Dear Marina

“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.”

-Marina Keegan, The Opposite of Loneliness

Dear Marina,

Each time I read your gorgeous words, they mean something new to me. As a freshman, I read your essay and dreamt of the life you painted so beautifully. I imagined the friends, the nights, the warm laughter around tables in dive bars and in cars headed for places chosen at a moment’s notice. I wondered what it would be like to be so keenly aware of how much I was loved and to adore my life as much as you did yours.

Four years later, I opened your book the night of my graduation and caught my breath. For you and I, Marina, we are not so different. I have sat around tables until 4am, and danced on them too. I have stayed up with the guitar, strung up my hammock on the Oval in the sunshine, sipped wine at concerts and savored the feeling of knowing and embracing every person who walked through the door at the party. I laugh hard and I love easily. I have found the people who get me and learned from the people who don’t. I’m always tired because I never want to miss a second with my friends. I write late into the night trying to remember all the moments on the campus that feels impossible to leave right now.

You wrote about the opposite of loneliness, of the full, bursting, breaking heart I’d have on graduation day. It all seemed impossibly far away, and now it’s here and it’s come and gone. In a month I’ll begin working in a city I never expected to want to stay in. In a month I’ll be 22. In a month I’ll be the age you were when you left this world so tragically. It devastates me Marina, because we surely would have been friends.

Your words must have meant the world to you when you wrote them and they mean everything to me now. You perfectly understood how stuck and thrilled and loved and empty we feel all at once in this moment. You had no idea how to say goodbye to your people but you did it anyways, because you propped up your uncertain and aching heart with hope. You were ready to go create community and move mountains and change minds with your words.

We never met, Marina, but I return to your essay and your book like an old friend. Your gift is out there in this world and it has carried me through lonely and joyous times alike. I’ll spend as long as I have in this life chasing friends just like you – the strong ones, the thoughtful ones, who ask the hard questions and see the beauty in everything. It’s easy to be swept up in good intentions and never live out the good, noble things we say we’ll do. You would have never sat back and gotten comfortable, because you were – hell, you still are – a warrior and a force to be reckoned with.

Today is day 1 of life outside the bubble I got to live in for four wild, phenomenal years. In a few days, my people will be boarding planes or starting jobs or moving home. The bars packed wall to wall tonight with laughing, crying seniors will sit empty. The changes are coming fast. And the floor has been pulled out from under me, but it somehow feels good to fall. I’m not ready, but that doesn’t matter, because I’ve got to be. I promise to make something happen to this world, Marina. For you.

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