A year ago I was sitting in a windowless room with four other people staring at a computer in a bored daze when one of my coworkers announced "Robin Williams is dead."
I refused to believe it so immediately I began my own internet search for news articles, which had just begun popping up without having a complete story to report. I read all of them. Things became more clear, the press started getting more information, and I had to suddenly come to grips with the fact that my lifelong idol had taken his own life.
About an hour later, it was reasonable to believe someone was leaving for lunch, so I silently picked up my things and left. I drove home from Century City over the hills back to Sherman Oaks, and as I began the descent with the view of the Valley in front of me, something came on the radio that just made me lose it. I don't remember what it was. I got home and just cried.
I ended up emailing my boss and saying I had family issues which was why I left, because who's going to actually believe someone needs to go home when they find out a celebrity has died? I couldn't cry in public, and I took the next day off too.
My love for Robin Williams can be summed up in the post I wrote once I put myself together enough to form complete sentences (When You Lose Your Hero). I could rewrite the same thing over and over, or I could show how my life has changed because of that day.
Last year, I had graduated from USC with a master's in PR, expecting to get a job in marketing or communications. I had been unemployed for over two months while applying to (literally) over 100 jobs in multiple locations on the West Coast. I was lonely, miserable, completely broke, and finally ended up taking a temp legal job that had started the week before this happened solely to make ends meet.
I began questioning what I really wanted to do with my life. I had wanted to be on Saturday Night Live ever since I was way too young to be watching it, and my only creative outlet was this blog. I'd been so miserable for the past few months that I couldn't even find anything funny to write about. I knew something needed to change. I considered going to Korea to teach English, which was my way of running to a fantasy world I saw in Kdramas and where I didn't have the same problems I had at home. I'd move there and become someone else. Or I could stay here and become the real me.
By Christmas, I had decided to start taking improv classes at Second City, a place I'd heard about since my youth which was basically the "breeding ground" for all of SNL's most beloved - Aykroyd, Belushi, Gilda Radner, Martin Short, Chris Farley, Mike Meyers, Tina Fey - the list is as long as this post. It'd always been something I wanted to try, but I never really thought of actually doing it until last year.
Now, eight months later I just finished my first class in the Second City Conservatory, a program that you have to audition to get into, and am so much happier than I was. Not only have I found something I love to do, but I found a place I can be myself - every last weird face, noise, curse word or unicorn reference I have in me. And I've found there are people like me in the same way. We're like the Island of Misfit Toys, and we're all perfect for one another. My mom calls it "group therapy" because I'm always so happy on the days I go to improv class.
I also just took the California bar exam, but not for the reason one might think. I didn't "re-find my passion for the law," I just realized that my passion (improv) requires money and the best way to make it was doing something I was already experienced in and qualified to do. So instead of a $40k marketing job, I need a decent-paying legal job that can fund my interests, unless (or until) my interests can fund themselves.
Last December I got a frighteningly gigantic tattoo that I had wanted ever since Robin died. A quote I'd seen in many of the tributes to him - "You're only given a little spark of madness. You musn't lose it." I was given that madness, and I hadn't used it in years. He had sparked it in me as a child, and I knew I had to step up to the plate and turn my life into what I had always wanted for myself. Even though I had figured out I wanted the tattoo shortly after he died, I knew I couldn't get it before I was ready or I'd cry through the whole thing. One night in December as I drove home, I just stopped in to the tattoo shop I'd researched, alone, and had it done. A couple of the artists talked about him when they walked by and saw what I was getting. The big, burly guy getting something added to his body of art (literally) even wanted to see it. The whole place kinda changed tone for a second as I looked at the finished product. It appeared that Robin Williams really did touch everyone in some way.
Sometimes it takes a tragedy for you to realize what's important. A job is a job, and it's there to make money - if you love it, great, you're lucky - but if you don't, you can still do what you want to do and find a job that can provide the resources to continue to follow your dream. I couldn't let what Robin had made me dream of doing just fall away in the background while I tried to look for meaning in a "real job." I realigned my priorities and, despite still being broke, I'm happier than I have been in years. I belong to something. I'm finally being me.