Monday, October 15, 2012

Memory Lane Monday: And Then The Voice of My Childhood Hugged Me and I May Never Stop Crying

You may remember my New York Comic Con experience last year as quite a disappointment. Well, all is forgiven, NYCC, because this year was amazing! Boyfriend and I opted to only go one day this year since a 3-day pass was such a waste last time. In the one day we were there, however, there was much more organization, clearer information, and more crew members to help. Thanks for getting your act together NYCC. My two goals this time around were to actually have a conversation with The Oatmeal (instead of grinning at him like a dumbass) and to meet Rob Paulsen.

Operation Talk to The Oatmeal Do-Over was a success!!!
 Matt from The Oatmeal was really fun.  He was obviously a little tired, but Boyfriend and I had fun chatting with him for a moment.  He signed Boyfriend's tin of Irish oatmeal and I told him the story of last year and how awkward I was.  He confessed he was so jet-lagged that he has no recollection of the entirety of NYCC last year so he told me he probably didn't even notice my gaffe. Awesome.  Then he drew me a picture in my book and clarified that the little dangly things at the bottom were "feet, not penises." Success.

The Oatmeal on oatmeal.
With a successful Oatmeal encounter under our belts, we were feeling good, but the butterflies started to form in my tummy the closer the time got to the meet-and-greet with Rob Paulsen at the ShiftyLook booth.  Rob Paulsen was essentially the voice of my childhood. He was Raphael (my favorite Ninja Turtle) he was Yakko Warner, Pinky, and countless others; he filled my cartoon-watching days with witty sarcasm and laughter. As a child with undiagnosed depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues, coming home on miserable day after miserable day at school to watch Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain was what kept me going. Rob's voice made such an impression on me as a kid that I have to give him some credit with influencing me as a performer as well. I had basically been waiting 20 years to meet this man. No pressure, right?

There's an old adage that warns against meeting your heroes because they could never live up to what you built them up to be in your head, and sometimes people turn out to be just plain assholes.  What if I had built this hero up in my head to be something he wasn't? But, to say that Rob rose to the occasion and fulfilled this dream of mine is the understatement of the goddamned century. He blew any fantasy I had of meeting him out of the water. Not even my dreams of the "perfect" meet-and-greet even compared to the real Rob Paulsen. The man is the most humble, kind-hearted, generous, and patient celebrity I have ever met. I only hope my soul can shine half as brightly as his does some day. It was everything I could have hoped for and so much more.

We were some of the first arrivals at the ShiftyLook booth waiting for him.  Once they made the announcement and did some promotion of the new Bravoman cartoon, it turned out to be a very informal meet-and-greet; no table, no line, just Rob in the center of the crowd taking his time with everyone.  And I must also give major kudos to everyone waiting around in the booth. People totally obeyed Wheaton's Law and patiently waited their turns and didn't crowd or push. Kudos Comic Con-ers, kudos. There was a special-needs boy waiting next to us just vibrating with excitement. We think he may have had severe Autism or some other developmental challenge, and he was just so damn excited to get to meet "Pinky" that we did not have the heart to make him wait a second longer than he had to, so we let him go first.  Watching Rob take his time with this boy and talk to him as Pinky and then give his mom a hug was heartwarming and so touching and showed his character as a person. Any fear or nervousness I had started to melt away. When it was Boyfriend's turn to talk to Rob, this exchange took place:

Boyfriend: Hi Rob!

Rob: Hello! Hey, buddy look at you, showing up with two chicks! (Referring to me and our friend Krista with our cameras at the ready) I wanna hang out with this guy!

Boyfriend: (Laughing and pointing to me) Well, this one's with me.

Rob: Well of course she is! (To me) You know you are way above his pay-grade, sweetie.

Boyfriend: Oh, she knows. But I gotta punch above my weight, you know.

Rob: Boy are you ever, look at her, she's beautiful!

My head almost exploded at that point.
They chit-chatted for a minute and Boyfriend had Rob sign a yellowing piece of paper with his old TMNT sticker collection on it from when he was 7 years old. Rob was tickled by it and signed it "Turtle power" which made Boyfriend turn into a little kid before my very eyes. Then it was my turn. Boyfriend pulled himself together again to make sure he took my picture.  He understood how much this encounter with Rob meant to me. I was shaking like a frostbitten chihuahua the entire time I spoke to Rob. I handed him my Animaniancs Volume 1 DVD set so he could sign it.  He flirted with me in Yakko's voice and I almost squealed and peed my pants but managed to keep myself under control.
I wanted to stand there for an hour telling him how much his work has meant to me, but I'm not a complete lunatic. I told Rob I'd waited at least 15 years to meet him, and thanked him for bringing so much joy and laughter into my childhood and before he could modestly "oh pshaw," I told him a little bit about my lifelong struggle with depression and how he helped me deal with it because he gave me reasons to smile and laugh while growing up. That's when I started to choke up, and I'm amazed I was able to speak clearly enough for him to understand the words tumbling out of my mouth. But, he immediately gave me the longest, warmest hug I've ever received from a pseudo-stranger.  He held me while I cried on his shoulder. He talked right into my ear, so no one else heard what he said to me.

"Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing that with me, sweetie. Thank you so much. I am honored to be able to do that for you."

He spoke to me in a sweet, sincere, patient voice. He didn't talk down to me. He didn't patronize me. He thanked me for telling him about my illness and told me that I validated his career because he was able to bring me moments of happiness. He said I was strong and beautiful because I had made it this far in life. He reminded me that I had to keep pushing through it, and not give up. Just when I was content to believe that the hug would never end, he looked me in my watery eyes and told me I had made his day. I made his day?!?! The man just made my goddamned life! Then he outdid himself and gave me a firm affectionate kiss on my salty tear-soaked cheek and another quick squeeze.  He told me to take good care of Boyfriend. I promised to do just that, blubbered a "thank you" and then I fled to the corner of the booth to finish crying in private away from the staring eyes of the crowd behind us. Boyfriend later told me that Rob shook his hand one last time and gave him that fatherly look that said "You take good care of her" before Boyfriend came over to comfort me.  Boyfriend hugged me and said, "You did it!" while I cried, releasing years of anxiety, and heartache, and hope, and joy. It was healing.

The entire encounter with Rob only lasted a few minutes, but replaying it in my mind it feels like it lasted hours and it filled me with a lifetime of joy. Time slowed down and moved backwards. It was like Rob was hugging me and my 10-year-old self at the same time. He reached through time and healed that sad, scrawny, scared little girl sitting in front of her TV.

Bless you, Rob Paulsen.
 Dear Rob,
There are not enough words in the English language to thank you properly. I don't know that I could ever accurately describe how much better my life has been with your voice in it.  But, I will try. Thank you. Thank you for the love you give to your fans. Thank you for treating those of us whom the rest of the world views as "broken" like we're rock stars. That above all is what truly speaks to your amazing character. Thank you.  Thank you for years of laughter and happy tears. You have completely made this gurl's life, and filled me with new courage to pursue my dreams. Thank you.  Also, sorry if while I was crying I snotted on your awesome shirt.
A lifetime of thanks,

Cue Jess tears in 3...2...1...

Let it be known to all who encounter me: if you so much as utter one unkind word of Mr. Rob Paulsen, them's fightin' words, and I will cut you. You are warned.

1 comment:

  1. P.S If anyone was at the ShiftyLook booth on Friday October 12th at NYCC around 2pm and has a picture of Rob Paulsen kissing me, please please PLEASE for the love of my sanity e-mail/tweet me that pile of digital awesomeness! (Seriously, sometimes I'm not quite sure this wasn't just all in my head.) You shall be rewarded!
    I don't know how yet...I'm broke, but I knit a mean scarf. You know you need a scarf of badassery. Winter is coming.
    (This may be my drugs talking.)


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