This past week has felt like some kind of bad dream.
I have nightmares like this sometimes. In them, I wake up to a text message or a Google alert that one of my biggest heroes, those few rare, celestial, magic people in my life, has died. Just as I’m about to lose it, I wake up for real. Sometimes a little sweaty and breathless, usually a bit disoriented, always frantically checking that it really was just a dream.
But this time, it was real.
Carrie Fisher was gone. It was real, and I didn’t get the news while in the safe cocoon of my own bed. It was a phone call from my best friend, followed by several texts from a slew of others, late in the morning on the Tuesday after Christmas. I tried to ignore them and keep running, but I just knew. I just knew, as I pulled my phone out of my pocket with shaky hands.
I crumpled to the ground and sat on the curb in the town I grew up in, a block from my high school, and began to sob uncontrollably.
I called my friend back. I don’t think I was coherent. I can’t remember what I even said. All I can remember is her calm, soothing voice on the other end as I blubbered and felt my nose begin to run. All I can remember is eventually standing back up and staggering home in a daze, gasping for breath, gulping at the cold air like I was drowning, trying desperately to swim to the edge of my sorrow.
Every time I think I’m there, I fall back under.
I’m trying to figure out why this hurts so much, why my heart physically aches sometimes, why I haven’t gone a day without crying. Mourning someone you never really knew in real life — as much as it feels like you did — feels strange. It makes me feel so different from everyone else. Why do I care so much? Is it because I had come to feel like Carrie was almost like some beloved aunt who I never got to see, but was always there with the right words to inspire me, to advise me, or just make me laugh, whether it was through a book or her Twitter account? Is it because Carrie helped me know myself better?
Maybe it’s because I saw so much of myself in Carrie, so much of her in myself: She was so self-aware, so self-deprecating and sometimes self-loathing, even when everyone around her was heaping on praise. She knew what it was like to be so inside your head that you can’t escape sometimes, how frustrating and exhausting and sometimes terrifying that can feel. I would underline passages in her books and send photos to friends. “See! This is me! This is exactly how I feel!”
She was irritated by so many things in this hostile world and made her opinion known at all times, without filter, without thinking about the consequences. It never failed to remind me of my tendency to do the same, how my mother has to constantly ask,“Carrie, is this the hill you want to die on?”
Carrie learned how to take everything that happened to her — being the child of two celebrities, reaching unexpected and perhaps overwhelming superstardom at 19, drug addiction, bipolar disorder, failed public relationships, aging, body image, and more — and spin it in her own favor. She learned how to draw upon her insecurities for inspiration, learned how to take Nora Ephron’s “everything is copy” motto and twist it. Everything is copy if you can make it funny, and trust — there is laughter to be found in even the most brutal situations.
She was bold and loud and even when she wasn’t actually confident, God, she did such a great job at faking it. She called bullshit as she saw it. She stopped apologizing for who she was. She took all of the punches and hit back, even when she was hurt. We owe her so much for that.
Of course, this hurts so deeply because it just seems so unjust. “Fuck a world that allows Carrie Fisher to die prematurely and for Donald Trump to be the fucking president,” one friend said the other day, and I sympathized. She had so much left to give, so many more one woman shows and memoirs and novels and emoji-laden tweets. It was too soon for her to leave. When I think about it like this, I get so angry that my heart races, that I want to yell at God or whoever it is that makes these decisions — Why her? Why now? What kind of cruel punishment is this? What did we do to deserve this?
But part of it hurts because I am very selfish. The world still needs Carrie Fisher, yes, but I still need Carrie Fisher. When I met her in November, we joked about having the same name and she signed my copy of The Princess Diarist dedicated to the “other, newer Carrie.” I may be the younger, newer Carrie, but she was the older, wiser, fewer-fucks-to-be-had Carrie. I’m nowhere near that, so I lived vicariously through her. I learned through her. Now she’s gone and I feel like I need her more than ever, more than I would typically care to admit.
“Our heroes are our lighthouses; they guide us safely home,” my friend Whitney wrote in an eloquent tribute. Carrie was one of my lighthouses, and over the past week, the world has felt a little bit darker and I have felt a little bit lost.
I’m sure that, in time, I’ll get better. It just might take me longer than others. I’ve been here once before, and the last time, I didn’t have friends like I have now, friends who understood, who felt the same way. I wasn’t confident enough to write my feelings and share them as raw as they were. But I still got better.
Carrie Fisher will always be in my life. I will continue to learn new things from her, to find new lines in books or interviews that resonate with me. A little bit of her will always live in my soul and come out every time I write, every time I call bullshit on something, every time I refuse to care what someone thinks. I can’t thank her anymore, but instead, I’ll be more critical of myself. Am I making Carrie proud?
I hope the answer will be ✌️📧💲.