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Darkness serves as guiding light

While writing this essay, I have the words and voice of Chester Bennington flowing through my ears. I used to listen to the songs of his band, Linkin Park, on repeat during a time of darkness in my life, finding solace in the rough screams and intense instrumentals. Linkin Park helped me find hope to carry on another day through their songs. My feelings of loneliness in my mental health struggles went away listening to their classics such as “Numb” or “In the End” because I remembered in those few minutes I wasn’t alone in my struggle, even if for a brief time.

As I grew and my music taste evolved, I stopped listening to Linkin Park as much but never forgot who they were. I quoted lyrics from “In the End” or “Crawling” in some sort of a convoluted attempt at dark humor with my friends. I simply didn’t think about the band much — until, from nowhere on July 20, 2017, I got a New York Times notification on my phone.

“Chester Bennington, Linkin Park singer, is dead at 41.”

I remember being confused. No, that can’t be right. He was better, wasn’t he? Didn’t Linkin Park just release a new album? He wouldn’t kill himself now. Wait, the New York Times is a reputable source. If I got a notification saying he committed suicide, then…

I didn’t do anything that day except sit, think and listen to Linkin Park. I didn’t know how to go on — if a man that saved me from losing myself to depression couldn’t win his own battle, how could I? Was I fighting in vain?

When the thinking got too much for me to handle, I took to YouTube and went on a listening spree, especially to the new Linkin Park album “One More Light.” It’s common Internet knowledge to not look at YouTube comments, lest you discover a rampaging political debate or a barrage of offensive words, but when I glanced, I only saw people mourning and hurting. On every Linkin Park video I clicked, people were writing to Chester, telling him all the things they always wanted to say but never got the opportunity. Everyone was sharing where they were when they found out, the first song they listened to when they got the news and their first reactions.

The grieving was especially noticeable on the song “One More Light.” The song, originally written because a band member’s friend died of cancer, took on a new meaning. Almost every comment was based around the chorus of the song: “Who cares if one more light goes out? Well, I do.”

Millions cared. When Chester’s light went out, everyone felt it. Hundreds of musicians from varied genres made tributes to Chester, from rappers like Jay-Z to rock artists like Adam Gontier. In some twisted way, I felt comforted by Linkin Park in the same way I used to be when I was little; I wasn’t alone. We were all hurting, and, through each other, we were healing.

I cried watching the memorial concert for Chester. I lost a role model, but seeing the other members of Linkin Park perform for three hours reminded me, once again, I was far from alone. These five people, despite losing a brother, promised to live on for him.

The last song of the concert, “Bleed it Out,” will echo in my mind forever. An upbeat song about suicide turned into an anthem, with every person helping in the concert and in the audience singing the words. The Linkin Park member leading the concert, Mike Shinoda, surprised all when he went from a suicidal song to soft words for the end of the concert: “When life leaves us blind, love keeps us kind.” When the audience and on the stage realized what was happening, everyone transitioned to singing that phrase. Mike departed from the microphone, ending the song in hope. As the concert ended, Linkin Park thanked everyone for helping in such a difficult time, and left behind a message: make Chester proud.

Just like that, my mourning transformed into action. Chester’s life was dedicated to improving others’ lives, whether through keeping them alive or helping them obtain basic necessities like clean water and shelter. The best way I can think of to make him proud is to help others.

It is why I chose journalism: to bring light to the topics left in the dark. He is why I write this — to perhaps shine a light on mental health. Too many people are dying in silence because of silence. It’s almost funny how Chester saved a million lives, but a million lives didn’t save his. We hear so many stories of people choosing to keep going because of one thing that was said to them — would Chester be here now if something was said to him?

I try not to dwell on the past. What is done is done — I cannot save Chester and the million others who killed themselves. What I can do, however, is help those who have not yet, and try to keep them alive. I can be there for others. I can talk about mental health and shine a light on ugly but real topics.

“One More Light” is my guiding philosophy; I care deeply if one more light goes out. I know I cannot stop all the lights from dimming, but nothing can stop me from trying. If I can help one light stay on, it will be enough. No matter how much we talk about mental health, it will remain under-discussed until people treat it like any other disease. A person cannot think themselves out of a brain tumor. All the yoga in the world won’t cure a broken leg. Until people stop feeling ashamed for being depressed, mental health will be under-discussed, so I will never stop trying to discuss it.

On every 20th of the month, I light a candle in honor of the light we lost. I listen to Linkin Park the entire day. I remember. I resolve to keep fighting. I promise to make Chester proud.

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