There’s been a lot of talk recently about how 2016 was the worst year ever. You see it in headlines, think pieces, social media arguments, and my personal favourite, 2016 reimagined as a horror film in one particularly brilliant faux film trailer. Whatever your feelings on 2016, it’s clear that a lot of people are happy to see this year come to an end at midnight tonight, and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t one of them. On the basis of the world political scene alone, I’d say that this year has been pretty horrific, but I’m tired of talking about politics. There will be plenty of time for that in the months ahead. Today, as I reflect back on the year that was, it will be the people who we’ve lost who will be foremost in my mind. From artistic icons to personal friends, 2016 has come and gone at a terrible price. The list of the departed goes on and on, but for myself, there’s one death in particular that stands out. Carrie Fisher.
When I heard the news of her death on December 27th, I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. It is a weird feeling to feel grief over someone you didn’t know personally, and yet that is the only way I can describe what I felt that day. I was grieving. I never met Carrie Fisher, but she did talk to me once, seven years ago, when I attended her one woman show Wishful Drinking in New York City. I was the youngest person in the audience by a wide margin, and because of this, she felt it prudent to come right up to the front of the stage and address me directly before talking about the love triangle between her mother, Debbie Reynolds, her father, Eddie Fisher, and the woman who came between them, Elizabeth Taylor. I don’t think I have to tell you which tabloid mainstay threesome she used to educate me on the context of the situation.
I remember sitting there thinking to myself gleefully, “Princess Leia just talked to me!”, but by the end of the show there was no more Princess Leia. Just Carrie Fisher. HBO will be airing Wishful Drinking tomorrow in honour of her untimely death, and if you have the means to watch it, do it. Seriously. I can’t think of a better way to start the new year than to watch this marvel of a woman talk so openly and candidly about her life and the trials and tribulations she’d faced over the years. I remember sitting in the audience all those years ago, and being completely blown away by the woman before me. She was smart, witty, honest, self-deprecating, confident, intelligent, strong, vulnerable, and brave, and I remember thinking that she had courage beyond what I thought was even possible to stand in front of complete strangers and give herself up so openly. I may have bought my ticket because I wanted to see “Princess Leia” in person, but I came out of that show wanting to be Carrie Fisher. Not literally, of course, but to an impressionable young woman, Carrie Fisher was the badass role model I needed for how to be unapologetically yourself and to not give a flying toaster what anyone else thought about it.
Because of this, Carrie Fisher was someone I greatly admired, and to hear of her passing at the end of a year that saw so many great artists leave us, I, like so many others, felt the urge to raise my middle finger at 2016 and curse this terrible year for taking so many before their time. But I’m not going to. I want to, but I’m not. Instead, I’m going to say thank you to a year that many would choose to forget. I’m going to end this year by thinking about the good things that happened, because there were many, but more importantly, I’m going to remember the lessons we can carry forward into 2017 and beyond, and thank 2016 for the opportunities to heed them.
So thank you 2016, for reminding us of the precious gift of art and the artists who create it. Thank you for their music, films, and words, which will thankfully live on to inspire countless generations to come. Thank you for the pioneers and the trailblazers who taught us to believe that anything is possible if only you have the courage to pursue it. Thank you for reminding us that life is short and that time is a privilege to be treasured and not wasted. Thank you for all that you have taken away, for it only reinforces the need to value what we have left that much more. And thank you for not taking Betty White just yet.
For me, I’m going to go into 2017 with one image in mind. After the intermission of Wishful Drinking, the curtain came up on Carrie Fisher, alone on stage, curled up on a couch, reading a book. As the lights illuminated her, she looked up and cheekily waved at the audience, completely at ease with herself and ready to take on the world. That’s the kind of woman I want to be. So thank you Carrie Fisher. Thank you for the characters you embodied, the writings you gave us, and the path you blazed for women everywhere. As per your wishes, I’m reporting that you drowned in moonlight, strangled by your own bra, and I hope it was one hell of a ride. More importantly, as we step into the great big unknown that is 2017, I’m going to take each day with a wink, a laugh, and a defiant stance, just as I think you would have.
Happy New Year everyone!