May the Fourth Be With You!

photo of me with a jawa and a Tusken raider

On my recent vacation to Tatooine.

A long time ago, in a town far, far away, I discovered Star Wars. I was ten, my brother was nine. We were at my grandparents’ house, where the adults were doing something that necessitated sticking us in the tv room upstairs to watch movies.

It was 1997, and the Star Wars trilogy was airing in advance of the theatrical release of the Special Editions. In our channel flipping, we stumbled on Return of the Jedi. The movie was half over when we happened on it—already the gang was on Endor, chasing down Stormtroopers on speeder bikes.

We were transfixed. When my parents came up to get us so we could go home, we didn’t want to leave. Luke was fighting Darth Vader and Han and Leia were trying to blow up the shield generator. We had to know what happened next.

My dad, perhaps incredulous that we cared so much about a movie that was already fifteen years old, told us that we had it on tape.

“What?!” we both asked, surprised and delighted, but slightly distrustful.

“Yes, we’ve got the whole trilogy on tape,” my dad repeated, trying to hurry us along.

It was too late to watch the rest of the movie when we got home, but the next day, my dad dug out bootleg copies of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, taped off the tv at some indeterminate time in the past. He couldn’t find A New Hope, but we took what he offered.

a Star Wars movie poster with various autographs

I’ve been collecting signatures on this poster since I was 14. My most recent acquisitions are Wedge, Biggs, and Gold Leader (Dutch).

And we watched those two movies over, and over, and over, and over.

It wasn’t until the Special Editions came out in theaters later that year that we were able to see A New Hope. My dad took us to the theater to see it.

We already knew the characters from watching Empire and Jedi, but we soaked up that movie like sponges. The trash compactor scene scared me, but I wasn’t willing to admit it. And I will always remember the thrill I felt leaving that theater, like I had found religion or the secret to eternal youth.

That Christmas was the best Christmas I can remember. We got a (legal) copy of the trilogy on VHS, Star Wars Quiz Whiz, and Star Wars Monopoly. My grandmother began a tradition that has lasted into the present by buying me the Star Wars Hallmark Keepsake ornaments for that year. I’m sure we got other presents–Lego sets, video games–but the Star Wars presents are the ones I remember best.

From then on I had no interest in playing “house.” I wanted to be Princess Leia going on adventures with Luke, Han, and Chewie. I wanted to fly an X-Wing and train to be a Jedi Knight. I called my brother a scruffy looking nerf herder. I pretended my dog Maverick was Chewbacca.

Twenty years later, these films still transfix me. I still want to be Princess Leia and fly an X-Wing and wield a lightsaber. When the world feels devoid of light I only have to pop in A New Hope, learn the ways of the Force from Obi-Wan Kenobi and fight the bad guys in my little snub fighter to remember that resistance is never futile. Resistance and persistence create change, make a better world.

In my most desperate hours, I will always have Star Wars to remind me of this truth.

Happy 40th Anniversary, Star Wars, and May the Fourth Be With You.

Being 30

Three is a lucky number. Thirty is ten threes. Ten threes may not be as lucky as nine threes or even six or three threes, but still. It’s lucky.

I used to dread turning 30, but then I turned 27. 28. 29. Time creeps forward, whether we’re paying attention or not. So I choose to embrace this year of being ten threes, and want to spend it with purpose.

No wrinkles appeared around my eyes when I woke up. No lightning bolt of wisdom struck me. My clothes did not transform into hooded cloaks in the night (though it’d be cool if they did).

Thirty happened the way every other birthday happens: Slowly, over the course of the year, the months, the weeks, the days. It happened over the course of deaths and loss, over the course of illness and setbacks, over the course of new friends and goals met, over the course of endings and beginnings.

And, thankfully, it happened with many of my dearest friends and family—some of whom drove great distances to see me–doing things I love: book shopping, spending a day at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, getting the breakfast buffet at Happy Days and having my annual allotment of creamed chipped beef.

I don’t know what this year will bring, though the cards suggest some interesting things. All I can do is write every day I’m able, send my work into the world, take care of myself as best I can, and continue loving the people (and dogs) I love.

Here’s to 30, and all the things it might bring.

 

 

Respect my choice to be childfree

When I was around 14 years old, I realized I had no desire to have children.

And here I am, a few months away from hitting 30, and still, I have no desire for children. Neither does my partner.

It’s not just a lack of desire though. The thought of having my own children, of the ways in which their presence would fundamentally change everything about my life, is unappealing. I enjoy the ability to go out when and where I want without need to tote along a toddler or scramble for a baby sitter. I like being able to control my environment, to rest when I need to. I like spending money on books rather than diapers.

To be fair, I don’t know anyone who actively enjoys changing dirty diapers or waking up at 2 a.m. to a screaming infant, but most people, it seems, are happy to do these things because of the rewards they receive: a burbling laugh, a joyful smile, watching something they created take shape and become a person.

I am genuinely and truly happy for my friends who have (or are going to soon have, or eventually want to have) children. But it’s not for me.

(Considering also my chronic illness, preparing for pregnancy, going through pregnancy, and then caring for an infant would be incredibly difficult. Not impossible, but not pleasant, either.)

childfreeecard

My opinions on lots of big things have changed over the years, but excluding children from my life plan never has. My partner agrees. My parents don’t care if we have kids or not. They’d be happy if we did, but they’re just as happy if we don’t. My in-laws, too, have never hinted that they want more grandkids. They have instead expressed many times that they want us to be happy, in whatever we choose. My friends, too, even the ones with kids or who are planning to have kids soon, think nothing of the fact that I don’t want that life.

Not having children is our choice. It is not a comment on your desire (or lack thereof) for children. It is not a comment on the state of the world, overpopulation, or politics. It is simply the choice we have made for our lives.

Many people—customers I meet at work, business acquaintances, friends of friends of friends, distant relatives, random strangers I meet by happenstance—do not seem to understand, nor to respect, this choice.

Frankly, I am fed up with that bullshit.

Before I got married I heard, “Oh, just wait until you find the right man.”

After I got married I started hearing, “Oh, you’ll change your mind,” and “Oh, if you have dogs you’ll definitely have kids,” and “Just wait until you settle down a bit.”

Found right partner. Got stable jobs. Bought house. Writing career is progressing well. Library career is progressing well. Health is better than it’s been in a long time.

And guess what? We still do not want kids.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why people who hardly know me care so much whether I want children, and I have a few theories.

  1. Women are “supposed” to want kids. We are expected to want marriage and motherhood and to make dinner for our families and do the whole housewife thing, even if  we also have a full-time job outside of the house.
  2. People sometimes see the choices of others as attacks on their own choices. So, me not wanting children is another way of saying their decision to have children is less valid or somehow “wrong.” (It’s not, of course—both choices are equally valid.)
  3. The choice to eschew child rearing is often seen as selfish. Young people are generally considered to be self-absorbed navel gazers, and supposedly become less self-absorbed as they mature. So, to some people, the “selfish” decision to be childfree will eventually be worn away by life experience and the realization that the world is not all about you.

The irony, of course, is that most of these points of view are inherently self-centered. They are based on the assumption that having children is “right” and not having children is “wrong.” These feelings often come with more assumptions: That I hate children and/or look down on parents, especially stay-at-home-moms.

I don’t, of course. Parents are rock stars, and humanity could not go on without them. I love seeing my friends raising awesome little people, and I’m excited for what those little people will do.

The choice to be a working mom or a stay-at-home mom is a personal, individual choice that every mother has to make for herself. One isn’t inherently better (or more “feminist”) than the other. Every family is different. What’s right for one family may be wrong for another.

And I don’t hate all kids, either. Sometimes they drive me up the wall and make me want to scream (I have to deal with them a lot at my job), but sometimes they make my heart melt and they give me hope for the future of the world.

But I personally do not want children of my own. If you want children, awesome! Go for it. Raise the next generation of creators, inventors, doers, movers, and shakers.

But please, please, please stop telling me how to feel or how to live my life. Respect my choice to be childfree, and I’ll respect your choice, whatever that may be.