Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What I Learned From Robin Williams' Death

What I Learned From Robin Williams' Death 

By Mauricio Segura
August 13, 2014

     I have to admit right off the bat that although I am a pretty emotional person, I'm not much of a crier. When I first heard the news Monday afternoon that Robin Williams had died, my initial reaction (like most everyone else), was of complete shock. The shock lasted a good two hours from which I found myself in a state of numbness. As I kept watching news reports, the shock eventually led to the acceptance of reality, which in turn manifested into extreme turmoil and sadness. And then the tears started to flow.

     I have felt sadness before at the passing of certain celebrities, but never mourned their loss to the point of tears. This was a first for me, and the reason why was something I kept asking myself for many hours to come.

     My parents and I immigrated to the United States in May of 1978 from Costa Rica. I was six years old. No more than four months after that Pan Am 747 touched down at SFO I found myself glued to a 13- inch TV set, absolutely mesmerized with the weekly antics of an alien from the planet Ork named Mork. From that moment on, Robin Williams became my comedic hero. Nanu nanu and Shazbat were incorporated into my daily vocabulary throughout my pre-teen years. In fact, I have actually caught myself (as an adult) replacing shit with Shazbat on occasion, and I just have to laugh.

     Through the years, my admiration for this man continued to grow. The way he transformed from one character to another so flawlessly was just something I couldn't wrap my brain around. I was in a constant state of awe! From serious actor to side-splitting comedy, from Popeye to Patch Adams, from a cross-dressing nanny to a futuristic robot... you get the picture. Robin Williams had such a talent of creating and introducing characters with such a perfect delivery, that you forgot it was Robin and fully accepted each character as its own individual being. An improvisational genius, I often wondered if his thought process was just faster than everyone else. At times, he seemed truly out of this world!

     Admiration turned to respect when I learned about him going above his call as a celebrity to help the less fortunate. Not just what he did for the homeless, but the countless stories of him helping out average folks, entertaining the troops in war zones, sneaking into hospitals without warning or cameras to bring laughter to the sick, etc. I remember reading Christopher Reeve's book, Nothing is Impossible, where he explained how Robin dressed up as a Russian proctologist demanding an immediate exam, just shortly after Reeve's accident left him paralyzed and severely depressed. Despite the somber mood, Robin's actions lit up the room into a frenzy of laughter, giving Christopher the moral boost he needed to go into a surgery to re-attach his skull and spine. It was just a glimpse into the amazing and caring person Robin was. In just the past couple of days, a mountain of stories about his unselfishness have come to light with many more, I'm sure, to follow. No doubt about it, though his best friend played Superman on the big screen, Robin was the super hero's embodiment in so many ways.

     Tragedies tend to solicit a self-realization in some people that at times manifest as life lessons. I didn't know Robin personally, although we shared at least two mutual friends. Regardless, his death has hit me hard, as hard as if he was an actual friend. And his death has also taught me the following three things:

Depression Is No Joke

     I can't even begin to imagine the torment that even the funniest man on earth wasn't able to survive. I've read a lot of comments in blogs and posts calling Robin a coward and selfish for taking his own life. And it's so easy to sit there from the outside looking in and judge, it's human nature I guess. But the truth of the matter is that unless you've dealt with depression or any other illness or addiction, shut your mouth because you have no idea what you're talking about.

     I have dealt with what I consider minor depression. And as minor as it has been, when I'm in that funk, it's like being sealed up in a dark coffin. Depression caused me to stop caring about a lot of things; it caused me to gain over 100 pounds, and made me (simply put) throw away my 30s. I played it off as well as I could, I tried to hide it and deal with it myself, but it’s a torturous process. Just when I thought I had it beat, I developed a bad case of tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and fell deeper than I was before. I would try to explain to people the torment of tinnitus (which many have committed suicide over), but it’s something that unless you have you'll never understand. So now, from time to time, I find myself back in that dark coffin, but also with an ongoing echoing distorted screeching that covers every last nook and cranny of my brain. Depression is not something you can deal with alone.

     Bottom line, if you deal with any form of depression, seek help. Don't pretend that you can overcome it by yourself. The longer you deal, the deeper and darker you get. And there does exist a point of no return, as we all have witnessed. Was Robin a coward? Was he selfish? Hell no! He was a victim!

Never Procrastinate

     I've tried to live my life with as little regret as possible. I have three major regrets in life, now I have a fourth.

     When I got into journalism, I did so with a dream to someday meet and interview three people. Robin Williams was one of them. I've had at least four good opportunities since I began Golden Bay Magazine in 2003 to set up an exclusive interview with him. But for some reason, the timing (I felt) was just not right. Either it was that I didn't have enough of a readership to merit a star of his caliber with an interview, or I wasn't prepared, or some other lame excuse. The latest one was that I'm in the planning stages to produce an ongoing YouTube video program in 2015 showcasing the Bay Area with restaurant reviews, tourist sites, event reports, and an occasional celebrity interview. I figured that then I would finally have a place worthy enough to feature someone of his caliber. It was my full intention to arrange to have him as my first celebrity guest.

     Procrastination obliterated my dream of meeting him and spending time together in conversation. I have learned that like the saying goes, you have to grasp that bull by its horns. If an opportunity arises, take it. You'll never know how long the window will remain open. In all aspects of life, just do it without any fear or second thoughts. Live life with no more regrets.

LOVE, Love, love, and Never Let Them Forget!

     Life is precious. A loved one can be here now, but gone tomorrow. YOU can be here now, but be gone tomorrow. Don't miss the opportunities to tell someone how much you love and appreciate them, because you might find yourself yearning for that one moment back to tell them, if you missed out on it when you had the chance.

     Some people are too stiff, they weren't brought up to show love,

Photo by Thomas Hawk /
it’s not in their nature. HOGWASH! “Oh, he/she knows how I feel about them,” I've often heard, so tell them! If you're one of those people who don't say I love you, break your comfort zone and do it. Hug, kiss, enjoy the person as long as you have them. The worst feeling is to stare down at someone’s grave and wish you could have told them how much they meant to you.

     Robin Williams' life was a blessing to millions worldwide. He brought joy and laughter to everyone around him, yet at the end, he couldn't find it himself. There is a saying that clowns paint their faces to hide their sadness. Never has that been proven to be so true.

Thank you, Mr. Williams, Thank you.

May you now rest in peace sir.