One April weekend in 2017, anticipation veritably dripped off of the walls in the Orange County Convention Center. This was Star Wars Celebration Orlando, and the trailer for The Last Jedi was set to premiere in the main event hall. I was sitting in line, waiting to get an autograph from Ashley Eckstein, and the other attendees and I were getting on the convention center Wi-Fi to watch the livestream. As you can imagine, this proved to be difficult, since thousands of attendees were simultaneously trying to join. A woman behind me couldn’t get the stream to load on her phone. A kind fan sitting nearby offered to share his phone with her so that she could see. They invited me to join them, because his signal was better than the one on my old phone. I had never met these individuals in my life, yet they knew how important it was for me to see the trailer at the same time as everyone else. They understood. Collectively, we shared the same excitement.
Silence fell across the entire show floor as we finally saw brand new footage from the next installment of the Star Wars franchise. So many of us had to basically pick our jaws up off of the floor so that we could scream with excitement.
It was at this moment that I truly fell in love with Star Wars. I had always liked the franchise, but mostly in the sense of being a “casual fan.” I had only decided to go to Celebration because my friend, Sara, had been trying to get me into the 501st Legion for ages. Creating a costume for this particular convention was my excuse to finally take action.
I found Star Wars: The Clone Wars at a time in my life where I felt completely alone and isolated from everything I loved. I was a new mother to a very colicky and needy baby. In my sleep deprived state, depression had reared its ugly head yet again. While I was up at 3AM , desperately trying to get my new baby to sleep, I saw messages from my friends who were going out and doing fun things and moving on with their lives. Realizing that I needed to stop tormenting myself with the reminders of the life I used to have, I decided to stop scrolling through social media and turned on Netflix. The first recommendation on my list was for Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I figured, “Why not? I like Star Wars.”
The Last Jedi was the first movie I had been excited to see in a long time. I had really enjoyed The Force Awakens, and I was hyped to see Mark Hammill reprise his iconic role. At the same time, I was still emotionally raw from Carrie Fisher’s death. And here, in this moment, among thousands of other silent fans, I got to see a glimpse of what the next Star Wars movie would look like. I had the chance to experience that collective excitement that came from being a Star Wars fan, surrounded by strangers who were also friends.
The following December, I sat in the movie theater with my new Star Wars family. I was a newly approved member of the 501st Legion, watching The Last Jedi. Perhaps my revelation wasn’t as dramatic as the scene between Rey and Kylo Ren, but it was a revelation nonetheless.
My Star Wars family had always been there.
I was not alone.
I had never been alone.