Friday, August 15, 2014

Robin Williams, Suicide and Painful Memories

This isn't going to be one of those funny posts.  I'm usually in a laughing mood.  I tend to make a joke out of a bad situation in order to cope with it.  Sadness makes me uncomfortable.  But sometimes it's unavoidable and that's life.  Today I'm just going to give my thoughts on a tragic event that happened recently, Robin Williams' suicide.  It's an event that affected me a lot more than I thought it would and, like most people, really got me shook up.  I'm not here trying to start a debate on suicide.  I'm not gonna get sucked into an argument in which there is no clear winner.  I'm just here to give some perspective on a subject that's very personal to me.  Everyone has their opinion on suicide; I'll try to keep mines to myself.  I don't know if what I'm saying makes coherent sense.  I'm not sure if I really care.  I'm not even checking for grammatical errors.  (Although I'm usually not very good at grammar when I try.)  I'm really just trying to grab my bearings the best way I know how.  Maybe you'll learn something about me.  But that's not really my aim.  I just want to write until my soul hurts a little less.  If I make any jokes during this post just know that I'm not being insensitive on purpose.  I do it as a therapy to myself.  I do it to give myself a break from the tough subject I'm writing about.

So on the 11th of August my co-worker Obi tells me that Robin Williams is dead.  I immediately think it's a hoax.  They once announced Jeff Goldblum had died and that turned out to be false.  But lo and behold I get confirmation from the internet that the beloved actor and comedian is dead.  Not only that, but he hung himself.  This hit me like an RV (reference to a bad movie he made) for two reasons.  One, it's Robin Williams.  People die all the time.  Celebrities die all the time.  The world moves on or doesn't depending on how much that particular person.  I'm not saying that I value one person's life over another but if a person has made a big impact on your life it's going to hit you more than someone who had a smaller impact on your life.  That's just the truth.  Robin Williams was an amazing actor who starred in amazing movies and performed brilliantly.  His latest movies had been duds but naturally happens with most actors who are in the game as long as Robin Williams was.  But in his peak he put out some amazing work.  Good Morning, Vietnam was a classic.  Dead Poets Society had a profound effect on me.  Not a lot of movies can move people.  Dead Poets Society was a movie that could move people.  And no one on earth could have played Keating the way Robin Williams did.  That's just an opinionated fact.

Didn't like Hook.  Aladdin is one of my favorite films of all time.  It was a movie I saw many times growing up.  Again, no one could have played Genie the way Robin Williams could.  Without Robin Williams it wouldn't be the same movie.  It would be one step above Oliver & Company.  (Note: I actually like Oliver but let's face it, it's not in Disney's Hall of Fame.)  Mrs. Doubtfire was both touching and funny, something that couldn't be done without Robin Williams.  I owned Jumanji on VHS and I can't even count how many times I saw that movie.  Saw the first half of Flubber on cable.  I liked what I saw but never got around to the rest of it.  Bicentennial Man was underrated.  And anything I could say about Good Will Hunting or Robin Williams' performance as Sean McGuire would be the biggest understatement in world history.  And that's not all Robin Williams did.  The point is that there was no one like him and there never will be.  My grandma loved Robin Williams and she doesn't really even understand English.  I don't know if that makes a point but I just wanted to rattle off a fun fact.

The second reason this death hit me so hard was the fact that it was a suicide.  It's hard to imagine that someone so full of life would take their own.  You don't expect it.  You don't look at someone and think that person is going to kill themselves.  But this happens.  And it happens for a variety of reasons.  The reasons don't matter.  Someone died.  It's sad and it's tragic.  That's that.  Anyone who knows me well enough knows why suicide is such a touchy subject to me.  Suicide is already a touchy subject in general, but I've had to deal with it in my lifetime.  When I was in elementary school I went to class with a kid named Anthony.  He was a good friend of mine.  He was always so vibrant and full of life.  He was different.  That's what I liked about him.  Everyone at my school tried to act a certain way.  That's basically every school.  Anthony didn't care.  This kid was smart and for some reason being smart wasn't considered cool in my school.  It just got you bullied.  Anthony didn't seem to care that him being smart and him being different didn't make him cool in everyone's eyes.  I remember once for spirit week he made his own costume and showed up as Captain Underpants.  Yes, that's right.  From the book.  I thought this was the most amazing thing in the world.  You don't think people like this are going to commit suicide.  But then they do.

We had a camping field trip coming up in 6th grade.  I remember the last time I talked to him he was telling me about ticks or bugs that could bite you when you go camping.  The next morning I wake up like every other morning.  I push my dog, Toby, off me and get ready for school and head downstairs.  I see my mom is on the phone and she has this look on her face.  There's an atmosphere in the room that could only be compared to the atmosphere in that room when we were watching 9/11 unfold on TV.  My mom hangs up and walks over to me.  She embraces me and holds me tight.  I know bad news is coming.  And I know it's going to be really bad.  All she says is, "One of your classmates is dead."  Everything fell apart there.  Immediately I start sobbing uncontrollably.  For some reason I know who it is.  I don't know how i knew, but I did.  I'll never be able to explain it.  I'll never bother to try.  My parents decided to come to school with me.  They set up two meetings at school, one for the parents and one for the students.  They tell us that Anthony is dead.  They don't really bother to tell us anything else.  I'm done crying at that point.  I'm in public and for some reason my pride came before anything else at the point.  I hear from teachers that he had an accident tying knots (Anthony was a boy scout and proud of it)  and accidentally hung himself.  That's just a gentle way of telling us he committed suicide.  All the students talk about why it happened, everyone feels responsible for it.  I felt like I should have seen it coming if I was such a good friend.  People made RIP shirts with his picture on it.  People talked about how great he was, even when they knew they were the same people who made fun of him.  I'm not going to say their responsible for his death.  Who really knows why except Anthony and God?  But that's just what happened.

I didn't go to Anthony's wake or funeral.  Death makes me feel uncomfortable and at the time I wasn't ready to face the reality.  I battled depression for a while after that and even considered suicide at one point.  I never planned it out and I never did it.  I thought about the affect it had on me and the affect my suicide would have on my loved ones.  I'm not making a comment on whether that was a result of courage or cowardice.  He made a decision and I made another.  Let's leave it at that.  At my 8th grade graduation my class sang "I'll Be Missing You" by Diddy (P. Diddy at the time) in tribute to our lost friend.  I had the honor of announcing the song at the graduation ceremony.  (Note: the school wanted us to change the lyrics so that the song wouldn't be about Biggie Smalls.  We ended singing the original version anyway.)  After that I spent the years battling depression.  I always believed that Anthony was comfortable with who he was.  Whether that was true or not I was just trying to discover who I was.  When I was finally able to find closure was about the same time I started to feel comfortable in my own skin.  I don't battle with depression anymore and when I think about Anthony I tend to be more smiles than tears.  But sometimes the tears do come back.  That's natural.  And that's what happened when I heard about Robin Williams death.

But the point of this is not to sulk about important people you have lost.  Nor is it to incite a debate.  The point is just to cherish the people you love and to celebrate their life when they are gone.  It doesn't matter at the end why Robin Williams or Anthony committed suicide.  They did.  They were both tragic when they happened.  But we celebrate their lives and what they gave us.  You don't look at a loved one and think that they are going to kill themselves.  You just love them as much as you can.  I don't know if anything I've written makes sense to anyone and frankly I don't give a shit.  I feel a little better.  Go home and tell your family you love them.  Not because it might be the last time you see them or some stupid shit, but because you do love them.  Just appreciate life while it's still here and stay Guapo out there.

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