Friday, 20 January 2012

A Long Time Ago...

...Well, not that long ago, and in this galaxy as opposed to one far, far away.

When I was seven years old, I remember one particular week during the summer holidays when I kept having nosebleeds for seemingly no reason. My parents were at both working and so my  brother and I were being looked after by my Nan and my Auntie.

It was a pretty distressing day, let me tell you. There I was, running around the garden, enjoying the sunshine and probably being loud and annoying all of the neighbours, and out of nowhere, my face exploded. Ok, well, not literally, but to a child of seven, torrents of blood suddenly and unexpectedly gushing out of your face is a fairly terrifying experience.

After being rushed back into the house, it was decided that to prevent me from either completely freaking out about the blood or just ignoring the nosebleeds and cavorting around until I was a shrivelled little husk under the plum tree at the bottom of the garden, I had to stay indoors. My Nan had to look after my little brother, who must have been barely two years old at the time, and so the task of keeping a frustrated and slightly scared seven year old boy occupied for several hours was given to my poor Auntie. 

She decided that the only possible way to stop me from gnawing my own arm off out of boredom was to put a film on. The film she eventually settled on was Star Wars.

To a child of seven, this was a truly monumental experience. This was, simply put, the greatest thing I had ever seen in my short little existence. There were spaceships, and aliens, and monsters, and explosions, and funny robots and laser swords. THE. BEST. THING.

Anyway, we got to the end, and I demanded to know if there was a "Star Wars 2". I was beyond ecstatic when I discovered that there were two more films to watch in the series (this was before the dark times, before the prequels - no, I jest, I actually don't mind the prequels...).

I spent the rest of that day watching The Empire Strikes Back (which I tell everyone is my favourite Star Wars movie) and then Return of the Jedi (which is actually my favourite Star Wars movie). I'm pretty sure the nosebleeds had stopped before Luke Skywalker arrived on Dagobah, but by that point I was hooked.

The next day brought more nosebleeds, and I demanded to watch Star Wars again. I still wasn't very happy about the whole 'blood escaping from my face' thing but it gave me another excuse to sit and watch this amazing film one more time.

It was the start of an obsession which has continued to the present day; I still have an impressive collection of action figures and toys from my childhood, and a few more bits of memorabilia acquired slightly more recently. This little guy was actually the first piece of Star Wars merchandise I ever bought, back in 1995, and I think he looks pretty good for his age!

When I was in the worst parts of a particularly long lasting episode of depression a few years ago, I turned to my Star Wars fandom to escape from my own thoughts, to drown out the critical voices that were telling me that I was a terrible person, that I was a failure, that I was letting everybody down. I could put a disk into my DVD player, and I knew that for two hours or so, from the opening blast of the main theme to the credits rolling at the end, I wouldn't have to think about how awful things were.

It helped me get through, and eventually I got better. I think it would be silly to say "Star Wars saved my life" but it definitely helped to make the bad days feel a little bit less bad.

Then, last year I finally made a decision to get a tattoo, and I knew it had to be Star Wars related - it's something that's been a huge part of my life for 16 years and counting, and I had one design in particular in mind.

It's the symbol of the Rebel Alliance, and as well as just looking pretty damn sweet, to me it represents a lot of the same things it's meant to represent to the Rebellion in the movies; an end to the dark times, and a symbol of hope. When I'm down, it's a constant reminder that I got through bad spells before, and I can do it again.

I still turn to that galaxy far far away whenever I feel my mood dropping; it's a distraction, nothing more, but sometimes that's all I need to pull myself together enough to get on with my week. I regularly listen to a a pretty awesome Star Wars podcast, waste hours at the weekends trawling through obscure articles on the brilliantly-named Wookiepedia, have a small but slowly expanding collection of Star Wars videogames, books and comics; they're all things that provide a small window out of my own thoughts to another place.

So, I guess what I want to say is thanks, George Lucas. Thanks for helping me get by.