Robin Williams

My dad says something like, “Every 100 years or so, the world goes completely berserk”.

Think about it: Iraq, Gaza, Ferguson, Tea Party, government shutdown, Syria, airplane tragedies, Washington mudslides and forest fires, Ebola outbreak, Hawaii hurricanes…This is all fairly recent stuff, but I could probably go on for awhile.RW

But I’m most deeply heartbroken by the passing of Robin Williams. Not only that he died, but the fact that it was a suicide. Those are always the types of deaths that cut the deepest, especially with those as exquisitely talented as he was. I could understand old age, natural causes, a freak accident even. But a suicide? Oh my god, my heart has collapsed at the mere thought. For a man I never met, the impact of his life, and now his death, has been so profound. But that’s what’s so strange about celebrity, isn’t it? – The ability to touch the lives of those you’ve never even met. I always knew this day would come but not this year, not now.

To those who knew him and loved him personally, I cannot even imagine what they are going through. Here I am a microcosm of a microcosm of society and I feel this undeniable, superficial emotional pain. It must hurt 100-fold for them. And there’s nothing that can be said to alleviate the pain to something that doesn’t seem real, that’s nightmarish in a very frightening way, mostly due to the fact that it is reality.

This past April, another one of my favorite comedians died – John Pinette. Only 50. And I felt so upset. Again, almost like I knew him. I had seen him do standup at the Wellmont only a few months before. Pinette was no stranger to health problems (his whole act based on food and struggling with weight), but when I saw him on stage he looked so great! The best he’s ever looked. It was unbelievable to me that he died of a pulmonary embolism, though it was probably caused by his unhealthy eating habits over the course of his life.

I think there’s a dark side to any funny person. I suppose it goes to show that money, fame, and success are never enough to sustain one’s demons forever. I’m sure it was difficult for Williams to top his best work. It is for any great artist. I mean once you’ve made it, it’s gotta be difficult to stay up there. Sometimes that captivating dynamism we fall in love with as an audience transforms into an all too silent void when the door closes and they find themselves alone with only their thoughts. One can get lost in a bottomless pit of emotional oblivion there.

The fall semester of my sophomore year of college, two days a week, I had 3 classes back-to-back-to-back. When I finally got let out for lunch I’d buy a sandwich, a bag of chips, and a soda. I’d hurry back to my dorm and spend my lunch hour watching comedy specials illegally uploaded on YouTube – namely those by Kathy Griffin and Robin Williams. I’d laugh away my afternoon and get out of academia for awhile. It became a ritual for the rest of the year.

The day before Robin Williams killed himself, I had convinced my brother to help me set up the VHS player in our living room. We chose to watch Aladdin and cracked up all the while. A few hours before it was announced, we had found and watched a home recording of an episode of Star Trek Voyager called “Death Wish” about an omnipotent, immortal being wanting to commit suicide. The timing of the news report was eerie. My brother said he saw it on Twitter. I immediately refused to believe it. It was a hoax – had to be. But as I saw the mainstream sources of Entertainment Weekly, NBC, BBC, and CNN trickling in, my heart sank into my stomach.

So yeah, you can go on about how God needed another angel or how heaven needed more laughter. But to those who don’t subscribe to the Judeo-Christian denotations, I prefer to think that this is how new talent is brought forth. I know that sounds harsh and possibly nonsensical. But honestly, it’s the only way I can justify it in my mind. Because as Life shows us time and time again, with death comes rebirth. We always reject it at first and get angry about it, but maybe there is someone new waiting in the wings. He or she can never replace Williams (or Pinette) but maybe will help us laugh in new ways, ways that would not have been noticed or appreciated if Williams were still alive.

I know. I hate it too. It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. But you know what? At the end of the day, the only thing we can do is to celebrate his life by remembering his love, vitality, and unparalleled sense of humor. There will never be another Robin Williams.

Never.

Thoughts On Graduate School

The concept of graduate school always makes me heated.  Anytime somebody brings it up in conversation I almost always find myself immersed in a passionate debate.  Despite my own insecure feelings about my own future at times, I think it just ticks me off because so I see so many people wasting their time with it.  Graduate school seems to have become a plan B for those who find themselves on a dead end street; It’s become a failsafe for a twenty-something who finds him/herself stuck in a directionless life.  But why has it become a failsafe? It didn’t always used to be that way.  Welcome to the 21st century, where graduate school has transformed from a place of high, scholarly pursuits to a cop out; A place to waste more time, borrow more loans with high interest rates while falling further into debt, spend three paychecks on books you’ll sell back for 25 cents each, and to sit in a classroom like you’ve been doing your whole goddamn life so you can get another overpriced, shiny piece of paper with a stamp, a seal, and some signatures.  What bullshit.

Now if you are going to grad school for something you love, something you believe in and are passionate about, my little blog post does not not apply to you.  …And if you fully believe in your quest for knowledge for whatever field you’re in, you should know that and know that my words are not speaking to you in the least.  Grad school can be GREAT when you know you’re on your path.  In fact I encourage you to pursue your bliss and reach for the stars!  Enjoy, soak up that knowledge like a sponge, and come out of there as a PRO.

The thing is higher education in general has gone to the dogs.  Probably because it has become the societal norm to attend college.  There are too many people enrolled in colleges and universities who frankly don’t belong there and classroom environments suffer because of it.  Aside from the fact that no one can live on minimum wage, it’s extremely difficult to accomplish anything in life without a college degree…or so we’re told.  The drop out geniuses do show themselves and the fruits of labor every once in awhile (i.e. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, etc).  College can prove to be a great experience but in all honesty, not all minds are wired to march to the beat of the intellectual drum.  Many do not do well within an academic context.  And that’s OKAY.  Or at least it should be.  Yet why does society say otherwise?  Don’t have enough money?  “Here, take out $30,000+ loan per year with 7%+ interest for 4 years.  Don’t worry.  That job you’ll get or that thing you’ll invent while you’re smoking hash in your garage will get you so filthy rich, they’ll be wheelbarrowing your money to your front door.  You’ll pay that off in no time.  You’re a smart kid.”  Don’t have a computer or books?  “Use your loan to pay for it.  Yeah, don’t worry about it.  By the time you have to make payments you’ll be working at some corporate office counting your stacks like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.”  Scholarships?  “What’s that?  Didn’t hear you.” THIS IS THE SYSTEM WE NOW LIVE IN. WHY?  We all know how ridiculous this sounds and I know many have experienced this first hand.  These are things I’ve witnessed are within an undergraduate context; Why on Earth would anyone subject themselves to this again?  We all know that for the most part the jobs aren’t there (unless you’re willing to sell your soul to some ungodly field in pursuit of a dollar), loan debt is a problem and then falls into a catch 22 in the “funemployment” world where you have $0 income, and scholarships (for the most part) are wasted on the dropouts and the ones who don’t care and drink their weight in tequila every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of their 4 year (or 5 year if their a supersenior) college career and end up looking like Mrs. Puff by the time they graduate.

The more I read, the more it appears that in the past college used to be a big deal; It was a way to heighten your intellect, learn, and go back into the world with your knowledge and put it to good use; And maybe if you’re really good, help make the world a better place.  I am ashamed of my generation because college is now an excuse to get away from Mommy and Daddy to obsess over Facebook and your iPhone, excessively drink, and sleep around with anyone who has a pair of legs. It makes me laugh though because all these Mrs. Puff lookalikes passed and got their diplomas just like I did.  At first that bothered me because I worked hard in school.  I always have and I don’t care how nerdy that makes me sound, but it’s true.  But then I reinforced the thought I’ve always had since high school that grades really don’t matter.  GPAs really don’t matter.  It’s what you get out of the experience what counts and that alone shapes who you become as a individual.  It’s what you can take with what you’ve learned and how you’ve learned it and apply it to your future, whether you’re employed or not.  I live in a materialist generation where everyone cares about the wrong things.  I wish I could persuade everyone to disconnect from their devices and put down their credit cards and persuade them to read again, things they’ve always wanted to read, philosophize and think and dream, to talk about art and music that’s not on the radio.  Maybe that’s my utopia or something.  But life’s too short to keep partying like you’re 18.  Life’s too short to keep playing Candy Crush and post Facebook statuses for attention.  Do something, make something, create something, teach yourself something.  Engage in conversation that’s not gossip.  What about Life?  You’re living in right now and you don’t even know it.  Put down the phone and marvel in the world before you have back problems and become bedridden.  Take care of yourself and stop destroying your body so you don’t die later on down the road when you finally decide that life means something to you.  By numbing yourself with technology and bullshit you are committing an act of the slowest suicide.

Graduate school will not fill your void but will only delay the inevitable.  Once you’ve achieved all you possibly can within an academic spectrum, you will realize the worst thing of all – That you have missed Life.  And you will realize all the things you made time for and thought were important only caused you anxiety, frustration, debt, and grey hair.  Then you will slowly fall into yourself and realize you don’t know who you are, who your friends are, what you’re doing here, and the job (if you end up finding one) you swore would provide everything for you and be the answer to all your problems, you will realize that that job is not enough.  And you will be older and feel the weight of time tightening its grip around your throat.

Now more than ever is the time to self-discover, read, and be alone for awhile.  To hell with the system we live in. Let us meditate on ourselves, learn as much as we can (without the burden of papers and tests), and shape the future to display positivity, togetherness, and love.  Those three things unite like no other.  Enough of chasing the broken American Dream that died with Gatsby, enough with ignoring our loved ones, enough with staying inside when the sky is so blue.  Let’s breathe and ask ourselves what our soul is really yearning for.  Let’s not suppress it with empty promises and the hollow shell of graduate school.