Lost Potential

I’ve had a lot of time to sit down and listen to music recently. Music keeps my work days flowing and with a pace that makes it easy to write to. My taste in music hasn’t changed much over the years, I still listen to a lot of EDM and techno. But with my recent transition away from Google Play Music to Youtube Music, a botched transition to say the least, has given me access to a pretty intuitive endless radio stream based on my tastes and artists I already like and have listened to. 

And while that means exposing me to plenty of new music like that of Porter Robinson and more Zedd than I like admitting it’s also given me access to a discography of an artist that I thought I knew but apparently I had much more to learn. 

I still remember the day I found out Avicii died. I was driving with some coworkers to a work function in another city none of us wanted to go to. We blasted Wake Me Up while driving too fast down the highway and lamented the loss of a human being while badly dancing in a car too small for all of us to fit in on a journey none of us asked to be part of. It didn’t matter to us why Avicii died; just that he was gone. And while many spent a lot of time discussing his mental health and the factors that led up to such a bright and young shining star dying; I mostly just processed the loss as I would have the death of any celebrity: sad for the loss of human life but that this was clearly more complicated beyond my comprehension with factors that would perpetually remain to be seen and with demons that were not privy to anyone; yet alone a nameless mass of fans. That’s the nature of DJs, really. Many obscure their faces, few use their real names. There is the DJ and the man. Madeon may be Hugo but they are not the same person. There’s a perpetual wall built between DJs and their fans built physically by their equipment and metaphorically by their oftentimes larger than life personas that make them almost more like characters in a pantheon rather than men and women like the rest of us. 

His death wasn’t as personal to me as Anthony Bourdain, who I looked up to and admired in a way that felt so intimate so his death resulted in friends checking in on me in the same they had after my mother died. I felt like I knew Tony, I felt like I lost a friend with Tony. That’s just who Anthony Bourdain was. He wasn’t an edifice or a persona, he was authentic; painfully so. He was always him and we were able to, as fans, believe that he was right there with us; sharing a meal, telling an off-color joke, being vulnerable to discuss his mental health or addictions and of course, making us smile and more importantly, think. 

Avicii wasn’t a close friend or mentor; he was a DJ. A DJ I liked, sure. A DJ I wouldn’t pass over if I got one of his songs on an endless shuffle mix. Hell, I may even pay to see him in concert if given the opportunity.  And one I didn’t think I’d miss so much. 

The endless mix of songs that’s given rhythm and life to my blended together days has given me a lot of Avicii; a DJ I mentioned to Youtube’s algorithm that I liked because of a few songs I had saved on my old Google Play Music Player and in a stroke of genius and the algorithm for once getting something right, almost every song I’ve gotten from the DJ has been a new and unexpected hit that I had never heard before. I thought that I was a fan by knowing literally 3 or 4 songs but there are so many tracks I just hadn’t heard before and each one just showed more and more skill and diversity that I just didn’t expect from the young DJ. I didn’t think Trouble would hit so hard or that Dear Boy would nearly bring me to tears. I didn’t think that Broken Arrows or Heaven would be so easy to dance to. I thought I knew Avicii but I was so so wrong. I’m glad now, for once, to have been corrected. 

But a theme emerged as I continued to listen deeper into his discography, a feeling of emptiness and loss. I suddenly found myself mourning all over again: not just for the young life snuffed out too soon but also for the loss of talent that he took with him to his eternal rest. 

It’s a complicated relationship that fans have with creators that have passed on. Many of us lament the time taken from us as fans as if we are owed creation. Many of us wish for just one more book, just one more song, just one more when really; that’s usually far from what we want. We selfishly wish for more time that death has so cruelly taken from us as avid fans and dedicated listeners while willfully shunning the fact that more time does not always lead to genius. We had many years with Harper Lee, only to be bitterly disappointed by the treasure that time can bring. But with Avicii as I continue to listen to each song he crafted, I can’t help but feel that familiar pang in my chest of “what if”.

What if he was given more time? What if he had one more set? One more studio album. One more single. What would he be making now? What would his style be? Would he dabble in tropical house again? Would he partner with DJs that I also admire? Whose vocals would he use next? What would his sound be like as he gained skill and matured? What songs that are out now or ones out before would he sample or experiment with? 

What would Avicii be doing now?

 I lament the loss of potential now, with Avicii’s death. And while of course, I mourn Tim as a person, I just wonder what we could have now if he was still with us. 

On Celebrity Suicide

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I’ll take this moment to say that I know this topic is difficult to cover and I struggled with this all during the process of writing it. But know that I would never post something without giving in a great deal of thought and I think it’s a narrative worth exploring. I am sorry for those who are affected by topic negatively and my goal is never to cause emotional pain. I’ve been touched by the specter of suicide in my life, I’ve lost someone close to me this way; know that I am not writing this for the sake of a hot take or just because I can. I gave this post time to become what it is. I left it, came back to it and returned to it before deciding it was worth discussing. Once more, I apologize if this post finds you in crisis and I sincerely hope that you find healing and comfort.


June 8th, I got a lot of messages on my phone. It wasn’t because I was paneling, it wasn’t because I was at A-Kon, it wasn’t because I was back in my corner of Texas: it was because one of my idols died. Anthony Bourdain meant the world to me. Even in death, he still does. But I got messages from those I love and that love me asking if I was okay. There’s a bit of a terse statement that suicide is contagious and in so many ways, it is. It’s like a virus, a miasma that lingers in the air and poisons those who are most vulnerable to it.

I wanted to talk about celebrity suicide in an attempt to help me work through some of my own grief.

Celebrities ending their own lives is not new or recent. Unfortunately, many famous people leave us through accidental means like car wrecks and accidental overdoses. But far too many leave us intentionally. And when I say “celebrity” I’m willing to be very open in this definition so this covers anyone who is “famous” and “important”. Bourdain’s death hit especially raw after the recent suicide of Kate Spade.  And the flood of support that comes and then quickly leaves after the suicide of someone famous is almost just as exhausting as the grief that comes with that loss. Suddenly, folks who normally would have much more puritanical views on suicide and mental health are “advocates” only to return to their staunch views once the zeitgeist fades and moves on to another Kardashian storyline. And that’s what makes celebrity death so frustrating. When Chester Bennington died, I was distraught. His music helped me work through some of my own dark demons and knowing that he suffered so much in plain sight was disheartening.

But there is one thing that the recent string of celebrity suicides is that it has brought to light a very ugly aspect of supporting those that are mentally ill: sometimes, the illness is too much. The suicide rate in the U.S. has been steadily ticking up for the last several years and the amount of celebrities that unfortunately take their own lives helps shed a light on the countless others whose death did not make a large ripple in the pool.  It’s one of the reasons 13 Reasons Why is so intoxicating, to people that are not mentally ill, it’s a valid and important part of the conversation. To people who are mentally ill, it’s just another television show that does a damn good job at glorifying suicide which is a dangerous game for anyone who has danced with those thoughts before.

This time seems different, though. This time around seems different. It has seemed different since Robin Williams died. We lost such a funny and bright man. How could he experience any sadness at all? But his death reminded us that oftentimes, it’s the people smiling the most who hurt inside. Bourdain was similar: so many said that he had never seemed happier.

Even writing this post was really difficult and I had to ask more than one person about the ethics of writing about such a thing. It always seems a little egotistical to write about such a subject after someone dies. It’s the main reason there’s an Avicii post deep in my document cloud that will likely never be published: it all just feels like a way to turn tragedy into narcissism. That isn’t my goal, however. I’m a big believer in fighting stigma by confronting the evil (most of the time) note that I was glamorize or glorify the act but I will continue to prop up the people who we have lost. Because each death is a tragic loss. There is a void left behind knowing that Anthony Bourdain will not be able to enchant us with tales of exotic lands. There’s a void left knowing Kate Spade will not design another piece that perfectly encapsulates what it means to be a woman on the go. I am sad knowing Robin Williams won’t make another generation laugh like he did mine and the one before mine and I am heartbroken knowing that Linkin Park will never be the same. That pain is valid and sure, it’s egotistical going through and writing about it but I am hoping that  in talking about it candidly will start a conversation and in my opinion and experience: a conversation can be life-saving. Check on your friends. Check on all your friends. Be there for everyone that you know and love.

Know that I am here for you even though I’m far from a professional.

I’ve seen this sentiment echoed a lot recently so I’ll mimic it here: I won’t share the hotline number. If someone is really in danger, they can find it. It’s not wanting to find it. Instead, I’ll offer again my love, my support and my empathy. I’ll offer my heart.

And to Mr. Bourdain, god, I am so sad that there will be many who don’t get to see your special brand of cynicism, wit and humility.

I’ll end on one of my favorite quotes of all time, it’s one of yours, Mr. Bourdain; and it’s one of the few quotes I’ve ever considered permanently putting on my body.

“Happiness is the absence of cynicism.”

Rest well, Mr. Bourdain and to all the others that have joined you in your rest. The world is a little less awesome because of your collective loss.