From tragedy comes an opportunity to inspire.
The story of Marina Keegan is tragic and heartbreaking. Marina died five days after graduating from Yale, while driving home with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend fell asleep at the wheel. He walked away, she died. In an effort to preserve her memory, her parents, friends, and teachers collected pieces of her writing from class assignments and school newspaper articles. They are compiled in a collection of short stories and essays, The Opposite of Loneliness.
Where were you five days after graduating from university? Or college, or high school? You were probably surrounded by friends and family, flooded with a sense of relief after completing such a milestone, enjoying the best summer of your life, and ready to celebrate from now to eternity. Can you imagine such a cruel world? To be ripped away at the ultimate peak of your life so far.
The first half of the book features a series of short stories. I preferred the collection of personal essays in the second half. I think Marina, as a person – who she was and who she could have been, is more interesting than the terrible circumstances surrounding her death which has unfortunately overshadowed her talent and her work. I feel that her voice comes through in the essays. It’s almost like she slips out of the pages to have a conversation with you, about her Celiac disease and trouble with gluten, her memories about the beached whales, or her recent travels abroad. Marina’s story is more compelling than most of the book, and I couldn’t help but mourn the lost opportunities and potential that we will never get the pleasure to experience again. Through her essays, she lives on.
My favourite essay is Even Artichokes Have Doubts published in the Yale Daily News in September of 2011. It showcases the feelings all seniors and new grads have from time to time. Wondering if what we’re doing is really worthwhile or if we will leave an impact on the earth when we’re gone and whether any of it matters anyway because one day the sun will die and we will all wither away. Marina wrote a lot about the impact of death and our own mortality. It’s ironic, but she mused about her legacy and impact without ever believing that her time would be cut short.
Marina lived with a full heart and open eyes. She lived with passion and determination. These should be the things to remember about her life and this should be her legacy.
And above all, to remember that we should treasure every moment and take each and every opportunity that comes our way. Every day is a new day, and every day could be your last.