She had "a fierce belief in leading a life of purpose..."
I was poking around in a spiritual bookstore and this book jumped up into my face: The Opposite of Loneliness
, by Marina Keegan.
Marina did not write the book, she couldn't, she was dead at 22.
When it came out she would have been 24.
Multiple parallels with Kiota's journeys, it's why we invited Marina to stop by.
Kiota, born in 1989, The Evergreen State College Class of 2011.
Marina, born in 1989, Yale University Class of 2012.
Marina writes (in a poem):
"...Do you wanna leave soon?
I want enough time to be in love with everything...
I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short."
Ki writes (in her original LJ, last post:)" I think I'm leaving soon... can't stop crying..."
Marina is five days graduated from Yale, riding with her new boyfriend in an SUV. It's afternoon, broad daylight, in coastal Massachusetts. Boyfriend = neither speeding nor drugging, falls asleep. SUV runs up onto guardrail. Their airbags suddenly explode. SUV flips over at least twice. He's wearing his seatbelt, he's fine. She is not wearing hers, she bangs around tumbling inside the car screaming, her head crushes into the roof at road level, her neck snaps, she's gone.
Marina's tragedy, totally unplanned.
Kiota's, not only NOT unplanned, but rehearsed many times through many previous years.
Kiota, in coastal Washington State, other side of America. No vehicle involved.
Ki was seventeen days away from her 19th bday, she's gone.
No graduation, the closest we have to an essay is "Requiem for the Silent",
her adaptation of Akhmatova. Which is more confessional than Marina, just as brilliant.
In that next week after the car crash, Marina's graduation essay goes viral, it's read more than a million-and-a-half times in 98 countries. It's also titled "The Opposite of Loneliness".
In the next weeks after 13 April 2008, hundreds of Friends in LJ are posting words of loss and mourning for Ki. Many of them, her clients also on TeenHelp, are sending words of tribute and mourning, from all over the world, to her home in Israel, to her parents. Snailmail and email.
Marina, a serious writer.
Kiota, a serious writer. And budding photojournalist.
As far as we know, Ki's instructors have kept their feelings to themselves. Marina's compiled and edited a book from her essays and non-fiction pieces, published them as The Opposite of Loneliness
in 2004 (trade paper, 2015.) Anne Fadiman had been Marina's principal writing instructor and she had many comments relating directly to Ki too. This one specially resonates:
"Marina wouldn't want to be remembered because she's dead.
She would want to be remembered because she's good."
Marina, her essay, June 2012:
"We are so young, we are so young
... we have so much time... what we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over... we can't, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility ---because, in the end, it's all we have."
Marina saw the end of her life coming at her in seconds. Extreme close-up focus.
Ki saw the end of her life coming at her for years and years. Split focus, more like a montage.
When each one of them were Freshwomen, in the middle of their first year, they went out into their storms.
For Marina, a snowstorm on the East coast of America. For Ki, a rainstorm in the West. (Many of them, actually...)
Marina gets a text from her friends telling her to meet them in a bar. Marina has trekked as far as he could in the opposite direction and worms herself into a big empty lecture-halled building on campus:
"...and I sat down. And I looked up. At this giant room I was in. And alone, at night, in the middle of a storm, I felt so remarkably, unbelievably safe."
Kiota's rainstorms are physical, and emotional too. In the middle of her
Freshman year, walking on the Evergreen Campus trails also alone, also at night, also in the middle of winter, armed with her hunting knife, Ki was not hunting to find any friends: "I honestly believe they would not give a damn if I died tomorrow."
Ki did this often --- she felt a special solace and safety, walking at night at the edge of life among the dead and rotting trees, among their new growths, along the dimly-lighted trails leading down to the ocean. Friends, yes, living evergreens dying and rebirthing all around her...
Had Ki felt "unbelievably safe" too? Doubtful ::: more likely it was feeling alone, at night, in the middle of a storm, with her campus courses and their stressors and her hostile roomies far far away. (The forests are really 'giant' and really dense.) Safety came from her blade.
"we MUST not lose this sense of possibility,
because in the end, it's all we have.""I don't want to die. I'm scared of dying... but I can't see any other option." "I'll just have to wake up again and hurt more."
At 22, Marina's sense of possibility vanished, along with everything else: she had just been hired at the American magazine "The New Yorker" to start work with their full-time writing staff later in that summer of 2012...
At 18, Kiota's world of possibilities was expanding as fast as ripples from a stone dropped in her rainpuddle ::: college credit (with scholarship money) for a photojournalism project that summer of 2008, with a student team recruited nationally, to, as she wrote us, "document human rights abuses and the poverty in Cambodia";
a national college campus touring exhibition featuring one of her portraits; an exhibition in New York of some of her work at Aperture Foundation and Gallery. Making final arrangements once Aperture's managers and editors flew back from London where they were doing a weekend show.
Flying back on Monday, 14 April..."I hate to be optimistic but it's like all of my greatest dreams are coming true all at once!",
Ki wrote in January 2008.
This is all a very full plate for anyone, especially a college student midway through her first year in a foreign country on the other side of the world. Especially this
At least a couple of us think that all of this amounted to a rising tidal wave, she was moving / being swept / into the birth of a new identity, totally separate from suicide, where that would have no place. And this was an overwhelmingly scary thing... because that was where she believed she had lived for years: failure, worthlessness, darkness, botched attempts at one final solution, "I went looking for men to hurt me."
There were glimmers of light, though: "I'm nowhere near as self-hating as I used to be. I don't know..."
So, from one perspective:
as we remember right now, in this May of 2016, at the beginning of her ninth year away from our mortal world:
Kiota does not want to be remembered just because she's dead. (Though we vividly remember that April.)
Kiota wants to be remembered because she's good.
Which we also do.
<=> <=> <=> <=> <=>
What we hope for is that, at some point in future time, there will be compiled a fitting hardcopy memorial book of creative writing and photographs, one created by her family and her instructors, who will share and comment, which will introduce her to a lot more people... as many, and more, than all those she comforted and saved on TeenHelp... in many countries.
For right now, we are comforted because we have one another, and our lighted Memorial right here.
Blessings Be from Brad / co-Mod ::: speaking also with Otter, co-Mod