As writers, we are also artists: creating worlds, inspiring feelings, and even teaching using our talents. One week ago, one such creative light went out in the world when Robin Williams passed away.
There were all sorts of controversies sparked by his passing, and if you want my opinions on those, feel free to check out this post on my blog. But today's post here will be something a little bit different.
You see, Robin Williams holds a special place in my heart. I kind of feel like I grew up with him; his movies seemed to always come at times in my life when I needed the specific messages they offered. And because of that, I’ve always felt almost like he was a mentor, and a friend.
When I was just a kid, Aladdin was a favorite movie in our house. We watched it time and time again, giggling at the genie's outrageous and hilarious antics. When I was in middle school our choir did a special musical production of songs from Aladdin, and my best friend Becky played the part of the genie. She was just as goofy and over the top as the genie, giving every one of his lines with the same impeccable comic timing that Robin Williams had.
Back in June my own little girl was in a stage production of Aladdin with her performing arts studio, and it brought back so many fond memories for me.
I saw Mrs. Doubtfire when I was 12, and my parents were in the middle of a messy divorce. The movie so closely mirrored my life that it was almost eerie (minus my dad dressing in drag). Sally Field looked and acted so much like my spunky mom, and Robin Williams was just like my goofy, carefree dad, and my brother and little sister and I were caught in the middle. I remember almost holding my breath wondering if such a story could possibly have a happy ending; and knowing that if it did, perhaps our story could also.
That movie gave me hope that things would work out, that life would go on, and that my family could still be a family, even if we were in two pieces. It also made me laugh at a time in my life when I desperately needed to.
When I was sixteen I saw What Dreams May Come in the movie theater. I remember thinking it was such a beautiful movie, and such an intriguing perspective on life after death.
One week after I saw it, one of my classmates was killed in a tragic car accident.
I remember returning with my friends to the movie theater to watch it again. It was the only thing that could distract us from our grief while allowing us to still hold on to it the way we needed to in order to heal. It helped us to work through our tumultuous raw emotions and face the idea of death head-on in the safety of a darkened theater, with a loveable Robin Williams- someone we were all already very familiar with- as our guide. It helped us to talk about things that were difficult to put into words, and to imagine our friend happy, vibrant, and full of life once more.
Patch Adams came out during my college years, and it taught me that, as I was making my way into the professional world, I didn't necessarily have to do things the same way everyone else was doing them. I could think outside the box and be my own person and make my own mark on the world. It was okay to break the rules sometimes.
I remember shocking so many people by getting married in the summer between my junior and senior year (they all thought I should wait until after I graduated) and then using my debate class as a platform to argue for the benefits of marriage in a world that seemed to by shying away from serious commitment.
Patch Adams also taught me that humanity is sometimes more important that sanity, and I tried to make sure I always had just enough crazy in my life to keep it interesting.
Robin Williams was a remarkably talented actor, comedian, and a good human being. And to me, he always felt like a friend. He was just always there, with me as I was growing up, and I feel like I lost him too soon.
Mr. Williams, thank you for making me laugh, for helping me through the tough times, and for teaching me some valuable life lessons. You will be missed.