The Opposite of Loneliness

Attention Target customers: things are about to get real serious up in hurr.  Puns and sarcasm will return with the next post.

I’ve seen the same article pop up in a few different places over the past couple of days: on a friend’s Facebook status, and on a couple of blogs and websites.  The article, found here, was written for the Yale Daily News by Marina Keegan, who graduated from Yale earlier this month.


Her article was written and distributed in honor of the class of 2012’s commencement ceremony and describes what she loved most about college, her fears about graduating, and her hopes for the future.

In a terribly sad twist of fate, Marina Keegan died in a car accident this past Saturday, the week after graduation.  She was 22.

Keegan framed much of her writing around the often-heard sentiment that college is “the best four years of your life.”  She, like so many college students, related to that at the time of graduation.  She described the feeling of constant camaraderie and support, of living so close to so many of your best friends, as the “indefinable opposite of loneliness.”  Losing this feeling, she said, is what scared her about leaving college and entering the real world on her own.

So much of what she wrote struck a resounding chord with me.  I’ve felt those exact feelings; I’ve thought those exact thoughts.  In fact, as happy as I am on the Outer Banks, some part of me has been consistently mourning the death of my undergraduate life for the past year, and visiting and then having to leave Geneseo all over again this month reopened the wound.  How can it not break your heart to have to give up a time of such happiness, friendship, and growth?

Instead of wallowing in sadness and self-doubt, though, Keegan stepped up to the challenge.  I loved this statement of hers: “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.”

One of my favorite song lyrics is by James Taylor: “The secret to life is enjoying the passage of time.”  I’ve thought about this long and hard… and I think it might be true.  However, it’s not something I’ve figured out yet.  I really don’t enjoy the passage of time.  I know that sounds terribly dismal, but listen.  I would much rather anticipate a happy event than remember it.  Do you know what I mean?

I’ve tried to get better at this.  Actually, ever since I read Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut in high school, I’ve had a slightly better perspective on it.  In the novel, time is presented almost like a filmstrip; we’re all currently set at one certain point in our lives, but the past and future are both still there, stretching out to either side of us.  They’re not totally gone.  Even though this is obviously a work of fiction, the concept still resonated with me.  It makes it easier to think about.

Reading Keegan’s article made me realize that I need to redouble my efforts to snap out of it.  Certain parts of her article gave me chills, knowing what happened to her just days ago.

“We’re so young.  We’re so young.  We’re twenty-two years old.  We have so much time… What we have to remember is that we can still do anything.  We can change our minds.  We can start over.  Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time.  The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical.  It’s hilarious.  We’re graduating college.  We’re so young.  We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.”

Up until four days ago, every word of that was true for Marina Keegan.  She was so young.  She was twenty-two years old.  She had so much time… until she didn’t.  And not to be morbid, but that might be the case for any of us.

I hope I have sixty or seventy or, who knows, a hundred years left – technology might have us living forever or half-turned into robots by the time I’m old – but even if I have two or three or less than one (stop crying, Mom, it’s just figurative), I want them to be just as happy as the past four have been.

This article made me realize that I need to readjust my attitude about my college experience.  Instead of assuming that nothing will ever live up to my time at Geneseo and in New Zealand, I need to make sure that things do.  I don’t pretend that this is an original sentiment; it’s been said countless times in countless ways.  It’s just something I need to adopt more centrally in my own life.

Dr. Seuss said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”  Well, the truth is, I’ve been doing a little too much crying because it’s over and not nearly enough smiling because it happened.

It’s time to redouble my efforts.  To view time like Kurt Vonnegut, to smile like Dr. Seuss, to find James Taylor’s secret to life, and to live like Marina Keegan.

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