We now live in a world without Robin Williams.
The common expression is that “you never really know what you have until its gone,” but I don’t think I ever contemplated living in a world without Robin Williams. Of course the one inevitability of life is that it will end, but some people just seem immortal and when a man like Robin Williams dies, particularly in a way like this, I can’t just stay quiet.
Robin Williams was one of the first people to show me that weird people had a place in the world. He, along with Jim Carrey, were absolutely insane and in their insanity they found hilarity and we were all lucky enough to pay witness to it. The man was a hero to me and millions of other little kids that felt like they didn’t belong. To me, Robin Williams was proof there was a light at the end of the tunnel through all the lonely nights and torment at the hands of bullies.
As I grew older, I eventually began to appreciate the man’s more adult oriented fare such as The Birdcage, The Fisher King, Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, One Hour Photo, Insomnia, and particularly Good Will Hunting.
While it isn’t a perfect movie, Good Will Hunting is an incredibly special movie to me. I revisit it every once in a while, usually during any given time I am feeling especially depressed or angry. The reason being for the talks between Matt Damon’s titular Will Hunting and Williams’ Dr. Sean Maguire. I first saw this movie when I was in middle school which was a particularly unpleasant time in my life. I was bullied and as a result I was also very angry which lead me to lash out at people that could have been potential friends. Cut to me watching this movie, and finding a friend albeit a voice that spoke to me at the time. The talks between these two characters range from never judging a book by its cover…
To seizing moments and never giving into regret…
…and while I love those scenes, it is one of the scenes that comes later that absolutely destroyed me. For a good few years, I suffered abuse walking home from school and while it isn’t parental abuse like Hunting suffered it still left a pretty big emotional scar that still bothers me to this day. I didn’t know why these kids beat the shit out of me to this day, and when I was younger I thought it was because something I did. What was wrong with me? Why were they against me? What did I do? I had never considered that it had nothing to do with me.
I still get uncomfortable watching this scene because it takes me right back to this place. Confused why I was being bullied. Confused why girls didn’t like me. Confused about the future and angry at my lack of control of anything. In other words, your typical middle schooler. Who better to deliver the words “It’s not your fault” than Robin Williams? The man who showed me that being an outsider is okay and he did so at first by being funny.
And like many funny people, he suffered throughout his life. Funny people tend to be the most depressed in my experience and the amount of comedians we’ve lost to depression and drug abuse are high enough to support it. I am but no means a psychiatrist but I think I know a thing or two about depression and the suicidal thoughts that accompanies it. It’s like the world’s worst roller coaster. One day you may feel absolutely nothing as you contemplate the utter pointlessness of life and another day you may feel constricted by an insufferable anxiety attack that stemmed from nothing. A lot of times, when you feel completely beaten by it, you see suicide as the only option if only to escape the voice saying, “The world will be a better place without you.” I do not know the circumstances that led Mr. Williams to taking his own life. Regardless this still hurts. This hurts a lot. Seeing a hero of yours fall to something you deal with on an almost daily basis takes a toll on you emotionally.
I take solace in the fact that the laughter and tears Mr. Williams delivered throughout his life will live on through his films, television work and stand-up specials. Because of this the future generations of weird kids (and odd adults like myself) will never forget the man that always seemed turned up to 11.
I think comedian Paul F. Tompkins said it best:
“There will be much celebration, in the coming weeks and months, of Robin Williams’ life and career. But perhaps the best tribute to him would be if we all reached out to the troubled people in our lives and let them know that we are here for them. Because Robin Williams was there for us.”