I remember it so vividly. I woke up and felt like my heart had been ripped from my chest. Shock. Disbelief.
Then I had to go to work. I was working at a non-profit in Brooklyn where I was being emotionally abused by my supervisor. My mental health was in a bad place and this felt like the cherry on top. I was exhausted from commuting from Long Island to Brooklyn every day and feeling taken advantage of, misunderstood, and fragile. I had recently gotten into a fight (over email *eye roll*) with my supervisor. I had tried to stand up for myself and my emotional needs and she gaslighted me. This job had begun to feel like a huge facade and I was spent.
I felt like a fraud when I visited one of the mental health centers to do a story on its director for Mental Health Awareness Month that May. I had the loveliest conversation with this incredible woman who truly wanted to Help People. I desperately wanted to tell her I was struggling, I could feel the words coming out of my mouth…but I bit my tongue. This was not the time nor place. I had just started this job a couple of months prior, and I didn’t want to open the lid on my emotional cookie jar. I didn’t know what the repercussions would be, or if she would’ve been able to help me at all, or if it would just make me look unprofessional. So I put up my own facade and left with a smile on my face.
All I could think that day, and still think often:
If Bourdain couldn’t do it, how could I?
On that Friday, some of my peers and I had to participate in some sort of employment seminar, because not enough people who actually needed it showed up. So the employees of this company got to feel good about themselves for helping people in need — when really we were just low level employees being used incorrectly for the umpteenth time. I had a huge chip on my shoulder that day. I walked around morosely, constantly refilling my cup of tea — thinking unlimited tea could somehow fix this feeling.
3 years later I still remember how dark that day felt. I’m grateful to have gotten through my worst days such as those. I still wrack my mind trying to figure out — why did he do it? What was going through his mind? What will become of me? Are people with depression just destined for a tragic ending?
I have more questions than answers. But I am trying to be grateful. And I feel like a moron sometimes, being so impacted by a man I never met. But he came into my life during a formative time. Where I was between the careers of chef and writer. I was not gritty enough to be a chef. I loved food and everything surrounding it; but at the ripe age of 15 I knew I wasn’t passionate enough to live the life of a chef. So I decided on writing.
Luckily, Bourdain did that too. Impeccably. I devoured Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw. His essays were beyond my years, but they touched me in a way no other writing had before. I loved that Tony was raw, real, and blunt; but as many people say — he was also a romantic. Underneath the rugged facade, he really believed in the beauty on this earth and in the people living in it. Even when I have trouble believing the good outweighs the bad — deep down I do. Because I am still here. And I credit him for helping me believe that, to this day.
Thank you Tony for all that you shared, the impact you made, the person you were and still are to us. Your spirit cannot be forgotten.