Here in radio, there is a competitive streak and spirit that drives us to always want to be Number One. There is also fear. Fear of rejection, that our ratings might not be good, that our bosses get mad, or that one of our “fans” might complain about something we said and tell us that we suck.
You know what? We hear that, and it hurts. All of it.
Even though we all want to be better than other radio personalities, in this rapidly shrinking business there is also a mutual respect and brotherhood. Sort of like “honor among thieves”. When one of us is hurting, we’re all in pain with them. This is one of those times.
You may never have heard of Jeffrey Vandergrift, a radio personality who goes by the name of “JV”. He does the morning show on Wild 94.9 in San Francisco along with his his wife, Natasha. He has hundreds of thousands of listeners in the Bay Area and beyond, and scores of friends in the radio business who respect and admire his talent and personality.
JV has also been missing for almost 2 weeks. Without a trace. He is considered a missing person, and police are searching feverishly for him. There has been no activity on his cellphone, credit cards, or bank accounts. His family, friends, and peers all fear the worst, and are heartbroken.
He has spoken at times of his personal struggle with Lyme Disease, which could have seriously impaired his thinking. One can only speculate as to what may have been going through his mind if, in fact, he has made the ultimate tragic decision. However, sadly JV is not the first nor the last person to have these dark thoughts.
After all, there but for the Grace of God go I. Guess what? I’ve been in this place too. Recently, in fact. Surprised? Don’t be.
When you see someone on TV, or hear them on the radio or read the articles they write, it’s hard to determine what is really going on deep inside their heart and mind. The internal struggle that they face, the pain that they are in on a myriad of levels. You just don’t know, and may never know until it is too late. We put on a brave face, smile, and talk about how great the weather is, or tell a goofy story or joke. Then, the microphone goes off and the world gets very cold and gray once again in their soul. It’s scary.
I won’t lie, I’ve personally had these dark thoughts and moments myself. Heck, I’ve even TRIED to end the pain one more than one occasion (spoiler alert, it didn’t work). Each time I tried and failed, I felt shame and regret, and remembered that there is so much more to life. But, that still doesn’t keep the dark feelings out completely. Sometimes, the pressure can be immense, and we are only human after all.
So, we pray for our colleague who may have taken what he felt was the only path to peace, and wrap our arms around his family and co-workers, because they are all of us. Remember, when you send that email saying that we suck because we didn’t play Metallica, or Lizzo, or complain that we’re not funny. You’re not chirping to a robot. These are real people, with feelings, and families. Words carry much more weight than people realize, so choose them carefully.
I love each and everyone of you.
Come home, brother.
(If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time day or night)