What Robin Williams (and his passing) Meant To Twentysomethings
One of my very first memories in life is not of a school trip or a new pet – but of watching Mork and Mindy with my parents. I don’t remember the year, or the room, or the episode even – I just remember the images on the screen, the pixels and the laugh tracks. I wanted to like Mindy the best – she was the girl, after all – but there was so comforting, so endearing about Mork. His smile. His walk. His eyes.
I’ve never been deeply devastated over a “celebrity’s” death until today, and I’m fairly certain most 20 and 30somethings feel the same. It’s not just an icon or a talent we’ve lost, it’s more like we’ve lost a part of our childhood.
After Mork and Mindy, Robin Williams seemed to pop up everywhere in my life. Two of my most loved movies as a kid, Aladdin and Fern Gully; he was there. It was that same voice, that same humor, the same source of comfort and kindness. Jumanji came out when I was nine, one of my very favorite books brought to life. And even though the movie frightened me, and I thought maybe I shouldn’t be so frightened because I was a mature adult (ha), it was okay, because there he was, such sincerity, a sign everything would be okay in the end. Something in his voice. His smile. His eyes.
I’ve never been super tied to a movie star, never been the kind of person to rush to a movie because someone is starring in it. But upon reflection, Robin Williams was pretty close to whatever that looks like for me. Robin Williams was a through line, he was a constant, he was safety. Click To Tweet I knew when I would see him I would get all of him. Every nuance, every emotion, every honest impulse. My life kept looking different but every time I’d see him on a screen or hear his voice behind a character, he was always the same. I loved that he was funny but not cynical, he was brutally honest but always kind.
As I grew and evolved, the films of his that I was introduced to seem to grow and evolve alongside me – or at least when I saw them, they came into my life at the right times. I watched Hook for the first time in high school with one of my closest friends. After a couple years she and I started to grow in separate directions, but the love of this movie brought us back. We’d recite lines or watch snippets and everything would be okay in the end. College brought Dead Poet’s Society into my life and I was enamoured; it was lended to me (on VHS) by one of the only people I felt I could be truly honest with at the time. I cried a lot and doubted myself tons throughout those years. Still, I kept moving forward. It was a time in which I let my darkness take the wheel and nothing felt secure. But when I’d watch Robin Williams on my hand-me-down television screen, that sincerity, it was still there, reminding me it’s okay to feel the darkness as long as you can still see the light.
Just a couple years ago, I was introduced to Good Will Hunting for the very first time. I was finally becoming the person I’d known I was meant to be all along, becoming fully self-expressed because I was too joyously overflowing with Self to be anything else. And even though this film looked different than the rest and hit me in a very different way, there he was – that smile. Those eyes. Teaching me about the little nooks and crannies in my psyche and soul in the most comforting way that only he could do. Of course there were others – Mrs. Doubtfire, The Birdcage, Jack, Popeye, Good Morning Vietnam, etc – but this one took the cake in my eyes. It reached me at the exact point in my life I needed it most, and when I was most ready to receive it.
For the people in my age bracket, we’ve not just lost an actor or celebrity – we’ve lost a reminder of who we are. We’ve lost one of our touchstones, one glimpse of the fact that yes, as our lives change and spin around, there are still things that stay consistent. Maybe his passing is a nudge telling us we’re ready to go at it alone. But man, it would sure help to have that smile along the way, those eyes that were always so honest, so kind.
I’m not your average creative in that I rarely admire people based on their talent or celebrity. When I was acting on the reg’, I didn’t look up to actors because they were actors, and now, I don’t look up to leaders in my industry because of their knowledge. My idols and heroes have never been the ones with the most impressive resume or the best chops (sometimes it just works out that way, but that’s never the foundation). I don't admire people because they are stars, I admire people because they Are. Click To Tweet The ones who are so authentic you can feel it, even if you don’t even know what you are feeling, the ones who are not afraid of themselves or are afraid but do it anyway, because this is all there is and this is all they are, those are the people I strive to be like in my own life.
Robin Williams knew there was a light. You could see it in his eyes. Even in the midst of his darkness, even through the sadness you could just tell that he knew somewhere there was a light. That knowing was consistent and it was pure. And while of course he was an incredible talent, I believe he was so well-loved because he brought that belief with him into every role, every scenario, every part of him was always fully present and never hidden. Every time you would see him, he would be fighting for that light and quietly, gently, be urging you to do the same.
Oh Robin. I so hope you found it.