Four mornings ago we learned, seemingly simultaneously, of the suicide of Anthony Bourdain. The reaction was swift, and far larger than I expected. Though I knew Bourdain was popular, I had no idea just how beloved and inspiring he was to so many people from so many different walks of life - but it makes sense. For nearly two decades, he traveled the globe, eating every possible type of food with every possible type of person, and seemed to delight in it all. Just as comfortable sharing a meal with the President of the United States as he was sharing a meal with Laotian villagers, just as satisfied by a greasy hotdog from a sketchy midnight street vendor as by the finest French cuisine on the planet, Bourdain took the concept of Everyman to an inspiring extreme. He single-handedly exposed millions of people to seedy stripclubs, posh 5 star hotels, back-alley greasyspoons, and stadium sized fruit markets all over the world. He was the envy of writers and chefs alike. His brilliant mix of vulgarity and compassion, dry wit and warm heart, eccentricity and down-to-earth dialogue combined with an obvious passion for all the world had to offer - particularly its food - made him appealing to damn near everyone.
And it is those qualities, those passions, and that accessibility that makes the idea of him hanging himself in a hotel room in France so difficult to accept. As I have written about more than once, depression is indiscriminate - it does not care about your new book or your awards shelf or your bank account - and so I will not do Mr. Bourdain the disservice of asking how someone with the self-described "best job in the world" could not muster the will to go on for another day. Anyone who has experienced depression knows it can eat away at absolutely anybody, no matter how awesome their lives look from afar. Instead, I wish to highlight just how awesome his life seemed, in an effort to drive this home. Anthony Bourdain was an incredibly talented man, both in the kitchen and at the keyboard, and his unique combination of skills led to a career most of us only dream of. How many of us wish we could get rich seeing the world and taking in all of the food, drink, culture, and people it has to offer? How many of us believe most of our complaints about life would disappear if this was suddenly our job? Beyond his impossibly great sounding career, even, his personal life seemed alright - he had divorced a few years ago, but the split was apparently amicable, he had a great relationship with his daughter, and he was dating a woman who was (literally) model-gorgeous, and bright, and talented. It would be very difficult to pity the man's life. And yet, he was depressed. There was some part of him, unknown and invisible to those looking in, that could not find peace, despite living a more than enviable life.
We desperately need to understand that depression can affect absolutely anyone. That it is not a reflection of our jobs, our failures, our flaws, or our habits. That it is not curable by way of wealth or fame or achievements or yoga. That the homeless man and the millionaire, the fat woman in the basement suite and the supermodel in the penthouse, the grade 8 dropout and the PhD, the fast food worker and the man with the "best job in the world" can all share the same affliction. We desperately need to understand that depression is a disease that can kill people, just like any other. Just as a healthy diet and nice figure does not make one immune to cancer, a fun job and a hot wife does not make one immune to depression. We desperately need to understand that suicide does not have a face. It looks like Robin Williams, it looks like Kate Spade, it looks like Chris Cornell and L'Wren Scott. It looks like 22 American veterans per day, 41 Canadian youths per month, 800,000 human beings worldwide per year. It looks like three of my childhood friends, my ex-boyfriend, and a guy I used to play pool with at a sketchy local bar. It looks like Anthony Bourdain.
May he, and the nearly half a million people who have lost their battle this year rest in peace, and let those of us still here commit to learning, listening, and talking more. Perhaps over a bowl of something weird and wonderful.
Wherein I say
whatever I want.