It seems to remain true, “The outside may never help the inside”.
Years ago, I shared my experience speaking to a large group of like minded individuals in Mill Valley, CA. Expressing my truth, practicing transparency, I became vulnerable, putting aside any lack of control I would have on the judgement of those around me. That day, I grew. My spiritual self began to gain confidence that who I was was perfectly ok. After this meeting, a man came up to me and thanked me for the words I shared, going so far as to relate to some of the things I had said. Who would have thought? All of this “stuff” I’ve been through can be made into good use. The surprising fact, more so, was that this gentlemen was someone whom I had believed to be a pretty happy human. Growing up, watching his shows & movies, he was the one making us laugh, making us smile. Although, in the end, I would never realize how he really felt until this man, Robin Williams, would take his own life.
Shortly after his death, a joke re-emerged that had been around for a while. It tells the tale of a clown:
“Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, ‘Treatment is simple. Great clown, Pagliacci, is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.’ Man bursts into tears. Says, ‘But doctor, I am Pagliacci.’”
There are some people in this world who have their opinions & views of these instances where people can no longer fight their demons. No matter what I think, I know that as of today, I have never been able to relate to an understanding where this could be my outcome. Have things been bad? Yes. Have I felt it be easier should I not have to fight anymore? Absolutely. Although, I have never found it necessary to take such a drastic action. But who am I to have judgement over it? I can only pray that a day never comes where I can comprehend this as an option. Some of the strongest words can sound like the contrary. To admit defeat, to surrender, to ask for help, or at very least acknowledge the despair, these are just a few ways those around us have any control in helping.
At the time of Robin Williams final days, I had just begun a two month stint as a chef on tour with a number of bands, including AFI, 30 Seconds to Mars, and Linkin Park, featuring frontman, Chester Bennington. Over the course of this time, I was adapting to a new lifestyle, myself, as I was just over one year clean & sober after what seemed like a lifetime of searching for a solution. Having a clear head, a focused lens to look through, I took part in an extraordinary tour, bringing happiness & joy to tens of thousands of fans across North America. Chester, notably, had this connection, this ability to draw in and relate to those in the crowd who felt he gave them hope. I watched this man, heard his words, and witnessed his impact, then & after, as his career continued. Our conversation at the end of the tour will never be forgotten, as he thanked me for my hard work & motivated me to keep pushing forward.
In May of 2017, work placed me in Seattle, WA. It was hard, in just the few days I was there, to not be made aware that this city had lost one of their own just days before. Chris Cornell of Soundgarden had taken his own life, to the surprise of many, in a time where those closest to him believed him to be a decent place. Knowing that my previous boss was a close friend to Cornell, it was no surprise when Chester would speak up regarding depression, suicide, and reminding everyone that we are not alone.
Linkin Park wasn’t one of those bands or artists who promote a cause and step away. I witnessed these guys stand up for what they believed in. On our Carnivore’s Tour, we shared space with the IAVA (Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America), a group dedicated to helping veterans & combatting suicide. Groups of veterans would attend the shows, tour the backstage area, and I am so grateful I had a chance to share this experience with these heroes.
Feeling as though I knew his take on the matter, I found myself in disbelief & shock when I was made aware through a text that on Cornell’s birthday July 20th, Chester, himself, would be found after taking his own life. As a close friend of their personal chef, Gray Rollin, and one who considers that whole tour family as part of my own family, there was no question how hard this was going to hit home. A few months later in October, I felt such a mix of emotions as I traveled to Southern California to be reacquainted with LP’s production manager & good friend, Jim Digby, and so many others of that tour family. Being a part of a night at Hollywood Bowl, surrounded by Linkin Park & so many special guests there to show their support was something I will never forget, as the show started with LP’s hit “Numb” being played around an empty microphone in the spotlight, where Chester would have been standing. Ten thousand plus, singing along as they realized this reality. If anything could emphasize the following phrase, it was this moment. #FuckDepression
Nearly a year later, none is forgotten. I continue to trudge along my own path. Remembering that self care is the best way to care for others, since if I am not healthy & present, what good am I to anyone else?
Then this week hits. Before the ink dries in the headlines of designer Kate Spade taking her own life, I was awoken to a radio show putting together statements that in my half slumber began to piece together. Something drastic has happened, and without another second of sleep, I was up. Social media took no time to let me know what had happened. Anthony Bourdain had taken matters into his own hands, and his experience had ended.
I try to not think of these matters in levels of impact or importance. They are all part of my experience, and thus have different effects on me as a person. I can say that as a chef, one who appreciates writing & sharing, and of course traveling & eating, that Tony B. was more than just an influence in who I am, as a person, and absolutely in my career. I’ve made my way from the popular city of Barcelona, Spain into San Sebastián, simply because Bourdain noted it as a “food lover’s paradise”. His insights into lands that I’ve traveled or hope to one day have inspired me more so than any other stories or experiences that I’ve come across. And I’m not alone. From “A Cook’s Tour”, a show dedicated to food in other regions, to the more recent “Parts Unknown”, which has shifted the balance to being partially about food, but almost more so the place, culture, and people, Bourdain invited us to see that none of us are alone. We are all humans on the same Earth having our unique understandings of what life is. Although sharp witted and often opinionated, he taught us something we may not have even realized we were learning.
I’m sad. Between suicide, and other deaths caused by decisions made by people I know, I’ve lost so many. Some closer than others, but parts of my story, nonetheless. I have crossed paths with many fighting battles with alcohol, drug use, depression. I am submerged in a career as a chef in a food service industry that has it’s glaring share of people pushing through personal struggle. At this same time, I am inspired. I get the opportunity to continue living. I get to be an demonstration of what fighting this battle and coming out on the other end can look like. I battle addiction, alcoholism, and a number of other challenges on a daily basis. But questions motivate me to seek answers, bad moments don’t have to be bad days, and I can start over at any given moment.
Any less than perfect moments will pass. They always do.. I just have to remember this.
My empathy has grown, my humility is a constant work in progress, and I just hope that those around me know that I am here if they ever feel that no one else is.
I’m tired of loss. I’d be naive to think it will not continue more so as I continue to grow older. So, today, I will not take this moment for granted, I will try to not assume I know someone else’s battles, and I’ll try to remind myself & others, we are not alone, nor can we do this alone.
I believe any one of us just want to know that it will all be okay, and it will.
Rest easy, Mr. Bourdain.