Columns, Opinion

Bearing Witness: An open letter to Mac Miller

Dear Mac Miller,

As a girl from Pittsburgh and specifically your very-own Squirrel Hill neighborhood, you composed a soundtrack to my generation’s coming-of-age story. In your album “Blue Slide Park,” you told the story of being a teenager in Pittsburgh, which will touch the lives of Pittsburgh youth for generations to come. From rapping about “Senior Skip Day” under the backdrop of jubilant and playful beats, to sharing your personal mourning process in the song “Poppy,” you beautifully represent the rollercoaster of life.

You taught me that life isn’t easy, but “It’s better never to question every lesson that’s in store.” You preached that any day can be the “best day ever” because no matter where life takes you, it’s possible to smile through it.

Your earlier music revealed timeless lessons laced with intrinsic human values, like the importance of treating your mother well and giving back to family, taking care of your people and following a dream with the odds against you. You put Pittsburgh on the map, and your ability to bring fame to Pittsburgh public schools, Blue Slide Park and Frick Park Market brought us much pride. From being just a kid with a dream to becoming a major rapper, you stayed humble by always keeping the connection to your roots.

Your ability to stay present in your life with such perspective and translate your experiences into a musical masterpiece was an enormous gift. Like any legend, you knew that “life is short.” But man oh man, did you make it count. Your music about loss deeply inspired others going through hardship. My friends and our camp community were specifically moved by your song “REMember.” We know that you lost a friend, but now you will be together in a place “where the time don’t end.”

The narrative of a person’s life shared through music is a powerful human experience. Miller fans experienced his life course as he put it all out there. Miller said once that he’d rather be “… the corny white rapper than the drugged-out mess that can’t even get out of his house.” This past week, he died from an overdose.

Substance abuse is a fatal disease, not a choice. In 2017 alone, around 72,000 people died from an overdose. This country has an opioid epidemic and a stigmatized mental health crisis which makes seeking help impossible at times. We must do better to notice when our friends are down and not be afraid to discuss life’s hardest questions. We must feel comfortable relying on one another. In the words of the lyrical poet himself, “a life ain’t a life ‘til you live it.” Miller lived more than most.

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