"Weep Not For Roads Untraveled" A Tribute to Chester Bennington

Posted by Leah on 7/24/2017 2:18:30 PM

 *A note: All pictures on this page were taken by me. All except the one of my tattoo were taken in Mansfield, MA in the summer of 2015*       

        On Thursday July 20
th news broke that the lead singer of Linkin Park Chester Bennington had died via suicide. While I know I tend to stick to writing about film, this has affected me too much not to write anything about it.
Hybrid Theory: My Linkin Park obsession began in 2000 with the release of Hybrid Theory. To understand why this album struck me the way it did it’s important to understand what was going on with me at the time. I had just graduated high school and was taking classes at the University of Southern Maine. At the time I didn’t want to be away from my boyfriend, so I was commuting the hour and ten minutes every day, while I had recently moved in to the apartment he stayed in with his father.
        Our relationship wasn’t that great before I moved in, but it got even worse afterwards. I had had trouble with depression and loneliness long before I met him, but he didn’t help these issues at all. I often sat up drinking by myself and watching TV alone while he was out with friends. I had no friends at the time and mentally things seemed to get more and more difficult.
        I can’t remember how, but I reconnected with an old friend. He was everything my boyfriend wasn’t. He was attentive, and kind, and actually wanted to spend time with me. Looking back on things, I should’ve left my boyfriend for him, but I didn’t. Walking this line between the two lives I was living didn’t help my mental state at all. On the one hand I was needed and loved; on the other I was treated like shit and felt worthless.

        It was at this time that I found Hybrid Theory. The songs on the album seemed to perfectly reflect the anger, sadness and frustration I was feeling. I listened to it non-stop and in no time had memorized every word. I didn’t find anyone else who shared my enthusiasm for Linkin Park and Hybrid Theory, but that didn’t matter. What mattered is that it resonated on a level that nothing else had.
        I attempted suicide more than once during this time in my life, and each time that I failed I got in my car (although I shouldn’t have most of the time) and drove around aimlessly listening to Linkin Park and their wonderful CD over and over on full blast. Something about their music gave me the courage and drive to continue on, and so I survived.
Meteora: By 2003 things hadn’t changed all that much for me. I was still with the same abusive asshole, although I had since moved back home.  I’d dropped out of college and was rather aimless. I had recently started a new job and finally started making much needed friends, or so I thought.
        The smoking section was on the side of the building we worked in. One day, as I made my way to it, I overheard all of my supposed friends making fun of me. None of them knew I was there. They made fun of how I dressed, how I acted and anything else they could think of. I was furious and hurt. How can people be so two-faced? I gave up on the idea of having a cigarette in the smoking area that break and went inside to think about what I’d just heard. Was I really that bad?
        Luckily I had Linkin Park’s new album Meteora in the car. Later in the day, when it was time for lunch, I hopped in the car, cranked the CD player and drove around. Somewhere I Belong and Nobody’s Listening were my go to tracks, but I loved all of them.
        My situation seemed to be worse than it had been ever before. I was in a shitty relationship with an asshole, my “friends” hated me, my family made it a point to dig through and steal my stuff constantly…I literally had no one-except Linkin Park. Again, it’s because of their music I made it through.
Minutes to Midnight: Finally my life had turned around. I was married to someone the polar opposite of the guy I’d spent so many bad years with. I was almost finished with my Culinary Arts degree from a local community college and we’d just bought a house and got a beagle. I was a sous chef at a local restaurant. Mentally I was doing much better, although I was sometimes prone to falling into the familiar throws of the depression I’d known for so long.

        And then an all too familiar situation arose: I was the only girl working in the kitchen at the restaurant, while the wait staff and bartenders were almost entirely female. I tried my best to fit in with the other girls, but we often didn’t have enough in common to make it work. Most of them were single and still in college. They found it hard to relate to me, the older, married girl who worked in the kitchen.
        It was worse still with the guys in the kitchen. While I found more to relate to with them, they still weren’t really the types I’d want to hang out with out of work (never mind my husband’s feelings on that prospect). And then there was my boss. He leaned on me for nearly everything having to do with the operation of the kitchen, but then would belittle me and treat me as nothing but a dumb little girl. It discouraged and angered me to no end.
        As I had so many times before, I found solace in the emotion and lyrics of the latest Linkin Park album, Minutes to Midnight. I once again got the strength needed to continue on in those difficult circumstances from each note blasted out of the speakers of my truck.
        That February my husband surprised me with tickets to see Linkin Park in concert. I was beyond thrilled…I’d loved them for so long, but had never had the chance to see them live. The concert was magical. The venue was relatively small for such a famous band, giving it all the overtone of intimacy you can’t get from larger stadiums.

        The guys played solid for almost two hours, coming back for 3 encores. I didn’t know until afterwards that the entire band had been stricken by the stomach flu prior to the concert, and that in between songs several of them would drop behind stage to vomit, before coming back out to keep performing. Finding that out made me respect, love and appreciate them all the more. To have that level of dedication to the fans is almost unheard of these days.

        A Thousand Suns
: Turmoil again. In the years after Minutes to Midnight my life had come crashing down around me. I had finally graduated from college in the spring of 2008. My prospects were many, and I had endless hope for the future.

        In the summer of 2009 my husband and I went on vacation. Later in the week we returned, but I hadn’t yet gone back to work.

        My parents were also on vacation that week and asked if I wanted to go out to eat and shopping with them one day. We had finished eating and were on our way to drop off the truck I was in to be worked on, then we’d go shopping…and then it happened. Out of nowhere 2 girls T-boned me, pushing the truck into the other lane and up on 2 wheels. I tore my rotator cuff, smashed my knee caps against the dashboard (they weren’t broken, just bruised), and got severe whiplash.

        And just like that my career was over. I’ve gone through years of every type of therapy and treatment available for such things. At first I had hope that I’d be able to return to work, but after nine months it was clear that I would never again be strong and resilient enough to work in a kitchen.

        The depression didn’t return instantly, but as the months, and then years of constant pain, inability to do the things I love and isolation ticked on it made its presence known once again. Luckily I had A Thousand Suns to help me through. Using the music to channel my depression into anger and determination helped me to fight on: to fight to rebuild my strength, fight to overcome the hurdles and fight to keep living despite the hopelessness I felt at the time.

        A little later on, in October of 2010 I had reached a settlement for my accident. I decided to do something nice and invite my parents and sisters out to Arizona to visit my grandmother. I told them I’d be happy to pay for it all, knowing my grandmother was getting older and this may be the last chance we’d all have to see her.

        I should’ve known better. My father has always been a heavy alcoholic, but some little part of me hoped that he’d behave himself since we were staying at someone else’s house. No such luck. He was drunk for all nine nights of the trip, and one night in particular he took it too far.
On that night he got so wasted that rather than wait for me to exit the bathroom, he decided it’d be a good idea to piss on the wall in the hallway instead. I was furious. I’d kept his similar secrets my entire life, and was sick and tired of cleaning up the aftermath of his problem.

        I won’t get in to all of the grisly details of that awful episode, but the result of it all was that I cut ties with my parents, middle sister and grandparents upon our return home. If it wasn’t for the apt lyrics of Blackout I’m not sure my resolve to cut those toxic people out of my life would’ve held. I listen to that song every time I see my parents in passing (I don’t live that far from them, so run-ins are unavoidable).

        Living Things:
A year on and the drama with my cutting out so many family members continued to be a problem, especially with my sister. She didn’t like that I continued to spend time with my niece by going through her father, thus bypassing my sister; so she decided to take out a phony restraining order on me. The lies in this document are really beyond belief. She stated that, although I hadn’t seen or talked to her in almost a year, I came to her work and threatened her. She said that I was a drug addict and that they’d had interventions for me. How so many lies could be crammed on to a single piece of paper without it catching fire is beyond me, but of course Linkin Park had a song for that: Lies, Greed, Misery. I listened over and over, gaining strength of resolve each time.

        Later that year I made a decision: I needed to pay tribute to the band that had given me so much throughout the years. I had long wanted a tattoo, but wasn’t sure I wanted one having to do with Linkin Park. What if I stopped liking them after I got it? After years of thought I decided that there was no way I could ever grow to dislike the group of musicians that had gotten me through so much. I designed what I wanted and headed to the tattoo parlor.

        It’s been years since I got that tattoo, my first and only at this point, and I have yet to regret it in the least. I still get compliments on it and wear it as a badge of honor.

        The Hunting Party
: The drama with my family had calmed down and I continued to get stronger and adapt to my new life being moderately physically disabled. Things were starting to look up again. I got a job volunteering as a film critic for a local community radio station and I had finally started to make some solid friends. It was the happiest I’d been in a long time.

        And then the inevitable happened: my new friends turned on me. I’m still not exactly sure what spurred it on, but one of them decided she didn’t like me and told another one that I was saying stuff about her husband behind her back. The whole thing made no sense then, and still doesn’t, but once again Linkin Park was there for me. This time it was with their hardest, angriest album to date and it couldn’t have fit my mood better. Guilty All the Same and Until it’s Gone were the tracks I liked most this time, and as usual I found myself cranking them every time I was in the truck.

        One More Light
: As is my custom, I pre-ordered One More Light and counted down the days until I could finally listen to it, windows down, driving to wherever. With the first song I was a bit taken aback: this wasn’t the Linkin Park I knew. This album’s songs were gentler and far more hopeful than anything they’d come out with to date. The album was getting a lot of flak from music critics, but I didn’t care. With each time I listened to it I grew to love it more and more.  As was the case for Every. Single. Album they’d come out with prior, this one perfectly fit my mood and mental state. There are the couple of songs that are deeper and hit me harder (Heavy and One More Light), but as with anyone who’s been through depression, sometimes those moods come and go, no matter how long you’ve been “better”.

        Thursday July 20, 2017
: I was on my computer. I was supposed to be working, writing reviews and doing research for my radio show the next day. Instead I was slacking, checking my Twitter feed. Then I saw it: Chester Bennington was trending. I had a feeling of absolute dread as I clicked on the link. The news literally knocked the wind out of me. It couldn’t be real. I did a quick Google search, just to be sure, and my worst fears were confirmed. Chester was dead. Suicide. I shut my computer. I had to walk away and try to process the news.

        In the days since then I’ve listened to every album over and over, searching for answers hidden in the lyrics. The more I listen the clearer the picture becomes. It was all there plain as day. I’d hoped that the music would save him, as it had me for so long, but it seems it was a battle he couldn’t win.

        Many celebrities I’ve cared about have passed in recent years, but none has hit me as hard, or as deeply as this. Through all of the years since 2000 the
only constant in my life has been Linkin Park. They’ve been my only friend in times when I literally had no one else. It felt like they understood me as no one else could. It will take me a long time to recover from this loss, and I’m not sure I ever will completely. Chester Bennington will be sorely missed, but at least his music lives on.