Does the way you react to a celebrity's death reveal your character?
I got the news a little after midnight last night. I had just finished up a long Saturday at my serving job. Being the holiday season, my boss had us stay afterwards to help set up a big Christmas tree and decorations. I stopped trimming the tree for a moment, and checked my Newsfeed. The first status I read belonged to my older sister..”So apparently Paul Walker from fast and furious died in car accident?”
Call me sensitive but my heart dropped. I didn’t start crying, but I shrieked “Paul Walker is dead!” “No!” my co-worker replied. We are both 26 years old—90’s kids who remember Paul Walker as a part of our childhood and teenage years. Little girls with crushes—I mean really, what preteen girl could resist that blond hair and blue eyes?
I couldn’t—I remember the first time I ever saw his face. My best friend Maggie and I had a sleepover in 4th grade, and her mom had rented a pile of VHS that included a copy of “Pleasantville”. I wished that I could get sucked into a 1950’s sitcom and slowly pervert Skip Martin. My crush on Walker further developed after he endured knee problems as a football hero in Varsity Blues, and when he drove cross-country for a high school crush and fatefully encountered a candy-cane loving, murderous trucker in “Joy Ride”. I loved to hate him as Freddie Prinze Jr.’s evil best friend in “She’s All That”. And hello—- “The Skulls”, anyone? I can forgive him for Meet The Deedles. And we haven’t even touched The Fast and the Furious saga.
Paul Walker isn’t my favorite actor of all time… he’s not even top 5… but I still feel saddened by his passing. So, I changed my Facebook status to acknowledge his death, and reflect on how fragile life is. And I wasn’t the only one- many posted “RIP” messages for the 40-year-old actor. As a very public figure, he must have touched a lot of people’s lives.
I didn’t have to scroll down very far before I got to the less remorseful posts about Paul Walker’s accident and death. It did not shock me to see my Facebook friends criticize Walker for his acting, shame other people for liking his movies, or make a clever joke about the car accident that killed him. I have seen these opinions voiced every time a famous person dies. Handfuls of “people die every day” ‘s and a few of those “What about the real heroes who die and never receive the notoriety of celebrities?”
I can understand why some people are upset by the amount of attention a celebrity receives when they die. It seems unfair to us “ordinary people” that the famous are privileged. When a non-famous person dies, the world hardly blinks. We don’t get the same kind of recognition-even if we have done some extraordinary, in many cases. As a military spouse, I know that there are men and women who give their lives for the good of others who society does not acknowledge so publicly. Isn’t it a shame that we live in a country that seems to value the lives of the rich and famous more than anyone else’s?
According to news sources such as the LA Times that reported the details of Walker’s death, the actor was not driving the Porsche that lost control, crashed into a tree, and burst into flames, killing both passengers. The scene sounds like something straight out of the movies, so I understand how hard it can be for some people to imagine the reality of that brutal crash. It is almost hard to think of celebrities as being “real” people. And let’s be honest, a lot of celebrities seem responsible for their own deaths—alcohol, drug abuse, or living recklessly.
On the other hand, a lot of celebrities give back to society with large donations to charities and volunteer work. On the day of his death, Paul Walker had attended a charity event for his organization, Reach Out WorldWide. According to their website, ROWW is a non profit organization that “operates on the philosophy that by making a difference in just one person’s life, the world has been changed for the better. Founded by Paul Walker after he recognized a need for skilled first-responders to volunteer their relief efforts after a natural disaster.
So it turns out, Paul Walker was probably a pretty decent guy. He wasn’t the best actor in the world, but he had family including a daughter, friends, and a lot of fans. He used his fame for a good cause and was not one of the names you ever heard involved in scandals. He was having an “ordinary” day, taking a ride with a friend, and killed while in the passenger seat. He was 40 years old.
Any one of us could die in a fatal car accident tomorrow. Paul Walker’s death has reminded me of that glaring fact- that life is unpredictable and fleeting. It’s tragic when any person is taken “too soon”. Every life has value.
Spitting on someone’s grave seems to reveal a certain immaturity and disconnect with death. And in some cases, a lack of humanity and decency towards others; typical ignorance labeled as a sick sense of humor.
Self doubt is crushing.. if only I could always escape it. Feels like my own insecurities are all that is holding me back from achieving more, being more. I know, or believe, that reality is what we make it, but I’ve not yet found the light. Filled with envy for those who stand up with their shoulders back, driven. Sure of themselves. They’ll never know what it’s like to be a wallflower.
How important is grammar? How did you find your style/voice?
When I was in 5th grade, my “Language Arts” teacher used to put daily grammar exercises on the chalk board. There was always a sentence or two with several grammatical errors. At the beginning of the year she told us how many things were wrong. By the middle of the year it was just the sentences. I was an anxious little kid and my marbled grammar notebook became a great source of fear and anxiety for me. The odd, but very me, thing is she didn’t even check the notebook. We worked individually and then together as a whole group, but it still haunted me. I wanted to understand and get it correct. I was often very wrong and a lot of the rules never stuck.
Grammar still haunts me a little bit. I still associate my own grammar mistakes with being subpar. But, no one is ever going to convince me that I can’t or shouldn’t start my sentences with a conjunction or that I must use complete sentences. A lot of my grammar “mistakes” are intentional. Some are not and I guess that could give me marble notebook anxiety, but it wouldn’t be worth it. (Editors are wonderful human beings!)
Find is a good word for style/voice. Sometimes I feel like I hunted it down. I have been writing regularly since I was five or six, but, I have previously mentioned that after an English degree and a Library Science degree I stopped writing for a few years. When I started up again, I wasn’t sure what I was doing anymore. I had to do what everyone tells writers to do: Write. Every day.
I believe that writers have something intrinsic in them. I don’t think anyone can be a good writer just because they write a lot. Perhaps they will be a skilled writer, someone who has studied and practiced the craft, but they will not have a voice that reaches down your throat and pulls something out. I think being a writer is a choice that you make early on in life and you work the rest of your life to be. If I have a voice or style it has roots in being six years old and writing short stories instead of eating my lunch.
I posted this Joan Didion quote a while ago, but it is worth posting again here:
Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt that my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to go to sleep and unafraid to wake up. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.
I wish every day was Halloween. Been meaning to buy some pumpkins but I keep putting it off, trying to pretend that the 31 is really far away. Not ready for this season to pass by quite yet. Though, xmas vacation fantasies keep me up at night. I guess what I really don’t want is for another year to be gone so soon. Feeling older every day.
By the end of this week, I will finish the last term, last two classes, and earn my Bachelor’s Degree.