Last night as I sipped an end-of-week glass of wine I did something rare for me and turned on the television. Once upon a time I was an avid TV watcher but that was a long time ago. For years now I haven’t found anything worth watching. It was around 8:00pm. As I flipped through channels I caught something familiar that stopped my channel-surfing thumb cold. It was the almost-familiar opening crawl to the original Star Wars movie. I put the remote down and watched.
As the opening scene played out with the Imperial Star Destroyer bearing down on Princess Leia’s ship, laser cannons blasting, I remembered the quiver of excitement that ran down my spine the first time I saw this in a dark theatre. It was 1977. 40 years ago. It doesn’t seem possible it was that long ago. The original Star Wars is the only movie I have ever waited in a long, trailing line around the theatre to see and likely the only one I ever will stand in line for. Back then the theatre experience was a bit different than today. The maitre d would usually come on stage and give a brief into. Then, as he walked off the lights would dim and the curtains would roll back and a cartoon would play. Anticipation built. Sometimes the cartoon would be followed by a movie trailer but that is more of a modern thing. Then, the movie would play.
While Star Wars enjoys a cult like following today, back then it was really a pivotal moment in entertainment. To that point, movies and television shows mostly featured cheap graphics, and relied on good acting and good scripts. Star Wars took special effects to a whole new level. When that theatre went dark, and the blasters started flashing, we were sucked in. There was a collective gasp in the theatre when the foreboding form of Darth Vader entered the captured rebel ship through the smoke and debris, breathing heavily. You knew this was not a good man. (They kind of ruined that later.) As the movie progressed, the light sabers, wookies, and droids seemed so real you could reach out and touch them. For weeks afterwards we would stare at the night sky and wonder if somewhere out there the X Wing and Tie fighters were engaged in an epic battle.
As I watched the remade version play out last night, I suddenly remembered the childhood me. The excited 11 year old with the Star Wars poster hanging over my bead and the inevitable crush on Princess Leia. The 11 year old me was naive enough to look at the night sky and imagine what could be out there or what the future might hold.
Here we are 40 years later. 4 decades. 14600 days. No matter how you say it it sounds like a long time. The 51 year old me has changed a lot. Those 40 years have been packed with a lot of different experiences, decisions, and life events. Many of those events were as pivotal and life changing as that moment in the theatre when the death star blew up. At 11 years old my whole life was ahead of me.
Whenever you see old people interviewed, they are always asked whether they have any regrets. The magnanimous answer is always “No. No regrets. If I could do it over again, I wouldn’t do anything differently”. To this I call “Bullshit!”. I can’t imagine anyone not having regrets or learning lessons from life they would apply if given the chance. I certainly have mine. While I don’t especially consider myself “old” at 51, I’m probably fortunate if the are 40 more years ahead of me. What will I do with what’s left? It will be gone in the flash of a light saber. Will I learn from those past mistakes? Will I make things better for myself and others? Will I continue to be blessed with good health? Will I correct the things I regret where I can?
I have more questions than answers. You’d think after 51 years of life you’d start to find answers but the more you look there seem to be just more questions. I suppose at some point we all contemplate life in this way. I guess the biggest question is, will I ever actually be able to buy a real light saber?