Coronacation Chronicles – March 29, 2020

snapseedIn Limbo.

No schedule.

No plans.

Slow down.

Reprioritize.

I am you.

You are me.

Distance unites us.

Normal no longer exists.

The non-essential are most essential.

The least vulnerable are most vulnerable.

The ones who can breathe are the ones who cannot.

Eternal thanks to those who are working.

Compassion has regained its status.

Empathy exceeds entitlement.

Prayers for all.

And so it goes.

Just

Be.

 

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Coronacation Chronicles – March 29, 2020” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on March 29, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Coronacation Chronicles – March 21, 2020

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Nobody told me there’d be days like these
Strange days indeed
most peculiar
Mama…”

–  John Lennon

Some random thoughts from the front lines of this alternate universe we are living…

My life is in limbo, as is yours, and a giant shroud of uncertainty covers us all.

Everything is on hold until further notice.

I just finished my first week of teaching remotely without interacting in-person with my students and my colleagues. I miss their faces. I miss their smiles.

I never thought I’d see the day when my planner was empty.

I look at my calendar adorned with strike-outs and “canceled” stickers and wonder, when will the first social gathering happen that I will go to? When will until further notice end? Will it be in May? July? September? January 2021? Or beyond?

A more profound emptiness encircles us right now than the emptiness found on my measly planner pages… empty trains and busses, airports and parking lots, shelves and displays and freezer cases, playgrounds and basketball courts, classrooms and lunchrooms, stadiums and ballparks, arenas and aquariums, boardwalks and museums…

The biggest empty might be found inside our hearts and dreams.

Last week I wrote about hope, and while I’m clinging to hope the way a baby clings to its blankie, the daily shift further away from life-as-we-knew-it skews that hope just a little bit as it bends towards a new unknown.

I have underlying medical issues, and I am afraid.

Nobody deserves to die from this, yet we all know people who are going to die.

My heart is in denial and cannot accept that.

Nor can I wrap my heart around the fact that my five-year-old nephew figured out on his own that he wouldn’t be able to have his turtle birthday party next week. He’s bummed, but he’s okay with it. My heart, however, is not.

It’s extraordinarily difficult to be an Empath right now.

During my journalism lesson about 9-11, I tell my students that I’d love to bring them back to September 10, 2001 so they could experience the feeling of life before it was changed forever. I wonder, when I teach my future students about the history we are living right now, how drastically different our “yesterday” will be compared to the culture and society they will live in. How will their reality come about, and what will we collectively lose in the process?

Things will never get back to normal because normal no longer exists.

I’m off the news and listening to a lot of music. When I’m not teaching remotely or preparing lessons for remote learning, my words, my pen, and my keyboard keep me going.

So do the singing birds who wake me up every morning. I can’t hear singing birds in my classroom, but I can from my living room, and I’ve got season tickets with a front-row seat for their daily morning concerts.

Everything is blooming earlier than usual… the cherry trees, the forsythia, the weed flowers, the magnolias, the pear trees. Maybe the Earth knew we needed some color right now.

With a major announcement scheduled for less than an hour from now by our governor, I have no doubt that this post will be old news five minutes after I hit “publish,” but it’s a record of this moment: 11:15 AM on March 21, 2020.

We’re all human. We’re all concerned. We’re all connected. We’re all in this together. Much light and love to you and yours.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Coronacation Chronicles – March 21, 2020” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on March 21, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Tiny Purple Flowers of Hope

Life as we know it is changing by the minute as we are living through a very bizarre time filled with unprecedented events.

A week ago, I was enthusiastically looking forward to spring’s arrival and to making one of my ideas become a reality.

I’m still making progress towards my goal despite the altered reality we are living, and I’m still looking forward to spring.

However, I sit here concerned, confused, and anxious.

I feel like I’m waiting for Thanos to snap his fingers as he dons his infinity gauntlet brimming with stones.

History textbooks are being rewritten by the hour. Earlier this week, I told my students their children will someday learn in school about what we are currently living through. These students are, in fact, the previous generation’s children who have learned about 9-11 in school, an event their parents similarly lived through and experienced.

After the dust settles, what’s going to be left economy-wise? How will this pandemic’s aftermath further alter an already skewed life-as-we-know-it? How will the healthcare system survive? What will our days look like a year from now? A month from now? Will I still be here?

Yesterday, I left my classroom after what might have been the last time I will see my students for a month or more.snapseed

As I walked to my car, I looked down and glimpsed three tiny purple flowers blooming in all their glory in the face of and despite the state of our world.

In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, General Leia Organa said, “Hope is like the sun. If you only believe it when you see it you’ll never make it through the night.”

Hope.

I might not see it, but I believe in it with all of my heart and my soul. Especially right now.

Hope.

The message from those tiny purple flowers.

Hope.

It’s what keeping me going as we collectively navigate uncharted waters brimming with hysteria and uncertainty.

Hope.

One word that’s making all the difference to me as one of millions living with underlying medical issues.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Tiny Purple Flowers of Hope” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on March 14, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

17,897 Days

fullsizerenderI have been alive for 17,897 days.

That’s 49 years.

I’ve cheated death and outlived many.

I’ve loved and lost, laughed and cried, celebrated and mourned, lived and learned, succeeded and failed.

I’ve made mistakes, and I’ve made amends.

I’ve tried to be a good person.

I am a woman, a wife, a sister, an auntie, a daughter, a niece, a cousin, a friend, a teacher, a learner, a writer, a neighbor, a helper, a survivor, a kid at heart, and a lover of life.

My scars and wrinkles, both inside and out, are badges of honor. I wear them with pride.

I am strong.

I am unique.

I am perfectly flawed.

I am kind.

I am open to life’s surprises.

Most importantly, I am still here.

Today I celebrate 17,897 days.

Today I celebrate 49 years.

Today I celebrate me.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“17,897 Days” was posted on jillocone.com on February 12, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. 

 

 

 

Two of Twelve Twenty Twenty Chapters

img_1653What a fancy way to say February 2020, right?

January seemed like it was five months long, yet all of a sudden, it’s a memory.

Looking back to the first chapter of 2020, I am most proud of continuous progress towards my Jersey Shore Magazine Spring 2020 issue deadlines. I’m writing four articles and editing four guides as assigned by my publisher. It’s been a slow go at times due to circumstances beyond my control, but I’m hoping to complete my magazine assignments in a few days.

January brought with it a lot of fun times and laughter with my brother’s birthday celebration and a day to the aquarium, a Seinfeld trivia brunch with friends, lunch with one of my favorite students ever, and a belated holiday luncheon with family.

I penned over 10,000 words for my next novel, words that did not exist at the beginning of the month. I write every weekday morning between 6:00 and 6:45 AM and for at least 30 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays, and while it’s a very rough draft of a story I’ve had in my heart for a long time, it’s awesome to watch the story begin to take shape. At this rate, I hope to finish the first draft by June than heavily revise and edit over the summer while also working on researching and writing another book, this one a non-fiction volume about the history of surfing in New Jersey.

Unfortunately, January also ushered in a string of rejections for my novel which I’ve been querying to agents and publishers. I know it’s hard to break into publishing and that my novel is merely one of a thousand other works agents and publishers have to wade through, but I honestly believed in my heart someone on the other side would have bitten by now. Instead, my queries are either unanswered or I receive a “Thanks but it’s not for me” response, which comes with the territory but is disappointing nonetheless. After an extremely frustrating chain of events a few days ago, I received three of those punch-to-the-gut emails within two hours of each other.

That hit me hard.

The doubters who inhabit my mind have returned from vacation and are now chattering up a storm. I’m trying my best to ignore them, but it’s been a rough few days and keeping them at bay has been difficult. Hopefully,  their voices will soon become bored with insulting me and find something else to do.

As the second chapter of 2020 unfolds, I am looking forward to new beginnings with the start of the second semester and two new groups of students, the celebration of a dear friend’s birthday, and the arrival of my 49th year circling the sun on February 12. Plus, it’s a leap year, and this chapter includes February 29! I’m already thinking of how I can commemorate leap-day by doing something truly extraordinary.

My February goals are to research/write every day in order to make progress on my next novel and my book about surfing, walk for 30 minutes at least three times a week (wish it could be every day but health limitations dictate otherwise), take part in Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Experience which begins on February 3, and to leave my nails alone.

My chosen quote to guide me through February is from Kobe Bryant: “We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.”

Brain-doubters, you make me human, but beware. I see you. I embrace you. But I will no longer give in to you.

Join me in living each moment to its fullest and to being the best we can be to each other this February, for Ram Dass was right when he said, “We are all just walking each other home.”

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Two of Twelve Twenty Twenty Chapters” was posted on jillocone.com on February 2, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Thank you, Kobe.

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Molly In My Heart

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Image Via Shutterstock

When I was about nine years old, I went to a classmate’s birthday party. For confidentiality, I will refer to that classmate as Molly.

I remember it was a cold, grey early December day, probably around three in the afternoon when my mother dropped me off at Molly’s house.

Molly greeted me at the door and I said, “Happy Birthday!” I handed her my present: Holly Hobbie Colorforms, stickers, and a new sticker album gift-wrapped in brightly colored paper and a red bow.

I looked around the living room and there wasn’t one party decoration, no balloons or streamers hanging anywhere. The house was dingy and dark and it smelled like stale cigarette smoke. Her father didn’t say hello. Instead, he stared at Howard Cosell on the console television set complete with a big rabbit ear antenna.

“The backyard, Molly! You and your friend need to play outside!” her mother yelled from a room somewhere in the back of the house before I could even take off my coat.

Molly looked at me with unhappy eyes. “I have to listen to Mommy,” she said as she took my hand and led me through the house and out a back door that had a ripped screen and a broken window. The back yard contained a dilapidated swing set, barren of any swings or slides, and was littered with empty bottles and rusted cans.

Molly and I played outside for the entire two hours of her party.

No other classmates or friends came.

It was just me, and I was frozen to the bone under my coat and my mittens.

All Molly had on was a striped long-sleeve t-shirt, stained jeans, and torn navy-blue sneakers. She told me she didn’t need a coat and wasn’t cold despite her chattering teeth.

There were no snacks.

There was no soda or ice cream.

There were no favors or goody bags.

There was no cake for Molly, and no singing of “Happy Birthday.”

It was dark when my father picked me up. Christmas lights twinkled from all the houses on Molly’s street except hers.

When I got home, I couldn’t stop shivering. My mother was livid when she found out I was outside for two hours in the cold and in the dark.

“What kind of people have a party outside in the freezing cold like that!” she yelled. She called Molly’s house to complain, but nobody answered the phone.

I understood a little more about why Molly’s clothes were always dirty and why she never brought a lunch to school. For the rest of the year, I was extra nice to her. She was absent a lot, but on days when she was in school, I’d share my lunch with her and reach out to her because Molly was my friend.

I wasn’t allowed to go to her house ever again to play with her, and her parents would not drive her anywhere so she never came over to my house to play, either. The following year, I didn’t see much of her because we had different teachers, and we consequently lost touch.

That party was 40 years ago.

I’ve been haunted by it ever since.

It makes me incredibly sad that nobody else came to Molly’s party.

It makes me even sadder to think about how hard life must have been for her.

Molly ended up dropping out when we were in high school, and I have no idea where she is now.

However, Molly never left my heart.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed for Molly to be loved and to have enjoyed a real birthday party like she so deserved.

I really hope God answered my prayers.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Molly In My Heart” was posted on jillocone.com on January 12, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

2020: Planning for Progress

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Left Top: Planner 2. Right Top: Planner 3. Left Bottom: Planner 4. Right Bottom: Planner 1.

I absolutely love planners, stickers, and journals/notebooks. Always have and always will.

To me, writing is innate. I’m forever jotting down my wishes, hopes, and dreams, and things I see and thoughts I have and tasks I need to complete.

This is especially true for tasks I have to complete because, at times, I can become easily distracted. If I don’t write it down, there it goes, flying away just like that pretty little butterfly flying past me…wow, look at the bright colors in her wings! Lemon yellow and black with a hint of bright sky blue towards the bottom of her wings. I think it’s an eastern black swallowtail. Where is she going? How old is she? I wish I could flutter along in the air like she does….

Get the idea?

I have to write things down or I’m left with a vapid mind and a “What was I doing again? What do I have to do today? Where am I?” type of confusion.

I definitely remember better when I write something down. For instance, “Glasses on Route 70” is written on my list of “one-liners” from 2019. I read it today and can immediately picture that late spring morning drive into work when I was stopped at a red traffic signal with the day’s sunrise shining in my side-view mirror. Through the sun’s rays streaming off the mirror, I noticed to my left a pair of mangled eye glasses next to the innermost concrete barrier in the highway’s median. I immediately wondered whose they were and how they got there…what a story starter! That’s what my list of”one-liners” is, a list of random things I’ve seen that could start a story. I can take you right now to the exact spot where I saw those eye glasses simply because I wrote down “Glasses on Route 70.”

Last summer, I unearthed my treasure trove of planners and journals of old in my attic Those archaic thoughts and plans provided a portal to my past lives. I’ll be honest that revisiting those calendars and writings reopened some old wounds with a bout of  the “coulda shoulda wouldas,” but isn’t hindsight 2020 (pun intended)? I’m extremely grateful that the only remaining visions from those crazy nights and past disheartening anguish-filled moments exist in pen and paper only and are available only to me, rather than by digital posts on social media that could be viewed and shamed by anyone in the world.

The advent of 2020 has led me to admit I have become a full-fledged planner addict. I have four active planners for the year, each serving a different purpose. I look forward in anticipation to the two hours every Sunday I set aside to plan for my week ahead by prepping my planners, replete with stickers, and stickers, and even more stickers!

Planner 1 is an Erin Condren Life Planner with daily hourly format which contains my agenda/schedule/task/”to do” list. This is the one I carry with me everywhere I go. I’ll list my work schedule and daily focus, then appointments and meetings I might have along with items I need to complete in a checklist format (pay bills, take attendance, mow the lawn, etc.). I’ll also slap a blank post-it on the page to jot things down that I want to remember (like the Glasses on Route 70).  This year, I am purposely scheduling time blocks during each day/week for progress towards my monthly and yearly goals. For instance, I have a two-hour block each day for “writing and research,” and on Sundays when I’m prepping, I indicate what project I will focus on during each day’s writing block. I will fill most of January’s daily writing blocks with work towards my magazine assignments, but I’ll mix it up with “New Novel Work” or “Surf Book Research” on off-days. I’ll also schedule time to walk, meditate, query, read, beach sessions, household tasks, and laugh. Once I have scheduled my week in my planner, I’ll set up schedule alerts in my phone as another way to keep me accountable and on task. Dedicating time for my goals, my responsibilities, and my writing has helped me to stay focused without becoming distracted by the temptation of social media or butterfly fly-bys.

Planner 2 is my daily diary from The Happy Planner (8.5 by 11 format, vertical daily layout, health and wellness theme), which is where I compose a diary-type entry each night. Most of the time I write things I want to remember or highlights of my day in incomplete sentences, like my niece’s laughter or the color of the sunset. If I’m too tired at night to write, I make sure I do it first thing the next morning. I also keep a running list of places I went, places I ate, and one-liners I recopy from Planner 1 in my daily diary. Sometimes I’ll tape in pictures I took or things I picked up throughout my day.

Planner 3 is new this year, a 7 by 9″ planner from The Happy Planner (classic format, horizontal format for each day, beautiful Coastal Good Vibes theme). Inside its pages, I mapped out my daily/monthly/yearly goals for 2020 with its purpose to keep me more accountable for making progress towards what I hope to accomplish this year. Each goal is color coded, and I use the daily day blocks to log what I accomplished each day. I also complete a “skeleton schedule” for the upcoming week which I transfer into Planner 1’s schedule after I see my open time slots for each day. This planner has helped me to focus on all of my goals (the “big picture”) while breaking each down in manageable chunks of progress for the week. Both Planner 1 and Planner 2 have a monthly goals section, and Planner 3 helps me to refine what I declare on those pages as my monthly goals.

Planner 4 is the Irish Get Up & Go Diary 2020. I stumbled upon this beautiful little diary on my 2016 Dublin trip in Eason (my favorite store ever) and I’ve bought it online every year since. With colorful spreads and the right amount of encouraging quotes and motivating sentiments, I use it for my daily gratitude reflections as the space available for each day is the perfect size.

Stickers and planners go hand in hand, and I just love sprucing up my week with color and positivity. I have a large sticker tote, and I’m not exaggerating when I say there must be over a million stickers in that tote. I’m a huge fan of The Happy Planner’s sticker assortments and selections because they offer more variety and a better quality product for the price versus competitors. On Sundays, when I’m planning for the week ahead, I am surrounded by stickers that will help motivate, inspire, and add a little bit of seasonal charm and colorful fun to my days.

In addition to Planner 1, I also carry a plain journal/notebook with me wherever I go to free-write, plot out ideas, and dump my brain. I use this notebook for daily “morning pages” in Julia Cameron style, but I usually write only a page or so. When I complete my daily diary entry into Planner 2 each night, I also review my notebook to see what I need to transfer to my planners (i.e. list of things I have to buy, ideas for a character in my next novel, etc). Planners 2, 3, and 4 stay at home unless I am traveling, then all of them will be in my carry-on.

To some, it might seem like all of this is a waste of time.

I beg to differ.

My system helps immensely with NOT wasting time by keeping me on task while keeping the distractions at bay.

Besides being easily distracted, sometimes my Lupus will cause what’s known as “brain fog.” There’s nothing worse for a writer than sitting at a keyboard or with a pen/paper and having NO thoughts coming, especially when there’s a deadline looming, then in frustration, wasting time scrolling on social media. Even in a fog, or when a beautiful butterfly flies past me, my planners help me focus on the big picture and redirect me to making headway, no matter how small, towards one of my goals.

Planning is progress, and for me, time well spent as 2020 is the year I will become the person and the writer I’m meant to be.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“2020: Planning for Progress” was posted on jillocone.com  and on soulseaker.com on January 5, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

 

 

 

New Year’s Morning

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“New Year’s Morn. “Taken January 1, 2020 at sunrise in Melbourne Beach, Florida with my iPhone (no filters). Copyright Jill Ocone, 2020.

It’s quiet and calm

At the beach before dawn

As the sun peeks its head

Over the horizon.

Slowly yet deliberately,

It casts joy and hope

Masked in its first light

On a new day,

A new month,

A new year,

A new decade,

A new me.

Its grows and ascends

As it magnificently

Ignites every cloud in the sky

And shell on the sand

With its splendor of colors

And radiant light.

As it says,

Good morning, world.

Here’s a brand new day,

Another fresh start

Created just for you…

and if this one doesn’t work out,

I’ll be back around

Same time tomorrow,

With another new day,

Another fresh start,

Teeming with a new batch of

Joy, hope, and faith,

Waiting just for you.

 

Happy new day. Happy new month. Happy new year. Happy new decade.

And Happy New You.

 

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

 

“New Year’s Morning” was posted on jillocone.com  and on soulseaker.com on January 1, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with licensing and publishing inquiries.

 

 

Endings Are Beginnings Are Endings And So On…

20160314-blog-photo-new-fonts-use“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Seneca, also quoted in “Closing Time” by Semisonic

Today is December 28, 2019.

It’s the end of the month, the end of the year, and (gasp), the end of the decade.

Boy is that a mouthful!

As the clock’s hands tick forward to time’s trifecta of the beginning of a new month, a new year, and (gasp), a new decade, I’m straying from the trend of making insert-appropriate-ending-here reflections and listing insert-appropriate-ending-here accomplishments that ultimately do nothing more than feed my ego.

Likewise, I’ve lived long enough to realize that resolutions are nothing more than lip service, so I’m not going to waste my time setting myself up for future disappointment by making empty resolutions just because that’s what society expects of me.

Instead, I’m approaching 2020 with practicality, honesty, and authenticity as it will be a year of enlightening discovery.

My word for 2020 is “becoming” and it’s just deliciously exhilarating knowing I am evolving into both the person and the writer I’m meant to be. As I approach 50, I am still getting to know myself as I continue to learn and grow.

As such, I have selected five projects to complete in 2020 which will help me become just that person and that writer, and each project will serve my fellow humans in some way, shape, or form. More details about each project are forthcoming and I sure am glad you’ll be accompanying me on my journey.

My intention for 2020 is to live every day better than its yesterday, no matter where I might be or what is on my planner for the day while honoring my core values of kindness, generosity, and compassion. I will help when I can and endure when I must.

“Becoming” is certainly fluid and I am eager to chart my course and explore the compass of me.

May the new month, the new year, and the new decade lead you to YOU with an abundance of health, happiness, and joy.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Endings Are Beginnings Are Endings And So On…” was posted on jillocone.com  and on soulseaker.com on December 28, 2019. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2019, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with licensing and publishing inquiries.

A New Hope, Indeed

opening_crawlI’m in full preparation mode for Thursday, which includes purchasing as much Kleenex stock as possible and buying tissues by the boxful.

That evening will culminate 42 out of my 48 years here on earth, and I’m not being melodramatic in the slightest.

As a little girl in the 1970s, I wasn’t a tomboy, but I also wasn’t a “girlie girl.”

I fell in the middle, a misfit of sorts, and always sympathized with those toys relegated to the Island of Misfit Toys in the classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” especially the polka-dotted elephant.

Toy options for little girls like me in the 1970s included various models of Barbie dolls including Cher and Farrah Fawcett, Shrinky Dinks, Easy Bake Oven, paper dolls, Holly Hobbie, Fashion Plates, Spirograph, and baby dolls.

While the Spirograph and Shrinky Dinks were okay, the rest?

No, thank you.

My little brother, on the other hand, always received the coolest toys for Christmas and his birthday, so I played with them instead.

I spent hours creating highways out of the plastic, orange track that my brother’s die-cast cars could take back and forth to work or use to race their nemeses. I took pleasure in building cities and creatures out of his collection of hard, plastic interlocking blocks in all shades of primary colors. I could pretend and use my imagination to create stories that didn’t have females conforming to the societal stereotypes of the era when I played with toys marketed to boys.

Especially in 1977.

That’s the year when my beloved uncle and grandfather took my brother and I to the movies to see some two-hour-long space-type flick that was all the rage.

I was six years old, and I remember it.

My brother was two, and he remembers it.

The characters and vehicles and lands from this so-called “space opera” were top-billed requests on letters addressed to Santa from all over the country that year, and believe you me, I raided my brother’s treasure trove of vehicles and figures from said “space opera” every chance I got.

That blockbuster movie, known today as Star Wars: A New Hope, has coursed through my veins for 42+ years and positively impacted my life in several ways.

At first glance, many are surprised that this blonde-haired, blue-eyed beach-loving writer and educator has had Jedi dreams and a desire to join the rebel alliance surging through her blood since childhood. I am not ashamed about my love of Star Wars, which began the minute I first heard the London Symphony Orchestra blare the main title while I read the quintessential opening crawler announcing that it was a period of civil war and that “rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.”

Star Wars was deliciously different and provided me with a new way of seeing things. It was the first time I was exposed to a strong woman who wasn’t being molded into a future wife or mother. Leia was a princess, that’s true, but she had a purpose much greater than her title. She wasn’t searching for a prince or seeking admiration. Instead, she was fighting for a cause she believed in with fierce determination and ultimate fearlessness.

Leia was my inspiration, and I adored her.

I still do, now more than ever.

Star Wars offered me new hope at an age when I so needed it.

And it wasn’t just Leia.

I loved all of the characters and their idiosyncrasies. This most interesting band of misfits and their missions transported me to exciting worlds as they defended their cause with 100% effort and dedication for what they believed was the greater good.

And Boba Fett is the baddest-ass misfit mercenary ever to travel to the Outer Rim and beyond. He’s got swagger and an aura of cunning dauntlessness, and is the coolest cat I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

Star Wars lands like Tatooine, Hoth, Bespin, Endor, and Yavin 4 were so different from the other lands of suburbanite make-believe I was exposed to as a child. Who would have ever thought that now, thanks to the magic of Disney Imagineers, I can actually board and ride the Millennium Falcon and walk through lands inspired by those in the Star Wars franchise two- score-and-two-years after seeing them on the big screen for the first time? Shameless plug here for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which is out of this world, pun intended, and Shangri-La for the millions of people like me who have Star Wars in their bloodline.

Three trilogies with nine movies and two spinoffs spanning 40+ years in both space time and reality… I’ve loved every single one of them.

Let me loudly repeat that for the fanboys in the back: I unconditionally loved every single movie.

Now, the saga featuring the story of the Skywalker lineage is ending with the ninth installment, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which premiers on Thursday night.

Sure, there will be new Star Wars series and films in the future, especially on Disney+, but THIS saga, the Skywalker three-three-three trilogies, has reached its end.

This saga’s threads spans generations and have run deep through my life tapestry inspiring me, exciting me, and providing me with a sense of acceptance and a love of story I might never have found otherwise.

More importantly, this saga has provided me with hope, time and time again, and I’m eternally grateful for its lessons.

Carrie Fisher taught me to follow my heart and age authentically, that it’s okay to be broken, and honest writing can be therapeutic. George Lucas taught me to write what my soul tells me to write in spite of the naysayers. Princess Leia taught me to be a strong and independent woman while fighting for what’s right, and also that I never have to conform to society’s norms. Han Solo taught me that scoundrels aren’t all that bad. Luke Skywalker taught me to believe in what I cannot see. Chewbacca taught me the value of friendship. C3PO taught me the importance of wisdom. Anakin Skywalker taught me the perils of giving into darkness. Darth Vader taught me that family ultimately comes first. Padme Amidala taught me to serve when I can. Lando Calrissian taught me to let bygones be bygones. The Emperor taught me the importance of balancing the dark with the light. R2D2 and BB8 taught me to keep rolling when things get difficult. Kylo Ren taught me to focus on the lesson instead of the outcome. Finn taught me that anyone can be a hero. Poe Dameron taught me the importance of teamwork but to recognize when it’s time to work alone. Rey taught me to seek my destiny and to believe in my journey, no matter where it takes me. Obi-Wan Kenobi taught me to trust the Force because it will always guide me in the right direction.

Boba Fett taught me that there’s nothing cooler than being a bad-ass misfit, and to answer requests made of me with, “As you wish.”

Finally, Yoda taught me to do instead of try, and that there’s a time for everything to end.

And, so it is.

If you see me on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s opening night bawling like a baby, it most definitely isn’t only because of what happens in the storyline, not that I know anything that’s going to happen, mind you.

Those heartfelt tears will be flowing because the curtains will have closed on a very special part of my life as the double suns set for the final time while the credits scroll among the stars.

Cue the John Edwards fanfare.

The force will be with you.

Always.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“A New Hope, Indeed” was posted on jillocone.com  and on soulseaker.com on December 14, 2019. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2019, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with licensing and publishing inquiries.