Remembering Matthew Perry: Friends, Laughter, and Life Lessons

Monday, October 30, 2023

I've sat down to write this post, my heart heavy with the news of Matthew Perry's passing, because I write. I express my thoughts and feelings so much better through writing, always have since I was little. Some may think this is an odd post, unrelated to digital well-being, but I promise you I will show you the connection. This is a loss that's deeply felt across generations, not only for his incredible talent, but also for the immense impact he had on my life, and countless others, through the screen. He was obviously best known for his portrayal of Chandler Bing on the iconic TV series "Friends." But do you also remember him from his endearing role in "17 Again" as Mike O'Donnell, one we still love watching over and over? Chandler is the character Matthew is remembered for, he was the perfect blend of funny and awkward.

I think most of you will agree that "Friends" was more than just another show on TV; it was a cultural phenomenon that invaded our homes and dorm rooms world wide. As I think back to 1994, when I entered college that September, I can't help but remember eagerly anticipating every Thursday night for this brand new show that followed the fictional lives of a group of friends which took place in only a handful of places...a coffee shop or an apartment. Gathered with my own friends, we laughed, we cried, and we related, even though we were just starting life. The characters were a glimpse of what might be to come when we graduated, starting our careers, finding ourselves, and living our best moments with our own group of friends. "Friends" became our family away from home.

When the series concluded, I couldn't bear the thought of parting with it. Yes, I cried. I felt a loss. It's like reading a really good book that you don't want to end, and you turn that last page, no more words written, and you sigh. It's over. I don't like that part! So, I did what any true fan would do – I bought the complete DVD box set. How many of you did? Those DVDs were a part of my life, a connection to a group of friends who had become an integral part of my life. I know that sounds strange to some who don't get it, but I know plenty of adults and teens who would say the same thing about many other shows like "Big Bang Theory", "Seinfeld", "Sex in the City", "Brookly Nine-Nine", or even "Gilmore Girls". Friends may not have been your cup of tea, but surely you can relate to a show that impacted you in some way. "Friends" was often on in the background of our home on any given day. I even labored to all three children while watching "Friends." Not something my midwife and doula were used to!

As life progressed and my family grew, my love for "Friends" stayed the same. I introduced the show to my children, probably when they were a bit too young, but since I watched it a lot, it was hard to keep them away. It was like my soundtrack to life. One of my kids, in particular, connected with Chandler's character. The dry and witty humor, making people laugh in awkward or tense situations – these were traits my child could relate to. Like countless fans, she found bits of herself in Chandler's character. She is the one who quotes the show we me in normal daily activities, she has the Trivial Pursuit game, and she had a "Friends" birthday party. While some of the content may not have been my proudest mothering moments, we laughed and cried together watching the show, and had so much fun reciting episodes as they played. Enough to drive other members in our home crazy. We bonded further over watching a show together.

Matthew Perry's portrayal of Chandler made us laugh, but it also showed us that it's okay to be a little awkward, uncomfortable and unsure of big decisions and life changes. We loved him because we saw ourselves in him, and that connection brought comfort and solace. It's a testament not only to the power of amazing storytelling, but acting; these fictional characters become a part of our lives, teaching us about friendship, love, and life.

And yet, we often forget that these actors are real people with real lives outside of the characters they play. Matthew Perry's battle with addiction and mental health issues is a stark reminder that life behind the scenes can potentially be challenging or unfulfilling, even for those who bring us so much joy on the screen. But we don't often stop to think about that. It's a battle that he, like so many others, faced daily. You can't help but think about his family and friends, those who TRULY knew Matthew, not Chandler, and how they are grieving right now.

In our increasingly digital world, it's essential to pause and reflect on the importance of digital wellbeing. Our screens connect us to the stories, characters, and actors we love, but it's vital to remember that there's life beyond the screen. For all the laughter and tears that "Friends" brought us, we can't forget that the actors themselves may have faced their own struggles, away from the limelight. Real people with real lives. 

Matthew Perry's passing reminds us of the delicate balance of life. As we mourn his loss, let us remember the joy he brought into our lives and the lessons we learned from his characters, both on and off-screen.

Rest in peace, Matthew Perry. You brought joy and laughter to millions, and your legacy will continue to do so for generations to come.