Last week, Linkin Park lead singer, Chester Bennington, took his own life. I am saddened anytime a life is lost, but this one hit me harder than I expected. Linkin Park's first album came out when I was in high school (I know, I'm dating myself), and their music was an integral part of my becoming an adult.
So this death, like too many others before it, got me thinking. I wondered how someone gets to a point where it seems like the only option is giving up. I wondered how I would react if it was someone close to me. I wondered how someone so successful (at least to the outside world) could consider his life worth ending.
Then I thought about it in the context of my own life, and how short life really is. Not all of our lives will end so tragically, by our own hands, but we are never promised tomorrow. So I thought about the lessons I've learned since high school, ones that Linkin Park's music taught me.
1. In The End, It Doesn't Really MatterThough this song could mean a variety of different things, I like to think of it as a sobering reminder that life is short, and all the little things that bug us now really don't matter much in the end. I see it as a call to let go of the little annoyances of life and focus on what truly matters: your family, relationships, health, spirituality, and peace of mind. All the rest doesn't really matter, does it?2. Even the People Who Never Frown Eventually Break DownThe song "Pushing Me Away" talks all about an unhealthy relationship and the singer's desire to remove himself from it. Believe me, I've been there, and this song actually spoke to me during that time. Reconciliation can be possible in many cases, but sometimes it's impossible. In those heartbreaking cases, believe in yourself enough, believe you're strong enough to either set the necessary boundaries or just walk away. Don't let yourself completely break down.3. I Wanna Let Go of the Pain I've Felt So LongEveryone struggles with something that happened in their past; everyone has painful memories that haunt them. But the great news is that we, as human beings, can move past it. We can learn to feel things again, heal from the pain, and move forward with our lives. It's not easy, but it's always worth it. We all need to learn to let go and find somewhere we belong.4. It's Easier to RunLife is hard, and our comfort-focused response is to run away from the hard things. But running away only creates a life of regret, shame, and lying to everyone around you, including yourself. Soon you don't recognize who you are, and wonder how you got so far off base. Let's all face the hard things head on, deal with them, and not fall into the trap of the easy.5. I'm Breaking the Habit TonightWhat habits do you have that hold you back or weigh you down? Ones that seem impossible to give up, but you know you can't move on until you do? I'm speaking to myself loudly on this one. Let's all work to create healthy habits – good, necessary ones – to replace the bad habits that hold us back. That's the only way we can move forward.6. All I Want to Do Is Be More Like Me and Be Less Like YouWho in your life seems to have your life all planned out for you? The expectations of others can be overwhelming and downright stifling. Maybe it's someone really important to us – it usually is – but we know ourselves better than anyone else. Sometimes we have to be true to who we are and, in love, step away from those expectations we know are wrong for us and into our truest selves. Only then can we live a true and full life – and not become numb to it.7. Keep Me In Your Memory, Leave Out All the RestNobody's perfect. Not much of a surprise, right? But we will all leave a legacy behind. What are you doing today for someone else that will make their life better? Even if you don't do everything right, you can take steps today to be a positive influence in someone's life. Leave something for them to remember you by.8. Remember All the Sadness and Frustration and Let It GoThe message here is twofold – Remember, and Let Go. In order to truly let the pain go, we must remember. We cannot keep doing the same things and expecting a different result. It's been said that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Only in remembering everything we've been through can we truly find the best way to let it go.9. When Life Leaves Us Blind, Love Keeps Us KindEven when everything seems to be falling apart, even when we feel destroyed by others and the things they did, even when we're taught racism and bigotry from the cradle, we must love. Love is the only thing that keeps us sane, keeps us kind. It's the greatest of human emotions, the most powerful, and the right thing to do. Let's set aside our differences that can blind us and love one another.10. Weep Not for Roads Untraveled; Weep Not for Sights UnseenWe should live everyday like it counts – because it does – but we shouldn't dwell on all the things we didn't do. We should embrace everything that life has to offer us, but not regret the things we are not, the things we can't do, the places we don't "get" to go. Our life journey is all our own, and we must be thankful for all the good things we get to do, not get caught up in all we don't.11. I'm My Own CasualtyWe can sometimes think that we're a result of what was done to us in the past. But at some point, we have to take responsibility for ourselves and our lives. Let's take charge of our lives, heal from the past, and not hold ourselves back, not become our own casualties.12. You Don't Know What You've Got Until It's GoneThis speaks to appreciating everything we have – relationships included. We can get so tied up in what we don't have that we miss what we have right in front of us. So go hug your family, tell your spouse how much you love them, tell your friends you're thankful they're in your life. Don't wait until they're gone to appreciate all they mean to you.13. I Wanna Let Go But There's Comfort in the PanicAs human beings, we strive to be comfortable. Even when something is hurting us – like anxiety – we still somehow find comfort in the familiar. We need to be brave enough to find the help we need to get past what's bringing us down – and let it go so we can be set free.14. I Drive Myself Crazy Thinking Everything's About MeWe aren't the center of the universe, despite what we may think. There are people hurting in the world, people that need us. Let's start thinking that life is not about what we can get, but what we can give.15. Who Cares If One More Light Goes Out? Well I DoLife is infinitely precious. All life. Any death should sadden us, break our hearts. Even if they're the lead singer in a rock band, a battered child in Aleppo, a man on death row, or our Muslim neighbor down the street.Rest in peace, Chester Bennington. Your music inspires me even today.