For Marina

This morning, a friend introduced me to Marina Keegan, a young girl whose story will “break your heart and make you feel alive,” she said to me. She was so unbelievably right.

Marina Keegan was a recent graduate of Yale. A writer, a daughter, a friend. A girl with a beautiful life to look forward to.

The Saturday after Marina graduated, she was killed in a car accident. She was only 22 years old.

In the weeks before she died, Marina wrote a story for the Yale newspaper entitled “The Opposite of Loneliness”.

Sadly, loneliness is something that too many young people experience when they leave for college and, often, something that even carries on into adulthood. It sometimes feels as if loneliness is inevitable. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who has never felt it. Because there is always a distance. Even in the closest, strongest, most trusting relationship, there is always distance. We cannot experience each other’s experiences. Loneliness must be inevitable.

But what Marina found when she got to Yale was the exact opposite. She found support, love, community, happiness. She found a place and people that made her feel that, even in the dark vastness of the world, she was not alone.

As you prepare to set out on the next leg of your life’s journey, regardless of where you are at this moment, search for that. Look for the opposite of loneliness or Keegan, as many are now calling it.

When I left for college, I set out for a school that promised an enjoyable four years of college: thousands of students to befriend, hundreds of involvement opportunities, and a football team with a fresh championship victory.

I applied, I got a scholarship, I went.

I was miserable. I hated my life. I hated myself for choosing it. I left behind a boyfriend and a group of wonderful friends for a place where I knew no one. The distance made it all unbearable. I grew apart from my boyfriend, from my friends, and even from my family. I was lonely. I was so utterly lonely.

There were many days that I didn’t move from my bed. Many days I sat in the dark by myself. I studied by myself. I ate by myself. I drove home every weekend, but even when I was home, there was distance. I had secluded myself from the rest of the world and didn’t know how to get back to the other side.

This past Thanksgiving, four years later, I had the chance to reconnect with many of the friends I lost during my first years of college. These friends understood me like no one else ever had, like there was some part of our souls that we all shared. I desperately hoped that hadn’t changed.

And it hadn’t. Not even one bit. Four years later, we are as close as ever. They still understand me, even with all of our unique experiences, our divergent lives. No matter how far we go or how much each of us has changed, there is no doubt that we all have each other. With them, I am home. I discovered, rediscovered, the opposite of loneliness. I no longer feel like I am living in darkness.

Search for that kind of light in your life. Seek it out. Since my freshman year, I have transferred schools twice, changed majors three times, and made new friends. But I will never find friends like those I had in high school.

Maybe high school wasn’t your place to find those kinds of friends, and that’s okay. Don’t stop looking. They are out there, and they’re looking for you too.

Transferring schools is scary and hectic, but if you get to college and you aren’t in the right place, moving will be much less painful than staying somewhere where you feel alone. Decisions are reversible, even when they don’t feel like they are. Don’t be afraid to change your mind. Don’t be afraid to take another leap. You might only be a leap away from where you’re supposed to be.

If Marina Keegan was alive today, there is no doubt in my mind that she would tell you to search for what she found at Yale. Seek it out. Loneliness is the most human of human emotions, but it doesn’t have to be inevitable. There are people out there who will understand you, support you, love you unconditionally. If you haven’t found them, keep looking. If you have, hold on tight. The degree you walk away with at the end of your college career is nowhere near as valuable as the memories you will leave with and the friends you will find.

Peace & Love,

Kristen C.

P.S. If you want to read Marina’s story, click here.