Friday, February 27, 2015

R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy

When I was a child, Autism wasn't very common. Before my diagnosis no one in my family had ever even heard the term. I was the only child like me that I knew. Worse than that, I was the only person like me that I knew of. Despite how famously my mother handled the situation, it was very lonely and despite living in a big city I felt extremely isolated.

My entire family was "normal." All of my friends and class mates were normal. Everyone I read about in books or saw on TV  was, more or less, normal. So you can imagine the relief, and my delight, when I saw my first episode of Star Trek as a little girl and realized there was a character who struggled very much in the same ways I did, a character who behaved much in the same ways I did. A successful character, not only accepted by his crew mates but cared for.

Spock was a game changer for me. The lone voice, from a stranger, saying it'd be okay.

At last: a person that I could relate to on a personal level. Something I'd never experienced before. What a reassurance to a young, isolated girl. You can't even imagine. He gave me hope I otherwise probably wouldn't have had. That made a huge difference in my life. For the first time I considered the possibility that people outside of my family could accept me.

I wanted to be an astronaut, to leave the planet and see if there were other people like me out there amongst the stars.

Of course I didn't need to leave the planet to find others like me. They existed right here on Earth. I just didn't know that yet. As the 80's gave way to the 90's Autism diagnoses were on the rise and I was meeting more and more people like myself. More therapies became available to help me cope with my condition. A lot of them focused on making me fit in with my peers, but I never felt pressured to do so because of Spock. Spock never had to conform. He was who he was unapologetically and people accepted him, eventually, regardless of how strange they found him at first. So I didn't conform and it was the best decision I could've made.

I am an undoubtedly happier, healithier person for not having to pretend all the time to be someone I'm not. I would not have considered this a possibility, with all the professional opinions back then, without Star Trek -- without Spock in particular. It was a show with an overarching message of equality and acceptance. Sure there were also lasers, fist fights, and space ships but ultimately those elements took a backseat to ground breaking television (for its time). I know I'm not the only person inspired by the show, or Leonard Nimoy's depiction of Spock, it's inspired countless people of all ages and backgrounds I'm sure.

But I felt compelled this morning to put into words how profoundly this actor and his work had truly made an impact in my life. I felt compelled to explain why the death of Leonard Nimoy, honorary grandfather to many, is felt so personally: because he was a great actor but an even greater person.

When a celebrity touches your life in any significant way their loss is felt regardless of whether or not you ever met. It's okay to feel sad about the death of a person you never truly knew. However he lead a long, full life and he died comfortably, at home, with those who did know him by his side -- can't ask for a much happier ending than that.

Anyway, I'm not certain how coherently this is written, I've been trying to get the words just right since 11:00AM and it's now 8:49PM so I'll just leave you with this quote and offer my condolences to Mr. Nimoy's family, friends, co-workers, and honorary grandchildren everywhere.

"Loss of life is to be mourned, but only if the life was wasted." -Spock

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