Those who know me probably know that Carrie Fisher has been one of the most important public figures in my life. She was perhaps my favorite person in the world, even if I didn’t express it nearly enough. I have seen Star Wars way too many times to count; I have poured over the pages of The Princess Diarist, soaking in her words; I checked Twitter countless times to make sure it was real, she did indeed follow me; I have cried over her discussions of mental health and honesty about her own struggles.
Her death struck me more than anything I have experienced before; I was in Colorado with my family when I found out, and I couldn’t stop sobbing. My heart felt like it was being torn in half. It felt almost like I had lost a close family member rather than someone whom I had never even met in person. I know many others felt—and feel—similarly to myself. I think Carrie has that effect on people. She was so incredibly special in the most brilliant ways, and I will never forget the deeply meaningful impact she had on my life. So, in a tribute of sorts, I decided I wanted to write this letter about how important she and, by extent, Star Wars, are to me.
To Carrie —
Thank you for saying that you were proud of me when I came out to my parents. You didn’t know it, but you were the first person to say that, and it made me start crying in the middle of Chemistry class. Thank you for saying that my coming out made you cry of happiness; it is impossible to describe how I felt reading those words in your message to me. I was shaking. I could hardly fathom that someone so wonderful and special could read what I wrote and care about it the way you did. I know that it wasn’t a significant moment in your life at all, but I couldn’t care less because it meant the world to me. So far, nothing anyone has said to me has held a candle to that. You had no idea, but you made me feel so loved, appreciated and safe at that moment.
I have seen you interact with so many others in this way. So eager to listen to them talk and share their stories. Eager to understand and speak to them. I know we are all deeply grateful for you.
Thank you for so candidly speaking about your mental illness. I know myself and so many others who deal with mental illness draw so much strength and power from you and your words. Around the time you messaged me on Twitter I was in a bad place in terms of my own mental health, and your support meant more to me than you will ever know. Thank you for being such an advocate for mental health issues even as you struggled through your own. Thank you especially for being entirely unapologetic and honest; please know that I loved and appreciated that more than anything in the world.
Thank you for portraying one of the most incredible female characters the screen has ever seen. We needed that. All of the little girls—all of the Jewish girls, like me—needed to see such a wonderful, complex, intelligent, and strong of will and spirit woman in such an iconic franchise. Yes, Leia is the Jewish princess (and general) of our dreams. Leia is not a victim. Rather, she is a strong, beautiful princess and general who is constant in her fight against fascism and dictatorship. She has been one of the most influential characters in my life so far, and I think we all wish to emulate just a fraction of her courage, dignity, and grace.
One thing you have said has always resonated with me: “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually, the confidence will follow.”
We love you and miss you, princess… forever.
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Jenna Kalishman is a freelance writer and cinephile based in Colorado who often focuses on female and queer perspectives as well as female-led projects. She spends much of her free time listening to Stevie Nicks and re-watching Carol. You can find her on twitter @jenkalish.