Tag Archives: life

Why Star Wars is Important

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The following is not yet another article on the impact that Star Wars has had on the film industry, genre fiction, or even fandom. There are already plenty of much more qualified sources on those subjects readily available if that’s what you’re looking for. In fact, if you’d like to read/listen to the most comprehensive, well written, and entertaining book I’ve ever read on those subjects, I cannot recommend Chris Taylor’s How Star Wars Conquered the Universe enough. (Read my review here!) Instead, the following will be a much more personal account of the importance and impact that Star Wars has had in my life, like the lives of so many others like me, over the last three decades.

Star Wars has literally saved my life on more than one occasion.

Before I get into how, let’s begin with a little context. I was born with a fairly rare medical condition. My body doesn’t produce testosterone. While this type of issue isn’t unheard of, it’s usually caught fairly quickly- typically during infancy, but almost always before puberty. My condition wasn’t discovered until I was thirty, long after puberty had had it’s way with me. My testosterone count was so low, and my case, given my age, so rare, that the specialist I was sent to got so excited that he had to go and get his colleague in the next room to show me off like I was a unicorn. They couldn’t do anything to help me with the issues that I went to see them about, but they wanted to do papers on me. They really wanted to do papers on me. They looked like a couple of coyotes that smelled a pork chop. I left as quickly as I could.

Life, just before puberty.

               Life, just before puberty.

Why did it take so long for a doctor to realize there was a problem? A fun side effect of not producing testosterone is that without testosterone you don’t build much muscle. Without muscle, it’s very difficult to burn fat. I’ve been overweight since I was a baby. My parents took me to doctors and even dietitians. It was generally believed that I was just a fat kid that needed to exercise more and eat less. I can remember being put on diets as early as the age of seven. Nothing worked. I kept getting bigger, no matter what I did or how hard I tried. The bigger I got, the more assumptions were made. That is until my current doctor, literally within five minutes of meeting me and after a quick physical examination, asked me if I’d ever been tested for low testosterone. He was shocked when I told him no, and that no one had ever mentioned it before. Thirty years and a number of doctors, dietitians, and specialists, and all it took was a simple blood test. Now, when I say that I have always been overweight I mean I weighed over one hundred pounds by the time I was twelve. I was clocking in close to three hundred by the time I graduated high school. This was me at Easter of this year:

I now weigh over 500 pounds.

I now weigh over 500 pounds. Still dead sexy.

As you can probably imagine, life was hell growing up. I was picked on and bullied just about every day. I hated myself and I felt like no matter what I did nothing helped or would ever change. My first suicide attempt was when I was eleven. I tried to hang myself. That began a long and constant war with depression and suicide, one I fought mostly in silence because I didn’t want to scare my parents like I did that first time, and I didn’t want people to think that I was nuts. Things were bad enough as it was. Even though I’ve since sought professional help, it’s a war that I’m still fighting to this day.

I’m sure by this point you’re saying, “Wow, that’s really sad and depressing, but what the hell does this have to do with Star Wars?”

Well, Star Wars is one huge reason why I’m still here.

Return of the Jedi was the first movie that I saw in a theater. I had just turned two years old. I watched my dad’s VHS copies (and later laser disc. REPRESENT!)  as I played with my Star Wars figures just about every day, driving my mom insane, until I was thirteen. I was nine years old when Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire was released. I read it cover to cover (along with my dad’s copies of the original novelizations and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye) and then I begged for the next two when they were released. This began a collection of books, comics, and media that continues to this day. If it was Star Wars,  I had to have it. It wasn’t just because I was a huge nerd and a super fan (and I was/am). Those movies, books, audio dramas, and video games saved me. They gave me a safe place where I could retreat when I started to feel the darkness surrounding me.  Whenever I felt like I couldn’t cope. Whenever I felt like my life wasn’t worth living. Whenever I felt like the dark side was winning, I’d put in a movie, or I’d pick up a book, or I’d turn on a video game. That beautiful John Williams theme would kick in (even if it was just in my head) and then I wasn’t me anymore. At that point, I was in that galaxy far, far away with characters that I loved. By the time I was done things certainly weren’t perfect, but they were better. They were manageable. The darkness wasn’t so all-encompassing anymore.

I’m not alone.

Stop any cosplayer at a convention. Ask any 501st Legion member. More often than not they’ll tell you a similar story: they were the outcasts, the nerds, they didn’t feel like they fit in until they found other Star Wars nerds. Star Wars was their refuge. Star Wars was their happy place. Star Wars gave them…a new hope.

Sorry...

                               Sorry…

Star Wars is universal. It’s transcended political borders, languages, and generations and spoken to millions of fans around the world over the course of the last four decades. It’s given us all a galaxy far, far away filled with wonder, and adventure, and a hope that good will always triumph over evil. It tells us that even the worst of us can be redeemed with love; that even the humblest of beginnings and a life that you can’t wait to escape could lead to an opportunity to do something amazing that will change the lives of countless others for the better.  It tells us that no matter how dark or desperate things are, there’s always a hope for things to change, to get better.

There’s always hope.

My new hope.

My new hope.

Things have changed a lot for me in the last few years. I got married to a beautiful woman who has a now-5 year old son. Family was something that I always desperately wanted but never thought would happen. Now I’m a husband and a father with a kid that I can share Star Wars with in the same way that mine shared it with me.

Speaking of which….

My body is ready.

My body is ready.

Words cannot describe how excited I was when I read the announcement that there would be new movies and a new canon that’s starting fresh. I’ve ravenously consumed every new book, comic, and TV show. (Reviews are here.)  I watch Collider Jedi Council every week. I spend all day checking news websites for new scraps of information. I managed to get tickets not only for opening night, but for the night after as well before everything crashed. I’m sure I’ll end up seeing it a half a dozen times (at least) in theaters. The promise of new movies in this franchise that I love has really helped during the more stressful times in the last few years. It’s something positive to look forward to sharing with my new family. Once again, it’s Star Wars helping me through the dark times, only this time it’s along with an understanding wife and an adorably goofy son.

I’ve been incredibly blessed in my life, even with everything I’ve gone through. I’ve had a great family and friends. I have a loving wife and son. And I’ve got a galaxy far, far away that’s always there when I need to make the jump to hyperspace and escape for a little while. For me, it’s not just been a fun movie franchise. For me, Star Wars is important.  For me, Star Wars has been a life saver.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novels The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

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Down With the Thickness: Writing, Family Life, and Dealing with Depression

DWTT Final Cover

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down and actually wrote something. My last blog post was in September. Before that I’d only done one other post for the entire year, which makes me incredibly ashamed of myself. I’ve toyed with edits on my new novel off and on, but I haven’t sat down and really tried to write since I got married. I’ve been telling myself it’s because I’ve been adjusting to my new life as a stay-at-home dad. It’s been an experience and my kid can be a handful. That’s true, but it’s not the real reason that I haven’t been writing. It’s taken me months to really nail down exactly what my problem has been, but for the past few days I’ve come to the realization that I haven’t been writing because I’ve been struggling with depression and thus have been actively avoiding writing, or really anything that requires motivation and a sense of self worth outside of the things that I HAVE to do.

That realization surprised me.

Struggling with depression is nothing new for me. I’ve battled it my entire life. For years I couldn’t go more than a month or two without depression rearing it’s ugly head, and a few times a year those funks would dip low enough where suicidal thoughts would come and go as well. The thing is I haven’t had a bout of depression that bad in over a year. I had honestly thought that I may have finally slayed the beast once and for all once I got married. For as long as I can remember the one thing that I’ve wanted more than anything was to get married and have a kid. I always felt like that achievement would be the crown jewel in my life. It’d be the key to my happiness and once it happened all the feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, and all that other junk that depression likes to torment me with would all be rendered moot.

In a lot of ways I was right.

I’m happier now than I’ve ever really been in my life. I don’t feel lonely anymore. I don’t feel completely worthless or like I’m unlovable. My wife is the most loving, supportive, and understanding woman I could ever hope to find. My kid is an adorable, smart, hyperactive, spoiled pain in the arse and I love him more than I thought it was possible to love another human being. The fact that he isn’t my “blood” doesn’t factor into it at all for me. He is my son in every way that matters and both he and his mother are the answers to decades worth of prayers, wishes, and hopes. I couldn’t ask for a better family.

Which is why this current bout of depression has caught me by surprise. The depression has evolved. This time it didn’t attack me in the way it used to. Before, depression would come on hard and fast and put me on my ass for days. The world would go dark; I’d be a moody pain in the ass; and after a few days I’d emerge exhausted mentally and emotionally, but generally intact. But all of the old stuff that it used to use against me doesn’t work too well anymore, so it’s found new avenues to attack that are more subtle. In fact, I think it’s been something that I’ve been struggling with for months and I just didn’t fully recognize it for what it was until now.

Getting married hasn’t eradicated my insecurities or made the world a perfect place. My wife and I have had several very stressful things we’ve had to struggle with already. That’s just life. We’ve gotten through them together and we haven’t let those things affect our relationship. In fact, it’s only made our relationship stronger. That’s how marriage is supposed to work. That said, while the old insecurities may have been hammered down by the love of my new family, new ones have taken root and sprouted to take their place.

I have medical issues. They’re issues that are genetic and thus they are issues I’ll have to deal with for my entire life. They’ve caused a lot of physical problems, problems that have gotten progressively worse in the last couple of years.  As a result I’m unable to do much in the way of physical activity, I’m in constant pain, and I’m unable to work.  The dynamic in our house is my wife works full time and I stay home and take care of our little Tasmanian devil. I try to do things around the house: take care of the dishes, keep the house from being a complete disaster area, cook on the days my wife works, etc. I can’t do everything I want to do. I get tired and my body rebels on me after only short bouts of activity, so something that normally would take maybe ten minutes might take me half an hour or better. In a given day if I’m able to empty and load the dish washer, make dinner, and keep our kid from doing something that might hurt himself or others I call it a win. I’m not writing all this to throw myself a pity party or to garner sympathy. I’m just providing a bit of perspective.

I know that times have progressed. Gender roles aren’t what they used to be. I know that it is just as okay for me to be a househusband and stay at home dad as it was for wives to be housewives and stay at home moms. I know that having my wife bringing home the majority of our income doesn’t make me less of a man. I know that my wife understands my physical limitations and that she knows that I do the best I can with what I’ve got to work with, and that I work hard to provide for her in other areas to make up for what I lack in being able to help in the physical ones.

I KNOW all of this. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still bother me. That doesn’t mean that depression can’t use it as ammunition to assault me, and it has, because I was wrong.

The “war” with depression that I thought I won wasn’t the real war at all.  I’ve realized what anyone who has battled depression all their lives can tell you- it’s what Superman would describe as a “neverending battle”. Once you win one skirmish the enemy will find something new and attack again. It’s a war that you only win when you’re on your deathbed surrounded by your family and other people who love you and you realize that despite it you still lived a full and mostly happy life. It’s a war that you win by refusing to let IT win. Now I’m in a new battle with depression, but now that I’m aware of how it’s attacking, with the help of my loved ones, I’ll win this one too. Then it’ll be something else, but that’s okay. I have a family and friends that love me. I have a dream of becoming a published author.

I have things worth fighting for.

Maybe you’re reading this and you’re struggling in the neverending battle yourself. Maybe you’re in the thick of it and it’s hard to see around you. Maybe it’s hard to focus on what you have to fight for. Just know that you aren’t alone and that the only way you lose the battle is if you give up and let it win. Don’t give it the satisfaction.

Carry on.

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