I know that this format is horrifically overused, and if you knew that this ridiculously emotional fangirl was writing a silly ‘letter to a dead person that I have never met’ blog post, you would probably roll your eyes.
And, actually, nothing makes me prouder than the thought of you rolling your eyes at me. So I’ll take it.
Anyway, it’s now been one year and two days since you were taken away from us. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long – it feels like it was only recently, a fresh wound, so raw that I still can’t watch you or look at a picture of you without bursting into tears. I was given The Princess Diarist for my birthday (in mid-January), and I only gathered the strength to read it in November – because hearing your narrative voice for the last time was just too painful.
That’s not what your legacy should be. I don’t want that to be the overriding effect of remembering you. You deserve so much better than that. So I guess this is my attempt at working past that stage, and writing myself into a place where the thought of you is more likely to make me smile than cry.
You’re a writer. You understand this. If you can’t sort it all out via a creative medium that other people can consume for their own amusement, what is the point?
Now, you may think that you are important to me and others because you were Leia Organa. And that’s true. Leia Organa is so important (note, I refuse to use past tense – Leia was important, is still important and will continue to be important forevermore).
As Princess Leia, she was a teenage girl working as a senator and leading a rebellion; she could and would handle a gun; she would survive the destruction of her home planet; she could put together a better plan than both the male leads combined; she would fall in love but still be strong on her own; she was abused and objectified, but ended up killing her abuser with her own two hands; she was funny, and smart, and prickly, and fierce, and wonderful.
As General Organa, she was even more important; an older woman leading a rebellion; remaining steadfast in the face of returning horrors, when her male counterparts fell into self-pitying despair and fled; fiercely respected and followed, not as a pretty young royal but as a hardened and experienced military leader; a person who would not surrender to fascist forces after all these decades, even if those fascist forces included her own son; still fierce, still smart and still funny, even through the added pain the years have wrought.
Leia is important, and therefore you are important. You are important to us because you are Leia Organa.
But you are more important to me because you are Carrie Fisher.
You see, you were a role model due to the fact that you weren’t actually that good of a role model. The fact that you were so clearly and openly complicated, flawed and so entirely imperfect was incredibly important to me. You showed me that it was possible to struggle, to fail, to screw up, and to make somewhat of a mess of your life without it driving you completely into the mud – not that you overcame those struggles and addictions and emerged shining on the other side, but that those things could be a part of your life and you could still live that life (and, for the most part, live it to the fullest).
I admire you not just as an actress portraying one of the greatest science fiction heroines of all time, but as a writer, an activist and a person. I admire the fact that you weren’t afraid to tell the world that you were imperfect. You refused to make it something to disguise out of shame, that which is a fact of life for so many of us (and that we often feel compelled to sugar coat).
The first time I became fully aware of this was when I saw pictures of your ‘cocaine nail’ in The Empire Strikes Back. Devastated at this slight against my untouchable Princess Leia, I went in search of an answer from you that would refute these allegations. And I found it.
You were appalled at the suggestion, you stated in an interview, because everyone knew you didn’t cut your cocaine with your nail.
It was an answer that floored me. But it also changed me for the better. Not because you were glamourising the way you used drugs (I still haven’t touched the stuff, so clearly you weren’t that bad of an influence in that respect), but because you didn’t try to paint a sheen of clean over the top of it. You did not feel the need to live in silent shame about the truth of your messy-as-hell life.
That was when you stopped being a fictional icon, and started being a realistic role-model to me.
You told it as it was – warts and weight and mental illness and drugs and all.
And you told it so well. You write in a way that leaps off the page in your one-of-a-kind voice. So far away from a traditional wordsmith, and oh-so-much-more like you were gathering me, the reader, into your hilarious, raw and undoubtedly honest confidence.
I confess that I also have your memoirs – Wishful Drinking, Shockaholic and The Princess Diarist – as audiobooks, if only so I can listen again and again to your stories in your own distinct voice. I feel very close to you then, even if I never met you, and even if our stories are not at all alike in many respects.
You are the kind of writer I want to be. You are one of the biggest reasons I am here now, telling my own stories in my own voice. If I can touch one person in the way that your writing touched me, then I’ll have contributed something more good than words can express to this world.
I could go on. I could wax lyrical about your solid ‘fuck it’ to this shallow world about your weight, but also about your acknowledgment of your own internalised fatphobia, and how important both have been in my fickle relationship with my own weight. I could scream from the rooftops about you speaking so candidly about your mental illness, about the pills you have to take in order to survive it, and how it made me feel less ashamed to swallow my own crazy pills every night.
I could go on, and on, and on, about all of this and more, but I can see your eyes rolling so far back into your head that you’re practically staring into your own brain. It’s probably dark in there. So I’ll stop now. Sorry, Carrie.
Basically, what I’m trying to convey in my ever-so-waffly way, is that you are brilliant. And I miss you. I miss the strange comfort of knowing I am surviving on the same Earth at the same time as you. You taught me how to have a messy life that was also good. You taught me to be honest in my writing and in my life, even if the truth is sometimes unflattering.
I promise that I will stop crying when I see you, or when I plug in one of your audiobooks, or when I reach the last page of one of your books. I promise that I’ll start smiling, and giggling, and remembering to rip the absolute piss out of myself at every opportunity. I promise that I’ll start honouring you as you are supposed to be honoured.
Thank you, Carrie.
Thank you for Leia.
But mostly, thank you for being you.
And if I were to look up at the sky and say:
‘I love you.’
I hope that, somewhere out there, you would take a long-suffering sigh and groan in that satirical, yet affectionate, way you had with your ‘merry band of stalkers’: