A Selfish Letter On Loss

(TW: Mental Illness and Suicide)

I’m extremely saddened by the loss of Anthony Bourdain. What Bourdain gave me was not based in his celebrity, but his tenacity, building a career like a phoenix rising from the ashes of burnt toast at brunch.

Anthony Bourdain inspired me, but even more so, he pushed me to strive for greatness because I believed I could. Although I never met him, I felt a deep connection to his past trauma and present forms of self-expression. Through food, music, and drink, Bourdain mixed culture with everyone from small tribes in remote locations to President Obama. But all great stories involve great pain.

Bourdain had a tumultuous past and those never truly leave you. One drink too many can talk me back to a place I’ve only physically escaped. One event in the world can push me back down the hill like Sisyphus, forced to push myself back up, depression akin to his boulder, past trauma reflected in its size.

What’s hardest about his passing for me, is I used “Kitchen Confidential” as a crutch, “No Reservations” as my inspiration, and “Parts Unknown” as my guide to success. His work was my beacon of hope, knowing if he could do it, maybe I could too. Maybe I too could break free of a past me. I thought his age, success, and brash realism were all signs that he was on the other side. Now, I’m forced to sit in his loss like sitting in front of a house I did not build, that I cannot enter, but through the window, I see frames on a wall. Photos of the land before the home was there. Photos of it being built. Photos of pride and humility, strength and persistence, pain and relief.

Bourdain was a parental figure to me in many ways. He taught me lessons on struggle, on cooking, on compassion and acceptance. Much of my activism was built on this old white man accepting his fellow humans as he traveled around the world. I saw a man willing to fight for women, I saw a father willing to keep his children away from the limelight, I saw a talented TV show host making entertainment that nourished the mind and soul, just like the food he was eating.

I use this loss as a reminder to say thank you. It’s a reminder that I truly could be like Mr. Bourdain, successful, seemly happy, and still struck with the thought of taking my own life. Today I say thank you to his spirit for carrying mine for so long, and now I will let it go, holding his memory fondly in mine.

Live your dreams every day knowing there is an end for us all. Anthony chose his end. Today I choose my beginning.

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