So much has been written, more eloquently than I ever could, about Marina Keegan’s ‘The Opposite of Loneliness’. Keegan’s collection of essays and short stories was published posthumously, as this brilliant writer, actor, journalist died in an accident when she was just 22 years old. She had graduated from Yale just a few days earlier and was tipped for greatness. Much is rightly said of the tragedy of it all.
It was reading of how good she was though, not how young, that drove me to seek out a second-hand copy of the book. And the book is good. Painfully good, as it shows both Marina’s brilliance and her learning – different styles, themes, voices, from her familiar college setting to envisioning life as a deep sea scientist. I’m normally more of a fiction reader but whilst I thoroughly enjoyed her short stories, it was her essays that moved me most. They are strewn with her crisp insight and open-handed honesty. Marina was discontent with the status quo and seemingly unafraid to write about it. In her much quoted and read essay, ‘The Opposite of Loneliness’ she tells her peers:
“We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.”
She exhorted her generation to a more considered, creative and challenging future than the one they are often pushed towards and prepared for by life. I wonder if we would all benefit from hearing this provocation at regular chapters in our lives.
We think we should know ourselves well enough to make life-long career decisions when we’re just a fifth of the way through. Several years ago, I didn’t think I could surprise myself. Since then however, I have learned so much about myself and what I draw satisfaction from. I never would have predicted that baking bread rolls, crochet, sewing my own clothes would become regular and enjoyable parts of my life (read more of this discovery here). These things haven’t supplanted the old loves – books, coastal walks, passion for sustainability… No, these have been added to, even enhanced by my newfound passions, satisfactions, experiments, and by the communities of people they have opened up to me.
Marina was right. They are so young. But I can’t help thinking that we are never too old to learn about ourselves, and to make change where opportunity allows. If we were but bold enough.
Today’s soundtrack: Florence and the Machine // Ceremonials