Yesterday, after six years of asking, I convinced my Mum to detour to Aberdeen, Washington so I could sit “underneath the bridge” and pay my respects to Kurt Cobain. It was dirty, vulgar, sad, very punk rock, entirely homegrown, and filled with nothing but love… just the way, imagine, Kurt would have liked it.
You see, when I was 12 and 13 years old, from the dreary-but-green Pacific Northwest, had just obtained my first guitar, and wanted more than anything in the entire world to kill myself… I completely worshipped Nirvana. For obvious reasons.
Kurt Cobain was a hero to me at that time, when I had just been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. He battled his evergrowing sadness and made a career out of it that worked for him for 27 whole years. I aspired to such a feat.
The obsession teenagers have with their music of choice is often misunderstood, or worse, scoffed at. However, in my own life, I can’t emphasize enough how important it was in those dark days to have music that made me feel less alone and isolated. Before I became a hardcore Music Fan, life was looking a lot more hopeless. It was so beneficial to pour myself into something other than myself. It was important to love something.
“Something in the Way” was actually a very important song to me because it gave me a way to visualize depression that stuck with me for years as I battled. Depression, for me, isn’t a monster or a black cloud. It’s “something in the way”. Something blocking your path. Something too big to go straight through. Something to overcome.
Yes, contrary to what seems to be the popular opinion, teenagers really can experience dark and serious spells of woe that extend far beyond school troubles or relationships. They are not lesser people, just younger people. Although I am currently dealing with the pains of adult life, which are objectively more difficult than anything I went through at twelve years old, emotionally these pains are nothing compared to the sheer anguish of that age.
Simply, I felt like no one in the world understood the hurt I was going through. And yet, there was Kurt Cobain. His songs were distinctly sad in a way I recognized, not externally, but within myself. It meant the world to me.
It took time, therapy, effort, and medication, but I’m in a decidedly better place, better than ever. And so I sat under that bridge yesterday and looked around at all the countless “thank you” messages, cigarette butts, discarded condoms, firewood, and of course, the muddy banks of the Wishkah.
I said a little prayer, took a few pictures, shed a few tears, sang one or so lines of Something in the Way, and then took off.
And that’s all that needed to be done.
It is important, I think, to pay respects to our childhood heroes, no matter how flawed they turn out to be or were all along. It is never bad to be grateful.
If you are a teenager who is in a bad place, please know that you are never alone. Ever.
Additionally, if there’s a teenager in your life dealing with mental illness or hiding away in their headphones, respect their feelings and their love of things in life.
And Kurt, if you’re reading this somehow, thank you.