Trigger warning: I talk about suicide in this. And to anyone reading this who knows me and thinks they should worry about me — I’m fine. Really.
From the Euphoria Morning album artwork. 1999.
I was sad when I heard that David Bowie died. I felt blind-sided when Prince died. It just is sad when people who make music and art that reaches a lot of people die, because collectively we lose something that made existence better.
Thursday, when I heard that Chris Cornell died I felt my stomach drop, but when I found out that it was a suicide, something inside of me broke.
Obviously I didn’t know Cornell. I have no idea what he was like as a person. But I’ve loved his music since I was young. Superunknown and Down on the Upside are two of the most formidable albums for my emotional development, and I continued to follow Cornell’s career, even through Audioslave. I was listening to Euphoria Morning just last week (I still had it on cassette).
But this isn’t about his musical impact. It’s about what I got out of his words.
I don’t talk much about my tattoos.
Since none of them are visible, I’m not sure those of you who know me even know I have tattoos.
If you ask me about any of them, I’ll probably give you the lighthearted story, the surface story, what they look like from the outside. One of them I’ll even laugh off as a joke. Of course, they’re all of those surface things, too. The decision to get any of them was pure whim. (And, I assure you, you don’t get a tattoo on an ass cheek without having a sense of humor.)
But underneath, in those layers of dermis stained with black ink, they mean something to me. They’re symbols and words that represent pieces of myself.
You see, they’re all things I’m afraid of forgetting.
They’re all things I’ve permanently inked on my body so as not to forget who I am.
Today is my 30th birthday.
I remember when 30 sounded old. Frankly, it still sounds old.
Sometimes I think about the child I was, and I wonder if it was actually me. I wonder if there’s any continuity between that person and this person. I wonder if she’d be disappointed in me.
Most children want to be something when they grow up, it seems. It’s something we emphasize early on. You are identified by a profession, by a marriage, by being a parent. What do you do? Are you married? Do you have kids?
Apparently this is a thing.
When I was 6, I essentially wanted to be Carl Sagan (although I don’t think I knew who that was). When I was 8, I wanted to be a paleontologist. Those were passing fancies, and the truth is, I never had a clear idea of what I wanted out of life. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t think about getting married or having kids.
I just assumed I’d have a job, any job, and that maybe I’d get married. But it was never anything substantial. There’s that famous John Lennon quote: “When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” I don’t think I even thought about being happy. To this day, it’s not a word I understand.
But then, I don’t think I understand life either.