On embracing life as a rebel and being invigorated for 2017

News that Carrie Fisher died two days after Christmas was hard to take in. After hearing that she’d suffered a heart attack, I expected she’d pull through. After all, she was only 60 years old and, from what I’ve read, was also one tough cookie. For me, and a lot of other Gen-Xers, her death was the capstone to a year filled with the loss of many childhood icons (David Bowie, Prince and George Michael, among others).

But none of them molded me as a person in the way that Fisher did as Leia Organa in the Star Wars trilogy. Episode IV: A New Hope was the first movie my parents took me to see on the big screen. That experience is one of my earliest memories. I was 2 years old. Forget Gloria Steinem. Princess Leia—a brown-eyed, petite member of the rebellion—was my first feminist role model. She was smart, snarky (ahem) and fearless when it came to battling the Empire.

Leia never brandished a lightsaber (at least not in the movies), but she impressed upon me and millions of other little girls that being a woman wasn’t a barrier to being a badass. And now, for younger generations, the new series’ Rey, who wields a lightsaber quite deftly, will carry on that tradition.

In real life, Fisher was also something to be reckoned with. She was an accomplished author and sought-after “script doctor”—someone who reworks and improves screenplays. She talked openly about her struggles with mental illness and addiction, using her fame to give a voice to others who battled such demons.

She took chances, and I admire her for it. In fact, in poring over writings about her, both autobiographical and otherwise, she inspired my New Year’s resolution. And that, dear readers, is to better embrace my inner rebel.

I thought about that while I was out of the office the week after Christmas. I had a few days to reflect on the events of last year—and especially the election, both national and local. If there’s one word to describe 2016 for me professionally, it’s “exhausting.” Being the editor of the newspaper in a small town is a high-stress, thankless job with long hours—I happen to love it.

That sentiment didn’t change when I stopped at a Starbucks in Bakersfield to email in my recent column about the parade for Pleasant Valley High’s championship football team. It didn’t change when I returned to work and to nasty voicemails, including one from a guy who called me a sourpuss. It didn’t change when I opened an email from a guy telling me to “STFU!” It also didn’t change when I read the letters in this issue that misconstrued what I’d written on the drive to Southern California to visit my in-laws.

For the record, I think parades are great. For the record, I’m happy for the kids at Pleasant Valley. But I also believe that readers (taxpayers) have a right to know that the city spent nearly a grand on the event. And I certainly think they have the right to know when a community event is politicized by a member of the city’s nonpartisan governing body—the new mayor, whose son’s team was the beneficiary of that largesse.

No amount of name-calling is going to deter me from doing my job. In fact, I feel invigorated for 2017. I hope all the other rebels out there do, too.