The first person I ever wanted to be was Princess Leia.
I was four years old, and I lived in a little apartment with my mother. My bed wasn’t big enough to feel like a floating barge, so when I played Return of the Jedi, I played in my mother’s room. Her bed doubled for the barge. One of her big body-sized pillows, practically as big as me, doubled for Luke Skywalker while another stood in for Jabba the Hut. And I would run up and down, wrapping sheets around Jabba’s neck before I wrapped my arms around Luke and jumped to safety.
I always wanted to play the barge scene. Or perhaps, more specifically, I always wanted to play the scene where Leia escaped from Jabba—a character that I, even in my tender years, absolutely despised. On each of the three or four times I was taken to see Jedi, I had to be taken out of the theater during the scenes in Jabba’s club, and I have very clear memories of being walked up and down the hall outside the theater in my mother’s arms, listening to Jabba laugh and hating him with every fiber of my being.
I liked the barge scene, though.
I liked watching Leia watch the events unfold. I liked watching her think, and plan, and leap into action the moment an opportunity presented itself. I liked watching her kill Jabba, and free herself from his chains, and blow a hole in his big, ostentatious barge. I liked watching her leap to safety with Luke. I liked imagining myself doing all of those exciting, clever, brave things.
As I grew older, and Carrie Fisher became more to me than Princess Leia, I liked watching her be her brash, bold self. I liked her wit and her wisdom. I liked her willingness to talk about deeply personal subjects without fear or shame. I liked her refusal to take any bullshit from anybody. I liked that she made me believe I could be as brash and bold as she.
Carrie Fisher battled sexism, ageism, ableism, and body-shaming. She conquered addiction and mental illness, and she did it all by making the courageous choice to value herself fully while at the same time not making the mistake of taking herself too seriously. She was a hero—first, last, and always.
She was my hero, and I will miss her.