Monthly Archives: August 2014

On Struggle…and Robin Williams

Among the many details featured in media coverage about the life of Robin Williams is the fact that he was voted least likely to succeed in high school. I’ve seen a few comments that express surprise about this fact. How did his classmates get it so wrong? I say this is no surprise at all. The most tormented of people tend to be the most gifted of artists. This high school label – a poor message to send someone out into the world with – tends to find itself branded on the social outcasts. It is likely that the qualities which led his classmates to label him as such are the same that fueled his talent. It’s not surprising because this kind of talent is not really acting. It is real and honest because personal struggle develops the most intimate understanding of the human experience. Today, those same classmates may remember things differently because their perspective is biased by the years since.
I’m no Robin Williams, but I get it. A few days ago, I received a marketing email from classmates.com informing me that an unknown classmate remembers me as ambitious. I’m not a paying member, so I don’t know who it is. The tease is an effort to get me to pay. My first reaction is confusion. No, they do not remember me as ambitious. What they see is who I am striving to be today, and using that image as a translucent layer to modify the memory of me in high school. I was awkward, reserved, and emotionally stunted. I was a student getting A’s and B’s until midway through high school when the allure of the larger social life I barely had to that point caused me to make some poor decisions, and I only graduated high school on time with the help of night classes during my senior year. I couldn’t be remembered as ambitious because I am surprised I am barely remembered at all.
Now, this is not meant as a pity party. I am proud of what I am accomplishing today and I appreciate my struggles because I believe they keep me grounded in the face of today’s successes. I respect struggle.
So did Robin Williams. He made people laugh because he wanted to laugh. He played struggle well because he knew struggle and pain.
Rightfully, many point out that people leave us every day due to personal struggles and they do not get the attention that celebrities get. It’s fair.
I think that a part of it is that in death, it is one of the rare moments that most average people can truly identify with them as just as human as themselves. It’s good to relate because it brings us together. The key is not to throw attention their way simply because they made some movies we liked, but because they draw attention to lives the rest of us are living. God speed to Robin Williams, and to the rest of us living the daily struggles quietly away from the lights of the cameras.

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