RIP Robin Williams

dead-poets-society-04I’d like to tell you all a story.  In the summer of 1989, I had just finished my first year of college.  I was going to the local JC, and I had taken some general ed classes across the board, but it was getting to be time to declare a major.  I was about the transfer to the university where I now work, and I had thoughts of going into teaching.  Both of my parents were in education–my mom was a classroom aide at a grade school, and my dad was a college professor teaching intro-level management.  It seemed logical to go into that field.

All of the advice that I was getting was to major in math.  There aren’t many female math teachers, you see, and so everyone was telling me to major in math so that I could “write my own ticket”.  I didn’t like math, wasn’t good at math, didn’t want to major in math, but really didn’t have any other ideas.  And the pressure I was getting was pretty strong.  I was on the verge of enrolling in a bunch of math classes my second year and declaring for math.  But something happened to change all that.

On the Fourth of July, my mom and I went to the movie theater and saw Dead Poets Society.

I was absolutely blown away.  In the final scene, when Todd stands on his desk and says “O Captain!  My Captain!” I cheered out loud in the theater (embarrassing the heck out of my mom).  While I’d been a lifelong reader, I suddenly understood–really UNDERSTOOD–the power of words and the wonder of the English language.  I walked out of that theater with the resolution to major in English.  And I did.  And although I never went into teaching, I don’t regret that decision for one moment.

One thing I wanted to do in life was to meet Robin Williams, tell him how much that role touched me, and thank him for it.  I never got that chance.  And now I never will.  But the good Mr. Williams will always be one of my heroes, for making me laugh, for making me cry, for making me see the world in ways I never would have if not for his benign influence.  The world is truly poorer tonight.

To all of my readers: if you are feeling like hurting yourself, please know that there are people who love you and don’t want to lose you.  Reach out to family, to friends, to a doctor, to a local hotline… anybody you can.  Don’t take your light out of the world.