Robin Williams Inspired: Thoughts and Advice

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I think we all have witnessed this type of scene. A group of audience relishes a performance till the very end before putting hands together for the performers. It has been a norm, courtesy, or whatever you may call it, to wait for a process to conclude before we do our parts such as cheering and clapping. In the context of an individual’s life, shall we also stick to this convention and wait till an end to life takes place before we take our actions, or should we interject the process such that we might indeed make our actions count and possibly change the outcome of the life? “I think that will have to depend on where you stand with respect to your “closeness” to the victim in each case.”

This post was inspired by the incident of Robin Williams and the cause of his passing, depression. This is not entirely about Mr. Williams as we all know you don’t need another post to justify how influential he had been in many lives, both of commoners and celebrated. What intrigued me this time around after a celebrity’s death is the emergence of this question: why is a life recognized only after it has departed?

I used to have a writing mentor, Rothman, whom I really looked up to in college. He was a skillful, brilliant conversationalist in such a way that every time after you exchanged thoughts with him, you would never fail to notice how brighter you have gotten. He was the type of person whom you could talk to about anything: school, writing, philosophy, life. When the news sent from his wife to UC-Santa Cruz admins and then to email network got across everybody’s computer screens, it did feel like the world paused a little. On that very weekend of his death, I sent out a mass email asking peers in the STEM cohort who had been enlightened by Rothman to write a short note remarking on their transformations and feelings as a result of having crossed path with him. The responses I received were later put into a collage and sent to his wife as a condolence and proof of the differences he had made in every single student;

“Looking back at it, I did also follow the convention and waited till the life slipped away before I ‘clapped’……… In fact, that was all I could do as an outsider, to pay a tribute.”

In my opinion, when we choose to post-death recognize a person, we normally have accepted the life and death of the individual. There might be something we could have done to mitigate the agony leading to death, or to grant the victim’s last wish, but we have little to no rights as the priority of decision making is granted to immediate families first. Not to mention, the news of the person’s passing doesn’t often get announced to outsiders until later. So, a lot of times we don’t get to have any last words before the due time. Hence, as an outsider, however much emotional we become in the face of the situation, our domain in terms of carrying out our actions is restricted. We therefore can only wait till after the grand finale to do what we best do, to pay respect.

“Perhaps, life is recognized after its death because that is all an outsider can do for the victim, and because death caused by infirmity/natural cause proudly deserves this minutes of honor. So, waiting till the show to be over before you clap your heart out might be the most appropriate conduct as a spectator.”

Before I sign off and move on, I would also like to add that if you are in the front seat and entitled to voicing your opinion, do so for your loved ones. The suicide of Robin Williams should be the last record of a result caused by mental illness. And it should serve as a reminder for you to become more vigilant of those, especially families and friends, around you. It is very common for depressed individuals to be swamped in a state of negativity and to think short. It is an uphill battle and challenging for you and the person to overcome the slope, but the positive news is depression is a treatable condition.

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Also, when it comes down to confronting depression, it might be a better idea to break away from the conventional code of “waiting for the show to be over before you clap”. Instead, clap along the show to encourage life. Be one of those daring individuals who isn’t afraid to scream out loud during the show. This is because, unlike the post-death tribute, the power of ongoing-life tribute: your words, actions, and compassion may potentially rectify the thoughts of the depressed and help them steer away from taking a nonreturnable leap into demise.

When it comes down to confronting depression, a life should not be recognized after it has departed. Proactively recognize the life in front of you by playing a role and assisting your loved ones in fighting against destructive depression. I recommend Daniel G.Amen, M.D.’s Change your Brain Change Your Life for some insights into understanding the cause of depression from the standpoint of brain imaging.

Finally, if you are depressed, don’t brood over depression, seek help. Love yourself, love your family, love those around you. ^_^

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Guilt-Resolving Psychic Stranger

Santa Cruz can be REALLY odd, and yes, you can expect to run into some really eccentric personalities and demeanors. Nonetheless, it can be unpredictably beautiful and cleansing at times, like this one.

It was around the incoming of Autumn of 2013 that I had this amazing encounter with a father and son whom both made a deep imprint in my life, simply through his words and his son’s childlike but empowering gestures.

I just got done with my evening Chemistry study drill at a local coffee shop in downtown Santa Cruz. On my way to the bus stop, I saw the avenue strewn with small kiosks, some had awnings and some just basked in the fleeting summer air. These little kiosks were apparently occupied by students from a psychic academy (SOMEWHERE IN SANTA CRUZ). And these folks, mostly hippies, were essentially offering free services of palm-, tarot card-, and tattoo-readings.

I walked along their direction to the bus stop and merely dismissed every one bypassing my way until I heard a call-out from a small set-up around the bend. The man had his family with him and yes, he was a psychic. Somehow, I felt the need to stop and walk up to his area, and asked him what the matter was. In me, there surged the need to debunk his gigs but also the yearning to ask him the good/bad of my tattoo design ideas. I took a seat, therefore.

I said: “If it’s really free, I would like you to decipher the meanings of my tattoo ideas, and through your psychic’s perspective, comment whether they are good or bad.” He handed me paper and a pen, and asked me to scribble down the design. I wrote down two Chinese characters, one of my dad’s last name, and the other of my mom’s. “These are my parent’s last names”, said I. He asked: “where would you like them?” “On my back, right and left. The purpose is to pay them tribute and because of some family’s past affair, I would like this to be an obscure, humble tribute to both of them.” Upon knowing what those characters and their placements would be, the man advised against having them on.

Right before he said that, I had told him that the primary reason of my choosing was due to my changing from my dad’s last name to my mom’s. And up to this day, I have been legally carrying my mom’s last name without my dad’s knowledge, and with the assumption that my dad, whose son had run away from him to Western Hemisphere of the world, would be even much more disappointed if he knew. So, I wanted to hide this secret, but at the same time, honor him and ma.

The psychic read through me and explained to me that what I was thinking (and eventually doing) would be debilitating because I was trapping myself in the past, barring any entry of possible future joy. Instead, he suggested that I should let go of the idea and the guilt therein such that I would be able to live my life progressively. I digested his advice and thought that it was indeed very rational.

He might have just capitalized on my situation and manipulated for his good, however true or false, I am still much indebted to him for freeing me from my self-inflicted guilt with such a rational counseling. His words were able to catalyze my escape from the past and acceptance of joy in the upcoming days. This uniquely odd encounter allowed me to courageously lift my head and embark on a quest to seek happiness.

Now here comes the sweet, unexpected, seemingly pre-destined part. His son, a little boy of 5 to 8 of age, came up to me after his dad retired and handed me a crayoned paper sword. He then mumbled: “I want you to have this because you are a warrior.”

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That made me smile and that smile marked my new beginning of hope, positivity, and discovery.