The following are lessons that resulted from meeting Han Solo:
Live life with no regrets.
My husband recognized the young man who’d walked up behind me at the docent’s desk. I was paying close attention to the instructions that the docent was giving us, so I paid no mind to anyone else. After my husband and I thanked the docent, we turned and walked away to start our literary and historical adventure.
J: That guy who walked up behind you looks familiar.
Me (after looking at the guy): He’s an actor, but I can’t remember what movie we saw him in.
J: Should we go talk to him?
J: Well, what do you think?
H: We’ll regret it if we don’t, so let’s do it.
And this is how we met Alden Ehrenreich, the actor who plays the young Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story, which premiers on Memorial Day weekend.
Nerding out can pay off.
My husband and I are big John Steinbeck fans, so when we decided to go on a spring break trip to Big Sur, we planned a Steinbeck-themed afternoon squeezed in between the time our plane landed in San Jose, CA, at 11:30 AM and our estimated arrival at 5:30 PM in Monterey to spend the night. First we drove to John Steinbeck’s boyhood home in Salinas. It’s part museum and part restaurant. The waitresses are all volunteers, and the tips and profits go to keeping the home in good repair. After a delicious lunch, we moseyed over to the most comprehensive Steinbeck study center in the country, appropriately named the National Steinbeck Center. This is what nerds do on vacation. And this is where we met Alden Ehrenreich. We recognized him from a critically acclaimed but little-watched Coen Brothers movie called Hail, Caesar! (a treat for nerds who love movies that pay homage to “golden age” Hollywood).
Millennials – like everyone else – shouldn’t be stereotyped.
The 28-year-old actor was a polite young man. He was very cordial during our meeting, and he didn’t make us feel like we’d bothered him. When we did happen to see him around the center, the only time he took out his phone was when he took pictures of some of the displays. He didn’t live on his device, as millennials are often described as being “guilty” of. He studied material intently and didn’t seem to lack an attention span, a characteristic that millennials are often said to be plagued with. After our journey around the center, we happened to find ourselves in the gift shop as he was paying for books. Apparently, millennials do handle paper and have the intelligence to comprehend Steinbeck material and the maturity to appreciate it. He practiced proper social etiquette, which millennials aren’t supposed to be capable of. He turned around and said to us, “It was a pleasure to meet you.” By this time, we Gen Xers had allowed our attention to get side-tracked from the displays and used my phone to look up his other movie roles. That’s when we discovered that this kid who’s young enough to be our son is starring as the new Han Solo. We took advantage of this second opportunity when he politely bid us farewell and asked to take a photo with him. You can see above that he graciously granted us that wish.
Social media can be a time suck full of negativity.
When we returned home from our vacation, I decided that I was going to post my photo on social media because I was still excited about having met the actor. I looked up Alden Ehrenreich and couldn’t find an account on Twitter or Facebook that he operated. What kind of millennial doesn’t use social media? I dug a little deeper because surely he had an account somewhere. Instead, what I found was a terrible onslaught of negativity from strangers, condemning him for being cast in the role of Han Solo and writing very cruel, personal attacks. In my view, if the Coen Brothers and Francis Ford Coppola hired him for their movies, he can’t be terrible. He held his own in scenes with Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes and George Clooney in Hail, Caesar! I spent 30 minutes (yeah, I know – what a waste of time!) in that black hole and came away very disappointed about humans in general. At least the kind of humans that spew negativity on social media about a polite, gracious millennial who reads actual books and doesn’t have social media accounts.
If I managed to think of a way to turn meeting Han Solo into a blog post, I’m obviously still excited about meeting the guy. And I’m still impressed by his manners. Maybe that’s why I feel the need to mother hen him and somehow protect and defend him against mean people hiding behind their keyboards. To Alden Ehrenreich, I say:
Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep learning and growing. Always focus on the positive, kid. And may The Force be with you.