MURPHY: My shell-shocked summer

The summer before senior year was supposed to be a good one: beautiful weather and no responsibilities during my last summer before real life began.

That idea came to a screeching halt about a week after I got home from school.

There are certain memories that are branded in your mind.

I will remember May 21, 2009, for the rest of my life. My girlfriend picked me up from home in the afternoon, and we began driving silently through downtown Glencoe, Ill. It was a beautiful afternoon; I had the beach on my mind.

She stopped her car in front of my best friend from grade school’s house. What a coincidence, I thought. I wondered how he was doing.

The mood in the car immediately tensed up, and I suddenly noticed the stale smell of the Jeep’s leather interior.

I will always remember the moment of paralysis that overcame my body when she blurted out that she was four months pregnant.

That summer was supposed to be the summer. Sunny days were supposed to be spent at the pool. Instead, they were spent in the darkness of my basement, as I attempted to console her, to tell her that everything was going to be all right. I tried to be strong for her, but on the inside, I felt weak. I felt defeated.

What would people say? How would I tell my parents? What the hell were we going to do?

Inevitably, the whispers began, which made it harder. People who we thought were our friends weren’t. Despite not having told anyone yet, we could feel the stares. My heart broke a little whenever I saw her sad, empty eyes.

She went abroad a few weeks later. Stupid, yes, but we were scared. Not going meant we had to fess up.

I followed her, met her in a dumpy little village in London. Instead of site seeing, we never left our room. We watched “Friends” Season 1 and attempted not to talk about it.

To this day, having to leave her in Europe was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

When she arrived home, we were going to come clean. But we didn’t. Days where we should have been out in the sun with our friends became days when we hid.

The day we were supposed to go to Milwaukee to have a blow out party with our friends before our senior campaign started was spent sitting in my car parked in front of an adoption agency.

We never did get out of the car that day.

Perhaps it was an epiphany in the parking lot, a sudden understanding that we were meant to keep him, not give him away. Maybe it was the support that we had from our at first shell shocked but soon very supportive parents.

All I know is that it took us an entire summer to make what turned out to be such an easy choice. We now have an 8-month-old son named Jack.

I have commuted back and forth all year (still graduating on time), and my girlfriend now goes to DePaul.

It hasn’t been easy, but every time I look at my girlfriend and son, the hardships we experienced that summer seem distant and the stigmas petty.

Looking back on these four years at Marquette, I wouldn’t be who I am today without it. I wouldn’t be in love, I wouldn’t be happy and I wouldn’t have a bottomless optimism for what the future holds for me.

I have learned so much from my experience at Marquette, and it’s made me a better person. Who knows, without my four years here, maybe we would have gotten out of the car that day.

Instead, I grew up. I made it. It’s ironic thinking back to that summer. I thought it was the worst summer of my life. But looking back on it, it was the greatest.