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Robin Williams: The Importance of Sadness and Goofiness
August 12, 2014 - Nick Hansen
Robin Williams died on Monday of an apparent suicide at the age of 63. Watching his movies like Mrs. Doubtfire and Hook on Friday nights with my brother was a highlight of my childhood. I sang along off-key with him as the Genie during the song “Friend Like Me” from the Disney Aladdin movie. My brother and I wanted to be him, or at least be as goofy as him.
I grew up a little bit the day I found out that the most joyful man of my childhood was sad. I can’t remember who told me that Robin Williams did a lot of drugs, but I remember not believing it at first. How could a man who was so joyful and so funny struggle with life? I remember seeing his standup special, “Robin Williams: LIVE on Broadway” in high school and being blown away. Was the same guy who entertained me with so many PG-rated movies as a kid? He was angry, edgy, and hilarious all at once. A few years later I saw “Good Will Hunting” and was struck by the darkness of his performance as psychologist Sean Maguire. He was much deeper than I gave him credit for as an eight-year-old.
I’m usually a pretty upbeat and smiley guy. I love telling jokes and being a goofball. Robin Williams probably inspired some of that. Up until a few months ago, I thought I had to have that side of me out front all the time. I was living in Boston and I had a lot of things going for me, but I was sad. Things just weren’t adding up like I thought they should. I remember when I finally called my parents and broke down over the phone in tears. It was a big moment for me because I realized that sometimes, being sad is okay. We all have more layers than just the smiley, goofy parts of our lives.
Even if we’re all layered, complicated people, I still believe it comes down to laughter. A friend of mine posted on Facebook, “I wish he had just tried to make it through one more day. I would have loved to hear his ten-minute riff on all the tributes.” And judging by all the posts I saw on social media, he would have had a lot of material to work with. And that’s a good thing.
So, remember, it’s okay to shed a few tears, it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to be goofy.
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