06 April, 2020

What Star Trek Means to Me

Some of my favorite memories of my mother are of when we'd sit on the couch together watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. I don't generally have a good relationship with my mother. The last time I saw her, she called the police to kick me out of the house, even though we had already previously planned for me to leave the next day. The officer drew a gun on me, nearly shooting me because I didn't know enough not to reach for my shoes before walking outside. (Had my skin been a bit darker, I wonder if I might have died that night.) I ended up having to leave half of my possessions there because I had yet to pack them. Today, when I watch TNG, I remember the better moments; mother and I curled up in blankets, patient with the commercials and engrossed in the story.

Star Trek: Voyager aired just as my life collapsed for the first time. I had been young, thinking my life was destined for great things, when everything stopped as my girlfriend became pregnant. I didn't know how to proceed. We tried to get an abortion; but I lived in Alabama, and the nearest place to do so was in Atlanta, which wouldn't help us. She thought to leave the state, give birth, and then put the child up for adoption, but I felt this was too burdensome for her. We were out of options. I knew nothing to get us out of this. That's when my family suggested that I marry her. I took the suggestion seriously, bought a ring, and asked her to marry me soon after. I dropped out of school, married soon after my 15th birthday, enrolled in college, and tried to make the best of it. I failed. I was too immature for college, dropping out less than a semester later. I was too immature for parenthood, failing to properly care for the infant, doing little better than the motions required to keep her alive. I was too immature for matrimony, putting the majority of the responsibility on my then wife, and relegating my own time to mostly feeling sorry for myself. I remember thinking: This cannot go on. Something must happen that will change this situation. But I was too "honorable" to end the relationship, and too stupid to change my behavior to make it work better. Thankfully, my partner at the time was extremely intelligent and insightful; she was able to see that nothing was working and that life would be better for all three of us if she left. So, in the middle of the night, she did. I was distraught at the time, not realizing the gift she had given all three of us. The narrative of our lives had changed so drastically, but all I could do was wallow. This took the form of watching VHS videos of the first few seasons of Voyager at a friend's house. They left the door open for me. I'd walk inside, put on VOY, and veg out through entire seasons as numerous cats surrounded me. It was all that I could do to get a semblance of reality back into my life.

I had watched DS9 and ENT on my own, without any significant life events occurring at the time. They helped me to enjoy the time. But it wasn't until decades later that I first properly watched the series as a whole. Star Trek: Discovery had been announced, though we didn't know the title yet at te time, and I decided to watch all of Star Trek. It took months. I started with TOS, moved to TAS, then all the original movies, followed by a rewatch of all of TNG. To say that this made me emotional is an understatement. I watched DS9, VOY, and ENT, and then all the TNG movies. By the end, I felt ready for whatever came next. I was working 20 hour weeks throughout this time, allowing me a great deal of time to really consume so much Trek.

DIS was watched with my partner, Katherine, as it aired. It reminded me of curling up on the couch with my mother back when I was a child. DIS was filled with a sense of wonder, but also of familial love for me. I felt loved. I felt secure. I felt happy.

PIC aired as I was sick in the hospital. I would have surgery, then lay helpless in bed for days, only to later realize that the latest episode had aired. I'd wait until 3 am so that the internet wouldn't be as spotty, and then attempt to stream PIC as I lay somewhat in pain. It was a transformative experience.

Other sci-fi series are better, in terms of writing, suspense, etc. Babylon 5 back in the day; the Expanse more recently. But Star Trek still occupies an important space in my heart, giving optimism when it is needed most, and connecting back to a history of my life that I never want to forget.

Thank you, Star Trek, for being such an integral part of my life over the decades.