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What We Do Know

My Personal Celebration Honoring Bourdain Day

He wrote 13 books, the most noteworthy – Kitchen Confidential – sold well over 1 million copies. His show inspired tens of millions of us. It celebrated adventure and exploration. Subtly, it nudged us to seek out an understanding of foreign cultures and different people. He encouraged us to take the road less traveled. And then, one day, he was gone. 

I remember receiving the alert on my phone. It was a Friday morning, and I had just left the gym. “CNN’s Anthony Bourdain dead at 61,” my stomach dropped. He was a hero to many of us, living the life we desk jockeys could only imagine. Why would such an incredible man, inspiring to so many, and enjoying the best the world offered, take his own life?

Anthony Bourdain stars in Morgan Neville’s documentary “ROADRUNNER”.

There is no easy answer, and we will never know his exact struggle. As his friend and writer/publisher Karen Rinaldi says in “Roadrunner,” the documentary about Bourdain’s life and death, “We don’t get to know.”  In so many of these stories, we don’t get any answers. 

What we do know: these stories remain all too common. Currently, more than over 1.2 million Americans attempt to take their own lives annually. Devastatingly, 130 Americans succeed each day. 

When I turned 30 in 2010, I developed a sketch for a tattoo I had long pondered. It would illustrate milestones in my life alongside the places I had lived. Eight years later, reading the news alert, I began to internalize how precious life is. I asked myself, why am I not doing the things I want to do? Why have I never gotten that tattoo?  Like the ink itself, the idea had not faded or wavered. At age 38, I had professional stability and a recognizable maturity in my thoughts and plans. If I still wanted the tattoo, what was I waiting for? What would Bourdain say? 

I really thought that by the time I turned 43, I had had all of my great adventures. That the action and adventure segment of the program was long over.”

Attributed to Anthony Bourdain in “Roadrunner.”

After repeating those existential questions in a text message with a close friend, he replied, “you have an appointment at noon. My artist will sneak you in. Can you try to sketch the idea? When you get there, the two of you will finalize it.” What she helped me create was perfect.

As we remember Bourdain Day and celebrate all the lessons and inspirations from the creative genius we lost too soon, it is a wonderful coincidence to note that in the next couple of weeks, the nation will roll out a mental health hotline (988 will be the 911 for mental health). I hope one of the legacies of Anthony Bourdain will be increased visibility and funding for mental health and suicide prevention. In the first half of this year, I lost three friends. They were brilliant, creative, fun, and loving souls – each gone too soon. If you need help, text TALK to 741741 or call the national suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-8255. If someone you know needs a shoulder to lean on, reach out and be there to help them. And, don’t be afraid to enlist professional support. 

Watching the documentary about Bourdain’s life last weekend was a stark reminder that there is no limit on how much love we should give to one another or ourselves. Seek the good in one another; forgive one another; and, work together towards a better country and a better world. We can and should believe in an America where we seek common ground, in a country where we lift one another and follow our better angels. In America, we must do better by caring, being more civil, seeking consensus, and continuing to invest – our time, energy, and healthcare resources – in mental health. We must invest more in ourselves and one another. 

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