On May 25th 2012, everything must have seemed perfect for Marina Keegan.
She just graduated from Yale a couple days earlier, bringing to an end her impressive collegiate career, which listed far too many accolades to mention. While other graduates were mulling over the prospect of a job search, Marina had already secured a position at The New Yorker magazine which she was set to begin in June.
Then one day later it was all gone, as she tragically passed away in a car crash.
According to the Cape Cod Times, Keegan and boyfriend Michael Gocksch were on the way to her family’s house in Massachusetts, when Gocksch lost control of the car. The vehicle flew across the road after hitting a guard rail, eventually rolling over twice. Gocksch survived while Keegan was pronounced dead.
Since then she has been praised posthumously by family and friends alike.
Marina Keegan was not just another college kid. From the time she set foot on Yale’s campus, the 22-year-old student applied herself not only in her work but in her career ambitions as well.
Keegan was an excellent writer, doling out pangs of wisdom with every line, sentence and phrase. One of her earlier articles Even Artichokes Have Doubts, which examined why so many Ivy League graduates were enticed by careers in finance, was even published in the New York Times.
As if being featured in the New York Times before finishing school was not enough, she was also budding playwright. Her play entitled Utility Monster won “Best Reading” in The Midtown International Theatre Festival last July.
But it is her final essay, published merely days before her untimely passing in the Yale Daily News, which will go down as the defining moment of her brief career.
In The Opposite of Loneliness, Keegan chronicled her thoughts as graduation beckoned and she prepared to head out into the world. The piece, which has now gone viral, was an amalgam of literary prowess. It was as inspiring, insightful, hilarious and completely enthralling throughout. In it, Keegan brilliantly and precisely described the feelings of college graduates nationwide as the prospect of adulthood loomed.
Keegan’s legacy may have been cut short, but the lessons she afforded to us should remain forever etched in our psyche.
We’ve all heard the phrase “YOLO,” (You only live once) but Keegan’s death is a testament to how the meaning has been skewed. “YOLO” should not be an excuse to revel and indulge in debauchery or binge drinking, instead it should be a call to action, a reminder that now is the time to start achieving our dreams. A reminder to stop allowing fear to manipulate our lives.
If anything, Keegan’s all too brief existence is a stark reminder of the fragility of human life. She should serve as not only an example but as a bastion of hope for our generation. In an age where so many of the youth are wasting away Keegan exemplified all that is right in today’s college student.
As most of us spend the large majority of or time in college poring over trivial details, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters. Mid-terms, finals and internships all take precedent over living life, but we must remain acutely aware of the big picture.
Though we are young, our lives are flying by us every minute allowing our dreams and goals to pass us by. Far too often we are bound by fear — fear of failing, fear of being outside of our comfort zone, fear of fear itself, unfortunately this is a part of human experience.
But fear is merely an obstacle designed to see who wants it badly enough. Don’t let fear creep in, find your passion and live it to the fullest. Don’t live some prescribed life that seems safe, let your passions guide you. Travel, see the world, help others, inspire and make the world a better place and don’t wait to do so, because we truly never know when it will all be over.
And it’s fitting that Keegan who strived for the Opposite of Loneliness will now live forever in our hearts. Her final words now read as a prophecy for our generation,
“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.”
Don’t worry Marina, you already have.
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