Sunday, June 3, 2012

THE OPPOSITE OF LONELINESS


A young woman named Marina Keegan died last week in a single-car accident in Dennis, Mass., on Cape Cod, five days after graduating from Yale. She was 22.  She wrote for the Yale Daily News while a student there, and her writing was so good, so compelling, that the News included her column, "The Opposite of Loneliness,'' in a special edition of the paper distributed to all students and families at graduation.

You go to college for many reasons, the biggest of which is probably (but not definitely) to get trained for what you'll do for the rest of your life.  But along the way you experience a collegial feeling that's hard to describe until you've been through it. And Marina Keegan writes about it as eloquently as I've read.
"More than finding the right job or city or spouse -- I'm scared of losing this web we're in,'' Keegan writes. "This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.''


A proud family before their loneliness

"The first time I read the piece, I cried,'' the editor-in-chief of the Daily News, Max de La Bruyere, told me Sunday night. "As a professor of ours said today, 'Marina always spoke her mind.  She was determined to always be herself.'  She knew what she wanted to write, and she always wrote it so well. She was such a shining light.  She found time to do so much.  She was the president of the Yale College Democrats, which takes up quite a lot of time. She wrote fiction and non-fiction, and she wrote a full-length musical last summer. And this story about life at Yale was so beautiful. Thank God she left us with this.''
It's beautiful. Read it. It'll make you sad, but sadness is part of life too.  Enjoy.....

"We don't have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that's what I want in life. What I'm grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I'm scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.

It's not quite love and it's not quite community; it's just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it's four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can't remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.

Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers -- partner-less, tired, awake. We won't have those next year. We won't live on the same block as all our friends. We won't have a bunch of group-texts.

This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse -- I'm scared of losing this web we're in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.

But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They're part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn't live in New York. I plan on having parties when I'm 30. I plan on having fun when I'm old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clich├ęd "should haves..." "if I'd..." "wish I'd..."

Of course, there are things we wished we did: our readings, that boy across the hall. We're our own hardest critics and it's easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I've looked back on my High School self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.

But the thing is, we're all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes…) We have these impossibly high standards and we'll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that's okay.

We're so young. We're so young. We're twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There's this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it's too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.

When we came to Yale, there was this sense of possibility. This immense and indefinable potential energy – and it's easy to feel like that's slipped away. We never had to choose and suddenly we've had to. Some of us have focused ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it; already going to med school, working at the perfect NGO, doing research. To you I say both congratulations and you  (are so fortunate)". 

Stories like these got Marina Keegan an editorial assistant job at the New Yorker, which was she was due to start a week from tomorrow in Manhattan.

As difficult as it must be for the Keegan family to make sense of the timing of Marina's death.....there is an answer.  Marina wanted to experience the opposite of loneliness in its fullness.  Some of her last words were "we are in this together.  Let's make something happen to this world".  I think she did and she passed it on to us.  Now it's our turn to take the baton. 

Isaiah 41:10
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

YGG,

John



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