Recently, I started reading my roommate's copy of The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan, and I immediately became immersed in it. As other readers (and the intro by Anne Faidman) have said, Keegan does a great job of capturing being young and in college. When I read her essay "The Opposite of Loneliness," where she discusses how Yale has given her that feeling, it greatly resonated with me, making me think of the times and places when I have felt the opposite of loneliness. As Keegan notes, there is no word for it, but I think we know when we feel it.
I have felt it in a homeless shelter in New York, which I have blogged about quite a few times before, but that just shows how much I was impacted by this volunteer trip. This is the first time I realized that community service isn't solely about going out there and changing the world; it's about having these experiences change us. I remember nearly crying tears of joy as I helped carry boxes back to the food storage area as I saw how welcoming the staff (who were previously homeless themselves) was and how they worked as a team, and right then and there, I was overwhelmed by the feeling of home and togetherness that I almost started tearing up.
I next felt this feeling on my apartment roof as my roommate and I watched a horror movie on the roof, climbing up sketchy ladders with backpacks full of blankets and snacks. And, as we cuddled up and ate enough popcorn and sour candy to make my stomach sick while World War Z played on the laptop screen, I felt not only at home in terms of having a great night with my roommate but also with the Tucson community as a whole as I could hear the cars screeching and the college students laughing. And even though three stories separated us from these cars and bar hoppers, I felt what many a college student has experienced where they find love and appreciation for their college town.
And, I've felt it in a Lutheran church, where I woke up to Korean services at 5 am and slept in a sleeping bag in a room with fifteen other students. We would get to know each other over late night snacks of cereal or the occasional pizza ordered at 2 am, and any differences we had seemed overcome by the week we had spent together volunteering in low-income classrooms and the emotional toll it took on us to hear troubling statistics of graduation rates and then see beautiful, beaming kids who we then had to leave -as I very morbidly had put it to my roommates after I came back from the trip and felt weirdly guilty-"to the statistics of the world." Because one of the strangest but strongest bonds you can have with others is knowing that you all miss the same time and place and people.
And, I've also most definitely felt the opposite of loneliness in a Berkeley dorm, where I met the people and memories that I still gush about six months later. I didn't mind the shared bathrooms, the lack of AC, or the dining hall food because I remember feeling grateful and happy and almost like I had so much (maybe even too much) in these friendships and adventures that I could not and would not ask for more. This feeling of home and belonging and community wasn't limited to the dorms though as we spent our free time going to San Francisco Pride, dive bars with cheap and good margaritas (a 21 year old's dream), and fast food places that fortunately stayed open till 2 am, being as stereotypically young and free as you can be.
Then, I felt this feeling again in Baltimore with a group of students who I had just met. We walked through this city in chilly weather (compared to our West coast hometowns) and ventured into liquor stores that didn't ID us and fancy hotels that we were in awe of. And, we would forgo fancy galas for sports bars, changing out of our formal wear into t-shirts and jeans after making our "mandatory" 15 minute appearance at the banquet.
Most recently, I felt this opposite of loneliness at the tea shop 5 minutes from my college apartment. I happen to run into my roommate and friends; friends who I met solely because we both frequented this tea place on a daily basis. We are excited to see each other after a long break, exchanging hugs and stories from our winter break before we decide to go back to my place. Here, we still have our Christmas decorations up, and under Christmas lights and tinsel, we sip beer and listen to Simon and Garfunkel. Here, in my living room, where I have cried on my roommate's shoulder after a rough Thanksgiving Break and laughed till I fell down on the floor after many a game of Cards Against Humanity, where I have sworn to get over multiple boys because I was tired of their drama and drunkenly kissed some of these same guys, and where I have felt miserably and terribly alone during that one summer I lived by myself and where I have felt on this night -and many other occasions- the opposite of loneliness.