The Things That Matter Most

I read a book over the break. It’s a collection of nonfiction and short stories by Marina Keegan, a Yale alumna who died in a car accident five days after her graduation. It was entitled “The Opposite of Loneliness” and is coined from an article she wrote for her Yale newspaper, published a few days before she graduated, describing how she felt before leaving college. She felt that life still had so much to offer for her and her friends, and that although college was the best thing she’d been a part of so far, there was an even greater chapter ahead. “We’re so young,” she wrote in the article, “We’re so young.” Her family compiled the article, and many of her other writings, into a book in her memory. I found it at The New York Times bestseller table, sandwiched between “Fifty Shades of Grey” and Hillary Clinton’s memoir.

A photo of Marina in a yellow pea coat beside some fir trees graced the cover. She was pretty in an honest way, a way that wasn’t photoshopped or enhanced by filters. Her death was tragic because she was young and because she was talented. Her prose was sad, hopeful, witty and tinged with the kind of insecurity felt by most university students at some time or another.

This isn’t a love note to the deceased. This is a thank-you note for reminding me””for reminding us””how quickly our semesters run out. Our time is based on schedules: semesters, courses, work, dining hours, meetings, practice, rehearsals, naps. You can’t pencil in tragedy. That’s never part of the plan. What I mean is that a lot of the insecurities I feel towards life, love, trying to be successful and realizing that everything is kind of temporary, is just something we go through in our four years nestled on campus. We all go through it, some for a shorter duration than others. Sometimes it hits us right before graduation, like it did for Marina, or if you’re doing something trivial, like eating a bagel.

The point is, if you’re reading this, then you’re alive.  And you have chances to take, opportunities to miss, mistakes to make , people to meet and  people to avoid””you have all of it ahead of you. Our timeline isn’t over yet; we still have hope. We have time. So let’s try to make this year better than the last. We don’t need to set impossibly high goals (planking daily) or pretend that we’re people we’re not (kale chip-eaters), we just need to be content in whatever it is we’re doing. More interesting, or exciting or even sad, if that’s your thing. A little different is good, I think.

Although her life was short, it was important. It was important to her and she was important to other people. Maybe not on a big scale, (she probably wasn’t verified on twitter) but she still mattered, she still had worth. I think that’s all we can hope for. To love and be loved by friends and family, and to have something to look forward to in the future.