always a kylo, never a rey

I don’t ever intend to make New Year’s resolutions. I have a pretty obsessive personality, so sitting down to list out all of the ways in which I judge I should improve myself in January feels like a bad idea.

I don’t need a holiday devoted to contemplating the passage of time PLUS enthusiastic self-improvement. Especially one that generally involves being drunk out in the cold? No, thank you! I will have a panic attack about my mortality and insignificance and the things I wish I could change about myself indoors, if it’s all the same to you.

I try not to make resolutions, but it’s hard to keep them from creeping into my brain anyway.

Psst. You should get into better shape.

Hey. HEY. You should cultivate some more discipline, and use that discipline to form and stick to healthy habits.

*shove* BE A BETTER PERSON, BITCH.

Be better. Always. There is no good enough. Be better. “Good enough” is a trap. It’s all a trap.

All of my potential, unbidden New Year’s resolutions are really just different versions of the same sentiment: Be like Rey.

I love Rey so much. How can you not? She’s strong and feisty, and she sticks to her guns. She doesn’t give up on anything or anyone. She has a full and open heart, but still is a total badass with a lightsaber. Plus, she looks like the exceptionally wonderful Daisy Ridley, so she’s definitely in better shape than I am. She’s disciplined, she’s strong, she’s brave. She’s just better.

Watching Rey in The Last Jedi exhausts me and breaks my heart. Rey’s deep capacity for hope, her desire to connect, her work ethic… Damn. I don’t think I have either the stamina or the courage to be like Rey in the ways I dream of. I don’t have much hope right now. For the world at large or for myself. Having no hope saps my drive and motivation. Having no hope makes me want to hide and disconnect.

Still, when I saw friends on Facebook sharing TIME Magazine’s “Ultimate Star Wars Quiz,” I allowed myself a little… well, hope. I love Star Wars and I love silly internet personality quizzes, so I was really stoked about this. TIME worked on the quiz with social scientists from Cambridge University. This quiz was LEGIT.

I tried to stay realistic and humble. Okay. So, I’m a good friend, right? But I don’t know how brave I would be able to immediately be in the face of a threat as great as the First Order? Maybe Finn would be my best case scenario. That would be pretty neat! I like Finn! I bet I’ll get Finn.

“But hey,” whispers a tiny, squeaky, proud little voice in my heart. “You’re a good person. Maybe sometimes you’re even a great person. What if you get Rey? Wouldn’t that be awesome?”

It sure would, sweet, little voice. It sure would.

As I started answering questions, though, a dark shadow crept over the screen of my phone. With each question and answer, I felt what seemed to be the truest aspects of myself emerging. The ones I don’t like. The ones that I can’t hide from those damned Cambride University social scientists.

My deep insecurity and self-loathing coupled with my stubborn, insistent need to be seen and heard. To be heeded. To be in charge.

I knew who I was going to be. After 27 questions, my destiny was revealed.

Of all the characters in the Star Wars universe who’d been included in the quiz, my personality was closest to that of Kylo Ren.

Well, fuck.

I’m not proud of this, but I can’t say I don’t get it. In the absence of hope, I feel a lot of fear and anger, and we know where those lead. Over the holidays, rage constricted my chest over so many tiny things. My family not accepting that I was right when it came time to picking out our Christmas Day movie made me fucking furious. “Just listen to me!” I wanted to scream. “I’m right!” On Christmas Day itself, I couldn’t look my grandmother in the eyes for too long over an anger that I’ve been nursing for years. I was mad at everyone.

I’m mostly angry at myself for not being better. I’m afraid that I will never, ever get to a place of self-acceptance. I don’t know if that’s a fear I can hold at bay for the rest of my life. I fear never being good enough, and so I am consumed with anger at those who I think have what I want. Sometimes people tell me that I’m a nice person, but I know what a monster I am at my core. I know my capacity for jealousy and hate.

I know that sometimes I daydream about getting into fights. I drift off and fantasize about some asshole stranger giving me a reason to lose my shit completely. I picture myself losing all control, and going full-on monster with no time to consider stopping myself. In my imagination, I feel strong and powerful.

What I’m getting at is that it would take next to nothing to seduce me to the Dark Side right about now.

I do not want to romanticize Kylo Ren. Yes, I think he’s a fascinating, well-written, complicated character with whom Adam Driver is doing incredible work, and I cannot wait to see if/how his story ends in Episode IX. I hope he and Rey do not become romantic partners, even for a second, because he’s an abusive asshole to her. He’s a murderer. Even if Ben Solo is redeemed in the final installment of this trilogy, he shouldn’t get to walk away. The salvaged good in him should still face some very tangible consequences of what he’s done.

Kylo Ren is a monster. And, in my own non-Sith way, I get it.

One of my favorite moments in The Last Jedis when Kylo Ren smashes his helmet. Ren’s helmet is a physical manifestation of the person he thinks he is supposed to be. He’s trying so hard to live up to an expectation that, while obviously encouraged and pushed by Supreme Leader Snoke, Ren himself has created. That helmet is Kylo Ren’s vision board.

And then he is made to feel totally ridiculous about it by his mentor. Ren’s destruction of his helmet, to me, is fueled by shame and humiliation as much as it is by anger.

A few months ago, I was performing in a play that meant a lot to me. I had worked really hard with my scene partner to create a story that felt special and true. I put elements of myself both good and bad into my character. I cared so, so much. I cared that people listen to us. I cared that people saw my work, and saw it for how important it was to me.

One night, during my character’s big and famously controversial speech, the audience laughed at me. It’s not really a funny speech. I was so angry. It felt like none of them had listened to me at all until that moment. All of the fretting and panicking and working that had accompanied rehearsing and performing this play suddenly felt so fucking stupid. This thing that the last month of my life had been all about it didn’t matter, and I was an idiot for pretending that it did. I felt tiny and insignificant for caring so much.

If I’d had a helmet that night, I would have smashed the ever loving fuck out of it as soon as I was backstage.

Trying to be Rey sounds hard, and I’m really tired. I know that it’s foolish to think that being Kylo Ren is easy. In my tiredness, though, I’ve had impulses to cut and run from everything in my life. Logically, I know that escaping and isolating would cause me a lot of suffering, but sometimes suffering sounds, if not easier, simpler than worrying and needing and apologizing. If I’m going to disappoint everyone I love someday anyway, maybe I should just go ahead and get it out of the way.

The scariest monsters are the ones who hold up little mirrors of ourselves. I, not to mention TIME Magazine, see pieces of myself in Kylo Ren. When I get embarrassed and angry at myself for making a mistake, I see Ren at the end of The Force Awakens, pounding on his own wound, furious at himself for weakness but unwilling to go quietly.

There is something that gives me a little hope for myself as well as the once-and-maybe-future Ben Solo. We both want to be like Rey. Ren’s so jealous of Rey, and, speaking as a human well versed in envy, that means that there are aspects of Rey that he covets for himself. Maybe it’s just her power and strength with the Force. Maybe it comes from seeing the affection, respect, and admiration bestowed on Rey by all of the most significant men in his life.

But maybe it’s her ability to not give up on what’s good, even when things look tough. I’m not saying that Rey has things all figured out. Strictly speaking, the Jedi Code could stand to read up on emotional theory and revisit many of its policies. The Jedi Council could have greatly benefited from a screening of Inside Out, am I right?

“Peace and purpose.” These are the feelings with which Rey says she felt Luke’s passing. Maybe that’s really my goal– not necessarily resolution– for myself and for Kylo Ren. Even when I’m riding the emotional upswing of Bipolar II, I don’t ever feel at peace. I can’t shake the feeling that sitting still will lead to my inevitable downfall.

I crave purpose. Maybe true purpose can’t come without the peace first. Kylo Ren and I need to examine our selves and our pasts, and take some baby steps towards accepting who we are and where we come from. If we’re comfortable in our own skin, maybe we can begin to cultivate a sense of purpose that doesn’t have to be seen or heard or heeded by anyone else to feel valid.

Kylo and I shouldn’t strive to be like Rey. We should just strive to be the best Kylo and Dani that we can be. It’s cheesy, yeah, but I kind of think that the world could use a little more cheese right now, literally and figuratively. There are monsters out there. We cannot fight them if we are too busy fighting ourselves.

Guys, we can fucking do this. You can fucking do this.

Happy New Year. May the Force Be With Us.

 

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