I've been lucky in my life to have very few people close to me die. But when you lose a family member or close friend, you understand your feelings and that your grief is a normal reaction to such an event. People know, at least to some degree, how to treat you and what your loss feels like.
Today I lost my childhood hero. Robin Williams was and is the inspiration for me to want to make people laugh, to appreciate comedy, and honestly, to do things like write this blog. I don't remember when or in what I first saw him, I just remember seeing a hilarious man who could do the voice of any human on the planet, as well as some aliens. At the time I could do a decent Donald Duck impression, and a spot-on Marvin the Martian, so Robin Williams gave me hundreds of more voices to aspire to.
I don't remember how old I was when I decided I wanted to be like him. The shy little kid had a side that desperately wanted to make people laugh, to be liked and to be recognized as funny. I was the smart and quiet one. I wanted to be the funny one, but I didn't have the confidence outside of my family and close friends.
When Aladdin came out, I instantly became obsessed with the Genie and learned all of his songs - complete with all of the voices. When the fifth grade talent show rolled around, I desperately wanted to get up there and sing "Friend Like Me" with a perfect impression of his voices, but I knew I could never put myself on the spot like that. Kids are cruel, and somehow I knew that even if I got up there and did it perfectly, it wouldn't have the effect I desired - not the way it would if I did the same thing right now. So I just sang along with my tapes alone at home, thinking someday I could show everyone how good I was.
People were always asking us little kids what we wanted to do when we grew up. Granted, I went through periods where I wanted to go dig up mummies or design houses, but for most of my life (and secretly to this day) I wanted to be in comedy. I didn't ever just reply with "actress," or even "comedian" when asked - I specifically said "I want to be Robin Williams." I didn't want to just do normal movies, or do stand up, I wanted to play crazy characters with accents and voices and hilarious backstories. I wanted everything I said to be hilarious. Even once I moved on to slightly more obtainable goals, I still followed Robin Williams in whatever he did.
To grieve for a person you never met is an odd feeling. You feel like you don't have the right to really be that upset, that just because I didn't have a personal relationship with this person that my grief is somehow silly or unfounded. But to someone who has been your hero - your FIRST hero - and shaped your life as much as Robin Williams has shaped mine, you feel like you know them. I feel like he was a funny uncle, as though if we met he'd give me a big hug and smile with his smiley eyes that made him so likeable.
The circumstances of his death are what makes it so much worse. Knowing how he felt in his final hours, and in the months and weeks leading up to them, is heartbreaking. I have suffered with depression for more than 14 years. While I was only diagnosed when I went away to college, I recognize I had it in high school when I look back. It is painful, debilitating and so misunderstood. Waking up in the morning only to remember where you are and how you feel, reminding you that life just doesn't seem worth living - it's dreadful. And what's worse is that no one understands that you physically cannot get out of your bed, eat, shower or walk down the street to the grocery store.
Remembering those times, which have happened sporadically in the past few years, it fills me with pain to know other people are experiencing the same thing. People who, unlike me, had millions of people who loved them, enough money to live comfortably and a career that they loved and cherished. To "know" you have these things but be completely incapable of appreciating them because of depression is devastating. And to be so convinced you'll never get better that you end it is even worse. While I have never seriously contemplated suicide, there were days when I really just didn't want to be alive anymore.
I hope there were times when he was able to understand that there were people like me out there whose lives he touched and who loved him so much without ever meeting him. I hope he knew how happy he made people.
In college, I got the amazing chance to see him do stand up live at Bass Concert Hall in Austin. I went with my parents and my college boyfriend. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, like when parents talk about going to see the Beatles. He was my Beatles.
He was my inspiration in my hardest years as a kid, and I credit him for helping me come out of my shell a bit and be a little funny. He's why I go to stand up shows instead of concerts. He's why, when asked what my actual dream job would be, I still say a cast member on SNL. He is honestly part of why I'm me, why I have the sense of humor I do and have embraced ridiculousness. He's why I use humor to diffuse uncomfortable situations, and he's why I try not to take life too seriously.
Rest in peace, old friend. I hope that I turned out to be a person you would've liked, someone who maybe could have made you laugh. Part of me will always be you.