I’m about to break: The Lasting Legacy of Chester Bennington

I’m about to Break

Immense heartbreak! That is my reaction to the unfortunate suicide of Linkin Park’s lead vocalist, Chester Bennington. Bennington sowed the seeds that prepared me to appreciate my uniqueness. Being a black kid surrounded by an endless loop of R&B, blues, and gospel—the homogeneity of it—drove me crazy. Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda helped me embrace the agency of Alternative music. I had zero outlets, save for a few lunch table cohorts, with which to share my passion.

Hybrid Theory’s pop, rock, and prose were essential along my road to a high school diploma. I failed English 4, believing that I hated English. And yet I went to Writer’s Club meetings. I had resigned to independent study to assuage my literary deficit. I wrote and sang my way through school, unaware of my struggles with depression, anxiety, and self-esteem. Bennington’s voice helped me get through many lonely nights. I’d pack my Hybrid Theory disc everywhere I went. Bennington was in my ears on uneventful weekends and through awkward disagreements. I defiantly cranked up the volume, willingly damaging my ears, if just to momentarily drown out the discord that was usually none of my business.

Faking Smiles

I got terribly good at my own brand of reticence. I would only communicate the things I knew I could say as long as I thought possible. I kept a chasm between me and most authority figures. After all, The teenage disabled me thought I deserved the scorn I received.

Teenage, good natured, compliant, scared me—never noticed depression’s effect.

Acting out became the best way to connect with people who believed some really ignorant things about who I aspired to be. Music equaled healthy escape because at home I was detached. I shared music; I sang music. I wrote about music. For me, Chester Bennington represented the face I saw when I attended school. I feigned happiness and acted out in class purely because I was frustrated with all the lunacy that I wasn’t responsible for.

Underneath the measured facade I wore, I was really hurting.

I knew the lead singer of Linkin Park understood.

When Britney Spears, The Backstreet Boys, or LFO were too sappy, I ran to the stories of Linkin Park. Chester sounded as real as I felt on the inside. When a community fails to see your depression, it forces you inward. You wonder if there’s something you’ve done to inherit such a position. My family was good, but there was never an authentic place to acknowledge the pain I confronted in high school. My self-esteem and performance issues in school were filed under some inconclusive record in the back of a massive file drawer with all my other problems.

Chester Bennington gave me a place to put an ocean of aggression. You’re right. I never knew Chester Bennington. But it’s only right to celebrate that his musical contribution. His experience help shaped the courage I have today.

I’m alive because his singing gave me a reason to stay alive. I’ll miss him and I’m sorry that he had to take his own life. I won’t forget what he and his group soldiered me through.

I’ll remember the nights I cried myself to sleep listening to my Linkin Park songs. I cried with relief, knowing a man I’d never met could empathize with me.

Rest in Power, Chester Bennington.

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