A couple of weeks ago, I was riding my bike through the Yale campus as commencement ceremonies were in full bloom. As I circled through leisurely, dodging through group after group of parents and newly minted graduates, my mind wandered back to my own graduation 12 years ago, and memories flooded back to the excitement of it all, like it was yesterday.
One of those graduates was Marina Keegan. She wrote a beautiful piece that was published in the student newspaper, the Yale Daily News, a paper that I too wrote for many moons ago. To read her editorial: The Opposite of Loneliness, click here.
A particularly poignant line was: we’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time.
In a cruel twist of irony, that sometimes only life seems capable of, Marina died in a car accident, May 26, 2012, on the way to her Dad’s 55th birthday on Cape Cod, just days after the above piece was published a couple of short weeks ago.
Unfortunately, sudden death seems to be the only cure to shake us out of our reverie that a never-ending life is our automatic destiny.
Yet it seems so hard sometimes to appreciate and make the most of the time that we have been given.
In 2002, I had the opportunity to go to Belarus for the first round of Champions League, with my team, Fortuna Hjorring. The country was dilapidated, including our hotel. We had one thin wool blanket per bed, mine with a cigarette hole in it. It was also the end of September, and despite the frigid temperatures they told us the heat wasn’t turned on until October. The doors were broken, the toilet was pretty much a hole in the ground, we had cold showers because there was no hot water and the list went on and on.
I still remember my first night back in my room in Denmark after arriving home from Belarus. I couldn’t get over how warm my bed was, how unbelievably comfortable. I took a hot shower, savouring the neverending flow of warmth that lasted as long as I wanted it to. As I lay in my bed that night, I marveled at how I left the same bed, the same room, the same shower, yet, juxtaposed next to my stay in Belarus, it was as though it was all brand new and absolutely incredible.
I thought to myself how sad it was, that before that night, I never realized just how unbelievable all that I had was, and how sad it was that only having it all taken away, did it become clear. And I tried my hardest to hold on to that magical feeling of having so much, even though I knew it would fade away once it all became “normal” again.
And sure enough, days later, I didn’t think twice about how incredible the bed was or what a fantasy a never-ending hot shower is.
The challenge as humans, and perhaps first world privileged humans, is just how there is so much in the present to be grateful for, and to embrace that. Living in the soccer bubble sometimes exacerbates that. As high-level athletes, always conditioned to strive for more, rarely do we ever take a minute to breathe things in and realize how truly lucky we are. In the hunt for more goals, a better team, a better league, more recognition, meeting the impossible standards we place in our own minds, nothing is ever good enough. We are always wanting for more. Lamenting the past, striving for the future, rarely just realizing how lucky we are in the present, and living like it could truly be our last day.
Thank you to Marina Keegan for reminding me of that.