The piece below was written by Marina Keegan ‘12 for a special edition of the News distributed at the class of 2012’s commencement exercises last week. Keegan died in a car accident on Saturday. She was 22.
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.
Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers — partner-less, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group-texts.
This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse – I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.
But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They’re part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn’t live in New York. I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clichéd “should haves…” “if I’d…” “wish I’d…”
Of course, there are things we wished we did: our readings, that boy across the hall. We’re our own hardest critics and it’s easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I’ve looked back on my High School self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.
But the thing is, we’re all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes…) We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay.
We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.
When we came to Yale, there was this sense of possibility. This immense and indefinable potential energy – and it’s easy to feel like that’s slipped away. We never had to choose and suddenly we’ve had to. Some of us have focused ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it; already going to med school, working at the perfect NGO, doing research. To you I say both congratulations and you suck.
For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken it. If only I had majored in biology…if only I’d gotten involved in journalism as a freshman…if only I’d thought to apply for this or for that…
What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.
In the heart of a winter Friday night my freshman year, I was dazed and confused when I got a call from my friends to meet them at EST EST EST. Dazedly and confusedly, I began trudging to SSS, probably the point on campus farthest away. Remarkably, it wasn’t until I arrived at the door that I questioned how and why exactly my friends were partying in Yale’s administrative building. Of course, they weren’t. But it was cold and my ID somehow worked so I went inside SSS to pull out my phone. It was quiet, the old wood creaking and the snow barely visible outside the stained glass. And I sat down. And I looked up. At this giant room I was in. At this place where thousands of people had sat before me. And alone, at night, in the middle of a New Haven storm, I felt so remarkably, unbelievably safe.
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.
“I think that’s about the best track on the album, actually.” — John Lennon
“George’s ‘Something’ was out of left field. It was about Pattie, and it appealed to me because it has a very beautiful melody and is a really structured song. I thought it was great.” — Paul McCartney
“It was beautiful. George was blossoming as a songwriter. With ‘Something’ and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ — are you kidding me? Two of the finest love songs ever written, and they’re really on a par with what John and Paul or anyone else of that time wrote. They’re beautiful songs.” — Ringo Starr
I wanna pick you up, I don’t care what time. I wanna drive real fast to some place in town. I wanna stress you out. I wanna make things hard. I wanna take your hand. I wanna leave this bar. I wanna wake you up on a driving train that led it’s tracks down inside my brain.
I wanna hear your band, I wanna give it advice. I wanna meet your girlfriend, she sounds nice. I wanna take you home. I wanna feel my age. I wanna freak you out on a different stage. I wanna show my teeth. I wanna keep you fed. I wanna get too drunk and let it go to your head.
So I guess this means we can’t be friends.
I wanna be unique. I wanna be your kind. I wanna make you hate me then change your mind. I wanna wear a skirt. I wanna make mistakes. I wanna kill you first then take your name. I wanna tear you apart. I wanna make your bed. I wanna break your heart, I wanna break your head.
1. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - “I Knew a Woman” by Theodore Roethke
I knew a woman, lovely in her bones, When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them; Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one: The shapes a bright container can contain!
2. A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh - The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot
…I will show you something different from either Your shadow at morning striding behind you Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you; I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
3. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe - “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats
Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough” by Robert Burns
But little Mouse, you are not alone, In proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes of mice and men Go often askew, And leave us nothing but grief and pain, For promised joy!
5. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy - “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray
Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray; Along the cool sequester’d vale of life They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
6. Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust - “Sonnet 30″ by William Shakespeare
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past, I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought, And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
7. Endless Night by Agatha Christie - “Auguries of Innocence” by William Blake
Every night and every morn, Some to misery are born, Every morn and every night, Some are born to sweet delight. Some are born to sweet delight, Some are born to endless night.
8. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway - “Meditation XVII” by John Donne
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
9. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers - “The Lonely Hunter” by William Sharp
O never a green leaf whispers, where the green-gold branches swing: O never a song I hear now, where one was wont to sing. Here in the heart of Summer, sweet is life to me still, But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.
10. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou - “Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar
It is not a carol of joy or glee, But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core, But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings — I know why the caged bird sings!
11. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald - “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats
Already with thee! tender is the night, And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne, Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays But here there is no light, Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.
12. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster - Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Passage to India! Struggles of many a captain–tales of many a sailor dead! Over my mood, stealing and spreading they come, Like clouds and cloudlets in the unreach’d sky.