When I was a little girl, I didn’t want to be just any princess.
I wanted to be Princess Leia.
Despite multiple vacations to Disney World, and a closet full of costumes and tiaras-I had no interest in pretending to be a passive heroine. At the age of 5, that’s not how I wanted to roll.
Because on one uneventful day, my next door neighbor, Derek, invited me to see Star Wars with his parents. Even though I wasn’t particularly interested in the flick, I figured going to a movie was better than riding my bike alone. Plus, Derek’s parents always let us go nuts at the concessions counter, so I figured this was a win-win for me.
Little did I know my world was about to change.
See, up until then, all of the princesses I had seen were all the same, and, well, boring.
There was Snow White, and while I did adore her dress, I just couldn’t relate to her no matter how hard I tried.
And I really did try.
As an animal lover, I loved how she spoke to the forest creatures through song. I remember thinking that I could do the same and, spent weeks singing to my dog, random birds in my yard, and various neighborhood animals to no avail. I finally gave up after my dog ran away after my rendition of Whistle While You Work.
Speaking of work, Miss White exhibited a passion for cleaning which I did not share. I figured that if seven dwarves ever appeared in my room, I’d give tidying up a chance. Since they never showed up, my room stayed trashed, and my romance with Snow White was over.
Cinderella was another story.
Sure, she overcame the obstacles of a wicked stepmother and an unfortunate looking pair of evil stepsisters, but ultimately she relied on a Fairy Godmother and a Prince she barely knew to rescue her. It also bothered me that she lost one of her shoes…I mean you get a magical makeover complete with glass slippers, and you leave one behind?
My Mom would have had my ass for that.
Sleeping Beauty bored me to tears. Here we had yet another girl with the gift of beauty and song who lays lifeless until a Prince saves the day.
But when I met Princess Leia everything changed.
Donning (what appeared to me as) a white nightgown and donuts in her hair, Leia of Alderaan was unlike any princess I had ever seen. She wasn’t cleaning anything or singing songs to Wookies. No, Princess Leia was too busy shooting laser guns at Storm Troopers to belt out a tune.
She didn’t play.
Unapologetic, blunt and opinionated, Leia held her own next to Hans Solo, Luke Skywalker, and even Darth Vader. She was my kind of gal. She didn’t need dwarves, fairy godmothers or magic shoes, and she wasn’t waiting around for some guy to save the day. She could save it herself.
She showed me that a princess could do more than go to a ball or sleep.
And y’all Leia wasn’t just a rebel.
She ran the Rebellion.
After putting her in that awful gold bikini, Leia straight up killed Jabba the Hutt with her bare hands, while I imagine Snow White would’ve sung him a song and straightened up his crib.
Princess Leia was a badass, and I wanted to be just like her.
Now that I’ve grown up a little, my ambition to be a light saber wielding Jedi has subsided, though I like to consider myself a bit of a rebel. My grown up thoughts now turn toward the actress that portrayed Leia, Carrie Fisher, since she passed away earlier this week.
With parents like famed actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, Carrie was considered Hollywood Royalty-the closest one can get to Princess status this side of the pond and silver screen.
She started acting and battling addiction at an early age and was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder and manic depression.
But Carrie didn’t seek help and hide under a blanket of prescriptions, psychiatrists, and PR reps.
No, she shared her story, sparing no detail no matter how raw so that it might help others. Hollywood be damned.
Keep in mind that all of this went down before oversharing on social media became the norm.
Postcards from the Edge was first. It’s a semi-autobiographical novel from 1987 that covers drug addiction, rehab, and the drama between a mother and daughter. Postcards was so good that they made it into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.
In the 1990’s Carrie shared her bipolar diagnosis with the world.
And like the spirited character I longed to be, she was daring and impassioned when she spoke about it. Carrie Fisher bravely shined a light on a disease that most kept hidden, and somehow she managed to do it with humor and wit.
Carrie didn’t have to lay her life out for the world to see. She was a talented Hollywood script doctor and writer-she could have laid low and avoided the often critical public eye.
She chose instead, to tell the truth about her mental illness and spared no detail, which is a rare act of bravery coming from an A-list celebrity.
But I would expect nothing less from a princess- the kind of princess I still want to be.
Outspoken. Confident. Brilliant.
Carrie Fisher ultimately helped millions of people struggling with their mental health and addictions through her efforts to remove the stigma attached to them.
While my son’s autism doesn’t fit neatly into a mental health category, or any category for that matter her work has inspired me to write and speak more about my son. Maybe our experiences can help one of the millions of parents out there desperately searching for help for their kids on the spectrum.
My family lives a crazy life with Nathan, full of sensory overload bathroom floods, locked doors, the poop or chocolate game, light switch obsessions and impromptu 2 am naked chandelier swinging just to name a few. I have to laugh about it because I refuse to let it get me down.
Autism is a battle like no other, and I am thankful for strong princesses like Leia and and trail blazers like Carrie that showed me how strong women fight, and never give up.
I’d be so screwed if I had wanted to be Cinderella…
“If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.” -Carrie Fisher