Leaving home with unknown destination – Marina Keegans legacy

Marina Keegan, still a Yale student in her last term, 22 years old, on track to become a writer for “The New Yorker”, wrote this essay “The Opposite of Loneliness“, that became her emotional legacy. Shortly after publishing her text in Yale Universities “Cross Campus”, Marina Keegan died in a car accident.

Throughout her essay she expresses a very clear, rational view on the conflict between our destiny as members of a complex, more and more annonymous society and our archaic desire to find a safe place in a community. She knows about the impossibility to harmonize these two forces, but she does not end in despair.

“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
clichéd “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 suck.
For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal
arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken
it. If only I had majored in biology…if only I’d gotten involved in
journalism as a freshman…if only I’d thought to apply for this or for
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
In the heart of a winter Friday night my freshman year, I was dazed
and confused when I got a call from my friends to meet them at EST EST
EST. Dazedly and confusedly, I began trudging to SSS, probably the point
on campus farthest away. Remarkably, it wasn’t until I arrived at the
door that I questioned how and why exactly my friends were partying in
Yale’s administrative building. Of course, they weren’t. But it was cold
and my ID somehow worked so I went inside SSS to pull out my phone. It
was quiet, the old wood creaking and the snow barely visible outside the
stained glass. And I sat down. And I looked up. At this giant room I
was in. At this place where thousands of people had sat before me. And
alone, at night, in the middle of a New Haven storm, I felt so
remarkably, unbelievably safe.
We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did,
I’d say that’s how I feel at Yale. How I feel right now. Here. With all
of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don’t have to lose
We’re in this together, 2012. Let’s make something happen to this world.”

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