When I was fifteen I was in a very dark place. I think many of us can agree that it’s easy to go inward when you’re young. Your emotional capacity to cope with the things that life throws at you hasn’t matured, and quite frequently, teenagers just feel overwhelmed, lost and alone. Even when you, like I did, have people around you that love you more than anything in the world.
Not many people know that I was in an abusive relationship from the time I was 15 until just before I turned 17. It was an experience that altered the course of my life and who I would become as an adult. I tried to justify the things that were being done to me, I tried to compromise, I tried to fight, and some of the time, I just gave up. Because the tide around me was too strong and I was swimming without a life vest, refusing to scream for help. Too proud, too scared, too embarrassed.
And then, from the darkness, there was this little melodic light at the end of a tunnel called music. I woke up one morning to get ready for school, packing my backpack in the living room with MTV playing in the background. The air smelled of coffee I didn’t yet drink and my soul was heavy with another day ahead of me.This was a normal occurrence. What wasn’t normal, was a song that I’d never heard not only catching my attention, but crashing into me like a freight train. It was unlike any that I’d ever gravitated to. It was dark, it was rough, it was an oddly eclectic mix of rap and rock. It was “Crawling” by Linkin Park. And it changed me.
That week, I bought “Hybrid Theory.” This album set off a chain reaction for me. I experimented with this dark sonic landscape that had been allusive to me before. Maybe not as dark as most, but for me, it was heavy. Oddly, it was exactly what I needed to feel like I wasn’t alone in the world. Everything from “Crawling” to “One Step Closer” to “In The End” — they all felt like they had been written specifically for me at that time in my life.
Over the next two or so years I followed Linkin Park as they played shows up and down the California coast. I spent time with them after shows. One time, I was pulled from a terrifying mosh pit by one of their security guards and sat on the edge of the stage for the rest of the show, for my own protection. Being a child of the early aughts, I had endless shirts and CD’s signed. Through all of this, Chester Bennington was one of the sweetest men I’ve come across in the music industry. And in my time, I’ve come across a lot. He was humble, gracious, open and fiercely protective of his fans. When you spoke to him, he listened to every word. He was encouraging. He was charismatic. He was funny.
In the midst of one of the most harrowing relationships of my life, Chester was a bright light who reminded me, musically and individually, to persevere. This past week I’ve thought a lot about the loss of this precious man’s life. All I can say is that I wish someone had been able to save him like he, and his entire band, had a hand in saving me.
But more than that, I want us all to remember the power of music and the struggle that those that create it often have to go through so that the rest of us don’t feel so alone. Creativity comes from a dark place, and often times, it’s a creative person’s way of trying to cope with their own demons.
Thank you, Chester. For being a light when I needed one the most. Reminding me that I deserved to be treated with respect. Lastly, for creating music that changed me for the better. May you rest in peace, sweet man.