Friends till the end

Everyone has one form of escapism or another, whether it’s a CD, movie or a TV program. When the days are long, it’s there to provide relief from whatever happens in the subsequent 24 hours. Television gets the brunt of public scrutiny because many Americans view the tube as an educational outlet. What many seem to forget, is that TV is about entertainment and being able to get drawn into situations. Entertainment is generally viewed as trivial and meaningless by some, but, for a large portion of the public, it has strong personal resonance.

With just three episodes left of my escape, Friends has become an aid for me to help overcome numerous obstacles. TV is just the ultimate vacation where school, work and arguments don’t matter. It’s a place to turn when pressure becomes too overwhelming to handle.

As a child, it was great knowing that a half-hour show would transform my world from one filled with stress to one of careless fun. For the past 10 seasons, Friends has been there to make me feel normal. No matter what happened in the past six days, Chandler, Monica, Rachel, Ross, Phoebe and Joey could help put it aside, even if just for a short time.

Friends has been a constant through many difficult times in my life — my parents’ constant fighting, loss of one of my best friends and finding myself in a strange city. Friends is not the best show ever, but each character reflected an element of my personality and a perfect life one could only wish for.

My father is an uneducated man who always tried to push a love for sports into both of his sons. My brother, Manuel, played baseball, basketball and football and was my father’s image of perfection. Since I wasn’t athletically inclined, my father viewed me as a distant second. But the creators of Friends gave me a chance to see what a good father could have been: Ross loved his son Ben and his infant daughter Emma equally.

In my darkest hours, Friends brought a rare smile to my face while a childhood friend was dying in front of my eyes from pancreatic cancer. It was an emotional time and the sextet was there to supply the necessary laughter needed for my recovery.

Friends would again be there for me as it came time to start college. In search of independence, USF was the perfect choice, leaving my buddies and relatives behind in the search of self-discovery. Moving to Tampa with no one to talk to besides a few people from high school, my first semester was a personal struggle. Through it all, season nine was the background of my freshman year. Friends was a way for the same faces I’ve seen for the last nine years to make me feel at ease drowning in a sea of more than 30,000 students.

Not only have the painful moments escaped, but the joyous ones — getting my license, my first pet and the numerous shenanigans with my pals — have been intertwined with some of the Friends episodes.

With an approaching May 6 finale, emotions are rising to the surface as a big chapter in my life comes to a close. What will happen with Ross and Rachel? What does the future hold for married Phoebe? All these questions will be silenced when the final curtain drops on Friends. As the actors take their final bows, the countless laughs will live on through syndication and the DVD releases.

My childhood memories are littered with the 230 plus episodes and countless laughs shared with the Friends that are just too good to be true.

Escapism ties to us all. One thing that remains true is that we all look to what we could’ve been or more often what we should’ve been.

Contact Movies Editor Pablo Saldana at