Some losses hit harder than others. Anthony Bourdain’s passing on Friday, June 8th, struck a chord that reverberated far and wide. Numerous celebrities and famous people eulogized him on Twitter and Instagram, while many of my friends shared their thoughts on Facebook and other social media platforms. Articles commemorating him proliferated across the journalism world.
Personally, I felt empty and broken in a way that no celebrity death has impacted me ever. While I inevitably feel sad when reading of someone’s passing – unless, of course, they were an asshole throughout life – I rarely experience emotional trauma from hearing of someone’s death when I did not know that individual personally.
Anthony Bourdain was different. As Helen Rosner aptly described in her article, Anthony Bourdain and the Power of Telling the Truth, “Bourdain felt like your brother, your rad uncle, your impossibly cool dad—your realest, smartest friend, who wandered outside after beers at the local one night and ended up in front of some TV cameras and decided to stay there.” He was cool, hip, and had that aura about him that almost any young man aspires to possess once they’ve reached the later years of “Dad Mode.”
Most importantly, Anthony gave us hope. Even after his astronomic ascent to stardom following his original New Yorker article and the publication of Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, he seemed like an average ordinary guy with a bad boy persona and a contagious curiosity. He was a guy who reached the peak of his success later in life, at the age of 44. A great video describing his journey can be viewed here. He was living his life, had an idea, and after some encouragement from his mom, decided to send an article he’d written (Don’t Eat Before Reading This) to the New Yorker, who eventually published it.
For those of us who continue to search for ways to realize our dreams, Bourdain was a shining example of someone who proved it was possible. He seemed to have it all figured out. Although many of his personal relationships fell apart along the way, he never appeared mentally unstable, suicidal, or a risk to his own well-being. It goes to show that appearances may be deceiving, and that everyone has their demons. It is also a good reminder that if you need help, do not hesitate to get it (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline—1-800-273-8255).
As someone who always admired Anthony and enjoyed hearing his worldview and perspectives, I am still terribly sad his life had to end this way. As with other impactful and inspirational figures though, his legacy will endure. At a time when America and the world continues to look inward, Anthony’s message and the core thesis to his latest show, Parts Unknown, is more relevant than ever:
Get out and see the world. Walk in someone else’s shoes, and learn about their life, culture, and community. Eat everything at least once. Never be hesitant to try new things and do not fear venturing into the unknown.
If more people lived like Anthony, with an openness and acceptance to other backgrounds, cultures, and creeds, the world would be a more empathetic and connected place. RIP Anthony Bourdain. The world misses you.