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Opinion: How to Live Yale Student Marina Keegan's Lesson

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"We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time," graduating senior Marina Keegan reminded her classmates in her final commentary in the Yale Daily News. She wrote about the fears she and others shared, in their early 20s, "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."

Instead of panic, she asked her peers to focus on potential. Instead of losing ground, they were on a path leading somewhere. They need't rush.

"What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over….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."

This essay has been passed along social networks of people who never met Marina, not only for the honesty in her voice and the universality in her sentiment, but because of the tragic turn this past weekend in which this recent college grad lost her life in an auto accident. She was young, but despite her exhortation to her friends, she did not have so much time. Many readers online have taken a "carpe diem" lesson from the loss of this talented young woman. Her message of being open to possibility because the journey is long reads just as true for embracing possibility because the journey may be cut short.

While Marina's most quoted passage will be about her youth, her most moving insights were about how she lived in connection with those around her. Her essay, titled "The Opposite of Loneliness," posited that neither love nor community were quite loneliness' opportunity…but the antidote is what she had found in the shared experience with her classmate for four years - a sense of shared purpose, place and passion that she hoped to find in the world beyond.

I remember that same impulse when I graduated and moved to New York. Missing life in a dorm and conversations in dining halls, I recreated them by joining my block association and becoming a regular at neighborhood bars and cafes, and eventually creating a network of social gatherings that allowed liberals in every corner of the United States know they weren't alone.

I discussed all of this with Marina when she was the newly-elected President of the Yale College Democrats, and hosted me for an informal talk about my book, 538 Ways to Live, Work and Play Like a Liberal, at Blue State Coffee in New Haven 18 months ago. She was creating a network, hosting a visiting author, discussing ideas about community -- all impulses shared in the vision of "Living Liberally" that clearly echoed through her life and goals.

I never got to speak with Marina since that visit and hadn't thought of her until the sad news yesterday. Many will mourn a dear friend, and others will share sympathy for the loss of a stranger whose story and essay touched their lives if only for a moment. I'll try to take one of her lessons to heart: not just "seize the day, but it "share the day" - share it with your friends and loved ones, your community and neighbors. By sharing a day - and sharing spaces, purposes and dreams - you truly make each day count.