Dear Kate & Anthony: The New #MeToo Movement
I’m not one to spend much time, if any, writing about pop culture. But, with the current state of affairs, my fingers are throbbing to construct a string of prose. News of juggernauts, masters of their crafts, and icons in their respective fields’ designer Kate Spade and master chef and storyteller Anthony Bourdain’s suicides have struck a chord within me.
Perhaps it’s because like them I too have children the same ages, or maybe it’s because I see them. I see them in the people I know. I see them in the reflection of society. I see myself in their shoes. I see them in you, too. It’s a topic I’ve written about before, see the post here. Before I fully dive in, I must address the oversized elephant in the room—suicide.
I’ve yet to meet a single person that doesn’t have a strong opinion on the topic. I myself have a strong opinion. For most, this view is innately developed. For some, it’s taught within the confines of religion. For others, there is a guiding conscience or faculty within that says the act is wrong or acceptable. Whatever the view, I’m not here to debate the issue. What I am here to say is I understand the heftiness of life and all the circling events that have the power to wrench someone down a dark and unwinding path. I’m confident you do too, regardless of your feelings toward the act itself. The act of understanding is called empathy. It’s something our world has been lacking for quite a long time. Blame it on our fast pace. Blame it on social connectivity. Blame it on a world of perfectionism. Blame it on what you will; the fact is empathy is losing ground, if not altogether nearly absent amongst the collective whole.
In case you’ve confused empathy with sympathy, they are not one in the same. Empathy is compassion, being on the same wavelength, insight; it’s putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s going beyond sympathy and having the ability to experience the feelings of another person. Sympathy is caring and understanding the suffering of another. Both words are similar, obviously, but they are not interchangeable.
Social media has exploded with two questions that I hope to shed a bit of empathy upon. “How is it possible for someone with so much money, so much talent, and so much success to take their own life? How is it possible to not be happy with all he or she had?” You’ve got the question wrong. The pondering shouldn’t be over their successes, their bank accounts, or their accolades; the question and therefore concern should be what was it they were lacking?
Let’s not forget that success comes to those willing to put their head down and hustle their way to the top. Success is a by-product of determination. It’s not magic. Sure, sometimes luck is involved, but that is called happenstance. Everyone is entirely capable of crafting a life of abundance if their actions manifest it. Don’t mistake that word abundance either. That doesn’t necessarily mean financial wealth. Your abundance may look exceptionally different than the man next door. Regardless of what that definition means to you, we’re all capable of creating this within our spaces, our relationships, and our lives.
Yet, the ability to craft inner happiness and fight the demons known as self-loathing, unacceptance, the waging war to develop inner joy and inner peace are much harder fires to extinguish and/or stroke. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t tasted or bitten into those emotions at some pinprick along their timeline. It is okay to disagree, but I have to ask you how many times have you found yourself wishing for more, for better? How many times has a feeling of sadness slunk in because the things you wanted for felt so out of reach? A need, whatever it is, can be painful.
Most label this as mental illness, depression, etc. These are real things. There are events and moments that work to destroy and define us. This is a natural part of the living experience. And many times, in our darkest moments, and in the quiet when no one else is there, we begin a conversation that somehow becomes our truth. The words we say to ourselves, the ones we hide from the outside world are POWERFUL. The longer we speak these “truths” the harder it is to hear another voice. It isn’t impossible, but nonetheless hard.
How can people with “it all” make such a choice?
Because they are like each of us—they are human. No person is free of inner speak or demons, if you want to call them that. No person is free of the mountain of emotions that come with the act of living. Your bank account may not read the same as theirs. Your shoes may not be designer and of the most beautiful leather, but we all slip our feet in the same way. No matter a person’s successes, as humans, we need to feel light on our faces and in our souls. We need a burning within of something bigger and grander than ourselves. Sometimes those presences are simply not there. It’s easy to live a life of seeming perfection on the outside and be drowning within.
I’m sure if you removed the goggles of judgment and doubled down on your own emotions you too would understand. Empathy. Even when the world says you are beloved, you still have to learn to love yourself.
I see you. I see Kate Spade. I see Anthony Bourdain. I see myself. There are ebbs and flows to life. This is the new #MeToo movement in the works. This is a collective higher conscience at play. This is an invitation to hear yourself. This is an invitation to listen to your best friend who keeps saying words like I’m exhausted. It’s an invitation to recognize the words that aren’t being said. This is an invitation to love one another fiercely. Empathy is acknowledging that all doesn’t have to be right to carry on. You don’t have to agree with Spade and Bourdain's actions, but it’s time to hear the wakeup call. That perfect girl doesn’t always feel perfect. That award-winning person doesn’t always feel worthy. We can shroud ourselves in accomplishments, but it’s about drilling down on what is happening on the inside. We must start celebrating one another. Freedom can be found without an end. It’s time, friends. It’s time to push it all aside and turn to the person in the mirror and fall deeply in love with that soul looking back you. It’s time to look in your children’s eyes and fall deeply in love with who they truly are and will become. It’s time to look at the person you pass on the street and offer a smile. It’s time to listen. It’s time to raise your hand and do the work to find an empathic compassion and passion for yourself and mankind.
Dear Kate and Anthony,
I promise to be kinder to myself.
I promise to live authentically.
I promise to listen.
I promise to inspire myself first and then the world around me.
Love yourself. You are here to do great things. If your heart and mind are at war and the world feels far too big to tackle, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open. 1-800-273-8255.
Author Danielle A. Vann is a sixteen-time international award-winning author best known for her young adult series, The Whizbang Machine. To learn more visit: www.danielleavann.com.