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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Looking for ‘The Opposite of Loneliness’

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Photo by Grant Daniels Photography
Mark Doré

As I prepare for life after Aggieland, I return, again and again, to Marina Keegan, a 2012 Yale graduate who wrote one of these “here comes the real world” essays for her university newspaper.

Her piece, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” came from a place of fiery optimism. Each time I read it, it stokes in me a slow-burning passion to love well and create experiences and make the most of my years. As a 20-something writer reading another 20-something’s brilliance, I’m driven to jealousy.

She laughed at the idea that the best is behind us. We can start over, she writes, and “we can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because, in the end, it’s all we have.” 

At graduation, Marina Keegan stood ready to stir up her slice of the world. She died in a car crash five days later. Her essay went viral, and in death her words reached the world.

I’ve spent plenty of time contemplating columns like this one, like Marina’s. They can be uncomfortable to read and to write, like nobody’s quite sure we have much to say. A Google search turns up plenty of examples; college journalists can’t resist a parting shot or one last piece of advice.

This is mine: Don’t write on the assumption that people care what you think. 

But because I’m ignoring that, here’s another: Don’t focus on the collective Aggie identity at the expense of the man or woman beside you.

We rely often on the “Aggies are we” sentiments, but it’s possible that we’re losing something when we talk about A&M as a swaying mass of maroon T-shirts and not as a hub for individual expression and growth.

So much change happens in this town, but we don’t see it in real time because everyone else is growing alongside us. That’s why people are drawn to Aggie stories. We see ourselves in those who bought into the collective A&M identity and emerged with the tools to make an individual impact. In my time at The Battalion, we’ve covered an Olympic swimmer who was gay, a certain quarterback from Kerrville, astronauts with Aggie Rings, young entrepreneurs and stand-up comedians.

All of them passed through this place. Many of them left with no notion of what their futures held. I’d bet, without exception, they were terrified when they walked the stage. But it’s those people I’ll remember when I think back to my years here. I won’t remember the explosion in West; I’ll remember the Aggie response. I won’t remember the move to the SEC; I’ll remember the way Aggies received me when I traveled to Tuscaloosa (twice).

I never met Marina Keegan, but I knew an Aggie — another woman, another writer — who had too much in common with her. Her name was Amanda Hoffman, and she also died in a car crash a week after her graduation.

It sobers me to think of Amanda and Marina, like it sobers me to think of the names read at Silver Taps and Muster. They all had so much to say.

We all have so much to say. 

As for me, I’m on Marina’s side. The best isn’t behind us, but if it is, I’d have a hard time complaining about these years, at this university, with these people. To that end, because no college experience has a clean ending, I’ll close not with my own words, but with Marina’s. Three years later, they deserve to be read.

“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 … 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 … How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don’t have to lose that.”

 

Mark Doré is an English senior and editor in chief for The Battalion.

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