I’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.