American in Italy, life

A Life Lost Too Soon: What We Can All Learn From This

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”
― Anthony Bourdain from “No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach”

Like many of you around the world I was a fan of Anthony Bourdain. A man whose fearless spirit was first spotted in this essay in the New Yorker “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” where the following quote derives.

“love the sheer weirdness of the kitchen life: the dreamers, the crackpots, the refugees, and the sociopaths with whom I continue to work; the ever-present smells of roasting bones, searing fish, and simmering liquids; the noise and clatter, the hiss and spray, the flames, the smoke, and the steam. Admittedly, it’s a life that grinds you down. Most of us who live and operate in the culinary underworld are in some fundamental way dysfunctional. We’ve all chosen to turn our backs on the nine-to-five, on ever having a Friday or Saturday night off, on ever having a normal relationship with a non-cook.” 

I followed this read by gobbling up his book Kitchen Confidential which led us further into a fascinating and often troubled world inside a professional kitchen. He was unapologetically honest, incredibly detailed and often crass; earning him respect as his career grew in his 40’s and later turned into a fascinating travel documentary series “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown” exploring parts of the world and sharing stories, often ignored. In addition to that he was never shy to provide his opinion on current events, as exemplified as his recent support for the #METOO movement. He felt like a friend, a confident, someone you’d want to share a beer and a conversation. As The New York Times so poignantly states “he shaped the way we see food,” his unique way of storytelling was often in the back of an alley over a steaming bowl of noodles, a short window into his insatiable curiosity.

I’ll never forget when I got an email a few month’s ago from his production team that they were headed to Florence and could I help with a bit of  creative consulting for the show? Honestly I was more honored that I’ve been in a  long time that his team thought anything I had to say was worthy of Mr. Bourdain’s attention. In fact, less than 10 days ago we met Tony, in the dining room of a simple, family-run trattoria in the heart of San Frediano. And then the news of his death came, a ton of bricks in one moment in the form of a pop-up notification on my cell phone. “Breaking: Anthony Bourdain Found Dead.” As I struggled to read the complete headline before it disappeared like the many other notifications our smart devices harass us with on the daily, I couldn’t believe it. This is someone who seemed so comfortable with his life and served as such an inspiration to people all over the world.

Shaking the hand of an idol that I too held quite dear just over a week or so ago.

It had me thinking, it had me thinking a lot. The first thought was how we hold our idols to such impossible symbols of perfection. The thought that they can have feelings, torments, medical issues, mental issues is often ignored. Instead we always want more, more of them to serve as inspirations of what we would like to be — or hope to be. Can you imagine how much pressure that can do to a person?

What we don’t know is that we know nothing.

Already as a blogger, writer, person in Florence I feel like I am meant to constantly be sharing how cool my next new project is going to be and if I have nothing going on I fear disappointing the person who posed the question. Why? That’s so incredibly stupid but it’s true. In this fast-paced world it seems like you need to be ahead of the game to be part of it. We must challenge ourselves, me included, to stop trying to make others happy and focus on the day to day. Less inspirational quotes and more “hey, how are you really?

It’s worth remembering that we don’t know the inner workings of anyone’s life other than our own.

We rush in our busy lives and we make plans and dreams and hopes and escapes without always acknowledging the present and really digging beneath the surface. I’ve been there and done that.

While we might never know why someone who seemed so unaffected by the world’s bullshit would take his own life, what it can do is serve as a reminder of what little we can do in our daily lives.

We can be better humans and reach out more to people we love.

Often people take time to open up so it’s tantamount to make them feel comfortable and actually try to listen instead of waiting for your turn to talk. Also, we (especially those who work online) can stop trying to be so fucking perfect and just be our authentically flawed selves. Like Tony was. We can share our (real) problems and be less scared that people will judge us for them. Being vulnerable and showing compassion is grossly underrated.

As Tony’s tragic death reminds us, life is not about tomorrow, it is about today.


if you or someone you know needs help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can always reach out to me in the comment section of my blog if you’re here in Florence and just need a friendly person to listen, I can’t do much but I can do that.

Se sentite di aver bisogno, o se pensate che un vostro amico o caro possa trarne beneficio, potete chiamare il Numero Verde 800180950 attivo dal Lunedì al Venerdì dalle 8.00 alle 20.00 e il Sabato dalle 8.00 alle 13.00 http://www.prevenzionedelsuicidio.it/numero-verde

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9 Comment

  1. Reply
    Steven Giles
    10.06.2018 at 20:34

    great post Georgette! always like reading your Twitter posts and this one truly strikes close to home. with me also being an Anthony Bourdain follower…he was probably the biggest influence on my culinary adventures starting back in the late-90’s! may the rest in peace and may we all learn to live in the moment each day and take time to listen, rather than talk! my own personal experiences are a story for another day, but I’ve been living this way as best I can since January 31, 1981…#secondchancetolive

    1. Reply
      GirlInFlorence
      11.06.2018 at 9:49

      Thank you Steven, Tony was so respected internationally. I was actually really surprised when so many people I know here in Florence read his books or watched his show, it came as a shock for the local community as he was just here. I do hope we can live more in the moment and enjoy the simple things, and revel in the interactions we have with people in our lives instead of wanting for “more more more” and better prestige. It’s not even innately worth it. Anytime you want to share, I’m here to listen :). Happy Monday!

  2. Reply
    alice morgan simmmonds
    10.06.2018 at 21:08

    Georgette, this is an amazing post and speaks directly to my heart. Your presence online always feels so real to me. I agree, we need to be able to speak the truth of our experience. We tend to want to hide the difficult and to look good, so as not be upset people. So as not to experience their rejection. It’s such a crime really. We all experience ups and downs in life, losses, despair, confusion, loneliness, etc. It’s inevitable, and strangely ironic that we find ourselves shutting off the voice of this side of our humanity and creating more suffering in the process. Losing Anthony Bourdain, at least can open us up to the possibility that we can have compassion and space for these feelings and thoughts and realities. Being able to speak the whole truth of our human existence may be the ‘cure’.

    1. Reply
      GirlInFlorence
      11.06.2018 at 9:48

      Alice, I really appreciate your kind words and you taking the time to comment. THANK YOU. It’s really hard to strike a balance between how much you share or want to keep private, especially if you want to showcase a more authentic side to everyday life, especially in a place like Italy. We do need to be more open, kind and compassionate and if this tragedy does one thing, hopefully it will spur those to seek help and care when needed. Everyone has issues and problems, just some of those are better at hiding them than others.

  3. Reply
    Barb
    11.06.2018 at 2:30

    What an honor to have met “Tony”. Your article is beautiful, he surely would have approved. So very sad we lost such an authentic human being.

    1. Reply
      GirlInFlorence
      11.06.2018 at 9:46

      Thank you Barb, it was an honor, even if I only met him for two seconds but instead got to know his team a little better. I still can’t believe or rather don’t want to believe that he’s gone.

  4. Reply
    Lorelei
    11.06.2018 at 13:49

    Georgette, beautifully written and expressed piece on your feelings of the passing of “Tony” and the price of celebrity at all levels. Depression is a dangerous animal. It takes many forms and attacks in depths that cause even the seemingly most positive among us to make drastic, dramatic even fatal actions.
    Myself, being no stranger to sudden, tragic losses understands the stages of grief. I have passed the “I’m so sad, I’m so sorry” period into the “I’m angry and disappointed” phase. My head screaming why? While my heart screams oh please no, not another gut punch from someone who publically resonated so deeply across the global human community. I’ve been binge watching this news, soaking in that familiar voice that brought the world into our homes with intellect and honesty. There was barely an episode where he didn’t express some personally deep sadness, concern or hurt. In my minds eye he carried his pain outloud which makes this all the more shocking as I’ve been schooled to believe these are the people who don’t commit such desparate acts.
    Thank you for your beautiful, sensitive and revealing post. I am sorry for your loss.
    Lorelei

  5. Reply
    Ina McDonald
    11.06.2018 at 14:42

    We cannot know what pain or need may lie beneath the beautiful smile, the charming personality, the huge intellect or even the fame, unless we take the time to listen and offer compassion.
    Thank you for your insightful and kind post, Georgette.

  6. Reply
    Jenna
    11.06.2018 at 16:30

    Thanks for this post. What struck me the most among the many good things you said was how important it is to listen, to just ask someone, how are you, and really try to hear what they say. It can completely change a person’s day. There’s a great project currently making its way around the world called Sidewalk Talks (sidewalktalks.com) if any of of your readers are interested in becoming involved. Groups of folks go out into public places and offer to listen to people for free. It doesn’t solve the bigger issues around mental illness and the stigma and access to care etc,; also, we’re _not_ therapists; listening to somebody for 10 minutes obviously cannot/should not replace professional care. But,I’m becoming more and more convinced that listening deeply and well to each other is at the heart of real change: it’s how we ourselves change and how we change society. Thanks for adding your voice to this important conversation!

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