I typically spend a few hours on Thursday afternoons browsing news websites for inspiration for my column. This week I discovered the face and powerful words of a 22-year-old woman have flooded the internet.
Her words have touched thousands of people across the country and her story is being told on MSN, CNN, Yahoo! News and just about every other substantial online news source.
Marina Keegan was a 22-year-old recent Yale graduate. She studied journalism and wrote an essay for a special edition of the Yale Daily News to be distributed at the commencement ceremony last week.
Her goal was to inspire her fellow graduates. She managed to do so and her inspiration has spread to a national level.
Keegan had work published in the New York Times and was set to start working at the New Yorker following graduation. However, she died in a car crash just days after walking across the stage.
Her story is haunting to me in so many ways. After reading all about her, reading her essay twice and staring at her photos online, I have forced myself to take her words to heart.
I am also a recent graduate. I studied journalism at Eastern Kentucky University for the last four years and I am on the verge of my 22nd birthday. I was one of those students, like Keegan, with a good job lined up straight out of school. I spent four years wishing that graduation day would come.
I never got to share any parting words with my fellow graduates. If I had, I can’t imagine that I could have put my emotions into better words than Keegan did.
She wrote, “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… I plan on having fun when I’m old. Any notion of THE BEST years come from cliched “should haves…” “if I’d…” “wish I’d…”
I was so scared to graduate because I kept thinking back to all of the things I had planned to do in my college years that I never did.
When I was a freshman I dreamed of being editor in chief of The Progress.
I wanted to date lots of different people, go to all kinds of parties and join a million different clubs.
I had hopes of moving out on my own, buying a cute little car and living in the “real world.”
I never achieved any of these things and I was honestly sad when I realized graduation was just weeks away.
All of the time I thought I had to prepare myself for life after school was slowly dwindling down. I hadn’t enjoyed college as much as I should have and there was no taking it back.
I was on the fast track to the real world and I couldn’t put the car in reverse. I had to move full force into it.
Keegan’s essay reminded me that I still have time, or at least a little of it.
Her essay reads, “We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time.”
She graduated with the notion that she had all of her best years ahead of her. Sadly, her life was cut short.
I must take this to heart and understand that even though I didn’t do all that I had hoped I would in college, I did what I needed to and I prepared myself for what I’m doing now.
But I shouldn’t live the rest of my life wishing I had done just four years of it differently.
College was not the best years of my life. I have always known that it would not be. I have always known that the best years of my life were still coming.
I’m not sure when they will be here. But, if I can remind myself of Keegan’s words ever so often, I think I will find that things just keep getting better.
Perhaps her most powerful paragraph said, “What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds… 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.”
Keegan’s full essay can be read online at http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2012/may/27/keegan-opposite-loneliness/?cross-campus.