I first read Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness in the summer of 2015. Even though I was only just about to start out at university, the concept of the essay struck a chord as I looked forward to forging my own adventure and living in my own ‘circles’. Today I read her essay again. While her words have always stuck in my head and my throat due to tragic nature of her untimely death, they now stick also because those very words resonate with my own experiences as a recent graduate. Marina pinpoints the exact feeling I had during my good days at uni – the opposite of loneliness. For me, my time at university offered the most happiness, and laughter, and friendship that I have ever experienced. Living for three years in the pockets of people I have built unbreakable bonds with, bonds you will never share with anyone else, both grounded me and also built me up as an individual. Guaranteed, I also experienced a tonne of stress and depression, but while these periods of times have contributed to the overall package of university, they are ultimately overshadowed by the memory of relief of making that first friend in halls, and the feeling three years down the line seeing them, and every other person I’ve grown to love, graduate around me.
In her essay, Marina explains the fear of losing the connections and environment you build around yourself at university after graduation. You really do create a bubble, and in there it’s safe, and pretty much every problem can be resolved with Yzzy’s unbeatable tea making skills and a phone call to mum. It is that fear that I find myself experiencing in my own life, right now. That time is coming back around, where people are getting ready to go to/ return to uni, and while I do feel happy that those people are striving and achieving, I also feel a overwhelming sadness that I haven’t really been able to define. It is while I have been helping my younger sister get ready to make her own uni journey, that I have realised that I have been dwelling massively on the loss of university. There’s a part of my life now that’s over and done, and I haven’t really acknowledged that this is okay, and that it is time for me to start the next chapter. I am starting to recognise that I will never go back to seeing all those people who I love and cherish every single day. I’m not going to watch Bake Off or I’m a Celeb with my housemates this year. We won’t have a 64 May’s Lane Christmas. While I know it’s useless to wish that I’d appreciated those moments far more than I did at the time, I can’t seem to help myself. I do understand that it’s all over and done and finished with, and yet it still twinges a bit that such simple little things like these will remain treasured memories from now on.
I can’t describe exactly how I feel post-uni as anything other than ‘flat’. There’s a lack energy in my life; either something is lost, or I am. Marina sums this up perfectly when she says:
[W]e’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken it.
It is a strange feeling, having all of the forward motion and anticipation in your life dissipating simultaneously. Since, there has been a constant stream of debilitating questions running through my mind: could I have done better? was this the right path for my future? should I have done more. It’s exhausting and demoralising to say the least. While I say this, I do have exciting opportunities lined up, but because they aren’t happening right now they feel a lifetime away. I feel like I have been treading water, waiting for something to return that has left for good.
The Opposite of Loneliness opened up a wound for me today, it surfaced a feeling of loss that I was trying to suppress and forced me to address it. While I will always look back at my time at Cardiff University with fondness, and while the longing for all of my friends to be together again will probably never leave me, I think I’m fully ready to embark on a new journey. The hope and determination I felt when I first started uni shouldn’t disappear just because I have completed the first step. I have so much further to go and so much more growing to do. Everything has a silver lining, and while they can be hard to see at times, I have got to go and discover mine. Thank you Marina, it’s been cathartic