Always Remember to Look Both Ways

I see a lot of people grieving for Anthony Bourdain on social media. My friend Mauricio even posted a list of suicide prevention hotlines for those in need. All of this is understandable, and all of this is needed.

Now of course, I don’t know Anthony Bourdain on a personal level, I don’t even really know his background outside of the 2-minute soundbite NPR played the day he passed away. I simply watched his traveling shows, related to the episodes that took place in Hong Kong, and admired from afar. Yet even as a casual fan, I’m grieving for him just as anyone would. I can see that he was troubled yet talented. His writing was sharp, if not confrontational, yet always lied this layer of honesty underneath. And as different as his personality was to mine I couldn’t help but admire the authenticity, the “what-you-see-is-what-you get” persona that exude from every minute of episode of every show he ever hosted.

And as easy as it may be to go down the rabbit hole and pour my heart out, it’s also important to remember and remind myself to look the other way. Anthony Bourdain passed away the same day as the Golden State Warriors won the NBA Finals. Unlike with Anthony, I’m not even going to pretend I understand anything about sports (I will, someday), but this championship means so much to those in my life and to the Bay Area in general — that even as a non-bandwagon fan I can understand the significance and reason to celebrate. I’m may not understand sports, but I’m not a monster either.

2018 has been a challenging year for me so far, so zooming out a bit, it’s likewise important for me to look both ways when it comes to other aspects of my life. My grandmother passed away the same week as I got my first promotion at work after being there for six years. In attending her funeral in Hong Kong, I missed out on an one-night-only concert in San Francisco from a Hong Kong artist I’ve waited my entire to see (and yes, I do see the irony). But the trip also allowed me to connect with my extended family, especially with my brother whom I haven’t seen in more than five years.

Life is persistently filled with conundrums like this, where I’d read about Kate Spade’s passing and her positive influence to American women an hour before seeing my friend Brian Altano posting a picture of his newborn daughter. Life is also complicated beyond just happiness or sadness, so as much as we want to simplify (if not quantifying) our emotions to what Facebook limits us to a series of Likes, Love, Haha, Wow, Angry, and Sad, we’re doing ourselves a disservice by singularly assigning an emotion to the vastness of our daily occurrences.

So look both way before crossing your daily feeds, because you may not see the emotional truck coming when you don’t. Just as I feel genuine sadness for people passing away, I also try to remember the education or spark they’ve given me to help me grow. Just as I feel down about being unproductive at work, I’d open up my logbook and remind myself all the tasks I’ve accomplished for the day. While it’s easy to focus on the sadness because it’s right in front of you, it’s important to understand that this sadness alone is not the entire picture.

It’s a practice that’s saved my life repeatedly. Through mindful meditation, through writing sessions, through therapy, my daily life involves a constant reminder not just to look for the brighter side of life, but to put in the actual work and find truth amidst the darkest hours. While it’s truly sad that Anthony Bourdain won’t be able to take us along in his travel shows anymore, he has always lit a spark in us the worth of exploration and the value in telling our own stories.

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