The Last Jedi and Living to See the Dawn – Finding Myself in Fiction: The Divine

About the series: Finding Myself in Fiction

This movie connected with me on innumerable levels, and it’s safe to say that The Last Jedi is my favorite film in the Star Wars franchise. We can, of course, talk about the ladies of the movie, but that’s not where I want to go right now. Instead, let’s talk about hope.

Modern parables do exist. And here is why Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is one of mine:

The Last Jedi spoilers, of course, below the cut.

More than one friend of mine has wondered where the hope was at the end of The Last Jedi. It was one long drawn-out defeat, and in the end, all they had to show for it was the fact that they were able to hobble away in the Falcon with their lives. And I’m not here to say that their interpretations of The Last Jedi were wrong, but it’s not the way I saw it.

To me, that last little hobble away is the victory of hope.

I have over $100,000 in student loans. I am currently on income-based repayment and am praying that the Loan Forgiveness Plan for serving in a public institute for ten years will still be in place by the time this current presidential administration is over. Y’know, so I won’t be in debt until I die.

For some, the story I’m about to tell may sound trite in comparison to their own experiences, and I get that. I am blessed and privileged in many ways that others aren’t. But that doesn’t change the emotional and mental toil this all took on me.

As I was finishing up my Master’s Degree in Library Science, everyone was telling me I was the perfect shoe-in for every library job out there. I had nearly ten years of experience in academic libraries, three of which were in a supervisory and program-development role. I was a hard worker with good references.

And yet I was lucky if I even heard a “no” back from any library by the time I graduated.

My internship, the source of my income, was about to end. My loan deferment time was almost up, and I’d have to be shelling out over $1,000 a month. And I had no job. And so began the chase. Like the First Order bearing down on the Resistance throughout the entirely of The Last Jedi, so was this financial threat ever coming for me.

And like the Resistance, it was one defeat after another, slowly but surely peeling away at me. And I had done everything right. I saved money by living with my parents. I got myself a job, and even though it was “just” a retail position, I made sure I was a hard worker even with all the emotional drain for minimal wage. I made sure that I tithed even as I watched my savings devoured by loan payments. I gave extra, even to the point of detriment, when I believed God called me to it. Then when I at last got a job in my field, due to details that were not a fault of myself nor my employer, I was still denied financial security for an entire year, on two different accounts.

And it didn’t help that all around me I was seeing and hearing of miracles. A church coming together to help pay off a house payment. A miraculous moment of loan forgiveness. A miraculous provision on an apartment. A student organization pulling together funds to send another student off on a trip debt-free. A group of ladies pouring together what little they had to share to help a friend with a medical bill.

It helped even less that I was instrumental in some of these, sometimes even the instigator of the aid or the sole provider, and always did it with selfless intentions, and still no such help ever returned to me. Not miraculous. Not mundane. I was left to claw my way by the skin of my fingertips, worn to the bone, through loans and car payments and sermons that told me how to be a good steward of our resources or how God will always reward tithes and offerings, and if you aren’t getting a blessing maybe it’s because you’re not giving one, and don’t expect God to answer right away and-

[pardon the four-letter word in three… two…]

Well, guess fucking what. I did all that. I DID. ALL. OF. THAT. I was faithful. I tithed. I gave obediently without ulterior motives. I applied for other, better-paying positions with damn good resumes and damn good interviews. And I knew God doesn’t answer immediately because I’d been waiting on this for years. Nobody had the right to tell me I didn’t do everything I could. Because. I. Did.

And all I had to show for it was ten bleeding fingers that were barely hanging onto the promise that God cared. (I had given up on that promise once and I wasn’t going to relive that.)

I was exhausted, I had given all that I had, and I couldn’t see the hope. I couldn’t see my way out. And every plan I made to get out failed, occasionally in a devastating manner.

And like the Resistance at The Last Jedi’s end, nowadays, I’m not entirely out of it. The entire Resistance can fit in the hold of the Falcon. I still am $100,000 in debt with that Loan Forgiveness on shaky ground.

But the Resistance escaped the immediate threat of the First Order which was trying to wipe them out completely. They can move on from focusing solely on their own survival to rebuilding. I now have a secure job and a place to call my own. I can start budgeting and planning my future.

And now looking back on those years, I can see the hope (and the help I was given – a place to stay with my parents, the odd petsitting jobs to help bolster my income, etc.). Oh, to be sure, it’s still fresh, and it still hurts like hell to think about it. I mean, I straight-up dropped an f-bomb and sobbed while writing this. But I can see the hope now.

The hope wasn’t in the evidence of my circumstances; it was in my ten bleeding fingers. It was my refusal to let go of my faith even when I felt utterly abandoned. I didn’t see hope, so I chose hope. And goddamn did it hurt with defeat after defeat, but I still refused to let go. And looking back, seeing the hope I choseThat is my victory.

As far as we are aware, the Resistance doesn’t get to see the children inspired by Luke’s final act. The Resistance doesn’t get to see the Force-sensitive boy who looks to the stars and thinks of Rose and Finn. But it doesn’t matter if they get to see it or not, because the Resistance has already chosen hope, even if no one else will.­

Leia sums this up perfectly through Holdo: “Hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you see it, you’ll never live to see the dawn.”

The Resistance and I are beaten and bruised, but we aren’t broken. We couldn’t see hope, but we chose it anyways. And that is our victory.

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