On fangirling

17 July 2015

So far, I have resisted complete and unfettered excitement about the forthcoming new Star Wars film, which ostensibly an odd reaction for a woman who has a tattoo of Princess Leia on her arm. It’s explained by the fact that I haven’t resisted consciously. Maybe the correct verb points not so much to resistance as to overcoming surprise. Oddly enough, this new film might be something to be excited about, and it’s been a long time since I was excited about such a thing. I’m not sure if I remember how to do it.

I remember being excited about such a thing years ago. At thirteen, I was completely absorbed in my favorite books and movies, and Star Wars had just stormed into my awareness and taken over. That was around 1994, and it was a slightly different fandom then. Then, Star Wars was a beloved part of pop culture, but one from the past, and it wasn’t as ingrained in the mainstream as it is now. I didn’t have the internet then—very few people did—so I was limited in my fangirling to collecting the extended universe books and comics, reading Star Wars Insider magazine, practicing hairstyles in front of paused VHS tapes, writing my own derivative stories and listening to adult’s fond memories. I knew no one my own age who liked Star Wars. I thought it would be like my many other interests, and remain something I pursued in gently shunned solitude.

But then the prequels were announced. The resulting anticipation (plus backlash) pushed Star Wars back to the forefront, and, for me, that fact alone was thrilling. I wasn’t alone anymore! They re-released the original movies as well, which I got to see in the theater for the first time (even in their special edition format, which was not exactly quite right, but good enough). I braided my hair up and gleefully joined my tribe in complete, unfettered excitement.

But then the prequels … weren’t very good. Excitement faltered. The tribe splintered. And, then, the worst of all things happened: I began to finally, belatedly grow up, and my time and attention went to other things for a while. Maybe a long while, without me realizing how long.

Recently I realized I was envious of all the young (in age or spirit) Star Wars fans right now. I miss that abandon, that enthusiasm. What was holding me back from being excited about something I loved? Was it misplaced adult dignity? Was it caution born of disappointment? Was it simple neglect? No matter what the answer was, all of the possible options seemed to be a poor way to go about living.

It underscored one of the most important lessons I’ve learned, which is that the only thing that really matters about people is their enthusiasm. It doesn’t matter what it’s for. You could be enthusiastic about collecting bottle caps, or dressing up as historical characters, or watching people kick a ball around a field, or growing exotic orchids, or making castles out of matchsticks, or any one of a myriad of pursuits people go after just because they want to. I have little interest in many of these topics themselves. But if you’re genuinely excited about them, if you love those bottle caps/orchids/ball-kickers independent of what anyone else thinks about them or you, then I’m here for that. I’m with you. I’m excited by your excitement. We have something in common, whether or not we know anything about the actual thing that inspires each other’s excitement. We’re connected by enthusiasm.

Which opens up the next lesson: be enthusiastic. Be complete and unfettered in what you love, no matter how silly or insignificant it may seem. Because, seriously, what’s worth not doing that? The thing you love is not the defining factor. The only defining factor is the extent of the enthusiasm you bring to it.

And so maybe I’ll see if my hair is long enough for an elaborate Leia hairstyle again.

See all notes