Hi, everyone. I will be posponing my planned post by a week due to the unexpected loss of Anthony Bourdain.
His death has inspired me to write this letter. It’s a thank you, an apology, and a call-to-action that I needed to write. It’s going to be raw and will not include any fluffy images that might distract you from what I’m trying to say.
If you’d like to read it, please continue. If not, I will be posting a travel piece about Main Street Saint Charles (the piece I had planned for this week) Saturday, June 16. Thank you.
Dear Mr. Bourdain,
It feels unfortunately fitting that I learned of your passing while working on my travel blog. As I try to become more consistent with my posts, I want to have everything sketched out for the next two months. I was working on this very calendar when I woke up Friday morning. I took a break, got on Facebook, and saw the news. Suddenly my world took a turn for the worst. I stopped what I was doing as the shock set in. You–Anthony Bourdain– had taken your own life at the age of 61.
The first time I heard your name was in high school. I found my love for cooking in 2009 during my Foods I course, and it continued through my senior year in 2012 during Culinary Arts. Most of my spare time was spent in the kitchen or watching as many cooking or food-based shows I could get my hands on. One of these very shows was, “No Reservations.” Your courageous approach to food was inspiring, albeit a little crazy. Without realizing it, I had found a role model in the Travel Channel’s traveling chef. You were a culinary icon and a part of me idolized you.
As my life progressed and my interests continued to grow, my passion for writing, journalism, travel, current events, and culture drew me closer to you and your work. You were living the life I wanted to live. You told the stories of the unknown, the small; the unexpected. You didn’t run away from the gritty–sometimes unpleasant– parts of the world. You showed us all what was beautiful about every crevice in this place we call home while also teaching us about the struggles people face all over the planet. You showed me the world before I had the ability or means to explore it for myself.
I could type thank you one thousand times over in an attempt to thank you for everything, but, Mr. Bourdain, I also want to say I’m sorry. I am so utterly sorry that you felt so alone in a world that you loved so much. I’m so incredibly sorry that you couldn’t see how much the world you loved, loved you back. I’m so sorry that the silence of mental illness and drug addiction took you from us so soon.
Depression is something that is impossible to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. It’s an all-consuming despair that can swallow you whole. It’s as deadly as cancer, and can come on as hard and as fast as a stage-four tumor. Yet, we still don’t fear or respect the disease for what it is. We push it aside and make those that suffer with it feel weak. So, they throw on a smile and continue walking with the burdens of unhappiness—sometimes until it’s too much. I can’t help but mention your past history with addiction as well, Mr. Bourdain, because you openly discussed it yourself. You were battling two diseases. Both illnesses are deemed taboo in our society. We’re taught not to look out for the warning signs or make people feel like seeking help is acceptable, and, for that, I’m sorry.
I want to take this tragedy–the loss of you– as a chance to make a change in the way I impact the world. I want to take this as an opportunity to be there for people in a way I don’t think we realize we need to be, especially in this digital age. I want to leave my mark.
First, I want to provide anyone that reads this with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, and SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-4357, in case they feel like they’ve run out of options and have no where else to turn. I could simply leave this letter here and call it a day, but that feels passive. And you, Mr. Bourdain, were anything but passive. You went and made an impact on so many lives and I think we all need to do the same. So I’m begging anyone that reads this to be there for people. Be present. Take notice.
Call that friend you haven’t heard from in a couple of months just to remind them that they matter. Make some brownies and bring them to the person you know is having a rough time. Ask someone to go on a walk or grab a drink, just so they can tell you a little bit more about themselves. Spend time with the actual human beings you call your friends. If you can tell someone needs help, say something. Don’t ignore it. And if you can’t tell someone needs help– if their lives look perfect– still be there and pay attention. Let everyone one you care about know that they are seen and loved.
Please, don’t turn to social media and hit the heart underneath someone’s Instagram post or Tweet and think that’s enough. You can’t change a person’s life if you aren’t actually in it. Sending them “love” on Facebook or Twitter doesn’t count. Accept the fact that human beings aren’t quite that simple. Mr. Bourdain knew that, and showed us the complexity of human nature through his work.
I want to close with the ever impactful words of someone who has changed my life– Mr. Bourdain, I want to close with words said by you:
“As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life–and travel– leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks– on your body or on your heart– are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”
Thank you so much, for everything. I hope you’ve found the peace you couldn’t find here. You’re legacy will be cherished forever.