Monday, 22 September 2014
A couple of months ago a friend sent me a link to an essay titled 'The Opposite of Loneliness', written by a Yale student, Marina Keegan, who was approaching graduation. The essay appeared in the graduation issue of the Yale Daily News back in 2012. In the essay Marina speculated about life after university. She described campus as a place where she felt like she was part of something, and where she felt the 'opposite of loneliness.' In the essay she expressed some fear and uncertainty about what lay beyond the security of university. But her tone was optimistic with lines such as, 'We can't, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it's all we have.'
It wasn't until I'd finished reading the article that I noticed the byline along the top stating that Marina Keegan died in a car accident five days after graduation, at the age of 22. Goosebumps darted up my arms as a line from her essay jumped out at me: 'We're so young. We're so young. We're twenty-two years old. We have so much time.'
Recently I was on holiday on a Riviera cruise for a family celebration. I could easily have lived on the ship. It even had a library. I visited the library the first afternoon I was on the ship but couldn't really find anything. I was determined to find something good, and something which I could finish in the eight days I'd be there. On my second visit I walked straight up to a book titled, 'The Opposite of Loneliness'. Pulling it out of the bookcase I recognised a photo of Marina Keegan on the front. The book was a post-humous collection of her short stories and non fiction articles, named after the aforementioned essay. So of course this became my reading matieral during my holiday.
I was in awe that she had managed to produce so much polished writing whilst studying what had to be an intense academic degree (she was at Yale after all). She approached her writing in a very disciplined manner (which made me think I should become a lot more disciplined with my writing). She talked of her disappointment at not being asked to join some university secret society club and instead of wallowing she decided to dedicate the Thursday night when the group met to writing instead (giving her three solid hours or so). Her fiction was very insightful and mature for a twenty two year old, but it was her non fiction I enjoyed the most, as it revealed more about her inner thoughts and personality.
In some of her works she had a bit of a preoccupation with death, not in a depressive way, more in a philosophical way. I wonder if her family draw comfort from reading some of her musings. In the Introduction her parents write that the car crash occured due to her boyfriend falling asleep at the wheel, on a journey to their house. Her parents refused to let him take any blame and attended court to ensure all charges were dropped because they knew it would have been what Marina wanted. This tells you a lot about Marina I think, and her parents. Through putting together this book it was clear they realised the importance of allowing her voice to be heard, of allowing her words to be read, and creating something positive from a tragic situation.
In a foreward, her tutor talked of her passion for writing and the way in which she challenged an author who was being negative about the future of the industry. Her passion and enthusiam came across in many ways throughout this body of work, and her determination to write fuelled a new determination in me. It's easy to start doubting your work if doors are shut and this flipped a switch in me not to give up. Maybe it's self indulgent to think I was supposed to find her book on this holiday, but I love moments of synchronicity as I believe it's the world's way of saying PAY ATTENTION - someone, somewhere is trying to tell you something. In one of her stories she refers to a poem 'Ode On A Grecian Urn'. This poem features in the book I'm still trying to get published and I took this as another nudge, keep going, get it back out there.
I smiled when I came to the line in her non fiction essay, Song for the Special 'I want what I think and who I am captured in an anthology of indulgence I can comfortingly tuck in some labyrinthine library.' In her closing paragraph the goosebumps returned at her words:
'I read somewhere that radio waves just keep travelling outward, flying into the Universe with eternal vibrations. Sometime before I die I think I'll find a microphone and climb to the top of a radio tower...Hello, I'll say to outer space, this is my card.'