Marina Keegan was 22 when she died the day after her college graduation. She was the same age that I am now and if she were still alive today she would be 30. After she passed, her parents, friends, and professors put together a book of her writing; both fiction and non-fiction, to be published.
Her essay, “The Opposite of Loneliness” was an overnight success and her book, which was named for the essay, was published in 2014. It was well received and widely talked about it and I don’t remember when I got it but according to Goodreads, the first time that I read it was in December of 2015. I can vaguely remember reading it by my desk lamp in my freshman dorm, tears streaming down my face and trying not to wake up my roommate because I was crying. I read it in one sitting.
As I sort of mentioned in a post last week, I’m really struggling right now. There are so many uncertainties, so many what-ifs and if-onlys that consume almost every waking thought.
Before I continue on with my post, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite excerpts from The Opposite of Loneliness. This is from the opening essay:
Of course, there are things we wish we’d done: 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 lie 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.
Every time I read the sentences “We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time.” It gives me chills. Just knowing that Marina was so young, that twenty-two is really young, it’s just scary. Everything we’ve ever done or wanted to do could be taken away from us in a second. It makes my anxiety consume me…
I remember hitting birthday “milestones”, 13 (my golden birthday), then 16, 18, 21… And now I’m only a few weeks away from being 23. I am so young and yet I feel like I have spent my entire life failing. I took school too seriously, I gave up on dreams, I dropped out, I fell in love, I fucked up, I got hurt, I created things, I destroyed things. I have experienced so much in my lifetime and yet I feel like I have done nothing. I feel like I could never create something that would make an impact, that I will never amount to anything. I feel like, because I didn’t do something by now that I will never do anything. And we’re constantly reminded that we’re not promised tomorrow, I mean look at what happened to Marina, her entire life was open in front of her and she never got to see the possibilities that she had in store.
As I read through Marina’s book this time around, I found myself more inspired than I have been in a while. It occurred to me that I spent my entire childhood dreaming about writing. Filling journal after journal, making up crazy stories, oversharing and always being dramatic. But I don’t think I was ever once told that maybe, just maybe, I was good enough to try out writing for a job. I get so inspired by reading things that other people have written, I constantly draft essays and stories in my head, I love editing stuff to make it into something that shines.
The inspiration and push I got from this book after rereading it was something I never imagined getting. And though I still feel like most of my life will be spent wading and wandering and trying to find a place where I truly fit in I genuinely want to say that Marina Keegan is an inspiration to me in a way that no one else has ever been. Though her life was short, her writing will live on in the hearts of many for years to come.
If you’ve never read The Opposite of Loneliness, I urge you to pick up a copy. Or if you don’t feel like reading the whole book, at least read the title essay, I know that you won’t regret it.