“[Luke,] I am your father.”
I bet you can remember where you were when you heard that famous line uttered by Darth Vader to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back. I remember watching this as a small child and my jaw dropping at this revelation: holy crap! The bad guy is the dad of the hero! Han is frozen in carbonite! How the heck do they get out of this?
With today being Star Wars Day (“May the Fourth be with you!”) and a recent trailer dropping that took the internet by storm, I felt like this would be a good chance to explore our fate and what we really get out of our time on this planet.
Ultimately, do we have to follow in our parents’ footsteps? Am I predestined to be like them?
Star Wars explores this very question, and I want to talk about our own fate today. It’s probably best you listen to Duel of the Fates in the background while reading.
Destined for the dark side?
“The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it.”
When Luke discovers Vader is his father, you have to feel for him. The guy he’s been chasing, the guy who killed his mentor, the guy who is trying to kill him…is his freaking DAD. Luke is wondering “if he is capable of this great evil, am I capable of it as well? The same blood that flows in his veins flows in mine.”
I’m sure we’ve all been there, parents especially – when growing up we saw our parents do something and said, “when I’m a parent I’m not gonna be like them!” And then you have kids, and realize things are more complicated. Or maybe your parent was a smoker, or struggled with addiction/obesity, and you vowed to be different. But can we?
We have to face facts first: genetics and the habits we were brought up with do matter. Whether they are healthy habits or unhealthy habits, learned from great parents or parents who didn’t pass along a solid foundation – they matter. Maybe you have anger management issues like your dad, a sugar addiction like your mom, or you had parents who struggled to hold a job (or, parents who are doctors or scientists)!
We can’t pick our parents, just as Luke didn’t pick for his father to be Darth Vader. We also can’t pick how we were brought up (good or bad), or go back in time and change how we were treated or raised:
- If you have overweight parents who thought trying to get healthy was a waste of time (“my dad was overweight, so was his, and you will be, too”), or they ate unhealthy foods and never gave it a second thought, it’s challenging to break free of that destiny.
- If you had parents who placed values on the wrong things, or shamed others for being different, there will be a STRONG pull to go in that direction.
- If we had parents who struggled with addiction or abuse, it can feel like ‘history will repeat itself.’
Ultimately, it can feel as though the deck is fixed and it’s going to play out in a certain way regardless of what decisions we make, which can make us feel helpless.
But there is (a new) hope!
In my years of running Nerd Fitness, I have seen thousands upon thousands of people buck the trend, break free of their fate, and change the ‘predetermined path’ they were on. The pull towards the dark side is strong, but with the right strategy you CAN turn out differently.
And only you can alter your path.
It’s something we need to learn before it’s too late.
You are not your father
In the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, do you know what the #1 regret was of people who were on their deathbed?
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Maybe you grew up in a family where obesity is par for the course: fast food, diabetes, and heart attacks at an early age are part of the plan. Maybe now you feel like you dying young of heart disease is a foregone conclusion, as it happened to your dad and your grandpa. Heck, it even applies to your career, education, and other life choices!
I was fortunate to be raised by loving parents, and I subconsciously led myself to follow a particular career path because I thought it would make them (and thus make me) happy; I figured that they were both in sales and thus I should get into sales too. It turns out, they just wanted me to be happy, but I put unnecessary pressure on myself because I thought this was what was expected of me.
But let me tell you something that Luke learned long ago:
You are not your father.
You are not your mother.
As Henry Rollins points out in The Iron and the Soul:
“I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. Completely.”
You get to pick if you want to go to the light side or the dark side: Become the Jedi you want to be, not the person you think you’re supposed to be. There might be a very strong pull in one direction, but ultimately it is never too late to start your training, or change course. Villains can become heroes, second-tier characters can become major players, and futures can change. But it requires honesty, a bit of bravery, and taking bold action.
Just know you’re not alone – We have about 33,000 Rebels on our free message boards who are here to support you, help you, and offer up words of advice as I’m sure many of them have felt the same.
Remember, true courage is living a life true to yourself, not the life others expected of you.
Motivation goes both ways
Although we spend three full movies absolutely loving to hate Darth Vader, he redeems himself in the Return of the Jedi when he chooses to sacrifice himself and destroy the Emperor in order to save his son:
There are few tougher conversations to have than one as a child telling his or her parents, “I’m worried about you, and I want you to be healthier.” Parents are often set in their ways (see Vader), but deep down it doesn’t mean they’re not listening (see Vader).
We grow up seeing our parents as invincible….until the day they’re not. My parents weren’t the healthiest people – raising three kids and both working jobs resulted in them putting on a few unhealthy pounds over the years. After starting Nerd Fitness, I started to worry more about them, but struggled with finding a way to bring it up the right way.
So I did the next best thing: I got myself in the best shape I could. I asked for healthier foods when I came home to visit, laughing at the “wait, but I thought you only ate pizza and spaghetti?” jokes. Unbeknownst to me, it had an effect on my parents – they actually started to apply some of the principles I chose to live by as well! It was really cool to see and I’m glad to see my choices have influenced their choices.
Having a conversation with parents about making changes, when it comes to being healthy or happy, is never easy. This is especially true if your name is Luke Skywalker, and your dad is trying to chop your head off with a lightsaber. If your name isn’t Skywalker, then you’re still up against the people who changed your diaper – tough.
Use the Force: If you still have parents and talk to them regularly, then your best bet is to become a model Jedi. Be ready, willing, and able to have a conversation with them about being healthier and happier when they bring it up, and offer support when they ask. The pull can be strong on you – but know that the pull can work BOTH ways, so use that to your advantage!
What are you giving to the next generation?
This Winter, Star Wars Episode VII will be released, and a whole new generation of Jedi, X-wing pilots, storm troopers, and Sith lords will do battle. Oh and the freaking Millenium Falcon is back. And a whole new generation of Star Wars fans will be born.
You have an opportunity to change the fate of the Galaxy as well. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics said the factor that puts children at greatest rick of being overweight is having obese parents.
If you want to give your kids the best possible chance to live the life of a healthy Jedi, taking care of yourself (and ‘selfishly’ making your health a priority) is the first place to start. Your kids are watching not what you say, but what you do, and you can drastically impact how they treat others, how they feel about themselves, and how they take care of themselves through YOUR actions.
The choice is yours. I hope you pass along the great qualities you’re building in yourself. And please, don’t blow up any planets.
I want to hear from you: have you bucked the trend of unhealthiness or unhappiness in your family? Have you broken out on your own against the path set for you? Or did you end up following a “pre-determined path” and now realize it wasn’t the path you wanted for yourself?
How about inspiring your parents to live better lives through example? Or have you gotten in shape and helped your kids make the connection with healthier choices too?
fourth Force be with you.
PS: With a bunch of new campers signing up over the weekend, we have something like 25 spots left for Camp Nerd Fitness this fall! Hope to see you there 🙂