Robin Williams: Nostalgia is a Powerful Thing
I was sitting at my desk a couple of days ago, twenty-five years old, reading and editing a chapter of the novel I’m currently jacking around with, and my wife sends me a text that said “…Robin Williams?!?!?! [insert eleven crying emojis]”.
I replied, “What?”, as in what-are-you-talking-about, and she texted back, “Google his name.”
Five minutes later I posted a Facebook status that simply said, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.”
Everyone knew what I was talking about. I still thought it was a hoax, so I checked all the major news sources I could think of. They were all reporting on it already. Robin Williams is gone.
Note: Celebrity deaths have never really tugged on my heart-strings before. Okay, I lied. Steve Irwin got me a little. Ryan Dunn just a tad because I watched CKY and Jackass a lot growing up. Chris Farley is another one. Can’t forget George Carlin. Philip Seymour Hoffman for sure. Then there’s the ones I didn’t really come to appreciate until later, such as Bill Hicks, Layne Staley, Mitch Hedberg, John Lennon, Freddie Mercury, etc.
But Robin Williams’ passing was strangely different to me, as it was to a lot of people my age. I can still see myself at my parents’ house, sitting on the couch, watching Mrs. Doubtfire over and over again, like it was yesterday. Same goes for his other movies like Hook, Aladdin, and Jumanji (oh God, Jumanji rules!). Later on, I discovered Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting, two amazingly awesome movies that I’ll probably be watching again very soon. I can’t remember if Dead Poets Society is what got me interested in poetry or not, but it definitely didn’t hurt.
Anyway, upon hearing that Robin Williams died, all I could think was that it was a hoax. It had to be, right? But it wasn’t. Robin Williams is dead. People are still flipping shit on Facebook and all over the internet days later. It’s a big deal to some of us. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.
Why? I keep seeing people asking what the big deal is. “You didn’t know the guy. He didn’t even know you existed.” The answer: because we literally grew up with this guy on our TV sets. For a while he was the closest thing I had to a real movie-star-hero. I wanted to be Robin Williams when I was growing up. Shit, I still do. So genuine. And then you find out he had been battling with severe depression for a long time. It’s hard to understand if you didn’t grow up on his movies like some people did. I’ve seen it described by some people online as a “punch right in the childhood”. Ow.
How could someone so genuinely nice and funny be so sad and depressed when he’s alone? Unfortunately, depression doesn’t care who you are. When it hits you, there’s nothing you can do about it other than seek help. I’m not going to sit here and lecture anyone on addiction, depression, and suicide. I’m not going to post the hotline number and tell you to call if you need help, because if you’re truly in a bad situation, you probably don’t care anyway. The people we should really be reaching out to are the friends of the depressed, the friends and family of the ones in trouble. Take an interest if you see somebody struggling. Be there for them, and make sure they know that you are. If it can happen to Robin Williams of all people, it can happen to anyone. We as humans are fragile beings. It really doesn’t take much to push us over the edge. Keep an eye out for your fellow humans. Know that there’s always someone you can talk to about anything that might be troubling you. Your problems are temporary, but death is permanent. Remember that.