The opposite of haste
Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Our almost limitless language has few inadequacies. Words can change lives and alter the course of history. They can start friendships, publicize proposals and express what you feel in most any situation.
They just can’t handle death.
Marina Keegan had no problem overcoming this shortcoming; she just didn’t know she was writing about death. Keegan, a writer for Yale’s student newspaper, Yale Daily News, died in a car accident the week after she graduated in May. She was 22. Her posthumous words should affect the way we live every day.
This edition of The Spectrum includes two articles and one editorial about suicide. Though Keegan didn’t end her own life, my mind flashes to the lives that have been taken far too early. College students with so much promise, so much potential. People like Keegan.
She left us with one final masterpiece right before she graduated – a column titled “The Opposite of Loneliness,” in which she reflects on her four years at Yale and encourages her classmates to look forward to the future.
“Let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us,” Keegan wrote. “I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old.
“We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time.”
Her words are haunting. With knowledge of her death, their impact is devastating. I didn’t know Marina Keegan, but I imagine we would have been friends.
Everything seems small in the scope of death. The Bills game doesn’t matter all that much. The Spanish test isn’t so crucial. The computer that keeps freezing as I type isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Think of Keegan, who went on to urge her classmates to forgive their past, anything they regret.
“The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical,” Keegan wrote. “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.”
Society and college combine to create a vicious trap, one I had fallen into a month ago: Caring so much about your career, about making a lot of money some day, that you stop caring about what really matters – the people you affect.
Nobody will care about your salary after you die. People will remember how you treated them. They’ll remember your character, your personality.
In the life situations Keegan speaks of, we do have time. Don’t stress about what you haven’t accomplished. Don’t fret too much about your career.
Smile and say hi to a Tim Hortons worker. Hug a friend.
There’s also a temptation to think we have time to tell people how much we care. We don’t.
Call your mother or father. Make someone’s day.
Something bad may not happen to you, but it could happen to someone you know, and there’s no way to predict its time.
Twenty-five days ago, a horrible feeling crept into my stomach. I was leaving The Spectrum’s office around 1 a.m. with two other editors when the voice got so loud I couldn’t tune it out. The words “something bad is about to happen” reverberated in my mind. I dropped off the other two editors, warned them to be careful and waited at a traffic light to turn left onto Millersport Highway.
Then it happened.
The car in front of me turned the wrong direction onto Millersport, immediately turned off its headlights and sped into the darkness. My stomach dropped like I was at the top of a roller coaster. I turned the correct direction and chased after with my high beams on, trying to light the road and protect the driver.
Then I heard the crash. The woman’s sedan crashed head-on into a Getzville Fire Department SUV. From what police told me in the aftermath, everyone seemed to be OK. The woman had probably broken both her legs, but she was alive.
I cannot be certain, but it seemed to be a suicide attempt. And all I could do was close my eyes, thank God she was alive and take it as a sign. The next day, I reminded a couple loved ones just how important they are to me.
“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I’d say that’s how I feel at Yale,” Keegan penned. “How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don’t have to lose that.
“Let’s make something happen to this world.”
You could call it delay, leisure or maybe patience, but we don’t really have a word for the opposite of haste. I feel that is the best way to describe many of our attitudes. We think we have so much time, but in perspective there’s no way to be certain.
I did something I rarely do a couple nights ago. I thought of the car accident and told my dad I love him. We’re men; we aren’t supposed to say it often.
They were just words, and words can’t do everything. But after realizing either one of us could be gone any day, it felt right.
Make something happen to this world. Do it for Marina.