O’ Captain, my Captain

Zac Garrison Senior from Franklin, Ky.

I remember walking into my English class as an eighth grader and noticing that we not only had a substitute, but our substitute rolled in the glorious and coveted TV cart that consisted of a dilapidated analog TV and a 1980s VCR. I instantly knew that day would be a good day.

The substitute gave the cookie cutter spiel about how she wasn’t our teacher and that we still must respect her, but the only thing I was focused on was what VHS tape she was planning to shove in that VCR. She pulled a tape out of her polka-dotted purse and told the class we were watching “Dead Poets Society.” I was appalled. How dare this lady sit me down and force me to watch something with no explosions, animation or crude comedy?

I then made it my goal to pay as little attention as possible to this movie for the remainder of class. I was turned around flicking erasers at the cute girl who sat behind me about 10-15 minutes into the movie, when I heard a line of dialogue that caught my ear.

“O Captain, my Captain. Who knows where that comes from? It’s from a poem by Walt Whitman about Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Now, in this class you can either call me Mr. Keating, or if you’re slightly more daring, ‘O’ Captain, my Captain.’”

Robin William’s charisma and attitude was infectious as he played the role of Mr. John Keating. I felt as if Mr. Keating was my friend as well and would always be there to lend a line of advice if I ever needed it.

I was instantly hooked. I watched the rest of the movie as intently as possible and went home and rented the movie that night to watch it again. To this day, “Dead Poets Society” reigns as my favorite film of all time. The name of my column, The Captain’s Log, is a reference to the infamous line “O’ Captain, my Captain.”

I am usually unaffected by celebrity deaths. I am not exactly sure why, but usually I ponder about it for a second, think about the movies they were in or the songs they sang, and keep on going about my day. This isn’t always the case though.

I was sipping a cup of coffee in my bedroom the other day when a metaphorical fist slammed into my gut.

“Dude, Robins William died.”

I instantly relived the days of my childhood growing up with Robin Williams. Whether it was learning jungle survival tactics from “Jumanji,” medical facts from “Patch Adams,” biology and chemistry from “Flubber” or mathematics from “Good Will Hunting,” I consider these experiences pillars of my childhood.

Most of us grew up with Robin Williams’ movies. If you were ever sad, you knew who could help. If a new movie came out and you saw Robin Williams in the previews, you knew it was worth watching.

After hearing the news, I just sat and thought, “how?” A man who has given millions of smiles couldn’t have kept just one for himself? How could a man who was loved unconditionally by millions of people still feel alone?

“I heard a joke once: man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor… I am Pagliacci.”

Mental illness doesn’t discriminate and neither does depression. They are equal opportunity illnesses that don’t pick favorites.

From the outside, most people would say that Robin Williams was one of the happiest people on the planet: famous career, lots of money and millions of adoring fans. How on earth could this man be depressed?

Usually, when looking in from the outside, we’re looking through a cloudy window that hides the most critical details. Robin Williams has suffered from depression, mental health issues and drug addiction for several years. There were a lot of different factors of why he did what he did, but it breaks my heart either way. It’s rough to see someone who has had such a positive impact on my life feel lonely enough to take their own life.

I wish the whole incident wasn’t out of my control so that I could have done something, but it teaches all of us a lesson. Mental illness is a cruel thing.

Like I said earlier, it doesn’t discriminate and doesn’t pick favorites. It’s something to take seriously, and if you need help, get it.

There is absolutely no shame in reaching out for a hand when you know you need it.

One thing to remember is that there will always be someone on this Earth who loves you unconditionally and will be willing to help. Even when you feel like all the lights have burned out, there is at least one that will shine in the darkness for you. You may have never met this person, but they are out there and they care for you.

Robin Williams has taught me an insurmountable number of life lessons throughout my life. He taught me to seize the day.

He taught me that a smile feels better than a frown and he taught me to be myself and live my life because we don’t have a lot of years to do those things.

Robin William’s life may be over, but he will never truly die. His essence is immortal. He will live on in the hearts and smiles of people and will keep the world laughing even after he has passed on. We owe it to Robin Williams not to forget him.

“O’ Captain, my Captain.”


Column by Zac Garrison, Senior from Franklin, Ky.

3 Comments on "O’ Captain, my Captain"

  1. Fully agree! I also enjoy the random Watchmen reference as well! Clever sir!

  2. Zac Garrison | August 22, 2014 at 5:44 pm |

    Many thanks!

  3. Love your article Zac. Great work.

Comments are closed.