Here we go. I’m about to Ramble about Bourdain again. I just can’t shake the man’s death or the impact he made during his life. I find myself analyzing every little facial expression he made, every comment, every movie he talked about, trying to find a reason why he took his own life. In the end, I never will find closure in this. How can I find closure? And why should I gain closure? I didn’t know him, and even the people who knew him well can’t come to terms with his death.
I wasn’t in his circle. I wasn’t anything to him, and personally, he wasn’t anything to me. Except that he was. Here’s what I do know. I spend a lot of time trying to keep this man alive in my head. I read his books, I watch his shows over and over, I just spent three nights this weekend watching the documentary about him (1 and a half times). Because this man changed me. Before watching No Reservations or Parts Unknown, there were pieces of the world I didn’t even know existed.
No amount of geography homework can prepare you for what you see when you watch his shows, when you listen to the way he talked about people, see the way he interacted with them, how he enjoyed their food. He opened my eyes. And it wasn’t just about the places he visited that I learned about.
He was someone who showed me how you can think you’re meant for one thing, but all the while, you’re doing what you are really meant to do without even realizing it. He was a chef, and that’s what people knew him as, but his actual calling was to be a writer. You can hear that in the voiceovers from the shows, you can read that in the stories he tells of his childhood, you can feel that in the way that he said he would wake up and write before even brushing his teeth.
We fall into the career path we think we are meant for. If it’s because we needed the money and someone gave us the job or we thought a new career path would be lucrative because that’s where the future of technology was headed or even if we are being pushed into it by our parents or friends. Maybe we even think that we are passionate about one thing, but at the end of the day, the thing that drives us is something else.
I thought I was meant to be a doctor. Then I thought I was meant to be a dancer and then a wedding planner and then a photographer. And all the while, I’d spent my whole life creating stories. I have been keeping a journal for as long as I can remember. But I’ve also made the music videos, created the photoshoots. I’ve had a camera on me for so long that I don’t remember not having a camera on me.
But my journey was never really solidified until I watched Bourdain or read Kitchen Confidential or got obsessed with Annie Liebovitz and her stance on being a photographer and not begin pigeonholed into one genre of photography. My journey is about the story. Writing it, photographing it, creating it, breathing it. Those are the things I’ve been doing all along. Instead of going to parties, I was required to attend for orchestra, I was reading Pride and Prejudice. From a young age, I wrote stories for school competitions. I opted to create during sleepovers and had very little interest in the typical truth or dare. My favorite things to do on vacation are to sit and journal or walk and take pictures. And when I became a new mom, I didn’t care about the cool gadgets like automatic bouncers, I wanted a camcorder. I didn’t make a birth plan, I wrote a shot list. The story mattered. The story matters.
Learning about Bourdain’s life, listening to his words changed me. The things I’ve read about him, about the chef who was really a writer resonated deep within my soul. I connected with him in his curiosity and his pull towards always needing to tell the story. Maybe that’s why his death stuck to me and won’t let go.
He showed me that whatever your journey is in life, it isn’t about choosing it. It’s about letting the journey choose you. The career that you’ll be most successful at will be the one that you can’t let go of, the one that sucks you in and becomes your obsession, the one you never want to retire from. And let me tell you. I never want to retire.