Big Giant Disclaimer: Despite the title, I don't know Rob Paulsen. I've in fact met him in person a grand total of once. But I've recently had the absolute pleasure of discovering that Rob Paulsen has a podcast
. For those who are either young enough to actually make me feel old, or who lived under a rock during the 80s and 90s, Rob Paulsen is the voice of my childhood. And during his most recent podcast with April Winchell, they talked about something that pinged the "I need to blog that" reflex (which, I know, doesn't get pinged nearly often enough any more. Sorry.)
What they said that set me off was talking about how their profession is pretty much done into a void. At the end of the day, after all their work, it's hard to tell whether you're actually doing anything of significance.
And the thing is, I get that. In many ways, it's kind of the way I feel when I'm teaching. Especially in the type of teaching I do, where I get a class, spend 90 minutes with them expounding on the awesomeness of dinosaurs like a muppet on speed, and then maybe never see them again, I have no idea if I've actually made a difference to any of those kids. Maybe I ended up inspiring the kid who will one day grow up to discover the last remaining group of velociraptors living on a remote island somewhere. But I just don't actually know. Even with the classes I taught in England, I may have inspired one of those kids to love science, but it's hard to tell, and what really sticks with you is the hours you spent trying to put together the perfect lesson to awe and inspire them and teach them to really love science, only to have it end up in flames (literally) the next day. Pyromaniacs.
So this blog is kind of my response to that conversation between Rob and April.
When I was younger, I had a brief flirtation with wanting to be a voice actor, especially after that incident where I wanted to have my own kids' science program and that muckity-muck in Canadian broadcasting told me I was too fat to ever carry a show. My energies shifted away after I realized just how small and hard to break into the Toronto VA community was, and if I was to have any chance at it I would have to leave the city that I love and I don't think I can ever really get away from, but what set off my original interest in voice acting way back in elementary school was realizing very early on that behind the characters I loved and grew up with were real, actual people. And the first voice I ever learned to recognize was Rob Paulsen's.
Now, here's where I get into my first-world, white-girl problems. I know I was really lucky growing up that my family always had enough to get by, and my parents and I, by-and-large, got along well. But I was the smart-but-socially-awkward overweight girl in school, and I didn't make or keep friends easily (that got better once I reached university). There weren't many kids around where I lived, and I didn't really have friends at all until late in high school, so there were a lot of times when I was growing up that I was really, really lonely. So I'd come home from school, or wake up on Saturday morning, and watch cartoons.
And on almost all of them, there was Rob Paulsen.
And once I learned to recognize his voice, about grade 5 or 6, a funny thing happened. Every time his voice showed up, in whatever incarnation (and sometimes it took me a while to pick it up), I would start smiling. Because in a strange little way, it felt like I was bumping into an old friend. Even now, he'll crop up in this or that, and my reaction more often than not is "Oh, hi Rob Paulsen." Like I'm greeting a friend I haven't seen in a while. "Oh look, it's my friend, Rob Paulsen." And especially during those really awful days in high school, when my hormones were totally out of control and every minor setback was the end of the world, hearing his voice was just a little bit like getting a hug from someone I really missed. And small as that was, it was part of a system that helped get me through to university, when I was able to get my head on straight and start actually living.
Hey, some teenagers drink, some do drugs, some shoplift to deal with their issues. I had cartoons.
I met him once. Jen and I had gone to see a taping of Mike Bullard in Toronto, and while I think pretty much most of the audience was there for whatever other guest was on, I was there to see him. Yes, he sang Yakko's World. It was awesome. And I don't actually remember if I ever got the chance to talk to him after the show. I honestly don't. I think I was probably too shy and insecure. What I do
remember was how nice he was to Jen. She introduced herself and the fact that she worked for Disney Toronto, and he seemed truly delighted about that and had a whole conversation with her about the voices he'd done for Disney. What stuck with me for years was how very gracious he was to my friend who'd had a hard run of things, and how he made her feel really important that day.
I think part of why I'm enjoying his podcast so much is that it's a little bit like having that feeling back again. Seriously, check it out. Be warned, though, if you listen to it while commuting, you may end up losing it completely in the middle of the subway. Though it does clear the seats on either side of you.
"When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there."
People who actually read this blog are probably sick of this quote by this point, but this is the quote that really informed what I decided I do with my life. It's what I try to do with my teaching, and it's what I hope my writing will be someday. And if someday my work can do what Rob's did for me, if I've made even that small a difference in someone's life with the creative efforts I send out into the world, I think I'll have done it.
So Rob Paulsen, if you're reading this, it may be small and silly in the grand scheme of the universe, but you made a lonely little girl feel like she had a friend, even if it was just for a half-hour at a time, and her grown-up self is very grateful for that.
And I won't lie, on days that are rough and I'm away from my usual support network, I still curl up with a warm blanket and watch cartoons.