The Opposite of Loneliness


I came across this essay over the weekend by Yale student, Marina Keegan. Written at the tail end of her four year college career, Keegan beautifully writes of the fear of the unknown and the safety of certainty that we all know so well. Sadly, she passed away in a car accident shortly after it was written. I was so moved after I read it that I felt compelled to write a letter in response. Not exactly sure why. Maybe I felt like someone needed to continue to celebrate as well as spread her truth, honesty, and humanity. I’ll letter later but for now, here is The Opposite of Loneliness.


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.

By: Marina Keegan



The Reason I Broke Down Today in My Therapists’ Office For the First Time EVER (and I’m guessing you would have too)

Hi my fellow floaters!

Today I cried in my therapists’ office after 3 ½ years of never shedding a tear. Since I began seeing her, we have covered some heavy, emotionally charged subjects. It’s always stirred up emotions (as that is what therapists’ are trained to do, I suppose) but I’ve never been as openly emotional as I was today.

The reason?

Pears. Yes, discussing pears made my lip quiver and caused tears to stream down my face. But obviously there was a lot behind this discussion of pears.

So I wanted to share with you what was truly upsetting me at my core because I think you’ll all be able to relate.

I started a nanny job this past Monday. I decided after graduating with my masters a few weeks ago that I would get a temporary summer nanny gig until I figure out what on Earth to do with my life. So I started working for a VERY well off family who certainly have expectations but I wouldn’t necessarily say they are unreasonably high.

The problem is that with all their money comes a lot of high tech gadgets. For example, I drive the same make/model car as them but while mine is a 2004, theirs is a 2014. It was like operating a space shuttle, I’m telling you. I’ve never seen anything so high tech.

So I have had to learn new things.

The problem?

I want to start a job and be PERFECT at it from day one. I expect myself to know how to do it all. I shouldn’t be confused. If they ask me to do something, I should know how to do it.

As I type that I realize how insane it is. I expect a lot of myself and when I don’t know how to do something, I will feel incompetent or just plain dumb.

So the biggest example of this came today. The mom asked me to puree some pears. To us normal folk, this would mean cut up some pears, throw them in the blender, and press start (atleast, that’s how my $20 Target blender tells me it should be).

Instead, she pulls out from the drawer this insane device that she had only briefly explained to me how to use the week before.

I was clueless. But expected myself to figure it out. After an hour and a half of dissecting the stupid thing and even googling how to use it, I gave it up. Nothing was worth putting myself through this much anxiety, not even pureed pears

When the dad came home, I asked if there was a simpler way to do it and showed him how I had been doing it

I don’t think he meant his response to be rude, but it cut me to my core. I read his response to say that I was the exact thing I was afraid of being: incompetent.

I tried to laugh it off with him but it bothered me. All the pressure I had put on myself to get everything right, not to mention the anxiety it provoked, and I get a response like THAT??

So as I began to tell this story to my therapist, a lump in my throat began to form. I realized at that moment just how much WEIGHT I was carrying. I expected myself to know how to use something without mistakes when I’m guessing 95% of the population would be clueless what to do with it as well. And when I couldn’t do it, I attributed that to being…well, frankly, an idiot.

As 20-somethings, I think we expect ourselves to get it right. Whether it is career, relationships, finances, friends, etc., we feel we need to take the uncertainty out of it. No one wants to be left wondering where their relationship is going or what the right job is that they need to land.

And yet, we wonder this stuff ALL OF THE TIME. Just as I wanted to properly operate that stupid puree machine, we all want reassurance that we are doing it correctly. Getting that degree, landing that internship, getting engaged to Mr. Perfect- we just want to know that we aren’t screwing it up.

But guess what? We’re going to make mistakes anyway. We can try to be perfect at our lives but we won’t, so why not take that pressure off ourselves? I can expect myself to know how to operate a new vehicle aka a rocket ship without any questions but ultimately I’m going to wonder how to turn the stupid thing on. Why can’t we be comfortable with NOT knowing?

I really wish I could end this article with the answer to that question. But if I had it, I wouldn’t have started this blog. Or met any of you! 🙂

Moral of the story: learn to be comfortable with not knowing. And with not being perfect. Thinking you have or need to know all the answers just isn’t realistic and can make you MISERABLE. I truly believe that at the root of suffering is a desire to be better than what you already are. I say let’s give ourselves a break and stop expecting perfection. Drop the weight you’re carrying and accept where you are, at this moment. AT THIS MOMENT.

Hope this resonates 🙂