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Old 05-28-2012, 10:23 AM   #1
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The Opposite Of Loneliness

Nothing to debate about, I was just really touched by it and thought some people might feel the same.

Peter King, SI.com

A young woman named Marina Keegan died Saturday in a single-car accident in Dennis, Mass., on Cape Cod, five days after graduating from Yale. She was 22. She wrote for the Yale Daily News while a student there, and her writing was so good, so compelling, that the News included her column, "The Opposite of Loneliness,'' in a special edition of the paper distributed to all students and families at graduation. I urge you to read it.

You go to college for many reasons, the biggest of which is probably (but not definitely) to get trained for what you'll do for the rest of your life. But along the way you experience a collegial feeling that's hard to describe until you've been through it. And Marina Keegan writes about it as eloquently as I've read.

"More than finding the right job or city or spouse -- I'm scared of losing this web we're in,'' Keegan writes. "This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.''

"The first time I read the piece, I cried,'' the editor-in-chief of the Daily News, Max de La Bruyere, told me Sunday night. "As a professor of ours said today, 'Marina always spoke her mind. She was determined to always be herself.' She knew what she wanted to write, and she always wrote it so well. She was such a shining light. She found time to do so much. She was the president of the Yale College Democrats, which takes up quite a lot of time. She wrote fiction and non-fiction, and she wrote a full-length musical last summer. And this story about life at Yale was so beautiful. Thank God she left us with this.''

It's beautiful. Read it. It'll make you sad, but sadness is part of life too.

Stories like these got Marina Keegan an editorial assistant job at the New Yorker, which was she was due to start two weeks from today in Manhattan.




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 that…

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.

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 that.

We’re in this together, 2012. Let’s make something happen to this world.
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Old 05-28-2012, 10:48 AM   #2
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Really lovely piece. Thanks for posting it MrsS.

I remember feeling that way at the end of my schooling, and particularly at the end of law school. What amazing years those were, the fun, the security, the friendships, the constant hum and buzz of something happening. I remember the summer when we were studying for the bar exam, sitting on patios with pitchers of sangria in the sunshine, leafing through ridiculous piles of the most boring books you can imagine. But they were some of the best days.

I really encourage people who are still in that position to make the most of it because life does change, and it changes a lot. Not for the better or worse necessarily, but it will never be the same as it then was.
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Old 05-28-2012, 05:09 PM   #3
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One of my aspirations is to be able to give our kids enough financial help with college that they'll have time for the kinds of social experiences she describes here. I had to work full-time all the way through my higher education, as a great many students do, and I've never really been able to relate when people fondly recall the extracurricular camaraderie, the infamous dorm parties, the epic 4 AM meaning-of-life,-the-universe-and-everything arguments...I often feel wistful hearing other college grads reminisce about these things. And like anitram said, it's definitely a position to make the most of while you've got it, because life will be different later--sure, people can and do change careers, and by planning and saving you can continue to make cherished experiences like entertaining or travel regular parts of your life...but, that exhilarating sense of endless, boundless potential to remake your world however and whenever you like, that doesn't last.


What a tragedy for her family.
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Old 05-28-2012, 07:47 PM   #4
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Even though I'm more introverted, I've always loved crowds and having people around and stuff going on and I much prefer city living, don't mind being able hear my neighbor's fart or come home and pick kid's toys out of my driveway. Where I went to college we were required to live on campus for two years. Even though our dorm room was smaller than a jail cell, that sort of living suits me (especially since I grew up sharing a room, closet, and bed with my sister). I worked several jobs through school so I couldn't do many activities other than attending required classes and going to work, but just living on campus and being in that active environment I still had a pretty typical experience. Even if the "stuff" going on was not something I was really interested in, just being in an environment where there was always a million things going on and I could do any one of those things if I wanted to was something I really enjoyed about school. I didn't go out of my way to make a ton of new friends in school, but I never felt unwelcome either, never felt that there weren't plenty of people around to do whatever I was in the mood for doing if I wanted to. Now...yeah I have a job that provides more disposable income than I had while I was in school and I own a nice house on a nice street and have all the freedom and independence someone under age 30 could want...it's more of an effort to go out and DO something, make a new friend, even meetup with a current friend. I miss doing all the really dumb stuff we did in college, like going for donuts at 2am (and eating the entire box), stealing a supply-closet's worth of toilet paper rolls and swimming in them, just silly immature stuff like that. One of my randomly-paired suitemates from my freshman year became one of my best friends and she died of cancer the first day of fall semester exams my sophomore year, so there is even more nostalgia attached to those first few years living on campus. I also just miss the chaos - for lack of a better word - and am thankful I have my dogs and all the travel and crazy stuff we do that gives me those feelings of spontaneity and adventure that I just can't get from working my plain job and taking care of my plain house.
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Old 05-28-2012, 09:29 PM   #5
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I have begun to fully have that feeling when I am at school. I am taking only a few credits in my last semester so that I can spend most of my time enjoying the last few months of that experience.

That is a very good piece, a rarity for college newspaper writing. It's especially nice to see something that eloquent after wasting away hours and hours reading slop. "The opposite of loneliness" is a unique way of putting it.
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Old 05-28-2012, 11:38 PM   #6
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Quote:
Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clichéd “should haves...” “if I’d...” “wish I’d...”
Spot on observation.

Quote:
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.
I feel like this often. I too am a more introverted person, have a small group of friends and am pretty comfortable with that, but I also feel like there's all this exciting stuff out there that I'm not a part of, because I don't live in the right area or don't have the money to go be part of it or whatever. I feel like I'm missing out on some things, or have missed out, and a clock is ticking somewhere on my "fun" time.

But she's got great advice and reassuring words in here, and it's advice worth taking to heart.

Such a shame to hear of her passing. My condolances to her family and friends. She sounds like she was an intelligent, lovely woman that this world has been robbed of hearing more from.
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Old 05-29-2012, 01:37 AM   #7
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Man, that’s a really good piece. So sad that she passed away. I’m annoyed about my university experience; half because the uni I went to was shit and half because I didn’t make the most of it. I did Arts (still got four credit points, or a semester, to go, but I’ve been working full-time at a newspaper/magazine since October and I’d rather go to work, get experience and get paid) and the most contact hours I ever had during a week was 10. Ten! I was spending most of my time sleeping in till midday, doing nothing, occasionally doing some readings or homework. And I passed nearly all my subjects. I didn’t join any clubs, there was nothing happening at the uni (which was different at Melbourne, our biggest, which is huge, has way more students and way more stuff going on) and in three years I haven’t made a single good friend. I’ve got people on facebook and stuff but no one I can ring up on the weekend and hang out with. I had visions of uni being like college, all red cup parties and drunken debauchery and the like, but because I didn’t live on campus, because I was only there a few hours a week, which wasn’t enough to make close friendships, because I didn’t join some clubs or go on some trips, because none of my high school friends did – why would you do gay shit like that – I haven’t had the experience I was hoping for and uni has been a complete letdown. I got a job out of it through work experience, but I wanted the awesome life stories as well. I’ve changed since I started and if I had my time over again I’d get way more involved but it’s too late for that now.

Thanks for sharing, Mrs S, it cheered me up
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Old 05-29-2012, 08:09 PM   #8
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This is one of the things I missed out on from not being part of a college campus. I am a major introvert (INTP) and it requires a great effort on my part to get out and do things. Being lonely is something I have dealt with for a long time, especially growing up in a town where everything was half an hour away and living in an apartment where everything was still half an hour away. I enjoy living with other people and being around them because it allows me to have some spontaneity and variety in my life. I lived with seven other people at one point and I absolutely loved it.

I come from an opposite background where I commuted to college before finally leaving. The vast majority of the things I did in my life have always been done alone. When I lived in my own apartment in between class days and work days I would sometimes spend an entire weekend not even seeing another human being except for going to the grocery store. Loneliness is something a lot of people are scared of, but from my side of the fence, I am actually afraid of other people. Being part of a group and having fun adventures is so completely foreign to me that it terrifies me.

It's so sad that she died.
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Old 05-29-2012, 08:38 PM   #9
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One of my biggest regrets from college was that I didn't take the time to enjoy it. I went to a local college, not a sleep-away one, so the school I went to did not have much of a social scene. The majority of the students were like me: classes in the mornings and early afternoons, part-time jobs for the second half of the day and weekends. I made some friends that I am sort of still in contact with, but they're not lifelong deep friendships and we didn't have a blast during our four years.

I didn't realize the fun I could've had in college until the last weeks of my final semester. As the days went by, I realized all the missed opportunities I had, and the horrors of the real world that awaited me. I regretted not joining a sports team, even if sports weren't a big deal on campus, I wished I had been a DJ at the radio station even for one semester (I was part of the news department, but to have a weekly show would've been a lot of fun), and I wished so many other things. I actually wished I had spent five years in college rather than four so I would've had more fun.

For my broadcasting class, a classmate interviewed me to get my thoughts on our upcoming graduation. I told him everything I just said (a lot more abridged, of course) and he later told me that was the most honest answer he ever heard about graduation.

So yeah, if you're in college now - have fun! College is your last chance to actually be a kid. You may be legally an adult now and have some responsibilities, but those responsibilities are nothing like the ones you'll have once you graduate and are out in the real world. So join that team, join that club, go to that party, ask out that guy or girl - don't live with regrets!
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Old 05-30-2012, 12:03 AM   #10
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I loved college.
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Old 05-30-2012, 01:44 AM   #11
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Me too. Worth every penny.
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Old 05-30-2012, 10:37 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by ladyfreckles View Post
This is one of the things I missed out on from not being part of a college campus. I am a major introvert (INTP) and it requires a great effort on my part to get out and do things. Being lonely is something I have dealt with for a long time, especially growing up in a town where everything was half an hour away and living in an apartment where everything was still half an hour away. I enjoy living with other people and being around them because it allows me to have some spontaneity and variety in my life. I lived with seven other people at one point and I absolutely loved it.

I come from an opposite background where I commuted to college before finally leaving. The vast majority of the things I did in my life have always been done alone. When I lived in my own apartment in between class days and work days I would sometimes spend an entire weekend not even seeing another human being except for going to the grocery store. Loneliness is something a lot of people are scared of, but from my side of the fence, I am actually afraid of other people. Being part of a group and having fun adventures is so completely foreign to me that it terrifies me.
You sound like (most likely a much younger version of) me. I had to look up what INTP is. I commuted all four years of college, I had to work part time and I knew that dorm life wasn't for me. My parents couldn't afford it anyway, and my debt would have been much bigger. I still enjoyed college, because I felt so insignificant and uncomfortable in high school and much more free and comfortable in college.

The older I get the more comfortable I am with being alone and (sometimes) lonely. That's probably not a good thing, but in some ways it is. I know people who just cannot be alone, and they make very poor choices as a result. And sometimes the loneliest people are surrounded by all kinds of people and friends. I take baby steps, sometimes they work out well and sometimes they're a disaster. Disaster makes me retreat and protect myself-but now it's just not the end of the world for me, not by a long shot. I can shrug it off much easier and the hurt doesn't last as long. I think it's great to get to that point, no matter how long it takes.

I haven't read it but there's a popular book out about the power of introverts. I believe in that, especially in this oversharing have to have lots of "friends" world.
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Old 05-30-2012, 03:06 PM   #13
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In general I think I was too young for the college experience and the class I was in was also far too big. In hindsight I would have taken a few years off to do menial jobs or just bum around directly after secondary school and then signed up for a course at a smaller, more, well, "collegiate" or rustic college. That aside, mustn't complain - I mostly enjoyed it. I remember the experience as being largely stress free which presumably is a good thing. I used to sometimes read books in the library that were not even on my syllabus just because they interested me.

No offense, but you guys surprise me by the relative tameness of your American university experiences. They don't seem to bear much relation to the likes of "Rules of Attraction".
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Old 05-30-2012, 03:47 PM   #14
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No offense, but you guys surprise me by the relative tameness of your American university experiences. They don't seem to bear much relation to the likes of "Rules of Attraction".
Are you serious?

That reminds me of my Dad, growing up in communist Eastern Europe going to DisneyWorld for the first time when he was 50, and nearly bursting into tears of joy because that's what he thought America was when he was a child. Main Street and Mickey Mouse. Instead he crossed the border into Buffalo and was unpleasantly surprised.
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Old 05-30-2012, 03:57 PM   #15
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Are you serious?
Yes. Why wouldn't I be? Ok, Rules of Attraction is about spoiled trust fund kids attending an elite New Hampshire college, but some of John Updike's novels, which feature a lower middle class milieu, describe experiences of similar decadence, barring maybe the cocaine.

Actually I used to have an American friend from Houston, who I unfortunately fell out of touch with, he would talk of drug busts in high school, let alone college, and acquaintances being purchased Porsches on their sixteenth birthdays and the like (daddy's oil money). He had a Nissan 200sx himself while still a college student - to me, that was flash. While he and his friends didn't seem to get drunk precisely every night, it was certainly a most weekends experience, from how he described.
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