Marina Keegan was a recent Yale Graduate who at the age of 22, died in a car crash on the way to her families vacation house. She wrote for the Yale Daily News and wrote a number of notable pieces including Song for the Special, Even Artichokes Have Doubts, and The Opposite of Loneliness.
More and more I find myself captivated by Marina Keegan’s beautiful eloquence. Her fantastic command of language. Her flawless diction. But most of all, her artistic vision. I’m bordering on obsessed. The aspiration of any young writer is to be classified as the voice of their generation. That term is extremely confusing. How can we possibly expect one person’s voice to fully encompass the opinions of all races, ethnicities and socioeconomic classes? Perhaps it’s an unfair label. Nevertheless, Keegan so accurately captures the young adult teetering on the edge of adulthood. She perfectly pinpoints the anxiety, the excitement, the fear, the jubilation, the love and the anticipation. She recounts the constant battle between romanticism and pragmatism, the struggle to distinguish ourselves in an increasingly competitive world and the concurrent optimism and fear and doubt that we regard the future with.
She documents our desperate clinging to the innocence of our pasts as we simultaneously prepare ourselves for our unknown futures. Some of the things that she has written undoubtedly struck a chord with every single person who read them. As someone who once resembled a wannabe writer, I often thought my words conveyed both the exhilaration and the apprehension of my generation. In these illusions of grandeur and bouts of manic psychosis I imagined myself speaking for those who are coming of age, just as Kerouac spoke for the Beat Generation. And then I got sober and began thinking more rationally. I gave up these “unrealistic” dreams of a screenwriter or a novelist to focus on more pragmatic pursuits. But Keegan never did that. She maintained this mystical romanticism, she valiantly fought off self-doubt and held fast to dreams that many would scoff at. She completely destroyed the notion that a prerequisite to growing up is abandoning your idealistic and romantic values. She knew what she wanted and she followed it relentlessly. She did everything I wanted to do but was too frightened to go after because I was afraid to fail. If I chased my dreams and failed, then I would be left with nothing. No visions of a greater life, no higher aspirations, no wild fantasies. The possibility was too devastating for me and my self-esteem was too fragile to ever even undertake writing seriously.
So it remains a distant dream, something intangible, illusory. A nice fallback on a gloomy day that promises that things will get better, that I was meant to do greater things in life. But if I take any proactive steps towards achieving my goal, the illusion is shattered. So I settle for mediocrity, and fool myself into thinking that my situation will change or improve if I just patiently wait.
Keegan’s words and her tragic end make me want to give it a second chance. I’ve closed so many doors in my life due to crippling anxieties, burnt relationships and immature and impulsive decisions but her inspiring articles make me want to pry open these doors again. They make me want to say fuck words like “realistic” or “feasibility” or “pragmatism.” And for that, I will be eternally grateful. Keegan made me feel like I wasn’t alone, like other people felt like me and yearned like me. The following F. Scott Fitzgerald quote seems as if it has never been more applicable: “That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” Keegan died far too young, but through her writings she is able to live on, share her tragically incomplete legacy with others, speak for the silent, inspire and truly fulfill her goal of making a difference in the world. I know she has made a difference for me.