrocious at keeping in touch with people. I am content to have as few friends as possible in my life. I routinely leave people and relationships behind without much regret. Most of you are aware that I am notorious for "un-friending" people on Facebook for the slightest offenses. What's that? You and your boyfriend got engaged? UN-FRIEND. You are obsessed with your pet and you love nothing more than to post pictures of the both of you at every occasion? GET OFF MY NEWSFEED. But I digress.
It's been seven years since I first met this friend. Many, many, many things have changed since I was 17 and she was 15, respectively. We have changed to the point where we probably wouldn't recognize the kids we were all those years ago. In fact, I was just on the phone with her last night and we were reminiscing about how young we were and the problems that faced us then. Back then, we would worry about when the best time was to call one another would be, seeing as how long distance was expensive and I didn't have a cell phone. We would wonder when and if we would ever get to see each other again.
Seven years later. Different people, different problems. Last night she was enumerating to me some of the problems and conflicts that have been plaguing her in recent years. I shared my struggles with suicide and my recent diagnoses for my Bipolar disorder. I would have never been able to predict ourselves conversing so calmly about such massive problems all those years ago. In fact, I didn't have the slightest idea of what type of person I would be. I knew one thing, I was sure that I would like Star Wars no matter how old I came to be.
My conversation with her last night got me thinking at length about what it was like to be a child. Plenty of the early years are blurry and some details will always be sketchy at best, but certain memories - both of the fond and terrifying variety - will never go away. I will never forget the first time I rode a bike, downhill - without knowledge of how to use the brakes. I avoided bikes for years after that. I'll never forget about the time when someone told me Oreos had a lot of fat in them when I was in 5th grade. I didn't eat Oreos for probably three years. I won't forget these things in the same way that I will never forget what it was like to experience Star Wars as a kindergartener.
I post these thoughts today for one reason. Most of you have probably heard (if not, you're probably reading the wrong blog), but the entire Star Wars franchise has been sold by George Lucas to Disney. In light of this, a new film has been announced - Episode VII - and scheduled for 2015 or so. I'll be 27, maybe married. That's scary. As much as I didn't know how I would turn out as a 24 year-old when I was 17, I have no inkling of what the 27 year-old me will be like. However, I do know one thing.
He'll like Star Wars, just like he did as a 6 year-old.
You see, the conversation with my friend last night and my rapidly growing excitement over the fact that yes, I will indeed get to experience a new Star Wars film in my lifetime has made me realize what was so great about being a child all those years ago. In the words of author Bill Watterson (of "Calvin & Hobbes" fame), "I'll never understand people who remember childhood as being an idyllic time." Sure, as a kid we had our kid-sized problems. But countless times, I would climb into the family's suburban and get in the backseat, imagining the passing countryside as the landscape of a distant planet or making the action figures I'd brought along fight each other in a contest of brute strength. I never once gave thought to my parents' driving or whether we would get to our destination safely or not. I just blindly trusted that they always knew where they were going and we would get there without harm.
Now, decades later, I sit behind the wheel of my own car, responsible for the safety of myself and others. Perhaps one day my child will climb into the backseat and give no thought to our destination, getting lost in the imagination passed down from his father.
I loved being a kid. As far as I'm concerned, I am a child in a 24 year-old's body, stumbling about in life in unfamiliar territory, somehow managing to survive in a world that has lost its sanity long ago. I seriously cringe at the idea of bringing up a kid in today's world. I know that's a silly fear since I'm not even married, but it isn't entirely unfounded. It remains a beautiful thing that I still possess the ability to have my imagination be captured by things as frivolous as fictional characters set in a far-off time and place. I hope I never lose the ability to maintain a child-like joy about things that others would consider silly. It's an important part of growing up, which I will forever be doing. I just hope to never lose that ability to have my mind be carried away to distant galaxies and planes of existence.
So yes, you'll see me in a Jedi robe at the midnight premiere of the yet-to-be announced date of the new Star Wars film in 2015, with all the other fanatics and losers. I would like nothing more than to see you there.
UPDATES & SUCH
(I've been posting these updates regularly at the end of each post recently, mainly for the benefit of my distant friends and family. I've just now given it a title.)
Of course, it's obvious that I'm excited about the new Star Wars film. I'm also stoked about the 80$ I spent today on two concerts - As I Lay Dying on November 20th and Coheed & Cambria/Between the Buried & Me/Russian Circles February 19th. That's a lot of money. But hey, I got paid today and these are the things that a 24 year-old child spends his money on.
Still reading Life of Pi. The Hobbit is next, followed by The Night Circus, Glaciers...the list goes on.
My latest two musical refuges have been the new Deftones album and the self-titled EP by UK-based djent/rap band Hacktivist. It's a strange hybrid, but I enjoy it in a silly way. Here's a video of them for your indulgence: