Jakku is a junkyard of a planet that’s home to all manner of thieves and thugs; remnants of the galaxy’s seedy underworld that have no place left to go. It is also home to Rey. Of all the things Rey accomplished in Stars Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens, none was as significant as her leaving Jakku. Jakku is much more than a planet. It is a symbol of the prisons that we sometimes keep ourselves locked away in, and for Rey, this was especially true.
Rey toiled hard each day attempting to eek out a meager existence. Her success determined not by her hard work, but by whatever arbitrary payment Unkar Plutt felt like doling out. A half-portion for each item one day and a quarter-portion for the whole lot the next.
When her work was done, she returned to her makeshift home, etched a simple line on the wall to mark the day’s passing, and then sat outside with a flavorless meal, where she dreamed of a better life.
Each of those things we saw, repelling through the belly of Star Destroyer, sliding down a sand dune, and scrubbing parts were all part of a daily routine capped by a majestic sunset whose only assurance was the false hope that tomorrow would be a better day; that tomorrow would be the day.
Tomorrow did come for Rey, but not in the way she expected. Heralded by a courageous BB droid and a conscientious stormtrooper, she found her life on the line and was left with no choice but to leave Jakku. As the First Order was bearing down, she boarded the Millennium Falcon and took flight.
Pursued by the First Order’s deadly pilots she maneuvered the ship through the rusting hull of a Super Star Destroyer and set up easy bulls-eye shots for Finn, an infantryman who was still a novice as a starship gunner.
When the last TIE Fighter fell, the ship soared out of the atmosphere and the dune seas of Jakku gave way to an ocean of stars. Rey was finally free, and then, this happened. After BB-8 reluctantly revealed the location of the Resistance Base, Rey said to Finn, “I’ll drop you two at Ponemah Terminal.”
“What about you?”, asked Finn.
“I’ve got to get back to Jakku?”, said Rey as if that was the obvious answer.
Puzzled by her response, Finn says, “Rey, you’re a pilot, you can fly anywhere, why go back?”
It was at this moment that I realized, Rey’s exile on Jakku was entirely self-imposed. The only thing keeping her there was herself. Even is she didn’t have the legitimate means to procure a ship, it was clear that if desperate enough she was more than capable of escaping her desert prison. This was a choice. Rey shackled herself to Jakku on the false belief that her family would one day come back for her. Deep down she knew they would not return, and this was confirmed in a heartfelt exchange with Maz Kanata.
After her vision, she tells Maz, “I have to get back to Jakku.”
Maz replies, “Dear child. I see your eyes. You already know the truth. Whomever you are waiting for on Jakku, they’re never coming back.”
Rey got lucky and destiny came calling, and fate gave her a giant push. That’s not always how it works. Destiny can a be a bit fickle and it doesn’t always send a herald to rescue you. You find yourself alone and trapped in your own world knowing what it is you’re running from, but not what you’re supposed to run to.
This is why leaving Jakku is hard because it’s your home, it’s your life, and it’s all that you know. On Jakku, you have a routine and it feels safe, but it’s also not where you belong.
When the Millennium Falcon entered the atmosphere of Takodana, Rey looked out the cockpit in wonderment and said, “I didn’t know there was this much green in the whole galaxy.”
The green is what you need run to, but it isn’t on any map, and it’s not clear what you’ll find if you seek it out. Often times you need to rely on faith that it actually exists and is waiting for you.
Destiny does not have a timetable, and it doesn’t always come calling. Not everyone has a wise sage or band of companions to help them find the green in the world, but if you want to find the green, you have to look in your heart, take a deep breath and muster the courage to leave Jakku.
The Cantina Cast
The wretched hive your Jedi Master warned you about!