Rest in peace to a kid with a dream

Abby Shaffer, In-Depth Editor

On September 7, a casual Friday night, I was getting ready for a high school football game just like many other teenagers. I was unaware that I would be spending the next few days listening to one artist’s music in tears.

As my friend picked up her phone, she instantly viewed the devastation which was spread across social media platforms. My heart crumbled into a million pieces when she gasped across the room, “Mac Miller died.” These three words made me hug my loved ones a little tighter and appreciate the beauty of living a little more.

My body, as well as my thoughts, were frozen. I was in a state of shock. It seemed as if my mind was refusing to accept reality. I was aware that he had struggled with maintaining his mental health and drug addiction, but I thought he was getting better. It’s easy to get used to someone always being there. I needed this wakeup call. It was as if life itself was yelling at me to value it now before it’s too late.

Local fans were experiencing the same pain, grief, and mourning. “My heart literally dropped. I cancelled my plans. I was shaking and my makeup came right off from crying,” explained Jess Ziance, a student from Greater Latrobe High School. To us, this was more than just an influencer passing away, for the city of Pittsburgh had just lost one of its own to a tragic drug overdose.

On September 11,  I attended Miller’s memorial, where my emotions shifted gears. The event was held at Frick Park, commonly referred to as Blue Slide Park, where Miller spent a significant amount of time as a child. This park’s importance is reflected in his album released in November of 2011, titled Blue Slide Park. I, as well as many others, signed a petition requesting that the park officially be renamed in honor of Miller.

Positive energy immediately radiated from the crowd of over 2,000 people. It was like a breath of fresh air seeing fans of all ages and backgrounds peacefully unite as one in honor of an unforgettable influencer. The gathering was exactly what he would have wanted it to be–a true celebration of his life and achievements. Walking past pictures of him, while his music played in the background, made me feel as if I knew him personally. It felt as if I was walking alongside him through his journey of life.

Miller evidently impacted his fans. Pittsburgh gear, flowers, posters, and even personal notes filled sections of the park. Mixed media artists poured their souls into extravagant paintings and drawings of him. As we left, candles were lit as a final goodbye to a legend.

Taylor Allderdice High School, located approximately one mile from Frick Park, was the musical beginning for Miller, as well as rapper Wiz Khalifa. One of Miller’s close friends from high school organized the music at his memorial. Listening to him reminisce about the first time Miller exposed his musical talent, I realized his bravery is what allowed him to follow his passion. As a freshman, Miller distributed his first mixtape on CDs throughout the school to students and faculty. Strong criticism didn’t take long to spread, in fact, his peers blatantly told him to give up.

 At the end of the informal release day, the principal requested that Miller, as well as his willing friend, clean the abundance of rejected CDs from the grounds. The cruel feedback didn’t phase Miller though. He distributed a new mixtape only one month later with his motivation unchanged. Miller’s determination is the root of his success.

I’m grateful that Miller brushed the hate off his shoulders. He truly transformed my stereotypical idea of rap music. Unlike other artists in this genre, Miller’s lyrics don’t revolve around money, drugs, and women. He taught himself how to play piano, guitar, drums, and bass which enhance his unique instrumentals. His words trigger emotions I didn’t know I could feel. A single album has the capability of making me feel in love and happy one minute, and reflective and sad the next.

In addition to being an exceptional artist, Miller was a rare individual. Fans, friends, and family members of Miller admire different aspects of him. Even through his personal sufferings, he continued to spread genuine love. He said it himself, “No matter where life takes me, find me with a smile.” We now know that his smile wasn’t always a true reflection of how he was feeling inside.

His sufferings began with his breakup with artist Ariana Grande. Speculations show that she was beginning to feel like a babysitter rather than a girlfriend to Miller. According to reports, she decided it would be best for both of them to let Miller solve his issues without the burden of a relationship.

On May 17, just one week following the breakup, Miller, who was drunk, crashed his vehicle into a pole and fled from the scene. Law enforcement arrived to his house hours later, where Miller confessed to his actions. Police arrested him for DUI and a hit and run but claimed he was, “the most polite and nice intoxicated person we’ve ever seen.”

In a radio interview over the summer, he said, “What you don’t understand is that I lived a certain life for 10 years and faced almost no real consequence at all…Yeah I made a stupid mistake…But it was the best thing that could’ve happened…I needed that.”

Followers were quickly convinced that his future was looking brighter. On May 29, he released three singles: “Small Worlds”, “Buttons”, and “Programs”. He also dropped his fifth full-length album, Swimming, on August 3. In addition, I was looking forward to attending his fall tour during October. Unfortunately, less than one month after Swimming reached the Billboard 200 chart, his inner demons won the battle.

Society often resides with the misconception that fame and fortune are automatic keys to happiness. Mac Miller is a prime example of how critical it is to maintain mental health. The whole world could be in the palm of your hands, but you  still feel alone and unhappy. In a short film documentary by The FADER, Miller explained why he began using drugs. “It started by me just sitting inside all day…then you get bored, then you’re like well I could just be high and I could have a whole adventure in this room…if someone’s like, ‘You wanna try this?’ I’m like yeah, sure. And then it just kinda f**** you up when you have a bunch of money cause you try a drug, you like it, and then you can buy a lot of it.”

Some rap musicians, such as Lil Peep, believe they are invincible until it’s too late. On November 15, 2017, Peep was found dead at age 21. The cause of death was reported as an accidental overdose due to the effects of pain medications fentanyl and alprazolam.

Celebrities fall into a false reality that they can do anything without consequences. Everyday life to influencers, is viewed as a dream to outsiders. Once that dream becomes reality, they seek a new thrill. Many turn to drugs for a way to fill that void. However, that high is only temporary. When they’re sober, they feel empty and the drugs become addicting. Their ethereal lifestyle gives them the illusion that it won’t harm them.

To Mac Miller himself, thank you. It brings me pain thinking about all of the music I will never get to experience now that you’re gone. Although you were taken too soon, I am beyond thankful to have been exposed to your words. We need more beautiful souls like you in this world. You made people proud to be from Pittsburgh. Your life ends here, but your impact will last forever. Rest in peace to a kid with a dream.