Inspiration and Fulfillment

What makes life worth living? Do you have a thing you love to do so much, that no matter what else is happening or lacking in your life, that thing will drive you to keep going? If I have that, it’s music—listening to it, writing it, imagining it, recording it, singing it, discussing it. But is it enough? There’s always more to life than the one thing that gives us the most inspiration.

As I write this, I’m reeling from the news that Anthony Bourdain has just taken his own life. I feel like I lost a friend. I had this post editing page open for a couple of days and had some ideas about what I wanted to express, but now I can’t help but write from a place that’s deeply affected by this devastating announcement. Yesterday, I spent all day sewing the pieces I designed for my video and photo shoots. The entire day, we had Parts Unknown episodes playing in the background, Anthony’s voice fueling my work and helping to drive me forward. Every time I hear or see that guy, I would always marvel as his combination of brashness and depth, his ability to observe and express his observations in a way that pulled so many people into his world – into THE world. Like many others in his audience, I’d always wanted to travel, but never so much as I did after watching his shows. And like many others, I saw him as someone who was living his dream. I wanted to know what it felt like to be that fulfilled, and because I was watching him do what he dreamed, I felt more inspired to push toward my own goals.

But now he’s gone, this person who did what I and a lot of other people will only ever wish they could do. It’s impossible not to wonder: Why? It’s not that I’m thinking that since he was successful by societal standards, or because he made money and got to do a (seemingly, at least) fun job, he should have been happy. Though it did seem to me that he’d be fulfilled – that he was enjoying his time on this planet and doing what he loved. Of course, no one really knows what goes on inside someone, and we all love to speculate and create stories that satisfy our own projections. I want to avoid that, but…it’s hard not to feel like there’s a dent in the bubble of belief we have about what makes life good and meaningful.

We all lean on our heroes so much, with a level of digital voyeurism that far surpasses what people of days past were able to experience. We get to watch our favorite personalities do the mundane and the exciting, and share their thoughts and lives on social media. We look to them to inspire us and help us keep going, to keep dreaming and striving…or whatever. But how do they stay inspired? What makes them want to keep living and giving to the world the way they do? Lately it seems like the most successful and inspired are the ones who choose to check out, like Kate Spade earlier this week.

Do you feel disappointed, like I do, when someone you admire takes their own life or overdoses? Do you somehow feel like they have a responsibility to their fans not to do these things? So selfish, right? But at the same time, we tend to feel like it’s the job of others to inspire us, so it’s like a personal failure when they quit – especially this way. (Yes, I know that’s a totally unfair way to view this, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel a little let down.)

One thing that’s become clear to me over the years is that meaning and fulfillment are entirely independent of fame and “success.” And in today’s world, it seems like it’s become more and more challenging to find true meaning in life. With so many people in the world, and so much access to myriad things, how do we make our lives matter? How do we know we’re having impact? I’m always reflecting on this and my opinion on it changes, but for the most part I think it’s up to us – to find what makes us feel happy and brings us joy, and to do it as much as possible, and if possible to share it with the world whenever we can. And I think we have to choose what we believe, and indeed all of our thoughts very carefully – whether or not we’re successful (I know it’s a constant practice for me).

I’ve always aimed to inspire others, in my personal life as well as through my music. I want to give listeners something to connect with, something to make them feel like someone understands, even if I can’t make you feel good in a particular moment. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, more than anything else—to give people a reason, to help them keep their thoughts *up* and going in a positive direction. As a creative person, there are always going to be ups & downs, ebbs and flows in creativity and inspired action; but I never, ever want to fail anyone who looks up to me, and I can’t imagine receiving the gift of abundance from doing what I love most, only to throw it all away.

I hope wherever Anthony is now, that he knows he was loved, and that he’s aware of how deeply he touched people’s lives through his unique brand of journalism—that he really did change the world in his own way, and opened it up to people in a manner none of us would have enjoyed without him. I hope his family and friends find comfort quickly, and that they celebrate him despite this massive blow to their private world. And I hope that, in my time on this earth, I get to impact the lives of the people I meet (and those I never will) a fraction of how he did. RIP Mr. Bourdain; you will be sorely missed.