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Welcome home, Wesley

Image shamelessly stolen from Trek Core

From the moment Star Trek Picard was announced, people asked me if Wesley Crusher would make an appearance. Until August of last year, I told the truth when I said that I would love to do that, but had no idea if it would actually happen. I’m pretty psyched that we were able to keep this secret as long as we did.

I want to take a minute and share why Wesley’s return to Star Trek is so deeply meaningful for me, why this is so much more than merely playing a fun cameo for two pages. I want to tell you what Wesley Crusher means to me, as an almost 50 year-old husband, father, and survivor.

I love Wesley Crusher. I cherish Wesley Crusher. I am fiercely proud of Wesley Crusher. It is an honor and a privilege to be the actor who played him. But that wasn’t always true. For far too long, I allowed my opinion of Wesley, and my opinion of myself, to be defined by others. And it hurt so much, I almost walked away from Star Trek entirely, just to get away from it.

Wesley’s fictional journey and my real life journey are remarkably similar. We were both incredibly smart kids who struggled to fit in with our peer group. Neither one of us had a relationship with our father (Wesley, because his father died when he was a baby, me because my father chose to be my bully instead of my dad). Both of us spent our entire lives on paths we did not choose, struggling every single minute of every single day to make the people who put us on that path proud of us. We both felt uncomfortable in our own skin, and ended up spending as much time in our intellect as we could, because that was a place that felt safe.

Our stories and paths diverge widely in our teens: he’s awkward and angsty, but genuinely loved and supported by the adults in his life, who encourage him to explore his interests. I’m awkward and angsty, but I’m invisible to my dad on a good day, and my mother does not see me. Instead, she only sees the kid from Teen Beat, and all the trappings that come with proximity to him that she can scrape up for herself. In my headcanon, Wesley felt alone because he didn’t get to regularly interact with kids his own age, and if his life mirrored my own at that time, a lot of kids he would have wanted to be friends with judged him before they knew him, because he was kind of famous. Let me tell you, when every room you walk into is filled with people who have already made up their mind about you before you even introduce yourself, you just stop walking into rooms. Or, at least, I did. 

When Wesley saw his opportunity to forge his own path with the Travelers, his entire family supported him, they celebrated the end of one journey and the beginning of another. I did not get that support. When I was about 20 and left the series, followed quickly by leaving the entire entertainment industry, neither of my parents were there for me, at all. By this time in my life, my father had stopped trying to hide his contempt and disinterest for me, and my mother had essentially abandoned me to focus her energy on a friend of my sister’s, who was climbing the teen fame success ladder. My mom was always there when I was chasing her dream of acting fame, but when I needed a mom to help me figure out what I wanted to do with my life, she just did not show up at all. I was left entirely alone to try and figure out how to be an adult. It was terrifying. Luckily for me, when I was 23 I met the woman who would become my wife, and my journey toward discovering and realizing my dream began. 

But let us go back to the moment when we each realized we were not on our paths, but someone else’s. Wesley and I both walked away from everything we knew, every expectation that was ever put on us, every person we ever cared about, because we both knew that something was not right in our lives, and if we were going to fix it, we had to figure out what it was. And to figure out what it was, we had to get off the paths we had been on since we were too young to know what a path even was. 

Wesley was expected to be a Starfleet captain, or maybe a chief engineer. I was expected to be a famous film actor, or at least famous. We both accepted these expectations right until we didn’t. He got there before I did, but there was a moment when we both knew that we were pursuing dreams that were not ours, that they were more important to other people than they were to us. We needed time and space to find out who we were, and what our dream was.

When we had that time and space (or all of time and space, for Wesley), we could discover what was important to us, what we wanted to do with our lives and the time we had in this universe, who we were when we weren’t defining ourselves according to someone else’s expectations. During that time, I met more people than I can count who have told me how much Wesley means to them. They told me he inspired them, that they saw themselves in him at a time when they felt unseen by the people in their lives. They told me he helped them figure out what kind of person they wanted to choose for a partner in love and life.

For two decades I listened, while people told me the ways he was there for them. I never would have expected that he would also be there for me.

And yet.

Ron Moore wrote Wesley’s final episode, Journey’s End. Ron knew Wesley needed to do something different with his life. He knew that Starfleet wasn’t right for Wesley. He knew that Wesley couldn’t keep defining himself through someone else’s expectations. I don’t know if he knew that I also needed that (I didn’t even know it at the time), but like so many other people who watched Wesley’s story, I was inspired by Wesley’s courage and conviction. And I followed him out into the Great Unknown.

I was surprised to discover that as I got to know myself all over again for the first time, I also got to know Wesley. If Wesley could matter so much, to so many people, why couldn’t he matter that much to me, the actor who played him? It took a long time and a lot of work to find the answer to that question. I wrote a whole book about it, in fact. But what’s important is that much in the same way I had allowed myself to be defined by how I was measuring up to someone else’s expectations, I had allowed my relationship with Wesley Crusher to be defined the same way. And the end result of that was a lot of self-inflicted pain and sadness for me. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that around the same time I finally felt seen in the world, I was able to see Wesley the way so many others did. It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth it. I was, and am, worth it. Getting to know Wesley Crusher, to see him the way he was seen by the people who loved him, to love him the way he always deserved to be loved … you can see the parallels, right? Believe me, it was all worth it.

Wesley and Kore may blink out of existence and never come back on camera again. Or they might go literally anywhere through all of space and time, from Strange New Worlds to Discovery to Lower Decks (but not to season three of Picard. Sorry, nerds.). I honestly don’t know what comes next for them in canon, but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t spent some time thinking about it.

I may get to tell more of Wesley’s story at some point – his journey over the last 25 or so years is something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about – as a writer or as an actor. Maybe both. But even if that never happens, if I never get to be Wesley Crusher on camera again, I will have the privilege of hosting The Ready Room, where I get to be a Starfleet veteran, a member of the exclusive “Legacy Star Trek” club, and an unashamed superfan who gets to take other nerds into the Room Where It Happens. I get to celebrate everything we all love about Star Trek in all its incarnations, for my job. 

I love the life I’ve built for myself. I love and am intensely grateful for the place in Star Trek that belongs to me, as the actor who played Acting Ensign Wesley Crusher, who now plays The Traveler Formerly Known as Wesley Crusher, who is the host of The Ready Room.

I and Wesley will always be part of The Next Generation for the rest of our lives, and that would absolutely have been enough. The fact that we both get to be part of not just The Next Generation, but also part of the larger Star Trek universe, is a privilege and a gift that I will never take for granted.

We talk about how Star Trek is so inspiring when it shows us what’s possible, what we can achieve for ourselves when we work hard and work together with compassion and empathy for each other. For me it goes deeper than that, because finding love and compassion for Wesley Crusher allowed me to find love and compassion for myself.

Welcome home, Wesley. I missed you so much. Thank you for being there for me when I needed you.

a really nice article about me at trek movie dot com

credit: TrekMovie.com

TrekMovie.com has been posting about Star Trek Mission: Chicago, and today they wrapped up their coverage with a really nice write up about my spotlight panel, including some discussion of my Wesley Crusher head canon, specifically why he appears as a lieutenant in Nemesis:

Well, here’s what I think. I made the following choice. Wesley is, of course, a Traveler. Wesley learned a very long time ago that space, time, and thought are interconnected in ways that the vast majority of sentient beings do not understand and don’t know how to utilize to its full extent. And he has then been able to effectively be a Time Lord and kind of move through space and time. I have decided that whatever species you are from as a Traveler, your physical body will continue to age at a normal rate that is consistent with your species of origin. As I said, I spent some time thinking about this. I have been known to write my own fan fiction about my character.

So Wesley really wanted to be at this moment. He knows that this moment happens. He knows every moment that happens. It’s just part of the terrible knowledge that comes with being a Traveler guy, I guess. And Wesley made a choice: How will they expect me to appear? What will make them comfortable? If I show up as a god-being, it’s going make everything weird and make it all about me and I don’t want it to be that. If I just show up as like a lieutenant… that sounds like a thing that would make sense. Sure, let’s do that. But I get to be at the wedding of my very closest friends and family and I get to see them.

I also talked about one of my ridiculous ideas for Lower Decks:

The story is that Wesley just thinks Mariner is like super cool and just wants to impress Mariner so much. And Mariner could not be more annoyed and just bored and unimpressed with this fucking guy. But Boimler is like, “Do you have any idea who’s on the Cerritos!” Boimler is running around like an incredibly excited dog. He’s like, “I can’t believe it’s happening!” And he just keeps inadvertently cockblocking Wesley. Now Wesley isn’t trying to have anything romantic with Mariner, he just wants her to think that he’s cool. That’s all he cares about. And he just cannot get it done.

That is just so hilarious to me, and so silly, it feels like the kind of thing I could convince Tawny and Jack to do with me just as a reading of a few scenes, you know? Feels like the kind of thing they’d be into.

I mean, how can you NOT want to see this guy reverse some polarities?

Mischief Managed (#throwbackthursday)

On June 24, 2004, my author’s copies of Just A Geek arrived. According to the metadata, I picked the first box up at 8:32pm. What a weirdly granular bit of information to have.

There’s an essay in Still Just A Geek called “Do something kind for future you.” When I was the guy in these pictures, I didn’t understand what that meant. I couldn’t think about future me, because present me needed everything I could give him just to survive.

But the guy in these pictures, who can’t believe he’s a real, published author, who going to spend way too time feeling like a failure, has no idea that he’s giving a gift to future him. He’s holding a Maurader’s Map that I will eventually use to find all the things that were deliberately kept from him, and me. And when I find them, and I tell his and my and our story, he becomes a New York Times bestselling author, because he isn’t alone.

I want the guy in this picture to know that I can remember everything he hopes for at this precise moment, how scared he is that it isn’t going to happen, and how much that prevents him from just enjoying it. I remember his pain, and how he blamed himself for all these things he couldn’t control. I need him to know that he’s going to be okay.

Buddy, you aren’t and weren’t and never were a failure. At ANYTHING. You are enough. You were always enough.

I am a New York Times Bestselling Author

Yesterday, around noon, I posted on my Facebook:

I’ve been doing these very long days of press and promotion for Still Just A Geek. It’s a lot, and it’s exhausting, but it’s awesome and I’m grateful for all of it. I haven’t had this much fun doing late nights followed by early mornings since I was in my 20s.

I’m also still doing Ready Room, so today is a day that featured me getting up at are you fucking serious o’clock, putting myself together for a webinar I was part of for Microsoft, then going straight to the set, where we did a couple episodes for Strange New Worlds (OH MY GOD I WANT TO TALK ABOUT STRANGE NEW WORLDS SO MUCH IT IS KILLING ME THAT I CAN’T).

I am so happy, y’all. I am content, I am grateful, I am proud of the work I have the privilege to do.

… and I am so physically and mentally exhausted. I feel like I’m going to cry.

I’m taking the rest of this day off for religious observance, and I really hope I can find a nap in there, somewhere.

After I posted that, Anne and I had lunch together, and then I went into my gameroom, where I could sit quietly and just … not do anything.

Some time passed. I’m not sure how much, but it was enough for me to start feeling sleepy. I leaned my head back, closed my eyes, and did one of those long exhales that starts in your shoulders and rolls down your body.

Then my phone rang.

Okay. In 2022, few things make me as suspicious as my phone ringing. Nine in ten times, it’s bullshit. This time, I saw that it was my lit agent.

“Hello?”

“Do you have a minute to talk?”

“I do.”

“Okay. I am connecting you to a conference call.”

Over the next thirty or so seconds, literally everyone at my publisher announced themselves. Then my manger announced himself.

Oh fuck. I thought. I’m in big trouble. I dont’ know what I said or did, but I must have REALLY fucked up.

You’ve seen the title of this post, so you know that I was mistaken. My editor told me he had news. Still Just A Geek is on the bestselling indie bookshop list, and it’s on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction list, AND it’s in the top ten on the combined hardcover and ebook nonfiction list.

OMG

Wait. What?

Yeah, I heard it correctly. Still Just A Geek, one week after publication, is on THREE bestselling lists. OMG.

I thanked everyone for being part of this. It’s a blur, but I think I said something like, “it’s important to me that everyone who can hear my voice right now knows how grateful I am for your support and for everything you’ve done to help me get here. I know this isn’t the first time for you, but it is for me and I just don’t know what else to say or to feel.”

I called Anne and told her. Then I called my sister and told her. Then I texted my TNG family and told them. Then I walked around in a circle for what felt like an hour while I tried to process what this all means. I’m still working on putting it all together.

When I wrote Just A Geek in 2004, I knew it wasn’t ever going to chart, but I still held out hope, you know? Like, maybe if this book charts, it will Prove To Everyone and so forth. So there was this disappointment baked in from the very beginning that was identical to the disappointment I allowed to infect everything I did back then. Feeling like you aren’t ever going to be good enough for your dad will do that to you.

So when I wrote and did all the work for Still Just A Geek, I redefined my expectations, and my conditions for success.

I decided that I woudn’t have any expectations, at all. I just hoped that we would somehow communicate to anyone who would be interested in my story that it existed. I wasn’t going to let sales or reviews define for me whether it was successful or not. Just getting to tell my story was enough for me.

But I’m not gonna lie: I’ve been joyfully walking around for about 18 hours, obnoxiously reminding Anne and Marlowe that they now live with a New York Times bestselling author. I have every intention in the world of signing my friends’ cards and stuff, “New York Times Bestselling Author, Wil.”

This is objectively cool and exciting. It is a big deal. I get to update my bio, and for the rest of my life I get to carry this achievement. I love that, and I love that this means my chances of having another book published went up. But more than anything, I love that this can be amazing, and wonderful, and exciting, and such a beautiful gift, without it affecting how I fundamentally feel about myself or my work. I was already proud of the work, and grateful I was supported while I did it, and I am so incredibly happy that I didn’t need this to happen to get there.

When I turned in the final draft, what feels like forever ago, I wrote myself a note that says, in part, “Whatever is going to happen when this is published has already happened. You just haven’t observed the results. What is important and what matters is everything you did to get here. Don’t fall into the trap of letting someone else’s definition of success affect how you feel about your work. No matter what is in our future, we did something special that nobody can take away from us.”

I am so glad that past me consistently looks out for future me. It’s such good advice! I love that guy.

from the vault: the autumn moon lights my way

In 2005, I blew up my blog and couldn’t fix it. So I started a backup blog at Typepad, where I wrote and published until 2012.

As I’ve been promoting Still Just A Geek, I am more and more aware of this enormous gap in my story that is a significant part of my journey from 2004 me to 2022 me. I’m not sure how or why it got left out; it just sort of … slipped my mind. Brains and memories are weird that way. But I’m discovering that nearly that entire time is well documented (for better and worse) at WWdN:iX.

So I’ve been slowly revisiting that part of my life, as I consider putting together some sort of novella-length … supplement? I don’t know. Something will replace the graphic that says “SOME TIME LATER” between the end of Just A Geek and the beginning of The Big Bang Theory.

I wrote A LOT about my sons, and our relationship, during this five year mission. It’s rewarding and special to look back at those posts, now, knowing everything I know.

So here’s one from September 28, 2005:

the autumn moon lights my way

I heard Led Zeppelin coming out of Ryan’s room, so I put down my Sudoku book (yeah, I’ve been hooked for about a month), walked down the hall, and knocked on his door.

“Come in,” he said.

I opened, and entered his sanctuary: astronomy posters hung from his walls, and a stack of books (Les Miserables, The Count of Monte Cristo, Macbeth, Divine Comedy and a host of other books that your average AP English student with a 4.0 in the class reads*) sat on his desk. A pile of (clean? dirty?) clothes lay in a heap at the foot of his bed. He sat at his desk, looking at The Internets.

He turned around in his chair. “What’s up?” He said.

“Oh, I just heard you listening to Zeppelin II, and I didn’t want to miss a chance to share in something we both love, that I happened to introduce to you in the pre-Pod days.”

“I . . . just wondered what you were doing.” I said.

He got very excited. “Oh! I found this awesome Family Guy Website, and I was downloading audioclips from it, and putting them on my computer.” He clicked a few times, and showed me the website.

“When I was your age, I did the same thing, with The Prisoner and Star Trek,” I said,  “on my Mac II.”

He frowned. “Weren’t you on Star Trek?”

“Yeah,” I said, “but the sounds were from the original series.”

He looked back at me.

“So it was geeky, but it wasn’t totally lame,” I said. Why did I feel like I our ages and roles were reversed?

“What’s The Prisoner?” He said.

“A show that I love, that I don’t think you’re geeky enough to enjoy.”

He clicked his mouse, and iTunes fell silent.

“Wil,” he said, “you didn’t think I’d like Firefly.”

“Touche,” I said with a smile. “Any time you want to watch The Prisoner, I am so there.”

“Actually, any time you want to do anything, I am so there, because I don’t want to be a stranger to you for the next five years, and I’ll close the gap any way I can.”

“Okay,” he said. “Maybe after school some day next week.”

“When –“

“When my homework’s done,” he said. “I know, Wil.”

He wasn’t snotty. He wasn’t rude. He wasn’t impatient or unpleasant. He just . . . was. I saw a lot of myself in him.

“I need to work my a–” he began, “I need to work very hard this semester.”

I nodded my head. “I’m glad you know that, Ryan.”

He turned back around to his computer. I stood in his doorway and looked at him for a minute.

“He may not have my DNA, but I’ve given him some of the things that matter in life,” I thought.

“Ryan?”

He didn’t turn around. “Hmm?”

“I love you.”

“I love you too, Wil.”

“Ramble On, And now’s the time, the time is now, to sing my song.
I’m goin’ ’round the world, I got to find my girl, on my way.
I’ve been this way ten years to the day, Ramble On,
Gotta find the queen of all my dreams.”


*Yes, I’m proud as hell. Sue me.