Chester Bennington - 1976-2017
Linkin Park was one of those guilty pleasure bands. Yeah, they’re one of those bands that sounds like they are locked in the early 00’s, rap/rock, precursor to screamo—but there was something from the jump that attracted me. Good production, a couple of singers I could emulate at the top of my lungs alone in my car well enough, lyrics that spoke to me. That’s really it. That’s something I learned with 2003’s Meteora. I was at my worst, and like an enigmatic speaker at the pulpit who sounds they’re speaking directly to you about your issues, Meteora spoke to my issues.
Songs like Somewhere I Belong spoke to my persistent displacement, my constant search for home; Lying from You, Easier to Run, and Figure.09, all words from my own brain on dealing with grief and guilt. And that’s exactly where I was when the album came out, dealing with grief and guilt.
The album is barely over half an hour long and there were accusations of sophomore-itis, and at first, I felt that. I wished the album was longer or had more songs, but as I listened to it, over, and over, and over, I realized it was exactly as long as it needed to be. Breaking the Habit was me. I was the one putting myself into the situations I was in: drinking, mistreating loved ones, recklessly dealing with my life through sex and booze. I wanted to take the advice the album was giving, but I was in it, the tumult of emotions that I spiraled out of control under.
We all dealt with 9/11, then my mother died under still yet mysterious circumstances, was it murder or suicide or some combination thereof? As I collapsed, I cheated on my girlfriend, but in trying to make those things right, found out how bad for each other we were anyway, letting myself be abused by her as some sort of penance. And as I was drinking every day and pining for forgiveness and trying to come to terms with the death of someone I had been mad at for years, I had Linkin Park’s Meteora at the bottom of the barrel with me. 36 minutes and 35 seconds of purely 2003. But I’m listening to it now and every damn song still speaks to me. I’ve heard them a million times in the time sense, but today, learning Chester Bennington has taken his own life, I can hear my grief all over again, but I realize it’s because he, the band, some combination, were dealing with that shit, too.
It’s exactly as long as it needs to be. Life, however, can never be too long, only ever too short. I said today, “Depression is fucking hard.” But it’s not just depression, it’s a concert of emotions and imbalances and imperfections, and the “it” of it is life. Life is fucking hard. Those of us who are fucked can’t ask for help so easily. Neither can those around us see when the threads have frayed to snapping. Chester reached his point. Will we learn of something in the coming days that says, “ah, this is why?” It’s possible, but it’s still unacceptable.
That’s not to say I’m mad at him. I can’t be mad at those who choose to end their lives, I know that I’ll never understand their point of view, just as you can’t understand my point of view; you’re not me. We’re all alone in universes of infinite space within our skulls, adrift in a universe of infinite space, surrounded by other people, completely together, completely alone. It’s impossible to pass judgement on someone who has reached a point where they say enough is enough. Maybe sometimes they’ll be sick and decide they’ve had enough. Maybe they know something is coming that they know they can’t, or are unwilling to, deal with. Maybe sometimes there’s no reason at all and people are just left in the lurch. It’s unfair. Life is unfair.
My friend Maxximillian Dafoe (@maxximillian) and I were texting today about my #SpaceFart’s and #CreepyCrap’s when the news came across my phone. That’s when and who I said depression is fucking hard to. And she said “don’t blame depression…depression is just a word for what we’re going through.” It’s a symptom of life, as my aunt put it in response to my Facebook outcry. My wife pointed out it’s Chris Cornell’s birthday and those two were at least acquaintances, if not friends. Was the memory too much? Chester left a wife and kids, not to mention, friends, family, and fans. “How could he do that so soon after Chris had just done so?” we might rail. But that’s not a fair question, because I already pointed out, life ain’t fair and it’s never going to be.
Chester Bennington and his band Linkin Park helped me through a tough time, I suspect I’m not alone in this. His death has affected me more greatly as a result. We had a bond that he had no way of knowing, but I wish he had.
I want to tout out the line, “it gets better,” but it doesn’t. It gets harder and you get used to it. Or you don’t. If you ever feel like your rope is fraying, burning your hands, or snapping out of your grasp, try to think of something in the future worth holding on for. I’m terrified of death, myself…I try to look forward to the next Star Wars or superhero movie, a video game, something to experience. I want to wake up to my family every day as long as I live. I want to get off of planet Earth and see the heavens for myself. I don’t want to go.
And here’s the scary part…I’ve considered it before. I’ve been so afraid of being afraid that maybe just being done with this ultimate fear would be a release. Does that doom me to Hell? I don’t think so, but it certainly dooms my family to a waking nightmare. So, I look forward to my wife and daughter’s faces every day.
I do understand that that might not be enough at that crucial moment in someone’s life. Someone rich and famous should have every resource to reach out for help, but we’ve stigmatized through generations that asking for help is a failure. Not to mention, rich and famous isn’t “happy” or a guarantee of “healthy.” We need to take care of each other, we have to want to live, we have to want to remain in this world, and it’s going to take time to get there after bottling things up for so long. Especially in our current political climate, the globe over.
Care deeply. Tell your loved ones you love them. Squeeze your significant other’s hand, hug your kid (even if they act like it’s the worst part of their day), text with your friends, @ your favorite celebrity when they do something you really like. Call your mom and dad.
Chester, you will be missed. I wish you could have known that.