Like so many people at a crossroads in their lives, I didn’t know what to do with the rest of my life. I was a simple girl from a small town who had few close friends, a boring middle-class background, and spent her time with a nose buried in her books.
In university I quickly realized, during my freshman year, that a BFA in Music was not going to be a great degree for me. Sitting in the stark career center, I took test after test and met with advisers and counselors dedicated to helping me figure out “what I want to be when I grow up.”
During one particular session, the adviser asked me to draw back on characters that inspired me. Books, movies, websites…who did I want to be. Racking my brain, I starting jotting down various superheroes and sensational leading ladies.
Needless to say, the careful calculated university career counselor bluntly informed me that I would not likely develop supernatural powers any time soon and I should consider the extremely small percentage of people who get accepted into the CIA’s international spy programs
Thinking I would have to settle for some common, ordinary career because that is what responsible people did, I thought back to Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society. Climbing onto a desk. Whispering in hallways. Imploring his students: Carpe Diem.
To seize the day and make their lives extraordinary.
To empower them to challenge the authority that told them to live common and ordinary lives by the simple act of climbing onto their own desks, proclaiming the difference he had made in their lives. Oh Captain! My Captain!
I decided. I wanted to provoke such spirit and spark in the lives of the people around me.
Almost immediately, I headed to dean’s office to switch my major to Creative Writing and Latin Classical Studies.
John Keating was a character who, by all means of today’s sensational society, did nothing to make his life extraordinary. He had no passionate, consuming relationship. He did not travel the world. He did not own his own business or work remotely from his laptop. He did not write books and amass online followers and book national speaking tours.
He was a simple guy who, by all accounts, lived a simple life that prompted people to change their own.
Robin Williams achieved a life much more dramatically extraordinary than the simple prep school teacher from a quiet no-where town. I don’t know why I was so affected by the death of someone I had never met, who had no idea who I was. As my sister brilliantly wrote last night: “When I was younger my mom heard that one of her favorite actors had passed away. She was so sad and I wondered how you could be so sad to hear about someone you didn’t know passing away. Tonight I fully understand it. Robin Williams was a huge part of my childhood into adulthood through movies, tv shows and interviews. So amazingly sad this is how he decided to leave this world.”
Rather than whispering Carpe Diem, Williams instead reminded the world
You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.
Whether we live perceived extraordinary lives globetrotting the world and writing little imperfect posts to faceless readers on the internet, or we are simple people leading simple lives that blockbusters and best-sellers and blogs would have us believe are ordinary and mundane — we mustn’t lose our sparks.
I ask all of you to consider celebrating the life of a man who touched so many by endeavoring to seize your days.
To use your spark of madness and make your life extraordinary.
The alien, the genie, the Boston-based therapist, the cross-dressing father, the prep-school English teacher, the penniless stand-up comedian who managed to make the world cry and laugh…they would not have it any other way.
The human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.
To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?”
Answer: That you are here; that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.
What will your verse be?