I have had a busy day.
Though that’s not really a valid excuse for not having this finished sooner. I think it was just too big for me. It still is.
Every time a celebrity death sends shockwaves through the populace, I remember a quote I read once: We don’t mourn the death of a celebrity because we knew them but because they helped us to know ourselves.
I have gone through a lot of these in the last few years. Robin Williams, Tom Petty, Prince, Chris Cornell. But none have made this statement more true than Chester Bennington.
His voice still hurts my heart.
I didn’t jump on the Linkin Park train right away. I got on a couple years later—2002, probably—with Meteora, but when I fell, I fell hard. Early on, with those first two albums, Linkin Park was my go-to angry music. In college, in my early twenties, I had times when I needed angry music.
And some of my angry music doubled as pump up music, getting ready for something big.
It wasn’t until later when I really started to feel the impact of the music.
To say I went through a messy breakup at the end of my senior year of university would be a gross understatement. I went through a soul-crushing, devastating breakup at the end of my senior year of university. In the year I was supposed to be planning for my future, my plans had grown up around our relationship. I didn’t have any real ties to any specific place so I was all for moving to Austin, Texas, to wait for him to finish his schooling. I wasn’t planning to move in together, just move there. Start working, hopefully in my field, and when he graduated, we’d figure out the next step.
Until that couldn’t be my plan anymore.
I couldn’t move to a city where the only people I knew were my now-ex’s friends. So I moved back home with my mother.
And that wasn’t even the devastating part. It got progressively worse.
Until I was numb. I felt nothing. Not happy, not sad, not angry, not hurt. I felt nothing. I had a couple of friends (who are still with me) who honestly worried that I would fall asleep one night and never wake up again. It’s called Broken Heart Syndrome and it is when the physical stress brought on by a person’s grief is too much for their body to handle and their organs simply shut down.
After a few months of this, I rediscovered my connection to music. He and I had had a relationship built around music so I had found it difficult to listen to anything. I just didn’t have the interest in any of it. But I found another band (not Linkin Park; another story for another day) that had no connection to my time with him and before long feelings started to come back. They were horrible feelings. Pain, sorrow, anger, but they were feelings. They took turns and when it was anger’s turn at the wheel, I looked to Linkin Park for . . . well, a lot of things. To channel the anger, to comfort the anger, to nurture the anger. After being numb, I relished the anger. I wanted to be angry. Anger was easier than pain.
Numb is not something I would ever wish on another person, ever. When someone says, “there are things worse than death,” I think they are talking about nothing. The complete absence of everything. No emotions. Creativity sapped. Energy depleted. Appetite nonexistent. Numb, I think, is worse than death.
And even in all of that, it was 2014 before I fully understood the full impact the music of Linkin Park had had on me.
At that point I had been following the band AFI for twenty years, and Linkin Park for twelve, so when I was offered a ticket to the Carnivores tour with AFI, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and Linkin Park as a gift for graduating cosmetology school, I was thrilled.
I truly believe there is no better way to experience music than live, from the front row. Even music you’ve listened to for years, for more than a decade. The live experience is so different to being at home or in your car. Especially for someone like me, an extroverted empath who feels and absorbs other people’s energy and emotion. Being among hundreds or thousands of people whose emotions are turned up to eleven is so powerful. But feeling that emotion and energy from the artists creating the music. . . it’s honestly euphoric.
But something in hearing, live, those lyrics that had brought me so much comfort from my stereo and headphones, was overwhelming. Being in the melee of the tiny GA pit with a couple hundred other people, thirty thousand in the seats behind us, supporting Mike Shinoda standing on the barricade, it was something I knew I had to do again.
That’s my concert experience. There are bands I expect to put on a good show before I go and I might spend years trying to get there. Linkin Park was one of those bands. And I know before the first song is over if it’s a show I’ll seek out again and again. Linkin Park was going to be one of those shows too.
I had been watching the tour schedules, determined to see them again, when I got the news about Chester’s death. And I am not being dramatic when I tell you, I felt my heart break. I could probably write down every lyric from their catalog that has touched me in some way and completely fill up a notebook. I don’t think I have learned more about myself from any other band, ever. Every album is it’s own therapy session, every song a deep dive into the traumas of my life.
“I wanna heal. I wanna feel what I thought was never real. I wanna let go of the pain I felt so long. I wanna heal. I wanna feel like I’m close to something real. I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along. Somewhere I belong.”
We don’t mourn the deaths of celebrities because we knew them but because they helped us to know ourselves.
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