For Chester Bennington
I want to heal, I want to feel, what I thought was never real
I want to let go of the pain I’ve held so long
I want to heal, I want to feel, like I’m close to something real
I want to find something I’ve wanted all along / Somewhere I belong
Linkin Park was the source of most of my anthems throughout high school and college.
I distinctly remember driving around Miami so many times with my best friend in those days, starting off with Track 1 from Hybrid Theory. To this day, if I play that song, my mind goes back to popping that CD in my 1993 Saturn SC1 and hitting up TCBY or going to a church youth group night or just driving to find new things in the city.
The band’s tracks followed me throughout my development. I remember seeing them live at Zetafest and being blown away by their showmanship and stage presence. Chester’s vocals were so distinctive and powerful that I couldn’t stop listening to anything the band created.
Tracking down songs like ‘My December’ became an anchor for my winter season, something to remind me of sophomore year of high school and all of the crazy emotions that come up during that time of life.
Listening to Reanimation on the way to high school soccer games to get amped up before playing, and falling in love with the musical stylings and creativity that can be applied to songs that I’d already known and loved.
But Linkin Park and Chester’s influence on my life didn’t stop in high school. It carried me through college.
When I left Miami to go to the University of North Florida Jacksonville, Florida, I was leaving everything behind. I left my girlfriend, I left my family, I left my friends. Not a single person I knew from my previous 19 years of life was in that city.
And that was on purpose.
I could have gone to any number of state schools in Gainesville or Tallahassee or even stayed in Miami with my full scholarship, but I wanted a change. A drastic one. Because as many friends as I had growing up, I never really felt like I belonged in Miami. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m white and stick out in this city, or maybe it’s just the feeling every teenager gets no matter where they live, but I always loved the idea of reinventing myself, or becoming the person that I thought I could be if I started over. And you better believe I played ‘Somewhere I belong’ a few times on that 6-hour drive up to my freshman year in Jacksonville.
I will never know myself until I do this on my own/
I will never be anything ’til I break away from me/
And I will break away, and find myself today
But I can now see how this relates even to my addictions, since hearing about the idea of the ‘geographic cure’ and how it never actually works. Of course, I didn’t really find what I was looking for in Jacksonville. Hell, I only stayed there 2 years before transferring to Gainesville to move in with that best friend that I mentioned earlier.
But the anthem ‘Somewhere I Belong’ followed me the whole way through it.
I kept chasing that idea that there was a place out there that I actually belonged.
I did the same thing after I graduated college and returned to Miami to run my family’s business. I made new friends through connecting to old ones, and was always on the search for some group that I could identify with, that I could belong in.
And looking back, I can honestly say that that’s how and why I got into all the drugs I did. I didn’t have a terrible childhood, I was a generally content teenager, and never struggled through school, and never really touched alcohol until college, and even then didn’t really get into frequent heavy drinking until I moved back home.
Drugs and alcohol were supposed to be my gateways into friendships. And it definitely worked, for a time. I threw the parties, and people would come. I always made sure to have plenty of supplies to lure people in, and in my mind, the more I provided, the longer people stayed, the more popular I was, and that was really my whole intention, was to feel that popularity that could tell me that I belonged here.
Of course, things like that aren’t sustainable.
After going to a camping music festival (TomorrowWorld 2013), and being drunk, high, and raving for 4 nights straight, something clicked in me that the way I was seeking community wasn’t working. I was doing all the drugs and drinking to be a part of a group, but when I got into that mindset, I was still the selfish, uninteresting person that I was sober, and I had nothing to offer, so I would stay to myself.
After trying and failing my Sober October experiment following that trip, I had my first date with who’s become my wife in November of 2013. It still took another 2 years before I would quit drinking, but along the way, and through the growth of my relationship with her, it’s funny to see where I’ve ended up considering my journey in searching for a place to belong.
Because now, nearly 14 years since setting out on the road to UNF to find ‘somewhere I belong’, I have my own house with my wife, complete with 2 crazy kittens (okay, only one is really crazy, the other is pretty cute). And the kicker? It’s less than 2 miles away from where I grew up for those first 19 years.. and even more.. my wife was in my same graduating class from my high school and lived less than a mile away from me the whole time. Sometimes you already are where you belong, you just don’t know it yet.
– – – – – –
With all that being said, the news of Chester’s passing is very sad for me to hear indeed. His words and his voice were in my head through nearly every major transition point of my life in the last 20 years. I’m sad to have not known him, and that I never wrote to tell him how inspirational and powerful his lyrics were, and how they helped give me something to channel when I didn’t think anyone else felt what I was feeling.
I wish that he had somebody like him that he could have listened to, that could have given him an outlet for his frustrations and concerns with the world, whatever they may have been. People that have the ability to write such powerful things are usually closer to their emotions good or bad, and that’s what gives them the insights and clarity to express them so well, and it’s sad to see how it can end up like this. But I am entirely grateful for his gracing the world as he did and for sharing his perspectives through his words.