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What Does the World Look Like Without Alex Trebek?

Alex Trebek’s passing put my existential security in Jeopardy… here’s why.

Alex Trebek the host of Jeopardy wearing a suit.
Photo: NYT

We go about our busy lives, and it’s often not until a cultural icon passes away that we’re reminded no one is untouched by death. Though Alex Trebek was not a famous athlete or legendary singer, he was acclaimed in his own right. The news of his passing threw me into my own little existential crisis. Why? I’m not so sure. Perhaps it was the nostalgia for my childhood mixed with my fear of the future (adulting is intimidating!), or maybe doubt in my own existence on top of the uncertainty of my own significance.


The moment I stopped scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a tribute to Alex Trebek, memories reeled through my mind. I was seven years old again, at my grandparents’ house for our usual Friday Night sleepover. Sprawled on the couch in my pajamas with my Grandma and a bag of Cheez Doodles, our vice of choice, I played along with her and my grandpa competing in the first round of Jeopardy. Most of the time I never understood the Jeopardy questions, let alone contemplated their answers. But something about the show, specifically the man with all the answers, Alex Trebek, amused me and comforted; Always calm, always pleasant, always there, every weeknight at 7.


But this Monday, he won’t be there.

Impermanence. It’s scary. I’m here in this moment, but tomorrow or next Tuesday, I might not be. Alex Trebek had been on this television show, at the same time, on the same channel for all my life. But now that’s changed. Alex was diagnosed with cancer almost a year ago, and look how much has changed in one year. A year ago I could go to a party with my friends, hug people and laugh with people without hesitation. Today, I can’t imagine leaving the house without a mask.


It’s scary how fast life moves. One day you’re seven years old sleeping at your grandparent’s house without a care in the world except which Barbies you’re going to pack in your overnight bag. You blink and you’re twenty thinking about more than just homework and grades and that crush who doesn’t know you exist. You’re thinking about what your future will look like, who will be there...who won’t be.

Well, I donated my Barbies after the 5th grade (okay, 6th) and I don’t see my grandma everyday anymore. For awhile it’s been just Alex and me on weeknights. Whether I was doing homework or making dinner or crying over a boy, Alex was there. And now, it’s just me.