Last month I had the privilege of attending my very first Star Wars Celebration in Orlando. I was fortunate enough to win a 4-day pass from Stephen Stanton (voice of Rogue One‘s Admiral Raddus, Clone Wars and Rebels Tarkin and many more). Stephen additionally blessed me by obtaining a pass for my daughter Emily to attend with me and providing some funds for the trip.

I approached Celebration with excitement and trepidation. I had never even been to a convention before, let alone one as huge as Celebration. I don’t like crowds, am awkward meeting people, and generally don’t cope well with new things and things beyond my control. My inner C-3PO was fretting overtime, thinking of all the ways it wouldn’t be a successful trip.

Can you tell where I am going with this? This trip was amazing. Almost a month later and I am still processing. And still catching up with all the livestream and panels and podcasts that came out of Celebration. I missed most of the big panels and announcements. But despite what I planned beforehand, the joys of Celebration weren’t in the panels, the announcements, or the merchandise. The best thing about Celebration was the people.

I am an introvert. I detest large groups. I don’t like meeting people or being social. I will pretend to be busy on my phone to avoid talking to someone. For me, people are never the best part of anything.  Yet I am being completely sincere when I share that the highlight of Celebration was the people I met.

I have never been in a situation before where I was surrounded by Star Wars everywhere. Everywhere I looked I saw Star Wars. Every person I interacted with loved Star Wars. Awkward Amy was able to join in or start a conversation with anyone about Star Wars! I can’t think of a time in my adult life when I was so outgoing. I felt a sense of homecoming and a bond with everyone I met, knowing we were all members of a mutual Star Wars admiration society.

I sought out friends I had only heretofore met online. I didn’t presume they had better things to do or wouldn’t want to see me (typical thoughts for me in my everyday life)–I reached out, and they reciprocated! Even now I have to look at the pictures to remind myself it was real. Knowing that I have this circle of Star Wars friends is a security blanket of friendship that I can hold on to on the worst days.

I also met so many folks while standing in line. If you have followed any sort of Celebration coverage, you know that lines were just a part of life. While waiting in line for hours wasn’t my preferred way to spend time, the people I was able to interact with while waiting in line turned what could have been soul-crushing boredom into a chat with friends.

I witnessed many acts of kindness, and my heart was touched at many examples of generosity directed at my own daughter. At one event, a young girl won multiple prizes. She passed one on to another girl in the audience. When that girl won a prize, she sought my daughter (who hadn’t won anything at that panel) to share one of her prizes with her. For all the bemoaning about younger generations and ‘kids these days’ I was blown away at this spontaneous generosity.

Knowing that Star Wars has a huge following intellectually is one thing, but seeing thousands of fans come together for their shared love of a galaxy far, far away was truly inspiring. I don’t know when I have felt such belonging. The themes of family and found family that resound throughout the saga have much deeper meaning for me. The fandom really does feel like a family.

I think my daughter said it best: “Star Wars Celebration is ‘Chewie, we’re home’ for Star Wars fans.” A found fandom family I’m so grateful to be a part of.

Did you attend Celebration? What was your experience like?