Remembering Robin: how a man I didn’t know changed my life
“You’ll have bad times, but it’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to.” ~ Good Will Hunting
Robin was the single most important and influential actor and comedian in my life. There never has been another person who made me laugh and cry as much as he has. I could go on for days talking about my favorite of his movies and his stand up acts – about how awesome each of them were, but for me, the Robin that will always be in my heart of hearts, is the teacher from Dead Poets Society.
“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” ~ Dead Poets Society
Although I was born and raised in Canada, English was always a second language for me. So much so, that I had to take ESL courses while in school. And thus language was never a focus for me – but the maths, and specifically engineering, I believed were my life’s calling. It was not until I was 17, and in my Wrtier’s Craft course when I studied deeply, Dead Poets Society, had I learned the power of words and poetry. And that it was OK to read, to write – in fact, it could even be beautiful. And it was!
“And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” ~ Dead Poets Society
And Robin’s performance solely won my heart. It was after watching this movie, at least 10 times that year, that I started embracing both writing and reading.
Life takes some interesting turns. Although I studied Engineering at the University of Waterloo, I had quickly discovered that although I was adept at the maths and sciences, my heart just wasn’t in it. And when the tough time came for a young Asian kid to decide to leave Engineering to pursue the Arts, it was Robin’s words that stayed with me. And ironically, and perhaps unsurprisingly in retrospect, I continued and finished my studies in Writing.
The quote above was on my resume footer for many years, and was also in my email signature for many more.
Robin has always been there for me. He was there for me when I wasn’t sure of which direction I was heading in life. He was there for me through sorrow and depression. He was certainly there through rolling all over the floor laughing bouts. And he will always be.
“To live would be an awfully big adventure.” ~ Hook
Last night, upon hearing about Robin’s passing, I stayed up watching some of his stand-up shows – and fighting through jetlag and sleep deprivation while laughing and crying myself awake.
I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Robin Williams – nor the privilege of attending any of his shows. I always thought I could just catch him live the next time he hits town. Sadly, I’ll have to relive his wonderful moments forever through digital media. I never thought a celebrity’s passing would affect me so deeply – but today has been a very difficult day. I’ve lost a teacher, a friend, and a grandpa/grandma – all in one day.
“It’s a dream baby, it’s a beautiful one, but you know dreams…” ~ What Dreams May Come
There are not enough words to bid Robin farewell. Do I lead with “Oh Captain, My Captain?” or “Good Morning, Vietnam!”? … I think his daughter, Zelda, does it best by not bidding adieu, but instead, always looking up…
“You – you alone will have the stars as no one else has them… In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night… You – only you – will have stars that can laugh.’ I love you. I miss you. I’ll try to keep looking up.” ~ Zelda Williams paying tribute to her father, quoting Antoine De Saint Exupery
Cheers to you, Genie, you’re free.