This book came into my life over a year ago, and hesitantly. I wasn't sure if I could bear the sadness of reading the words of a brilliant writer who died too young. And, honestly, I also wasn't sure if I'd be big enough as a person not to slightly envy her brilliance and post-humous success. In the end I succumbed, and I'm so glad I did. Marina Keegan writes with a luminosity that makes me glad to be part of the world.
But I also find her words challenging - particularly her essay "Even Artichokes Have Doubts". In it, she explores the trend that sees creative graduates enticed into jobs in professional services. She questions the right-ness of that path and posits the idea that maybe, just maybe, we could change the world through spending our working lives in other, less mainstream ways.
It feels wildly ungenerous given the circumstances, but a part of me really longs to know how she would have lived out that reality. I'm sure she would have - I don't doubt her commitment. She is quoted in the book's dedication as having said "I will live for love and the rest will take care of itself". As a stranger to her in real life, off the page, I don't have a right to mourn her as her friends and family do. But I still feel the loss. I would have loved to see her example. I would have loved to find inspiration from her story of balancing the pressures and aggravations of the so-called real world against that greater reality: the urge to live well, to live a life of love.
Because that's what I want to do. I am twenty-eight and I am still not sure if I'm doing a good job of cultivating the kind of life that I feel proud to own. I stand by each of my decisions, in work and love and life. But there are times, sometimes frequent occasions in quick succession, when I question what this is all building towards. I want my work and my words and my being here to count towards something better for all of us, but it feels so nebulous and unattainable when pitted against the realities of my daily routine and the vastness of the world's intractable problems.
I have doubts about how worthwhile some of things I'm engaged in really are. And I struggle to pull together a coherent criteria to evaluate those bigger questions. I doubt and I struggle and I don't know where to look for role models.
And so I just keep going, and miss the ones who might have shown us the way.