Marina Keegan – The Loss of a Powerful Voice


Marina Keegan image by Joy Shan

This morning I read the last article written by Marina Keegan in the Yale Daily News entitled “The Opposite of Loneliness”. I was immediately in awe of the words written by this young woman. She was a student at Yale, graduating magna cum laude in May of 2012. With a job waiting for her at the New Yorker, she tragically died in a car crash just 5 days after graduating. In this final haunting piece Keegan wrote, we see such optimism and astute analysis of human emotions – a young woman on the verge of greatness who had no clue of the great tragedy that was soon to befall her. The words have been running through my mind all day. They filled me with gratitude for all the people in my life who help me to feel the “opposite of loneliness” on a regular basis. And at the same time they fill me with sorrow as I am reminded of how finite all of our existences truly are. We can fight it – but in the end we are powerless to change the things that will unfold. I think that when we realize this – the only choice we have is to embrace the best of what we experience knowing that unexpected tragedies might be our destiny. But if we have loved well and appreciated the gifts along the way the end will be less bitter to swallow and the imprint we leave on the world will be much brighter. Below are some of Keegan’s sagest thoughts.

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.

Do you feel surrounded by a team? And if not – is it because you are truly alone or just incapable of recognizing the power and love that surrounds you? Maybe you are unable to identify the subtle strength and compassion of the team that has been there all along helping you to muddle through. Do you feel the best years are behind you or do you acknowledge that while perfection is never achievable, greatness is always a potential opportunity just around the bend?

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.

Keegan’s family chose to posthumously publish her poems and essays in a book that is receiving rave reviews. “The Opposite of Loneliness” is now on my summer reading list. My heart aches as I order it – knowing that as I delve into her thoughts and aspirations I will feel sad for the girl who never knew just how many hearts her words touched. In her honor I will be more grateful for this rich life I live so full of an emotion that I can only describe as the opposite of loneliness.

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  1. mary tilghman says:

    beautifully written and expressed, dear lin. and/but sadness can encourage us to look further for the brightness and tell our dear ones they are loved and appreciated. see you soon. mary

  2. Kathy Altomaro says:

    Your eloquence in expressing such profound emotion leaves me in awe… You are blessed with this gift! Xoxo

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