By now, you may have heard about the tragic death of a 22 year old Yale college graduate, Marina Keegan, who passed away suddenly eight days after her college graduation. Her death is gaining national attention not for the manner in which she passed, but for her beautiful piece, The Opposite of Loneliness, which she was hopeful and optimistic for her own future.
Many news outlets are sharing pieces of her letter, but I was able to find the full copy. I read it through, and became brokenhearted for Marina. She was so hopeful for her own future, but did not shy away from how scared she was for the unknown. The parts that I connect best with are:
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.
[further along in the letter]
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.
I hope that Marina lived her life with this mentality, and took every opportunity that came her way. She had a great outlook on life, and I’m sad knowing that we won’t know what she could have accomplished.
Now I’m sure you are asking yourself, “What does this have to do with Jennifer?” Well my dear friend, it has everything to do with Nif.
Deep down, I believe that Jen had great expectations for herself and her future. I may not know what they were, but I am confident (no pun intended) she held herself to high standards. I don’t believe she took much for granted, and truly lived each day to the fullest. She managed school, work and friends, and never missed a party. She enjoyed each moment life offered to her, but was not defined by the “now.” She waned the best for herself, and I think she was working towards them. Like for Marina, I’m very heartbroken that myself, my family, or the world, won’t be able to see what great things she was going to accomplish.
I think we can look at past accomplishments, and imagine for ourselves what that person (Jen, Marina, or anyone for that matter) was going to achieve. It is these thoughts that make me smile, especially when I need it most.