I've probably been overwhelming most of you with all of the things I've been posting in relation to the passing of Leonard Nimoy, but I feel that I owe it to him and to myself to write a few words about how important he has become to me. I've been trying to find the words to convey the profound sense of loss and devastation I feel for the passing of a man who I have never met, but the truth is that I and so many others were his honorary grandchildren, and it feels just like that- like a part of my family is gone.
I remember the day I first decided to watch Star Trek, I was having a conversation with my best friend and I told her I wasn't sure if I was ready to start any of the series. I think that my heart knew before I did that once I started Star Trek, it would fundamentally alter the fabric of my reality and become completely intertwined with my identity, my personality and my world views, and it certainly did.
I started with The Next Generation, and I was immediately captivated by Lieutenant Commander Data. I related to him in many ways- I have always felt a bit out of place with other humans and have always felt that there is something I am missing, some road map or something that tells people how to interact with each other that everyone but me seems to possess. I have been told by others that my reactions are sometimes cold and callous, and that I seem to be uncaring, which is kind of very obviously untrue, but the reason for it is that I am often unsure of how to express my feelings in a way that other people can understand. I remember watching The Next Generation, and hearing Data say, "As I experience certain sensory input patterns, my mental pathways become accustomed to them. The input is eventually anticipated, and even missed when absent." I remember this resonating with me, as it is such an uncommon way to interpret emotional attachments, but it made sense to me. I feel a deeply personal attachment to Data.
I moved on to Deep Space Nine and Voyager, and was drawn to Odo and Seven of Nine. Odo was a displaced alien who didn't know where his home or family were, and was the only being of his kind he had ever encountered, and Seven of Nine was a liberated Borg drone who was suddenly thrust aboard the Federation Starship Voyager. Here were two more outsiders, who had very different perspectives and didn't quite fall in line with the humans and other aliens they were surrounded by. I connected to these two, as someone who has moved dozens of times and until very recently felt isolated in the places I inhabited. My insecurity and social anxiety and fear of, and unwillingness to, open up was something that was mirrored by Seven and Odo, and I see a lot of myself in the two of them.
When I began watching The Original Series, it was immediately clear to me that Data, Odo and Seven of Nine had been modeled after Mister Spock. As a half-human, half-Vulcan aboard a ship filled with humans, he was the outsider. Bones often mocked him for his Vulcan characteristics, and his approach to and ideas about the things that happened to the ship were drastically different from those of his human counterparts. Spock excelled in many areas, he was smart and logical and morally just and he supported his crew and was willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Spock, though different from those around him, succeeded in making a place for himself within Starfleet. I instantly loved everything about Spock. I wanted to be Spock.
I heard Captain Jean-Luc Picard explain that the United Federation of Planets had moved beyond the importance of money, and instead focused on bettering themselves as individuals and as a society. The Federation was a place where they had abandoned sexism, racism, classism, and all of the horrible things present in society today. It was designed to be a utopia, and compared to the world I live in, it is. My feminist ideologies came to be, in a lot of ways, because of Star Trek. I realize that a lot of people think that Star Trek is a show for weird nerds who like space and aliens, and while I am not denying the validity of that claim because I am certainly a weird nerd who likes space and aliens, I think that it is important to discuss the messages that Star Trek tried to teach us.
From Rom, I learned that even when handed everything, taking care of the people around you and the people in your world is more important than power and money. From Tasha, I learned strength, I learned how to stay alive. From Data, I learned humanity and compassion. From Janeway, I learned how to be a leader. From Seven of Nine, I learned how to interact with the people around me. From B'Elanna, I learned how to triumph over hardship. From Picard, I learned to strive to always be the best version of myself. From Beverly, I learned that my emotions are valid and that I am no less strong for feeling deeply. From Deanna, I learned to never settle for anything less than what I deserved. From Jadzia, I learned that sometimes you have to fight for your place in the sexist universe of men.
But the character I learned the most from was Spock. Spock was an example of what I could be. Spock was me at my best. Spock truly inhabited the spirit of Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets.
This was no less true of Leonard Nimoy. Leonard was the closest thing to a Starfleet Officer we will probably ever see. Leonard fought for equal pay for Nichelle Nichols, in a time where sexism and racism were even more commonplace than they are today. Leonard celebrated women, and even got called "the conscience of Star Trek". He was intelligent and driven. He tried to be the best version of himself, and succeeded. He was an accomplished actor, director, writer, poet, musician and so much more. He inspired people from all walks of life with his work. He saw beauty in places where most didn't. I have never seen more people have so many kind things to say about a single individual.
I am a better person because of Leonard Nimoy. The world is a worse place without him in it. Luckily, he left an incredible legacy behind him and his work will always be here for me, for us, to learn from.
Goodbye, honorary grandfather. I hope you're out there somewhere, raising your eyebrows at James Doohan, and I hope that someday I will meet you in the stars.