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WHAT MATTHEW PERRY’S CHANDLER BING CAN TEACH US ABOUT LIFE AND STARTING OVER


Celebrity deaths are hard to swallow, especially when a celebrity who died touched your heart. It sure sounds cheesy, but it’s true. For me, it was Matthew Perry, who died on October 28th of this year at the age of 54. Throughout his entire career, Perry went through substance and alcohol abuse, and he chronicled that part of his life in his autobiographical book, ‘Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing’. In fact, the book is more about his addiction than anything else, and that’s the way he wanted it to be. He wanted to be known more for helping others rather than his time on ‘Friends’.

I’ve written about ‘Friends’ before on this blog. Perry starred as Chandler Bing on the lovable sitcom, which originally ran between 1994 and 2004, and co-starred Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt Le Blanc and David Schwimmer. In his book, Perry wrote that his alcohol addiction began at the mere age of 14, and it continued on to his adult years. He first started with alcohol, and then went on to substance abuse in 1997 following a jet ski accident on the set of ‘Fools Rush In’, a movie which co-starred Selma Hayek. His addiction went so deep that he didn’t remember filming three entire seasons of ‘Friends’.

It’s hard for me to explain what ‘Friends’ meant to me. I watched the show religiously, especially between season the 7th and 10th seasons. The show taught me English when I just moved to Canada when I was 12 years old. The show gave me a sense of friendships back when I didn’t have them. Each main character, as well even some of the recurring ones like Gunther and Janice, had their own perks about them. And yet, Chandler was always my favourite throughout the years, and it was most likely because he was the most relatable one out of the bunch.

For a long time, I thought Chandler was my favourite because he was the funniest of them all, it was all Matthew Perry’s doing. He was the one who made Chandler’s character what it was. Everyone on the show had said that; all his and the show’s fans, his co-stars, and even the creators of the show themselves gave him credit for that. Now that that the show is being examined more thoroughly following Perry’s death, I realize that it wasn’t that Chandler was funny that made him so lovable, but rather that he was relatable, especially by 2023 standards of what it’s like to be a 30+ year old living in a big city.

When we first met Chandler in 1994, he was a 20-something year old man living in Manhattan. He worked as an account and even had his own office. His 5 closest friends made of him for that every chance they could, but in in today’s standards, it’s success, and that kind of behaviour would be considered jealousy rather than anything to laugh about! With him being an accountant and having his own office, Chandler was able to support himself, Monica, who became his wife in the later seasons, as well as support Joey’s acting career for years.

By the 9th season of the show, Chandler had a, what I’d call, an-almost-midlife crisis. He was happy in his personal life. He had a great apartment that not too many people could say they’d be able to afford in Manhattan, New York, he had good job that paid well for his lifestyle, he had a loving wife, and he had great friends. And yet, everything he had still wasn’t enough to make him happy. He was miserable in his job. He was always unhappy in his job, and he didn’t even hide it much. That unhappiness escalated to misery over the years; so much so that he decided to quit his stable career to get into writing and marketing. Season 9 saw Chandler start his career all over again in his mid-thirties and get a job as a junior writer.

I’m now the same age Chandler was during the 9th season. I could never compare my life to Chandler’s. I never had a stable job such as accounting, and he never had a disability that he had to live with. But I DID change career paths not once, but twice. Unlike Chandler, though, it wasn’t because I was unhappy, but rather because of circumstances. I didn’t even get the chance to begin my career as a Human Resources professional due to the car accident that changed my entire life, and then I had to step back from freelancing due to the pandemic.

It was 2002 when that specific story-line came about. Nevertheless, it’s still relevant to this day. In fact, I think it’s relevant now more than ever. More and more people of my generation are lost in their lives. Parents, including mine, told us that post-secondary education was a must. Years later, we realize that it’s not even remotely true. I was just having this conversation with one of my husband’s co-workers, and while speaking to him, I compared the school system, specifically post-secondary education, to the medical system. It’s all just a business, a money making machine, and a scam; a big fat scam.

It took me 7 whole years to obtain my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources. Isn’t that crazy? It’s crazy because I learned absolutely nothing. I had some amazing teachers who were so accommodating and understanding of my needs in order to complete my courses in question. Anything else about my time in college was questionable. At this point, my HR education is practically useless. On the other hand, my certificate in Project Management that took me a year to complete was more useful in my career path.As a Project Management graduate, my clients saw me as being more than capable to complete projects, no matter how big or small, on scope, on time, and on budget. The more years pass since I graduated my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources, the less I use it. The only scenario I ever used my HR education throughout my freelancing career was when I made clients their resumes and cover letters, and I wouldn’t say anyone needs to obtain a degree in HR, let alone be at school for 7 years, to be able to do that.

But let’s not forget that while in College, I started my own blog, my very first blog, HR+(Blog). It was back in 2012, during a time when blogging wasn’t even much of a thing. I wrote about things I knew at the time, which were Human Resources, Marketing, Business, and Project Management. It was just a fun little side gig that had me keeping me busy. It was my passion project. It was a side hustle that got me going. I abruptly closed the website in 2015 when I finally finished my studies. Closing the website is something I seriously regret. I’d written about closing HR+(Blog) on THIS blog, and there were numerous times where I blamed others for making me close down the website. In reality, though, it was no one’s fault but my own. I allowed others to make me feel defeated, and now, 8 years later, these people are no longer in my life, and it’s not like they give any sorts of f*cks about me anyways. They didn’t give any f*cks about me when they were in my life, so why would they now? I could give these people all the excuses in the world for making me feel the way that they did, and I DID give them the excuses, but the fact of the matter is, there’s no excuse.

In hindsight, Chandler’s 5 friends represented my former friends who got me to the point of defeat. The one difference between Chandler and me was that he didn’t allow them making fun of his work stop him from continuing to do what he did. He didn’t oblige. I guess the difference between me and him in that situation was that I was lost and felt I needed to please and be respected by those around me, whereas he didn’t. Or maybe it was that he was already established in his career already to know better that other people’s opinions and sarcasm don’t matter, whereas I wasn’t.

If he was a woman, he, or she in that case, would’ve had it all. But once he did have it all, it wasn’t enough for him. He was looking for passion and fire in what he was doing, and he couldn’t find it in accounting.He was always the funny guy in the group despite the fact that was the one who was periodically made fun of for his career. Hence, he abruptly decided to switch careers in his mid-thirties and got himself a job as a junior copywriter.Unlike accounting, copy-writing, no matter at what level, is a very unstable job. For Chandler to switch gears that way was brave of him, and I just wish I saw it that way earlier.

To sum it all up, The best way to describe Chandler Bing would be brave. Most fans of ‘Friends’ would describe him as funny, which was. He had a reputation of being funny and sarcastic. But there was something much deeper than that about the character. He was funny not because he was aiming to be comedian, but because he was using humour to hide his trauma, mainly with his parents’ divorce. It was him getting married to Monica that helped him deal with his trauma and fully heal from it. It was also his marriage to Monica that motivated him to take a risk and switch careers entirely and start all over again from the ground up at what is considered to be ‘old age’.

Even though we last saw Chandler almost 20 years ago, there’s a lot about him that all of us, the millennial generation, could learn from him: which is to take a leap of faith and take risks, because if we don’t, we might regret it later. And now, 20 years later and a much better technology, we have more tools to do so. Hence, we really have no excuse, including getting older and having a family, not to be doing what we love. Matthew Perry once said he didn’t want to be remembered for being Chandler Bing after his death, but rather for helping people, specifically those struggling with addiction like he did. But what Matthew Perry didn’t realize was that his alter ego was also an important part of our lives and someone who helped people just as much.


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