Fair warning: this article is inspired by Star Wars. But fear not – spoil the movie it won’t. And fan of the Force you need not be.
For you see, whether or not you’re a sci-fi nerd, there’s wisdom in the Wars that can be relevant to everyone. I’ll admit, I hadn’t re-watched them as an adult, and therefore felt almost unqualified to occupy a seat at a prescreening event Thursday. But after two and a half hours of on-screen nostalgia, I left the overcrowded, costume-filled theater close to midnight feeling ironically enlightened Awakened.
While I’ve always been fascinated by the series for its unique characters, social critiques, and cultural significance, I didn’t expect the film to feel like a wakeup call. And not just for myself, but for all uncertain little twenty somethings with an entire universe of opportunities before us.
Although it was fun seeing old faces back on the big screen, I couldn’t help but feel drawn to this episode’s new protagonist, Rey, introduced as a lost, lone “scavenger” toughened by her orphan upbringing.
No, I’m definitely not an orphan, although my family is far, far away. I rarely find time to be alone, and I live in the plush city of Seattle – probably the furthest thing on any planet from Jakku. So what on Earth did I have in common with this badass warrior woman?
While our settings and storylines differ, what really struck a chord with me was Rey’s exchange with the little old orange woman in glasses (didn’t catch her name, sorry, I’m a Wookie rookie). When posed with a decision about the future, Orange advised, “Rey, the belonging you seek is not behind you, it is in front of you.”
That was it. The rest of the movie could have been told in grunts and growls Ewokese for all I cared – one line and I was sold. As I whipped out my phone to write it down (garnering glares from the Jedi junkies next to me), I realized the significance of this subplot for those of us twenty-somethings whose next 50 years are still just written in the Stars.
Sure, uncertainty is intimidating. But ultimately, it’s also liberating, if you choose to look at it that way.
Yet, in recent conversations with friends, I’ve found that we, like Rey, tend to err on the side of familiarity when faced with decisions about our own futures. Whether we’re stuck chasing something (or someone) we’ll never get back or clinging to our college years as if our lives began and ended on a campus, sometimes we find ourselves trapped in our own little Jakkus.
Dreams we once had are deserted. We dwell in desert wastelands cubicles. Things within reach start to outshine the stars. And at some point, we stop reaching for them altogether.
But like Star Wars itself, our lives should be an ever-evolving series, not just one episode. And we’re solely responsible for directing, producing, writing, and starring in our own adventures. At 25, I’ve found myself continually rewriting my story, editing my supposed “ending” and adding characters along the way.
While I’m not totally lost, I only have an outline of what I want my life to look like – a series of moving targets with a loose “destination” of sorts. But at this point, it’s tough to tell where my journey will take me, or who will stick by me through the end of it. Someday, I’ll join Forces with someone significant and we’ll co-star in each other’s adventures. Because that’s important to me, too. Even Han didn’t go Solo.
But so far, my yet-to-be-written tale has landed me in some pretty unexpected places, most recently the wild, wild (Pacific North)west. I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a guy from my past after I first moved to Seattle, a solid 2,000 miles from my Midwest home base. “Seattle, why Seattle?” he inquired. “You LOVE Chicago. And it’s so rainy. What are you doing out there?”
Fair question. I did move somewhat on a whim and at that point I didn’t even know if I liked it or not – I had been here only four days. Yet I knew it wasn’t just for a job. Or new friends. Or a fresh start. I adored what I had at home. So my reply was hesitant, “I don’t know, just chasing a dream I guess.”
Then I had to wonder, “Isn’t that what we’re all doing?”
If not, why not? And judging by his silence, apparently not. Maybe it sounded stupid, or too simple, or he just didn’t have an answer himself, in which case I can’t really fault him. Sometimes we’re just so burned out from our past or bogged down by our day-to-day that we forget to focus on what’s still in front of us, as Orange put it.
At some point, it feels like we stop “growing up” and start just…showing up. “Going through the motions” without realizing that is the slowest way to get anywhere. We settle for what we’re already doing or capitalize our careers on what we already know, losing sight of our potential to do, see, and experience more.
But as Yoda put it, “much to learn you still have.” Let that always be the case.
On that note, don’t overlook the Yodas in your life. You never know where you’ll meet them or how they’ll help you, but their words of wisdom can be out of this world.
While traveling a few years ago, I stayed with a family whose house was headed by Yoda “Papa” – an older gentleman who most people would probably say peaked in his 30’s, when he helped successfully introduce Apple to Italy. Their home was a tribute to his past, adorned with decades of tech relics, prestigious awards, and photos with famous people. He would have had Steve Jobs on speed dial, if they had that back then. But he didn’t consider himself a businessman, an entrepreneur, a tech innovator – any of it (even though he was technically all of it). “My titles have changed a thousand times,” he told me humbly. “And I don’t care what they call me. I just know if I’ve had one for too long, it’s time to do something new.”
Here was a man with a loving family, villas all over Europe, and enough stories and experiences behind him to pen two entire trilogies. Yet, even he wasn’t satisfied. And not in a stressful, disappointed way – he simply knew he still had more to offer. “I’ll never retire,” he said. “I just keep adding new goals.”
That exchange stuck with me just as Orange’s did with Rey. Someday, the stars will align for all of us, so long as we keep seeking them. Our eyes were put in the front for a reason, so resist the urge to look back. Be proud of your past, embrace your present, but never lose sight of your potential. As Rey had to realize, moving forward isn’t always easy, but nothing worth having ever is.
So in the series that is your life, just plan to keep your head high, your work hard, your heart young, and your allies abundant. There’s not much else you can control when you’re working towards a goal. And realize you’re not alone – there’s an entire army of us still exploring our options. Because whether we’re ready or not, pretty soon the Force future will be with us.