The Opposite of Loneliness

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“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.”- Marina Keegan

Marina Keegan was a 22 year old Yale graduate with an inexplicable talent for writing. Whilst studying at college she had an article published in the New York Times, a play that was to be produced at the New York Fringe Festival and a job lined up at the New Yorker. Then in 2012 on the 26th of May she tragically died in a car accident. As a result of this, a collection of her short stories and articles were published into the book titled “The Opposite of Loneliness”. This book impacted me in a way no other book ever has. The writing in her book is powerful, engaging and poignant. Her ability to translate into words her perspective of the world truly astounded me.

In the opening chapter, Anne Fadiman her non fiction writing professor at college wrote “Many of my students sound forty years old. They are articulate but derivative, their own voices muffled by their desire to skip over their current age and experience. Marina was twenty-one and sounded twenty-one: a brainy twenty- one, a twenty-one who knew her way around the English language, a twenty-one who understood that there were few better subjects than being young and uncertain and starry-eyed and frustrated and hopeful.”

I found that really thought provoking, as someone who loves to write and yearns to improve my writing, it’s only when I read that did it occur to me that I can’t compare my writing to what other writers produce aged 20 or 30 or 40 because I would lose the essence of youth in my voice. It made me realise that my writing differs from others for a reason, because it is my perspective and that’s what makes it mine.

There are two sections in the book, a fiction section and a non fiction section. I loved the short stories, I found it really interesting thinking about how she must have drawn inspiration from different aspects of her life in order to form these stories. However what moved me the most was her non fiction, her articles based on her life, who she was and what she knew.

The first article titled “Stability in Motion” is about her car, I found this piece the most insightful because of the way she used the car, and the physical items and memories that cluttered that car, to take you through her life during High School. The car was full of memories and experiences, “thousands of words and songs and swears are absorbed in its fabric.” Then at the end just before she goes to college she gives the car to her brother and is asked to clean it. Whilst removing everything such as sweet wrappers, books and stray cassettes, she describes it as a symbolic goodbye, the start of her new chapter.

The article that I found the most emotional was “Against the Grain” this piece of writing literally moved me to tears. Not because of how eloquently written it is, or how powerful the metephors were like in many of her other articles. The article is simple, casual and laidback, but the meaning behind it really touched me. Marina was diagnosed with Celiac disease meaning she is allergic to gluten and can’t eat wheat, something that must be extremely hard to live with especially in social situations such as going out for meals. In this article she talks about the lengths her mother would go to in order to prevent her from having an allergic reaction, like driving all the way out to a field trip she was on, just to bring a single gluten free ice cream cone for when her whole class were having ice cream. Also how she would bake three thanksgiving pies, all gluten free, so she didn’t feel left out at thanksgiving. In the article she explains how embarrassed she was when her mother did all this, especially when she rang up her college dining providers and discussed introducing gluten free items on the menu for her daughter.

At the end of the article, after all the anecdotes about when her mother would worry about what she ate, she reflects upon how embarrassed and annoyed she got and realises how grateful she is. I think what moved me the most was her mothers effort to keep her healthy, showing how much she loved her, for her then to be tragically taken away in an instant because of the horrific car crash.

I finished the book last night and it is all I have been able to think about. The Opposite of Loneliness really highlights her talent, her love for her family, friends and boyfriend, but most of all her hopes and dreams.

“We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time.”

She is consistently referring to the future and writes about all the things she believes she can achieve. In the book her professor wrote “Marina wouldn’t want to be remembered because she’s dead. She would want to be remembered because she’s good.” and god she was good. I judge writing on its ability to make me feel something and this book made me feel everything.

After reading The Opposite of Loneliness it really made me think, it inspires me to work hard in order to get recognised, to remember that no dream is too big and most importantly to live life in the moment.

One quote in the book particularly stood out to me and will stick with me for a very long time.

“We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.”

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