Tuesday, June 17, 2014

College is where you figure out what to do with your life…..right?

I’ve been teasing this for a while, but it’s finally time. Here’s the story where I met my first contact with someone who was actually IN the 501st Legion. And it was a total accident.

As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up on Star Wars. 1977, I was seven years old. Been a full fledged fan every since, even through the Prequels. Yes, I liked them…not as much as the original trilogy. But I did enjoy the movies and the story. Mainly because that was all we were supposed to get for the rest of our lives. Nothing beyond Episode III, from what George had told us. He was going to fill in the gap up to the beginning we all knew and loved. That bright planet with a little starship flying by, being closely followed by an Imperial Star Destroyer.

Fill in the gap.

Close the book.

There’s the final page with those two damnable words on it.

So how does a person of forty-ish years of age prolong his love of some science fiction movies that pretty much shaped a life? That was a question I hadn’t found an answer to. I had several (or more than several) collectibles from all of the movies, and enjoyed just sitting in my room looking at them. But slowly the realization set in after Episode III. It was over. Time to move on.

And I tried. I even bought in to the phrase “Joss is my master now.” Buffy, I dug it. Angel, dug as well…but never did get caught up. Dollhouse, saw every episode. Firefly?

Firefly. There’s Han Solo. With a different first mate. And several new characters . Jayne. Zoe. Kaylee. Inara. Ok, I can get behind this. I can even tell my mind that these are characters who grew right out of the Star Wars movies I love. AND THERE’S A MOVIE, TOO! This will do.

Then came the year I was a forty year old freshman. Going to college. Finally. To do what I really wanted to do…web and graphic design. Plus all of the gen ed course, too. Algebra, English, all that good stuff. But with the stuff I really wanted to learn as well, including:

For various applications, of course. Including Web Design. One of my first professors was a gentleman named Tim Birch. He would be my introduction to the 501st Legion, and completely by accident.

By this time, I had already had my encounter with the short Darth Vader in Philly. And we’d had our family photo with Boba Fett and a TK (before I knew what a TK was). But I had no idea they were part of an organization that would change my life eventually.

Back to Professor Birch. The classes he was teaching, or that I was taking at least, were all online. Video presentations that each student watched at their own pace, then the student finished the required coursework, and submitted it to the professor. This particular class was (if memory serves) Photoshop for Web Design. During the video presentation, Mr. Birch had an issue with Photoshop, and it locked up on him. He had to close and restart the program, but it didn’t require him to stop the video capture software he was using. So, he crashed Photoshop, clicked the start button, and restarted it. But…

When he clicked the start button, I noticed the icon on his menu: a stormtrooper helmet.

So, once I finished that weeks assignment and submitted it, I made sure to mention how much of a Star Wars fan I am, I grew up on the movies, blah blah woof woof…having no idea that he was a member of the 501st. When Professor Birch responded to me, he included the ultimate smart-ass answer.

“Star Wars? I think I’ve heard of it.”

With a hyperlink to a page: Click here.

It was his 501st online profile.

My immediate first thought was was “Oh, I’m passing this class for DAMN sure.”

As it turns out, I did. With an A. And now, I am all but finished with my coursework at that college. At any time, I can walk. And I currently have a 4.0 GPA, through many hours of hard work and the full support of my family. I have also had several classes with Mr. Birch, and now that my coursework is all but complete (I just have to file the paperwork, but there are classes outside the web/graphic design program I want to take), I am happy to call Tim Birch a good friend.

I am now a full fledged member of the 501st Legion, and Tim and I troop at least one event per month together. Our schedules don’t always mesh, but we do the same events as much as possible. Tim is a great guy, and encouraged me to get into this. It didn’t take much encouragement, especially after meeting short Lord Vader. I pestered him to find me a Vader suit, and he always referred to the legend of the Vader suit for sale in Tennessee. (Turns out, it wasn’t a legend. Tyler Phillips found the guy; that will be my next story.) Tim showed me the road to go down, and basically said he’d walk it with me. And here we are, several years later, bringing smiles to faces who are going through pain we can’t begin to imagine.

All because we dress up like Star Wars characters on the weekends.

Life is good. But you don’t know what it looks like until you’ve seen it through a helmet.

No comments:

Post a Comment