I’m on a train somewhere between Stafford and London. There’s a Hasidic Jew in front of me, a woman wearing a hijab just walked past me with her daughter, and a red head with a sun dress is sitting diagonal from me. We’re all apart, together. All on our own journeys, sharing this narrow car as it hurls down its track.
When I read that Chester Bennington died in what is shaping up to be a suicide, I immediately thought of my sister, Kelsey. While I was always a bit take-it-or-leave-it with Linkin Park, she’s been a devoted fan since high school. I’m pretty sure being a Linkin Park enthusiast was a prerequisite for her accepting my brother-in-law’s marriage proposal.
I remember when my first big “famous” death happened — LFO’s Rich Cronin. That September afternoon felt like an autumn sucker punch from the universe. I put Summer Girls on repeat and white girl rapped “I’ll steal your honey like I stole your bike” all day.
At my high school graduation in 2004 (gasp), one of the speakers made note — cliche, of course, but true — of the fact that it was our stepping off point. As I sat in a sea of red and white caps and gowns, I stared at the people around me, reflective of the fact that we’d never all share a space again. Sure enough, by the end of the summer we’d scattered across the globe, studying, traveling, building our lives and finding ourselves.
The power of social media has drastically changed the way we keep in touch with each other. Piece-by-piece we share these small tidbits — glimpses — of our lives in a way previous generations could not. Catching up is rarely running into an old friend at the local grocery store when you’re home for Thanksgiving; now they’re on a page where you can dissect and judge the version of their lives they’ve crafted of themselves for the public.
People commit suicide for a myriad reasons, most of which come down to a core issue of loneliness and desperation. It’s amazing and tragic to realize that we are more connected, but more alone, than ever before. Technology has not saved our souls.
I constantly praise Europe’s cultural integration. The ability to sit on a multi-ethnic train with people all going in one direction to many different places is beautiful, truly. The US is still struggling to find that peaceful integration and sadly lives with a lot of fear and misplaced phobias.
But even a train can’t tell a story on its own. Like the stage I walked across on that sunny day in 2004, it’s merely the starting point.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the stories I’ve encountered. The places, the circumstances, mostly the people. We know so little about the people around us, and most care even less to listen long enough to find out who they are. It’s the biggest disservice social media gives to us. I can see pictures of your children. The fancy dinners. The far off vacations (sound familiar, self?). But what do I know of your internal struggles? What do I know of your pain?
What keeps you up at night?
One of the most incredible people I ever met was also the most conflicted, lonesome, and depressed.
Coming out of this place of darkness I’ve been treading through the last two years, I can only hope that — if I should ever fall into that pit again — someone will look at me long enough to not just pass me by but to seek to know me. I can only hope that I will continue to grow and mature and learn as a person so that I am able to give someone else the same.
In darkness, silence is deafening, loneliness a comfort. I’m far from perfect, but I am working through my tragedies day-by-day. I know with certainty that my ability to listen is greater than ever.
Every day there are things to remind me of what was, where I was, where I am, and what I will continue to strive to be: not alone.
You don’t have to be, either. Remember that.