06/19/2012 09:11 am ET Updated Aug 19, 2012

'The Opposite of Loneliness': Inspired by Marina Keegan

After someone read my article on forgiveness, they sent me over a link about this beautiful, amazing young genius Marina Keegan, and told me that they thought I would appreciate the article and her poetic writing. I was at work when I opened the link, not really having any idea what it was, and my heart broke to read of the tragedy of this 22-year-old soon-to-be-writer for The New Yorker and the terrible accident on Route 6 that ended her life after her boyfriend lost control of the car. The last thing I want to do is use Marina's name in vain because I was not lucky enough to have known her, but I was so inspired by her writing and her outlook on life that I cannot help but share this. In one of her last pieces that she wrote for the Yale Daily News, Marina wrote about the "opposite of loneliness."

She said:

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... Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers -- partnerless, tired, awake. We won't have those next year. We won't live on the same block as all our friends. We won't have a bunch of group-texts. This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse -- I'm scared of losing this web we're in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.

This brought me back to my years at college, when I would sit at the dining hall for hours, meeting friend after friend, not even thinking about my paper that was due the next day. There was always something to do, always someone to see, and all of my friends were no farther than a hop, skip and a jump across campus. Marina's fear of losing this feeling of solace is so real, so tangible, and repeats itself in our lives time and time again. Every graduation, every time you change jobs, break up with someone, or walk away from someone in your life, you are making decisions to step toward a new beginning, a new path that isn't easy, toward the unknown, which may just bring that roller-coaster-drop, pit-in-your-stomach feeling of loneliness.

College for me was a safe place, a place with two bars to go out to at night, a place where I always knew where my friends were and I knew that I could write my paper 20 minutes before class. Now, almost 10 years after my freshman year, I know this is not enough, that even if I am surrounded by people I love and there's a social web around me, loneliness can still exist. I recently had this epiphany after I was lucky enough to go out to dinner with my wonderful friend Rachel Goldstein, the life-changing, inspiring Mastin Kipp and his effervescent, infectious girlfriend Jenna Hall, who shared their knowledge about life and love with me. Mastin, founder of The Daily Love, said -- this is paraphrased -- that when we are successful, we party; when we are in pain, we ponder. Essentially, I realized that this pit-in-your-stomach feeling can be taken as loneliness only if it is seen as such. If you see it as an opportunity for something bigger and better and room to fill yourself with what makes you stronger and wiser, you will not feel lonely or scared to walk away from what's easy. Sometimes the easy way out is the most dangerous thing you could do.

Marina, at her young and so wise age of 22, ended the article with an anecdote about a time she mistakenly ended up in the farthest end of campus in Yale's administrative building one late, snowy night her freshman year. She sat there alone thinking about all of the previous people that had been there before her and she wrote, "And alone, at night, in the middle of a New Haven storm, I felt so remarkably, unbelievably safe." She did not recognize it, but this feeling of belonging in her was not because of Yale, it was in her all along. She was such a special person that she seemed to introspectively understand what it felt like to feel a part of something bigger than herself even during her first year at college sitting completely alone taking it all in.

Loneliness is a choice. You can be surrounded by a web of people and if you are using those people to complete yourself, you will still feel lonely. You have the choice to alter that terrifying feeling inside of you and turn it into an opportunity -- an opportunity to discover who you are, who you want to be and the choices you can make to become the best version of yourself. Don't be afraid to take risks and take chances on yourself. Now, looking back, I realize that there was a time for easy, there was a time for playing pretend, but now is my time to not be afraid of that pit-in-my-stomach feeling, to move towards a future filled with potential and the unknown. You don't get a second chance and the only way to, as Marina said, "make something happen in this world" is to break free from the web, and to not be afraid of the drop because you never know what or who will be waiting for you at the end of the ride.

For more by Amanda Slavin, click here.

For more on becoming fearless, click here.