These Are The Days

I read something this morning, posted by journalist Connie Schultz on Facebook, that stopped me in my tracks. If you know me, you know I read a ridiculous number of articles online, about every topic imaginable, so when something speaks so powerfully to the work I do and to you, the students and people I’m lucky enough to work with, I need to take a few minutes to process that information. And then I want to share it.
This was that kind of article. I’m sure it’s all over the internet, but if you haven’t seen it, I want you to click on the link right now at the bottom of this article and go read it. Then, if you’d be so kind, come on back and hear me out.
The article is titled The Opposite of Loneliness, written by Marina Keegan ’12 of Yale University, for a special edition of the Yale Daily News which was distributed at Yale’s 2012 commencement ceremony last week. It’s written in the way that I try to help my students write – from the heart, with passion. Her voice comes through my computer screen and grabs me, and hours later I still can’t figure out how to get her to let go.
The piece is especially poignant because Ms. Keegan died in a car accident on Saturday, May 26th, just two days after graduation. The loss of a young person so committed, so talented, so clear on who she was and who she hoped to become, is beyond tragic. My heart goes out to all who knew and loved her. And I mourn the loss of someone I didn’t know who was already making a difference in the world.
But her piece is not powerful because she’s gone. It’s powerful because she wrote it that way. She wrote to her classmates of course; to other students still enrolled at Yale; to graduates of schools around the world; but she also wrote to me and to you.
I often talk about the opportunity to “find your tribe” in college – (my students are groaning right now because it’s definitely a favorite phrase of mine) the chance to research and select the environment in which you will learn, grow, socialize and live for the four years following high school. It’s one of the most incredible aspects of selecting a college and in my humble opinion, also one of the most overlooked aspects. Ms. Keegan says about this:
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. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.
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. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.
This is precisely what I’m talking about when I go on and on about the tribe business. If you choose wisely, I promise you will feel like Ms. Keegan when you graduate. Promise.
The other piece of her article that grabbed me was her focus on the fact that the best days haven’t passed, they are carried along inside of each of us in memory and we build on them in the days and years to come. She writes so beautifully:
When we came to Yale, there was this sense of possibility. This immense and indefinable potential energy – and it’s easy to feel like that’s slipped away. We never had to choose and suddenly we’ve had to. Some of us have focused ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it; already going to med school, working at the perfect NGO, doing research. To you I say both congratulations and you suck.
For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken it. If only I had majored in biology… if only I’d gotten involved in journalism as a freshman… if only I’d thought to apply for this or for that…
What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. 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.
It’s not lost on me that Ms. Keegan did not have the opportunity to change her mind or start over. It’s what makes this piece settle into your gut and not leave. So I ask you to take her words with you, to share them with those you meet, to thoughtfully consider the power you have to begin, or to begin again.
The title of this post is from a song that was popular many years ago, titled These Are Days, by a pop group called 10,000 Maniacs. The song is about the power of this day, this time in your life. I feel renewed listening to its message, ready to move forward with passion. I hope you feel likewise. Until next time, let Ms. Keegan’s words and these lyrics plant the seeds of transformation in you.
These are the days
These are days you’ll Types Of Business Consultants remember
Never before and never since, I promise
Will the whole world be warm as this
And as you feel it,
You’ll know it’s true
That you are blessed Bain And Company Implementation and lucky
It’s true that you
Are touched by something
That will grow and bloom in you

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