06/01/2012 03:15 pm ET Updated Aug 01, 2012

Real World Realization

Yesterday, I read a short essay that has been spreading like wildfire throughout the country. Just days after graduating from Yale, Marina Keegan's promising young life was cut tragically short in a car accident, but not before her essay, "The Opposite of Loneliness," was shared at her school's commencement exercises and took the entire country by storm. At merely 22-years-old, Keegan possessed a wisdom that I'm not sure I'll ever possess.

Over the past few weeks, I've stood by as some of my closest friends have graduated and begun moving forward in the direction of all the great things I know they'll accomplish. I've sat through the last of my Thursday morning coffee dates with one of my closest friends. I've said goodbye and good luck to my newspaper's "queens" (also known by the general public as the former co-executive editors). I've gotten the phone calls announcing new jobs and big moves. That being said, here I am for another year, praying that the final year of my undergraduate education will somehow culminate all of the incredible experiences I've had, and ideally give me the closure that I'm doubting is possible.

In the midst of the panic and epiphanies that have plagued my life for over a month now, Keegan's essay was the one thing that put my mind at ease.

"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," Keegan said. "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."

Finally, I know that I'm not the only one with these thoughts racing through their head at any given moment of the day. When you're in high school, everyone tells you that you need to prepare yourself to enter the real world... I hate to be the one to say it, but they're wrong. College is not the real world -- it's an extension of the experiences we've already had in our young lives, but in an entirely new environment. It's a baby step toward the future with the security and comfort most of us still wholly want and need.

I chose a school close to home, and made the decision to commute (in part because of the generous scholarship I received, but not entirely). I also knew that, at 18-years-old, I didn't feel ready to leave the nest yet. That was one of the best decisions I've made to date. I'm an incredibly independent person as it is, but my choice has given me the opportunity to embrace college for exactly what I feel it is meant to be -- a chance to continue growing, but in a unique realm of both safety and exploration. It's a rare thing, and one that I planned on taking full advantage of.

Many of my friends have already started on their next journey, and many more will be doing so soon. I'm thankful to still have another year of growing ahead of me, but Keegan's essay encapsulated all of the fears that have taken up residence in the corners of my mind.

I've been wondering if I've done enough, seen enough, contributed enough... but these thoughts seem to be dissipating after reading what Keegan had to say.

"We're so young... We have so much time... It is somehow too late. That others are somehow more ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it is too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement."

Such wisdom from a person who surely would have had great things to offer and accomplish in her life.

I fear less the unknown, and have instead made the conscious decision to embrace that which is not yet set in stone. Why not, right?